"I often get asked, why do you always write about parents and their children. And my answer is frankly, what else is there?"
-- Anna Quindlen.
My little blades, tonight I am all about my memoir as I am prepping it for submission on Monday, March 1st. And so, I feel like a college kid readying her paper for class on Monday. I have spent most of the day working on it and I will be spending most of tomorrow working on it as well. It's actually a bit of a head turn and twist because sometimes I am not even sure why I have written certain chapters -- except that my fellow at Bread Loaf last summer told me that my memoir has 3 strains:
1. growing up in the 1980's in NJ
2. losing my mom as I was growing up
3. having God, losing God, and then finding God again.
And so, I suppose that while writing these chapters, I instinctively put them in because they fell into these 3 headings, which felt important to me. What I wanted to share. And so, here I am. I will be calling a friend tomorrow -- Brittaney perhaps -- to share what I am submitting with her first. Always safe. And tomorrow will be spent organizing and editing my story. I have been writing this since Barnard, so it is time. It is just of ultimate importance that I organize what I am writing so that the reader has a compass. And knows why I am telling this story.
And I have learned that I am telling it because it is a story of survival. And it is a story about resilience. That no matter how "bad" things can be, there is always "good." And how I can see this now even if I couldn't see it for awhile. It is what she gave me, my mom, and what I am beginning to give back.
It is growing up with the dichotomy of brilliant popularity and 80's pop culture mixed with losing your mom. It is what makes for a young spirit and an old soul.
Thank you for reading this along with me. Because I have always known that I had to share this story -- but I did not always know why. And now I do. To inspire. To make you believe in magic. Like I now do. Because amidst the sadness -- and often because of it -- there is magic. In life. And it's so beautiful, it could make you cry.
You’ll be just fine
I had a crush when I was fifteen and he was a floppy-haired stoner named Ted. He drove a classic car of some sort – light yellow. He wore khakis and flip-flops, probably Tevas. He was a lifeguard at the pool near my best friend’s house and his skinny, tanned body was enough to make my want to dive in and struggle like a helpless goat in the shallow end. He had that sort of charm – his kind indifference brought all the girls around. And I was one of them. Except I had something in common with him that all the other minions did not – his mother had died of cancer a few years earlier and mine was slowly dying. Carnation Instant friendship. So somehow he’d become my mentor – I don’t remember how this came about, if my mom asked his father or if my big sister asked him or what. But I do remember that our drive “downtown” to get ice cream at Hillary’s and then bring our cups of oozing homemade ice cream with crunchy toppings into his car for a drive were some of my favorite high school memories. We’d chat about light things and then we’d soar down deep. Usually, we’d talk in his car on drives through newer developments and farmland, but sometimes we’d just talk in my house. I remember one time when we were sitting at the kitchen table. And I guess we were getting pretty deep into things because I started to say what I don’t think I had ever said aloud. Especially to someone not so close to me – even if it were someone I wanted to be so close to me – I started talking about my mom dying. It’s like we were excavating our souls as we sat there at the kitchen table with the plasticy tablecloth. He was talking about his family since his mom died, “My Dad is just not there like he used to be. He’s really into my stepmother. And that’s what happened.” And I sat there wide-eyed as he talked, I couldn’t even fathom that this could be my future – my father without my mom. All the struggling with her illness wasn’t going to end; it was merely the way things were. We’d gotten so used to them – I call this being “comfortably uncomfortable.” We become inured to bad things and feel sort of oddly safe around them, like they comprise our lives and without them, without this built-in discomfort, we could not exist. We’d be lacking texture. No rub, as Shakespeare said. And so as I dug deeper and deeper into the “what if?” of my Mom’s life, and as I did, I grew more confused, more upset. The sick thing is that I think part of me was digging having my stoner hero around for this show – I could be saved by him, he would see my pain and comfort me. We would forever bond this evening and tell our children years later – being that I was only fifteen at the time – this is how it happened for Mommy and Daddy. Mommy was sharing the story of her Mommy dying and Daddy had just shared the story of his Mommy dying and we knew we just couldn’t be apart after that moment. We were sealed – two motherless lovers, two rudderless ships in the night – stopping to weep before one another. But then – something happened. As I was talking about my Mom, I really did start to feel something and my voice did start to crack. I’d gone too far, said too much and I managed to say, “If my Mom died, I don’t know what I’d d-” And before I could finish my sentence, my mother’s pink slippers could be heard sifting across the kitchen floor. “You’ll be,” She stared right into my eyes, “Just fine.” She ended my sentence. And in her pink turban and her pink Gloria van der Bilt robe, she was right. She’d overheard her daughter discuss her mortality and she sifted her way in and righted my wrong. Ted and I sat there, catching ourselves, skipping a breath, while my Mother made her way into the kitchen and slowly out of my life.
Hope you enjoyed!
And always feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts. This book means the world to me and your comments as a result do as well. Because this is the first public forum I have ever used to share my story, which I have held SO close to my heart for SO long.