Friday, February 29, 2008

The Suckage of the Unrightness and the Blah Blah Blah Light

I wish I could report that I was regarding every molecule of the fifteen year old, when he emerges from his basement lair, with greater compassion and that I am being fully appreciated as the understanding, hip hop listening, good cooking mom that I am. We are, however, taking tiny little tentative baby steps. I was telling Leslie that even if I hadn’t been fat and living in what would these days be categorized as a dysfunctional household, being fifteen would have sucked. My fifteen year old, for all of the suckage that is endemic to the age, is aware of and can enumerate my maternal shortcomings with an acuity that takes my breath away. Recently he gave a cunning little speech about my inadequacy as a mother that was utterly withering, until he transitioned somewhat awkwardly into a plea for me to rescind a grounding ordinance which would have prohibited him from attending a party.

This tiny lapse in finesse caused me to snap and realize that I am a better mother than Livia Soprano or Joan Crawford and, at the risk of blasphemy, my own mother. I will add that my mother was a working single mom from the time I was seven years old. She was also a woman who firmly believed that a woman needed a man. I am sure there are lots of other excuses too, although the core of her unrightness is still illusive to me. Now she has faded, (not that she was any more forthcoming pre-dementia) and I will never know.

Leslie asked me, how my mother was after her boyfriend died when I was fifteen and I couldn’t remember. I recall that she was angry and hurt about not being asked to sit in the family room with his daughter at the service and that she was not remembered in his will. And, this was the year Joni Mitchell released For the Roses and Jackson Browne released his first album and overachiever Neil Young released Harvest and Journey through the Past. The songs of 1972 saturate my soul and memory. My mother’s grief is mist.

My dad took me in 1972 to see the Godfather at the Egyptian Theatre and we were both blown away. I had a projector at home and would take big stacks of 16mm features in fiber shipping cases and ditch school for days on end, lie on the hi/lo carpet and run film after film. I met kids who loved music and movies as passionately as I did. I befriended my teachers and interesting acquaintances of my parents and spent a lot of time hanging with adults. The fifteen year old who lives among us is also beguiled by music and movies and adult conversation. The comfort he takes here, comforts me. I love that he seeks the same escapes that I sought but I hope so much that he never feels compelled to escape with the same desperation I did at the same age.

I am hazy about my interactions with my mom during this sad year and uncertain about the degree to which my sister was in residence. She would blow into Fulton Avenue every year or so, in some sort of trouble, on the outs with a boyfriend and broke. Sometimes she was great fun and we had great trips to Las Vegas and we’d take diet pills and stay up all night. But my sister suffered the unrightness, probably the most unright of all of us, and never felt loved enough by anyone. Sometimes when I was arguing with my mom, my sister, to curry mother favor, would haul off on me.

Once, during one of my sister’s tenancies on Fulton Avenue, there was an argument. I remember only that I was expecting friends. There was yelling. The bell rang and I opened the door to two girl friends and at this moment, my sister slapped me to the granite entry hall floor. I remember my friends’ faces when my sister slammed the door.

I do not know what demons haunt my fifteen year old or which, if any, of the gifts I lay at his feet will make his life better. I try to talk to him. He blows me off but maybe some of it will register someday. I told him that often I am frightened and that I went into this mother thing, based on my own childhood, ill prepared. I encourage him to find sustenance in film and music and hope too that he will find more succor in his home and family than I did at age fifteen.

My parents’ marriage crumbled after twenty two years. My father left Fulton Avenue when I was seven and my memories of my parents together consist of being awakened to their screaming fights and being taken to a fancy restaurant to be told about their decision to divorce. It is only very recently and out of full blown dementia that I am able to spend time with my mother without her expressing bitterness directed at my father. Even after she’d forgotten the hideous leather jacket that Richard and I sold at the garage sale, she’d still drill me on the arrival of the alimony check.

Himself and I have had our miserable times and our children have heard us scream and undoubtedly will again. I have no crystal ball but I told the fifteen year old that for all of our fuckedupness as parents, the one gift I am pretty confident that we will bestow on him is a model for how to be married. We did it not so great for years and even now there are times when we do it quite badly. But, for all of the fifteen year old’s frightening acumen about our weaknesses, I don’t think he’ll ever be able to say that his parents didn’t love each other tenderly and fiercely. We have been courageous and sacrificing and often had the shit scared out of us nurturing this marriage we both happened upon.

Neither of us had a clue from our own parents about how to navigate this weird institution but we have, Himself and I, persevered and I am proud of what we have and it seems inevitable that our children will be better prepared by their parents for loving partnership than we were by ours. Perhaps I’m not the best wife in the world but I am better than I was and strive for further improvement. My weaknesses as a mother have been related to me quite extensively and perhaps accurately. Maybe it is wrong to feel self righteous nevertheless about creating a better home for my children than the one I was raised in but still, I’ll be cutting myself a bit of slack when I do inevitably miss the mark.

My mother and sister were driven by demons that remain a mystery to me. Maybe their burdens would have been eased if they’d partaken of psychotherapy or psychopharmacology or prayer or physical exercise. Maybe it would have been easier if they had been born at a time when a woman’s value wasn’t determined by the quality of man she could attract. I have enough issues with my parents for Leslie my therapist to buy Beverly Hills real estate but I am also aware that both contributed, if only financially, towards my escaping Fulton Avenue at age seventeen to begin college and enter perhaps the first milieu where I was able explore options for healing, like therapy and spirituality. On Fulton Avenue, there were always movies and music but the legacy in blood of the family that lived there courses through me and through my fifteen year old. I don’t know if the unrightness inside that I’ve suffered with for fifty one years is the same unrightness that plagued my sister and mother. The fifteen year old’s instinct to temper the unrightness by drinking in the magic of movies and music is dead on. For the other instincts that come from the unrightness, the family legacy, I will strive to remain loving and vigilant no matter how much he pisses me off.

Likewise, I remain loving and vigilant with Himself, the finest mind and sweetest soul I’ve encountered on this planet, my bershert, whose excuse for not operating his cellular phone is so friggin’ lame I could puke. Because we are nurturing our life sentence of marriage and trying to be excellent models of partnership for our children, it would be wrong to say that my husband, in refusing to use his cell phone and be accessible to me in the case of an emergency (ahem…vibrate mode) is a withholding asshole. Very wrong.

Rightness this week was attending a school potluck and hearing Leo’s teachers go on about how smart and funny he is. Spuds baked a perfect two layer chocolate cake and we went up to the stadium and to pick up our tickets. It is so cool how well he is known and loved there at Chavez Ravine, his second home. Opening Day is March 31 and we have high hopes for Joe Torre.

My heart is with Julia, and Bernie, her dad, who I will always remember as being a scrappy, robust, dynamo of a man. Be brave Julia. I love you.

I hope to make a real Shabbat tonight, celebrate rightness, and be surrounded by blessed light. Blah Blah Blah Baby! I am. I know. Share it. Take it. Shabbat Shalom.


FionnchĂș said...

Blah Blah Blah indeed. In verbo veritas.

But hey-- synchronicity. Look at my blog-- for three hours to the minute I have labored in Irish (and less so in English) to write a few paragraphs for weekly practice. They were about temple last Shabbat with Niall! So, another parent bonding.

And is that Stanley Spencer as guest artiste for today's entrée? xxx me

Cari said...

I've come to the conclusion that from ANY American 15 year's old's perspective, their parents suck, no matter how they've been raised. The only hope is that the sullen offspring will eventually grow out of it and realise that life 'aint fair, it's a two way street, you get what you give, and other tired but appropriate cliches. Unfortunatly, some people remain 15 forever (like a close relative in my adoptive family), but I believe her failure to mature is due to in-vitro brain damage and screwed up genetics. It doesn't make it easier for any of us who have passed the 15 mark years ago, but I take comfort that we did our best raising our daughter who is now 20 (going on 45)

Don't beat yourself up. Your children have had the best of everything you have had to offer. I've always said that if I had a kid that turned out like me when I was a teenager, I'd deserve every horrid moment of it. But I was lucky and we avoided most of the teenage angst, all the while preparing for any eventuality. Should my daughter write a "Mommy Dearest" type of bestseller after she's famous, I will take comfort in the knowledge that it is all lies, lies lies!!! She was damn lucky to have hangers to put her clothes up in the first place, padded or wire.

Upon reflection on my parents, especially now that they have passed on, I realise I would have rather spent much more time experiencing life with them than chasing around hell and gone collecting bunches of stuff. I would have traded a big birthday party for an interesting vacaton anytime. And at age 14, I started working, and continue to this day. I am grateful I learnt the value of money even though so much of adult life has been struggle.

I guess the point of all this blather is that your children aren't going to remember you as a psychic harridan if you ground them for acting up or not replacing expensive gadgets they were careless enough to lose or damage. It's time for them to learn the value of such items and figure out a way to pay for them on their own. They have such special's time they understand that their parentage could have been a helluva lot worse. You are not to blame, don't take the responsibility. Just continue to guide lovingly and realistically. And take comfort that one day they will be parents fo 15 year olds, too. (heheheheh)