Monday, February 8, 2010

Heads Up

I'm wandering through a party store a couple weeks ago alone, up and down the aisles. Somewhere in the store is Daughter and her best friend. They've ditched me in a mad rush to cover more ground. I'm a slow-moving adult.

I gave them two choices of where we could go to buy a few cheap trinkets for them to play with. There was the dollar store or the party store. They chose the party store because of all the dress up stuff, and the wonderful opportunity to make fun of me - there's a gigantic 50th birthday aisle filled with geriatric devices that they pull out to humiliate me in advance of my 50th birthday in March. I especially like the bra with pulleys and springs. Little do they know I've needed that one for years.

But I'm alone when I discover the treasure trove that we end up buying. I schlep back to the front of the store to get a cart it's so perfect, so wonderful, that I need many of them. What is it? Styrofoam wig heads. Fifty cents each.

What can I do with a styrofoam head? What can't I do? The girls can paint them. I can mosaic them. Son can bring them to his friend's house and shoot them with air soft guns (though I'm only willing to sacrifice one to this waste). As a woman with, at best, half a head in working order at any time, I know I need some support. I need these heads.

But first we have to get them to the cashier and then out of the store. We put fourteen in the shopping cart. It kind of looks a little weird, I'm aware of that - bodyless, chopped off heads, all pale and staring. It's a little gory, unusual for me since I have a low scare threshold. But for art, for the dream of art, for a three-dimensional canvas? For that I'll load up a pile of heads.

I carry four heads at a time into the house, one under each arm, one in each hand. A head drops and rolls in the garage. I think of the movie Rear Window and look surreptitiously at my neighbors' houses to see if anyone's watching me. I pick up the head and get inside.

Later I'm driving Daughter and her friend to the friend's house where they'll spend the evening. They're both going to paint their heads to resemble the boys they have crushes on. Suddenly they both get really quiet. I look in the backseat and catch them kissing the styrofoam lips.

Okay, then. I guess they can be used for that too.

Do you start art projects and never finish them? Buy ten of something when you easily could buy two? Do you have visions of yourself as the next Picasso?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Love of a Mother

Twins, Mom and me, the baby, in 1960.

Dear Mom,

It's occurred to me lately that you just may not be immortal. Besides depressing the hell out of me, this has made me realize that writing a love letter to you just may be the best topic for me to write about for the Momalom Love It Up challenge.

I sat beside you on your lumpy couch this week and became concerned. Very concerned. First of all, you, who never stop talking, weren't talking. Second of all, your TV, normally blasting out old Westerns from the 50s, was on mute. One sister told me that you tried to change the TV channel with the phone. And even though we handled this little medical crisis with a quick change in medication, it brought to mind your fragile mortality; after all, you'll be eighty in June. So here's the deal: I may be turning fifty in four weeks, but I'm not ready to be an orphan.

Flash back thirty-five years ago, to March 1st, 1975, six days before my fifteen birthday. Dad dies suddenly, leaving you a forty-four-year-old widow. From then on - all the way till now - I am waiting, with paranoid anticipation, for the other shoe to drop, and you're the other shoe. One parent disappears around the horizon with no warning, no goodbyes, his clothes still hanging in the closet, his shoes just standing there, his wallet and keys on the dresser, his car in the driveway. Gone. Who's to say it can't happen to the other parent?

And, of course, it can. So I've guarded you these past thirty-five years. I've been your amateur doctor, calling you daily, living nearby, writing your story, trying my best to live this Jewish life. But I can't stop you from aging, can't stop little pieces of you disappearing one by one, and I can't stop you from eventually disappearing altogether. No matter how meticulous my care and that of my sisters, it will happen and then, when I reach for the phone each day to talk to you, ready to share my successes and my failures, I'll have to pull my hand back from the phone, remembering that you're no longer there.

I've written about you a lot on this blog. I've poked a lot of fun - at your wreck of a cactus-strewn acre in Scottsdale, at the way you pack, the way you drive, the way you talk on the phone. But when you strip it all away, the humor, the writing, the blog, there's only one fact that's left standing: I wouldn't be able to write about being a mom without having known the love of one.

Happy Valentine's Day, Mom.

From your number six daughter, Linda

Do you ever feel your parents' mortality like an oncoming train? Did you ever have a loss that made you wary, like things were suddenly very precarious? How much are you still and always a daughter (or son) and how much a parent? Or do you instantly turn back into a kid when you talk to your parent?