Friday, July 15, 2011

Mother - A History

"Hush now baby, baby, don't you cry
Momma's gonna make all of your nightmares come true
Momma's gonna put all of her fears into you

Momma's gonna keep you right here under her wing
She won't let you fly, but she might let you sing

Momma's will keep Baby cozy and warm Oh Babe, of course Momma's gonna help build the wall"

(R. Waters)

Why?  Why did it have to be this way?  Was it written from her birth? 

"Thou shalt bear a third child, a daughter, and she shall be an outcast from her people.  And ye shall not love her as ye have loved the other two."

Was it her fault?  Was it Mother's fault?  Was it simply pure coincidence?  Fate?  Happenstance? 

Why?  Why does this mother/daughter duo hate each other?

Yes, she questioned.  Always questioning.  Why is the sky blue?  What's in the clouds?  Why does the sun shine brighter than the moon?  Those were the cute questions. 

Mother didn't always have an answer, but she could make one up.  The sky is blue because Hashem wants us to look in the sky and see something pretty.  The sun and the moon had a  fight and the sun won so the moon got smaller and only comes out at night when the sun is asleep.

When the harder questions came, things took a turn for the worse.  How do we know there's a Hashem?  Why can't we see him?  Why does he make us have shabbos?  Why can't i watch TV today?

Less cute questions lent themselves out to harsher answers.  "Because.  Because Cymbaline.  Why can't you just believe Cymbaline"  Always Cymbaline.  This child never had a pet name.  Sweetie or honey or shafele.  This one was always Cymbaline.  Almost as though it was written from the beginning that their relationship would never be as close.

"And the child shall have no special place in your heart.  Nor shall ye treat her as a loved one."

As the child grew, the relationship soured.  It's unclear why.  To this day she doesn't quite know.  She's thought about it.  Oh yes.  Countless, sleepless nights.  Countless conversations with the Mental Health Professional.  But really, there is no one answer.  There are millions of tiny answers, like shattered glass.

Now?  It's a sniper's dream.  All they do is snipe at each other. Mother will question what Cymbaline is wearing.  "You are going out in that?"  (Goodness dear, how will you ever find a nice boy in those capped sleeves?  As if.)  "At least I had four normal children," she has been known to theatrically whisper in earshot of her middle child.  "Where did you go wrong with her?" she will ask my father. 

Disavow.  Disassociate.  She's not really my daughter.  I mean sure, biologically speaking she is.  But clearly it was some heavenly mistake.

And no Cymbaline isn't some innocent bystander in this tragicomedy.  Her words can be as sharp.  "I hate you" has been hurled from her lips.  "You aren't fit to raise chimpanzees, let alone human beings" is a personal favorite.  As is "If you spent as much time on your kids as you did on yourself at the gym, you'd be mother of the year".

War of words.  War of actions.  It was mother who once slapped Cymbaline in the face in front of the entire family and called her an embarrassment to the _______ name.  The tears of shame that ran down Cymbaline's cheeks in that moment were hot enough to leave permanent (mental) scars.  It was mother who refused to let (an admittedly difficult) Cymbaline attend certain family functions for fear of embarrassment.  It was mother who threw Cymbaline out of the house.  It was mother who almost refused to let her back.  Had not dad intervened, who knows where this story would have ended.

(Of course, it was Cymbaline who once showed up to a cousin's engagement party drunk and rude.  Cymbaline who, by her mere disassociation from religion WAS an embarrassment to her parents and siblings.  And Cymbaline who never had the good grace to realize that her actions affected not only her but the people she lived with.)

"Thou shalt cast her out of the nest and she shall fly or die."

As World War II slipped into the cold war, so did their relationship. 

The deal was struck.  Cymbaline is back in so long as she sees a therapist and so long as she follows the family rules both at home and in the neighborhood.  Mother will accept her daughter back under those rules.

Her daughter.  Her own flesh and blood.  Such a chore.

Now, they barely speak.  And like mother like daughter, her older sister barely acknowledges her when shes back in the house availing herself to free food and the maid's laundry services.  (As if she doesn't have her own fucking maid at home, on her father's and father in law's combined dimes.)  But it's fine.  Mother is a constant reminder of what not to become when Cymbaline grows up.

Life is about roads taken and ignored.  A turn to the left precludes one to the right.  Could it have been different?  Impossible to say.  We can't ever know what the past would have held, only what was.  We can only change the future.

And learn from our mistakes.

1 comment:

  1. Mothers sure can be hard to figure out. I'm sorry for the cruelty you've experienced.