Saturday, September 30, 2006


I walked in and started to cry. She was curled up in a ball on the bed- fetal position as much as her swollen belly would allow. I laid down and put my forehead up against hers. She reached up her hand and touched my face and said, Oh, it’s not that bad.

Sweet and soft, her voice made me melt. I cried harder. I can't let go. I can't.

And then she was mean.

I helped her up for a smoke. Got her some wine. Sat behind her and rubbed her back, held her in my arms.

Are you going to get through this?

I am, Mom.

Doesn’t seem like you are going to be all right. Seems like you’re never going to be all right.

Yes, Mom. I will. I’ll be okay.

Doesn’t seem like it.

A long pause. Another drag off of the cigarette. She stops to look at her hand. It is unfamiliar in it's present state. She had such beautiful hands once. Now they are red and white, bruised and swollen.

This is a nice room, she said. I like being in this room.

It’s very beautiful, I agreed. I wonder if she knows who she is talking to. Where she is.

All the time I’m holding her, rubbing her back.

I love you, Mom.

She took another drag of her cigarette. Slowly raised the wine glass up to her lips. It is clear swallowing is almost impossible. She says nothing.

I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry I hurt you.

Another long drag of the cigarette.

You’re not one to say that, she said.

In a second, I am remined of how selfish I am.

After one more long, painful sip of wine, I help her get back down.

Lying down, I tell her I’m sorry. Again. Tell her I love her.


You really hurt me, she said.

I know, I said. I’m still rubbing her back.

I’m sorry you drove so long but I’m going back to sleep now.

I just wanted to say goodbye, Mom. And let you know I love you.

Her eyes closed.

I stayed a while, rubbing her back. I got up to leave.

I cried in the living room for a while. I’m really saying goodbye. Really saying goodbye. And she won’t say she loves me. Not once. I feel myself wanting to go in and ask her if she loves me. Do you love me, Mom? And it feels so pathetic and sad. Am I going to hear the words? One last time?

I went back in and wanted desperately to hear the words I love you, Sara. I wanted to hear it so much. I wanted to beg for it.

I didn’t.

I sat on the bed and she opened her eyes briefly.

You’re doing what Granddaddy did, aren’t you?

My grandfather, her father, starved himself to death. Refused liquids. Took a long, painful week to die. She held his hand the whole way.

No, she said, I really can’t eat.

Well, you’ve never been much of an eater, I say smiling.

She doesn’t respond.

It’s okay not to eat, mom. It’s okay to let go. Just let go.

She doesn’t respond. I’m not sure if she’s asleep again. I lean over and kiss her forehead. Goodbye. I love you.

She opens her eyes wide and I think I’ll hear something and she says, Keep the door open, please. I hate being shut in here.

And closed her eyes again. I sat for a long moment. Looked at her. Held her hand.

I left.

A moment of kindness. A brief, amazing moment. I’ve lived my whole life for those moments. When she loved me in such a wonderful way. With clarity. And then it would be gone.

I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry I hurt you so much.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Dear Ruth

A two years ago, my great aunt died. I never said goodbye. I was afraid to ever let her know I was a lesbian. It is the greatest, deepest regret I have. Below is a letter I wrote to her. I learned, the hard way, there are times you cannot change a decision.

I am leaving for Rochester today. I am going to say goodbye. I am certain of my decision. I don't want to write another letter like this again.

Dear Ruth,

There is something I have needed to say to you. For a long time. I’ve been afraid, I’ve been ashamed, and I couldn’t. My mother told me you would simply die if I ever did. Now, it’s too late. You are dead. And I am filled with remorse and regret- I should have taken the risk. I should have tried. Now you’re gone and I will never know if you would have embraced me, immediately or over time, or my children.

You see, Ruth, I’m a lesbian. I think you know that, as my brother told me you carefully looked at his wedding pictures, and saw me with Jeanine. You took note of her, mentioned her beautiful eyes. You asked how long we’d been friends. Long enough, Ruth, to have three beautiful boys. What you didn’t see in the pictures, as they were carefully edited out, were my children. Benjamin, who is ten, Zachary, who is seven, and Jacob, who is five. Three boys we have birthed into this world. Three boys who asked wide eyed, who was this great, great aunt of ours and why didn’t we ever meet her?

I explained to them how you were my grandmother’s sister, and lived in the house you were all born in, the house that your father built. How when my grandmother died so young, my mother still in college, you and your sister, Ginsie, stepped in and were really mothers to her. Jake was very excited, “Grandma had two moms! Just like me!” Indeed, she did, in some ways. But my oldest son wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to know why he never met you. What I wanted to say was because his grandmother was ashamed of me. And maybe you would have been, too. But I never gave you a chance to work it out, to struggle with it, to, as she herself did, throw all negativity out the window when holding the newborn Benjamin in your arms. I couldn’t answer him. Because I knew the shame wasn’t just my mothers, but my own. The shame that runs through our family history, lurking in the shadows of the great stories told in the small, tin roofed house, when the heat and humidity of the Virginia night wouldn’t allow sleep.

What a history they have been denied. You and Ginsie were the ultimate bearers of the family stories, and artifacts- the house holds over a hundred years of family life. Items dated back to the Civil War. And how will they ever learn about the Civil War? I cannot believe they will grow up and never be called a Yankee the way I was as a little girl in your living room. How you and Ginsie would talk for hours about the lives of everyone for generations and generations before you. And then open a trunk and show us their dresses, or the Mason’s vest, or the wax flowers from the funeral of the Civil War Vet still kept in the house. I’m forty-two years old and when someone talks about the Civil War being about slavery, I jump in my seat and give a blow-by-blow description of the War, why it started and how it ended, not from a Yankee’s perspective, but from yours. (I, however, thought the end of slavery was good, something we did not agree on, and I learned to stay quiet from my mother’s insistent eye across the dinner table.) My boys will never visit Appomattox as a place where honor ended with the drunken Grant in his muddy boots ignoring the gallant Lee’s offered sword. My children will never eat at your dining room table, with fine linen and crystal glasses filled with ice and fresh tea. They will never understand how every time I drink a glass of iced tea, I think of you looking over the table at me and asking if I was having a little tea with my sugar. How listening to you and Ginsie on the phone, with my mother on the other line interpreting your thick southern drawl, made me feel more worldly than my friends. I was, in fact, part southern. I still am.

I sit and dream about what my boys are missing and then I’m brought back to the reality of why I never said a word to you. I’d love to blame it on my mother and walk away, but I was equally at fault. I took her instruction and, unlike my brother, followed it. I did because I couldn’t bear the thought that you would be mean to me. I couldn’t bear the thought that you would hold me with the kind of contempt you had for Black people. It was in your town the Lynchburg Colony for the Epileptic and Feebleminded existed, where Blacks and poor Whites were systematically sterilized, for years, with the community knowing. You knew, and were sorry when they were closed. In those discussions I heard as a child, where my mother would argue, and then simply stay quiet, I learned to fear you. As gentle as your voice was, as sweet at the twinkle of your eye was, I knew you held deep beliefs that were scary to me. And I was always told never to argue, never to disagree, to stay quiet and be pleasant, even when I was a teenager, and aching to take on every word. I didn’t. So, when I knew I was a lesbian, when I came out to my mother, she said to never say a word to you. And, just as when I was a child, I did as I was told.

When I was pregnant with Ben, Ginsie had just died. My mother, again, convinced me to not say a word. You were so fragile. You were almost dead, so what did it matter? It wasn’t fair to you, why did you have to suffer for the last moments of your life? I agreed. Deep down, I was afraid you would hate me. I had recently lost my loving image of my grandmother Lucille in witnessing her hateful attack of my brother for being divorced. I didn’t want to lose you. The irony is I ultimately did. I lost you completely. I couldn’t call, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t visit, because I had a horrible secret. I had three children, a loving wife, a beautiful home, friends. I stayed home for almost ten years with my kids- I didn’t know what else to talk about. I felt like a big lie when I thought of you. And so I lost you.

Now you really are gone. I can’t come hold your hand, as I so dearly wanted to when you were sick, and just see you smile. I’ll never have a chance to introduce you to my children, to have a picture of you holding them as infants, the way we have pictures of your mother holding us. The line of family history has been lost. My boys will never be southerners the way I am. I realize the edge of hate you lived comfortably holding is what kept me away. But, I will always wonder what would have happened to all of us if you had the chance to hold my first born in your arms. Somehow, I desperately want to believe, we would have come back together again.
I’m sorry. I will try to teach my boys about the War, about the family stories, about you and Ginsie, and all the McPherson’s. I will, mostly, try to find a way to talk about you without the shame, the way you told us stories about the family- on long, hot nights, with a glass of iced tea in hand.

I cannot change my decision, but I had to let you know that I loved you.


Thursday, September 28, 2006


What do you need, a friend asked me last night.

I don’t know, I said.

You know, she pushed, you do know.

I do.

I need to have people reach out to me. I’m finding it hard to reach out on my own. I am so scared right now. I feel the fear starting to become global, which makes me want to hide. Escape. I need to held so I do not run away.

I need to run, every day. It’s not just about getting my serotonin levels up; it’s about feeling strong. Being able to run five miles makes me feel strong at a time I feel unable to carry anything more emotionally.

I need to walk my dog out in the woods. The woods are safe for me. They have always been safe for me. And I need to come back. I cannot run to my old, familiar hideouts. I need to deal with my grief, my fear, and my rage. Now.

I need to keep from hitting the bottom of the emotional barrel. I have three kids who need me, every day. I cannot care for anyone other than them right now.

And I know I need to go sit with my mother.

I will hold her.

I will sing for her.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I'm sitting here waiting. I'm waiting to hear some obscure doctor give final notice. Ten o'clock, they tell me.

No one is going to hold my mother before her surgery. There isn't going to be a surgery.

Hopefully, right now, she's on a morphine drip. The doctor will say, days, weeks, months.

Doesn't matter. She's done. I can tell you it will be days. Maybe a week. No more. She and I have one thing in common. An incredibly strong will and the fear that drives it.

I'm waiting to hear.

I am going to lose her. Lose the battle. Lose the war. Not because I won. Not because I was right. Because she quit.

Don't quit! Come fight me again, I want to yell.

Some plug puller I am.

I wonder, in my own narcissistic fantasy, maybe she really does love me. Maybe she is taking the decision away. Maybe she knows she’s hurt me enough, all of us enough. Time to go.

I am so scared.

And waiting.


I found out today my mother would be evaluated for hospice tonight. No surgery in two weeks. Finally, her pain will be addressed. She will be made comfortable. Her wine poured liberally. Finally.

I wish I were relieved.

Instead, I’m numb.

Walter came over after hearing the news. Let’s plant your trees, he said. He had found four pines at a great price the other day and bought them for me. 12-foot trees at an 8-foot price.

We rolled the huge root balls into the holes dug. Shoveled dirt, shifted the trees to get their best side forward. We talked about the kids for a little while. Shoveled some more.

You know, he said to me as we paused for a minute, I’ll go with you to Rochester if you need me to. If Jeanine can’t.

His kindness and empathy is why I wanted him to be my children’s father. Why he is my best friend. For a moment, I am feeling again. I feel loved. Deeply. Cared for. Understood.

Thank you.

We dig some more. The trees are straight in their holes. The branches still list to one side from having been on the truck.

They’ll straighten out, he tells me.

I know.

What are you going to do about San Francisco?

Jeanine and I were planning a trip out to San Francisco in two weeks. Five days away, without the kids. She has a conference her job was sending her to and I would have a chance to get ready for my mother’s surgery without the kids around. Deal with my anxiety without yelling at them, being unavailable. It was part of the plan.

I think we’ll still go. Still plan on it, at least.

Good, he starts to dig again, you should. You can’t stop living and you can’t know what will happen.

And I am reminded of the same words coming from my friend Margaret when I was pregnant with my first child. We were making plans for a group of us to rent a house on the Cape for a weekend. The time picked was two weeks before my due date. I wasn’t sure I should commit to anything so close.

You’re better off with a ton of plans, Margaret said to me, otherwise, you’ll be sitting around waiting and that will drive you nuts. You can’t know when it will happen.

I gave birth to Ben on the Saturday night of the weekend away. All happy on wine, the group called the nurse’s station and actually got through to my room, where I was having contractions. Jeanine chatted with them. One little girl had taken her first steps, they reported. Everyone was excited and thrilled to be part of Ben’s birth, even if only by phone.

Now, I know, I need to make plans. Apple picking this weekend with friends. Naughty Moms dinner. Overnight in Maine to get the house ready to be closed. And a trip to San Francisco.

In some ways, I’ve been getting ready for my mother’s death for years. Doctors have said time is short so often their words are met with raised eyebrows and a chuckle- you don’t know my mother. This is different. She has given up. This time, her pain outweighs her fear.

I planted four trees today. Next year at this time, they should have grown about a foot. The roots will have worked through the rotted burlap and taken hold. Walter and I will admire our work. They will be part of the fabric of our friendship. They will always remind me of how Walter took care of me. How he had me dig when I could do little else.

And of the day I knew my mother finally said goodbye.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Plan

I met a friend for lunch yesterday. We went over what has basically been a miserable summer for me. Struggling in my marriage. Left a job, lost a friend. Another blow up with my mother, resulting in yet another long silence between us. (My friend has known me 15 years. She’s been around for many these almost annual mother/daughter events.)

And to top it off, I said, my mother's surgery is coming up in two weeks.

You need a plan, she said to me.

A plan? I think I’ll go dig a hole and stick my head in it. That sounds like pretty good plan right now.

No, Sara, you need a plan. How are you going to take care of the kids? How are you going to take care of yourself? And how are you going to work all this out in a marriage that has been struggling?

I have no idea.

Calmly, like the good friend she is, she outlined some suggestions. Exactly how I might best follow through so as to make this as easy an event as possible.

Imagine the worst, she said, shrugging, and plan for it.

Then I could let it go, I finish.

Exactly, she smiled.

After I left, I realized why I have no plan. I stay in the drama of the moment, the impending doom and allow myself to be paralyzed by it. Here is my most capable, kind friend giving me sound advice. Why don’t I take it?

It’s advice I would have given someone else. It’s common sense. Practical. Organized. I am not organized with papers or filing- don’t ask me to come up with a billing system that resides anywhere but my own little head. But I know intuitively what needs to be done when- how much food is in the refrigerator, where Jake’s reading list is and the last three books he’s read that still need to be written down, that Zachary’s favorite shorts are in the dryer and Ben will need to get out his birthday invitations by Friday. I don’t need a list. I simply know what needs to be done. Always.

I am the queen of preparation around going on trips with or without my kids. I was taught by the best- my friend Margaret, aka the Martha Stewart of Parenting. When I’m away sans children, I make detailed plans, contact friends around what I may need from them. I even update letters I’ve written to Walter and Allan in case of an emergency. You know, the big emergency like the plane has crashed. I list all the important information, everything from where the safe deposit box key is and to please sprinkle my ashes up in Maine.

Seriously. Not even Margaret does that. She says it’s morbid. Personally, I grew up with a mother who updated her will on a weekly basis. More fun than playing bridge, I guess.

I’m not that stupid, I think to myself. I should know better. Yet the draw of the drama around the event is so strong, like a centrifuge, I simply let go and spin far away. It is familiar. And even though my head aches, my stomach burns and my heart pounds with anxiety, it feels safe. Somehow, it is easier to be out of control than to be competent. I live up to my mother’s expectations- I am self-centered. Selfish.

If I’m out of control, I’m not responsible for my actions. Poor me, I have so much going on, I can’t possibly know what to do. Nothing can be expected of me. I can hold my hands up and say, no, I can’t. Too much. Look at how the room spins with all I have going on.

Not only do I live up to my mother’s expectations, I start to become her. It is exactly what has left her with a giant glass of cheap, boxed wine in her hand, bedridden. She has spent years paralyzed by her own self-imposed drama. Now her body can take no more.

I don’t want that for me. I don’t want that for my children.

I am going to sit with my wife tonight and go through what needs to be done. What I need in place. Where the kids need to be and who will take care of them. I am going to call my mother’s doctor and get specific information about the surgery so I can be prepared for the length and duration of the stay in the hospital. I am letting all the people who have held know when I will need them to be by their cells phones, in case I need help.

I am going to write a eulogy.

And I am going to write a letter wishing my mother a quick recovery and can I please use the Florida condo while she is unable.

Might as well cover the best-case scenario, too.

I’m not going to spin out of control. I am not going to let myself be pulled into the drama and have it take me on a rollercoaster ride. What is familiar does not feel good anymore. I finally see it for what it is.

I am not going to be my mother.

I will make a plan.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Peer Pressure Parenting

A recent incident involving my son and a friend of his made me realize how far I’ve let my boundaries be pushed by other parents. All the discussions I’ve had with my kids about peer pressure should have been directed at myself. I have been so worried about fitting in, not making waves, being accepted as a lesbian; I’ve let my own values be pushed around.

Somehow, someway, in my thought process, I believed that if I was liked and respected in this suburban neighborhood, my kids would have life easier. I already feel guilty about having given them a title of ‘other’ as kids of lesbian parents. They have two moms. Started life with a sperm bank syringe and a basil body temperature chart, not the kind of intercourse described, barely, in school sex education classes. Of course, there is an advantage when describing where babies usually came from- my boys all shrieked at the penis in the vagina thought. “EW! Who would want to do that?” Clearly, not me. I just shrugged and said, someday it might not seem so icky.

My kids' story isn’t like most of their friends. I try to console myself by remembering being adopted was often viewed as an exotic beginning by my childhood peers but it never made me feel different. Lucky, but not different. I still had a mother and father. I could still sit with my difference and never have to tell a soul. My boys do not share the same invisibility. Two moms show up at the school functions, two moms take turns dropping them off at school, two moms volunteer for field trips. And to top it off, two dads, too. We love being a part of their lives and couldn’t imagine parenting any other way.

Which brings me back to the problem of another parent’s ‘style,’ and my painful reluctance to call her on it. My middle son has a friend who I believe is struggling with boundaries, respect and being able to follow rules, to say the least. Mostly, I think my son’s desire not to make anyone unhappy (in true middle child fashion) has led to a complicated friendship. The mother of the other child often asks for play dates after school while everyone is standing around, letting the kids play on the structure for a while before taking them home. At their house, there are almost no rules, kids do as they please, with very little, if any supervision. I do not like my son there. From the first time I went into the home, I felt a strong reaction to the lack of any boundaries. Her children voiced their disapproval of her in loud voices and often kicked her for good measure. As if nothing had happened, she would move on, ignoring the insult, the physical attack. I struggled to stay quiet- they weren’t my kids. I should have stuck to my instincts, not let my kid go back over and waited for the invitations to stop. But it wasn’t that simple.

Aside from her parenting style, I generally liked the other mother. And she was so supportive of me, of my family, of my kids. She supported gay marriage rights. She never blinked at our difference. I felt like I owed it to her not to blink at her difference from me. Who am I to tell anyone how to parent? Some people think my kids should be taken away from me simply because I am a lesbian. Who am I to judge? And I placed my child in her care, over and over again, even though it made me uncomfortable. I kept thinking I was being overly protective. My son knew not to ride bikes helmet-less in the middle of the road. He knew he wasn’t to wander thought the neighborhood without an adult. Even though her kids did that stuff, he wouldn’t.

But he did. I would catch him on my way to pick him up and he would swear he wouldn't do it again. Promise.

You may think I stopped sending my son there, but I didn’t. My own fear about being mean, about being judgmental, was really about the fear of being an outsider. I didn’t want to make waves. I didn’t want to say no. I was afraid of being shut out.

I’d like to think I did this all for my kids but in truth, I did it for myself. I avoided confrontation. I avoided being ostracized. I felt powerless and instead of doing something about it, I simply convinced myself I could be a good influence on the other boy. In the meantime, my son struggles with his friendship to this boy. “He doesn’t like it when I talk to my other friends. He starts shouting and making weird noises. I don’t like it.” I urge him to tell the other boy. “He’s all like in love with me all the time,” my son shrugs uncomfortably. He doesn’t like sloppy love, long hugs, or confinement in anything. He’s a wonderful spirit built like a tank. He wants to move and go with no one holding onto his shirttail. Tell him you like all your friends, I suggest. Invite him to play along but don’t feel like you only have to play with him. He agrees to give it a try.

The play date requests continue and I turn some down. Then comes the guilt. “My son was crying today because your son wouldn’t play with him.” The boy is curled next to his mother, at last not kicking her, with a tear stained face. I feel terrible. The tears evoke sympathy in me. “He won’t play with me!” he cries to me. That must be hard, I respond, I’m sorry. The mother asks me to tell my son to stop it, to play with her son. They are best friends, she says. I try to ignore the mother and ask the son if he has a hard time when others want to join the game. “They’re stupid!” he shouts. I think they’re his friends, too. The boy shoves his mother and runs off, alone, to his house.

My boundaries are in shambles- I don’t believe everyone has to be nice all the time. I don’t believe friends are always friends for life. And I can’t believe I just let some kid shout at me. The other mother lets me know it’s up to me to fix this and she’s horrified at how terrible my son is being.

Did I walk away then? No. My son was firm and the boy eventually gave in and let others play, as long as he could have a lot of special time with mine. Which meant more play dates.

I just learned more unsupervised, unsafe behavior has been going on. The house, I said to my son, is in permanent time out.

He was relieved.

I’m left here wondering what happened to my ability to say no? Why wasn’t I more concerned with my own child’s safety than my own sense of peer pressure? Why was I so obsessed with conformity and acceptance that I let my values, my beliefs, and my principles, be completely overrun? And more importantly, how do I get my voice back? This time, not for me. It really has to be for my kids.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Inner Peace

I have no inner Buddha.

Just give me catnip.


School picture day tomorrow.

I have a thing about my boys’ hair. I like it short. Maybe I’m living vicariously, wanting to shave my own head.

Well, then, I have shaved my own head. Once or twice. Okay, I kept my hair incredibly short for many years.

It is so much easier to take care of short hair. No brushes, no combs and if the soap doesn’t all get out, no problem. Hose them off at the kitchen sink for a second and you are all set.

They all went to the barbershop yesterday. One Little Leaguer, and two trims. Jake looks incredibly cute with the Little Leaguer, hair cut to a one, little extra to spike up front.

A “one” is when the buzzer is as low as it goes. I never knew there was a special language in the barbershop. Ones, twos, fades, Little Leaguers, trims, Whiffles and crew cuts. The first few times I went to the barbershop, I was lost. I finally asked Walter to explain the language so I would get that cute little spiky front that I liked so much.

On the boys, not me.

Zachary’s trim came out great but Ben was unhappy.

The guy was so old, he said. I didn’t want to say anything. I just wanted out of the chair.

And the beauty of having two dads with very short hair is they have their own buzzers. So Allan had Ben sit down, wrapped a sheet around him on the back porch and started to cut.

Does he know what he’s doing? Ben asked, looking at me out of the corner of his eye so as not to move his head.

I dunno. His hair looks fine.

He goes to the barber.

I can do this, Allan assures him. The buzzer flies.

Ouch. Ow. Ouch. Ow.

Ben, does it really hurt?


Why don’t you ever say that in the barbershop?

Because I don’t know him.


And so the pain continued until the cut was finished.

Much better, Ben declared after viewing his beautiful self in the mirror.


Fresh hair cuts. Still tan from the summer.

Ready for school picture day.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Bright Side

It's a rainy day.

No play dates planned. Jeanine is at work all day.

I’m screwed.

No, I’m not. I need to change my point of view. A friend recently said to me that the optimistic way to look at problems, was to see them as specific, they happen to everyone and they are temporary.

It always stops raining. Well, except in Seattle.

Everyone has a hard time with three boys in the rain. I am not alone. There are countless other parents pulling their hair out right now saying, sure, watch another hour of TV just don’t stuff your little brother’s head in the toilet again.

It really is just rain. Otherwise, we are all healthy, our lives are filled with mostly good stuff and there wasn’t any blood involved in the last fray.

And I don’t have to drag the sprinkler out and water the newly transplanted rhododendrons.

I’m starting to feel like Suzy Sunshine.


I have no play dates planned. Jeanine is at work all day.

I am screwed.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Round and Brown

Middle children can be very quiet. Helpful and sweet. Mine has big, beautiful, blue eyes to go with a killer smile and gentle nature.

He’s also incredibly smart and sneaky.

Today, at a friend’s house after school, he, and his unnamed accomplice, had asked to play Star Wars Lego on the computer. Please????

The mom was putting away groceries. Okay. Sure, but just for a little while.

The boys are very sweet. Both nine years old, they are best of buds and generally are a delight together.

Not today.

They were not playing Star Wars Lego.

They were on an X-rated web site. Round. And Brown. Dot com.

Oh. My.

The mom caught them because they were being quiet. Don’t kids know when they are being quiet, all mothers everywhere instantly know something is VERY WRONG. I believe it’s part of the flight-or-fight response. The house could be burning down. A small animal or younger sibling could be being tortured. You simply know silence is to be feared.

She snagged them, even though they tried to quickly turn off the computer.

They professed their innocence. Said they were on a site about cars and suddenly naked booty was shaking all over the screen.


I had Ben walk Zachary home. Zach walks in the door, sullen.

Ben says I’m in big trouble.

Not big trouble, Zach but you have to come talk to me.

Big eye roll and heavy sigh. ANYTHING but talking. He once asked Jeanine to spank him instead of having to talk. Nope. You’re talking, bud. Perhaps that is the worst part of having lesbian mothers. We process. A lot.

Zachary, want to tell me what happened?

We were just looking at eBay cars…

And then?

And then it just came up on the screen.

Do you know I can see everywhere you’ve ever been on the computer?

Defiant, he is quick to answer. Not if you clear the history.

Told you he was smart. And sneaky.

You know mom and I used to work in computers, right?

We did, in fact, spend many years working in the software industry.

He nodded slowly.

We know how to see where you’ve been even if you’ve cleared the history.

Yes, we could pull up the cache and see what’s in it but I’m really pulling the ol’ eyes in the back of my head trick. My mother did it. She’d simply guess I had done something wrong and state it as fact. I always confessed, certain she had supernatural powers. It’s in the mothering 101 manual no one ever gave us, along with a long section on how much giving birth really hurts.



Okay, so [his friend] clicked on the site and then we clicked on the page that said do not enter and then…

He buries his head in his hands. Oh, god, he must be thinking. I have to tell my mother what I saw?

Honey, that’s fine. And I understand it was a lot to see. Maybe a little scary. Confusing.

He looks at me through his hands. This lady is baked, he’s thinking.

Maybe a little exciting?

Head back in his hands.

How did it feel?


Yeah, well, that’s because you were watching grown up stuff and you’re nine. It’s gonna feel weird. I bet it made your body feel weird.


Listen, we got you those books, It’s Amazing and It’s Perfectly Normal because they’re just right for you. They are written for someone your age, and c’mon now, they have naked bodies in them to check out.

Yeah, [his friend] wants to borrow those.

I bet he does, I think to myself.

I’ll talk to his mom about those books. You see, we want to know where you’re getting your information about sex and to have it be safe. And something you can understand.

The boy is silent. He knows the importance of the 5th Amendment.

Please come to me and ask about this stuff?

Dead stare.

Or ask Walter or Allan, just please talk to one of us, okay?


Once again, Walter gets to be the penis advisor. THANK YOU WALTER. I want my kids to have great sex lives. I do not want to hear about it. Ever.

Am I in trouble?

No, honey. Just promise me you won’t go to one of those sites again. It’s for people who are 21 or older. You’re not. Don’t be in such a hurry to see stuff you’re really not ready for, okay?

Got it, he nods and quickly gets up to leave the room.

On one hand, they knew they were wrong and knew they were not allowed to view it. Nothing wrong with naked people. I'd rather they get their Sex Ed from the books we've bought, our discussions, the school programs- pretty much anywhere but an internet porn site.

That’s for me. I am a firm believer in continuing education.

On the other, it's our responsibility to keep it as unavailable as possible. All computers are going to be locked. We have always had their computer in the family room with it’s screen in full view.

Middle kids. I’m telling you. Sneaky. Sweet.

Zach, I said to him as he was leaving the room, I know when you’re lying to me.

No you don’t, he said confidently.

Oh, yes, I do.

The blue eyes twinkled.

Okay, mom.

I am in such trouble.

Worn Thin

When I was little, my mother sang to me and I thought she had the most beautiful voice.

Hush little baby don’t say a word
Momma’s gonna buy you a mocking bird
And if that mocking bird don’t sing
Momma’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

There was something about her voice. The combination of how deep it was and the breathy softness of her singing was so comforting. She would take a long, deep breath and always start by humming first, as if from a far away place, a gentle place, a low rumble slowly became words.

My mother felt safe in those moments. She would rub my back and I would fall fast asleep listening to her voice, as it trembled slightly with her fear of hitting the wrong note.

The night before my mother’s last surgery, a few years ago, I laid down next to her and rubbed her back. I remember wanting to sing, softly, the way she had sung to me. The way I sing to my own children. I held her. She was terrified.

In the morning, my brother, his wife and I all stayed with her until the nurses gave the shot to relax her, in preparation for the anesthesia. The room was stark, covered floor to ceiling with white, enamel tile. There were four bays for patients, but she was the only one that hour. She looked so small.

This time, the night before her surgery, I do not know who my mother will have hold her. So many people have been pushed away. Dismissed. Or simply worn thin by her need to be in control and the center of the universe. The world revolves around her and she thinks she’s an awful person. Nothing matters but her woes, over and over. Her insecurity eats at her. People see power and confidence when they meet her. I see a scared, little girl who flails at anyone who tries to help her.

This time, I won’t wrap my arms around her. It hurts too much. Too many times her voice has come from the rage bubbling just under her skin. Thick, intoxicated, it cuts to my core.

I don’t know who will hold her. I don’t know who might sing for her. I only know it won’t be me.

And if that cart and bull fall down,
You'll still be the sweetest little baby in town

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I made a promise to my mother. I promised to be the one to make the decisions for her when she was unable. I promised to be her health care proxy. She was, and still is, terrified someone would keep her alive when she’d rather be dead. Force air into her lungs, pump blood through her veins, put a feeding tube down her throat.

It is her worst nightmare. Mine, too. She knew I understood. I do.

I’m going to be there for her surgery not because I’m a fabulous person or because I can rise above the fray- I’m not and I can’t. It is not noble.

I’m going because she is my mother. And, no matter how much I’ve been kicked, I will go back. Because I made a promise and I will honor that promise.

Recently, I had someone question a promise I made. A flurry of legal documents ensued. It insulted me to my core. Consideration is when you get paid to keep a promise, basically, in legal terms. My word was not enough. I had to have consideration. I had to be paid in order to have it binding.

I cannot be bought. The very idea of someone paying me money to keep a promise is beyond offensive, it’s funny. I have spent most of my life with money dangled in front of me like a carrot by my mother. A lot of it. I have walked away. Over and over again. Stop being a lesbian or I will disown you. Act and behave the way I want or I will cut you off without so much as a penny. Years I have listened to this.

I am still a lesbian. I still behave badly, in my mother’s opinion. Not only do I wear shorts in the city- a very real no no in my mother’s book- I wear shorts in the city in November. I have been known to pick food off of someone else’s plate- usually my children’s- and I always speak my mind. I am passionate and headstrong. I will not compromise my integrity for anything or anyone. Ever.

As I read one of many paragraphs on a legal document listing a tiny sum of money being laid out as assurance, I laughed. My word will have to do. I know I’ll keep it. They will, in time, learn a little more about who I am. Or not. I don't really care. I can't be bought. I simply keep my word.

Which bring me back to my mother. As much as she tried to buy me, rule me with the hope of riches someday, I believe, in my heart, she always respected me for walking away. Her father had tortured her with money, tried to control her every move, too. She walked away. She taught me loyalty was not something someone could buy. People gather around her because of money and she usually knows real loyalty from fawning for dollars.


I made a promise to her. I promised to be her voice when she did not have one. I promised to be clear about my own demons and fights picked with her, keeping them separate from decisions she has been so clear about. There is a lot of hurt between us right now. She doesn’t want to see me. She doesn’t want to talk to me.

I am still her health care proxy. Updated only a few weeks ago.

And I still love her.

I will honor the promise. It’s what she taught me to do.

Without a penny of consideration.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Nose Flute and Great Writing

Ben, tonight, after playing the recorder with his nose for his girlfriend (don’t ask which one), he said, did you know that Lindsey Lohan has a messed up Chinese tattoo? She doesn’t know but all the people who can read Chinese do.


A friend sent this to me. I will never be able to write like this. I know Lindsey Lohan has a messed up Chinese tattoo.

I have love. Respect. And good friends.

But I feel heard in these words.


One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
Each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Can't... Won't

My head is swirling. Can’t. Won’t. I keep waking up in the middle of the night screaming NO. I keep dreaming of having glass in my mouth I cannot get rid of, I cannot spit out, trying to move it cuts me, having it there, chokes me. In the morning, my throat is sore, my eyes swollen.

I feel the weight of the insistence that I go to my mother’s side for her surgery. You are a good person, I am implored. You are. You are kind at heart. It is your nature.

NO! I’m not a good person. I am not kind at heart. I am selfish and self absorbed. I care only about myself. My kids. My family. My friends. Me. Only me. My stuff. My world. My needs. My loves.

I am horrible. I really am. I am wacky, out of control, nuts, in serious need of professional help… I am controlling and manipulative. I am all the things everyone has said about me. I poison the room with my mere presence. I do. It’s true.

I hate this. I hate how it feels. I don’t want to be tugged at, beseeched. I’m not gentle. I am not strong. I am not thoughtful. I want to be left alone. Leave me alone. Don’t touch me. Get away. I cannot stand having so many people needing me, greedy for my compassion, sucking my bones for strength. I’m weak. I’m useless. No good. Write me off.


My body physically aches and is sore, my muscles holding the memory I shut down for so long. I don’t want to feel the humiliation, the terror, to taste the glass in my mouth again. Going to my mother's bedside gives my muscles' memory eyes. I'd rather save that for my dreams when I can wake myself up screaming. What do I do when I am already awake?

I feel myself backed up against a wall, needing to scream when I am not against a wall. I can simply say no. I feel the pull, as if the bridge edge is sucking me over, and there is no bridge. My heart is pounding. I want to run. I want my childhood hiding place, deep in the woods, under a canopy of vines twisted around a fallen tree’s roots. Leave me alone. Don’t touch me. Get away.

No one ever found me there.

I have always felt I had to scream to be heard. It has to be the hardest, most awful reason in the world for me not to take care of someone else, especially my mother. No excuse was ever acceptable. It was my duty, my obligation, and my responsibility to be there when she needed me. Always. To do anything less was ungrateful. Disrespectful. The only out was if it was impossible. If I was broken. Couldn’t.

I’m broken. I can’t. I won’t. I don’t want to feel the wall against my back. I don’t want to feel the pull over the edge. Today, they are unbearable feelings I cannot sit with. I cannot see the other side. It is permanent. Pervasive. Personal. The need of everyone else feels like claws. Be a good person. Be kind. You know you are a strong woman. You know you can do this.

I’m not. I can't.

I will scream it out in my sleep again tonight. NO.

I can’t. I won’t.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On The Roof

I’m trying to keep my sense of humor today. And yet moment-to-moment, I’m finding the bullshit keeps raining down.

I am officially, on the roof. On the roof is a euphemism for having one’s menstrual period, according to Allan. But since Allan doesn’t have a period, I’m not sure what made him know that except he’s clearly the brains. (See Jake’s morning thoughts)

We have since taken the image to the extreme. No longer is it about having your period, it's about being a bitch. A major bitch. An angry, major bitch. You get the idea.

Are you so on the roof I need to send a cocktail up there?

I’m taking up residence on the roof.

I have been on the roof so long I cannot remember how to get down!

Let’s just have a party on the roof.

Today was one of those days.

I had my sister in law tell me not to be a hurt child.


A friend of my mother’s has told me she really really really is sick but she’s a good candidate for surgery.


Really sick.


I miss my job. I could be at my desk, overwhelmed and being paid. Now I’m at my desk, overwhelmed and not being paid.


I instant messaged up an incredibly negative and pushy storm last night with a poor friend who happened to be online.

Whoa, Nelly. Block that bitch from my list, I’m guessing she thought to herself. Yup, feeling a little insecure about that.

I was late for couple’s therapy, which meant having to spend most of the session assuring everyone I was not being passive aggressive. Walter was because he was late to watch the kids that caused a cascading effect of lateness.

I’m taking everything way too seriously right now.

I’m on the roof. Send me a cocktail. Send me some chocolate. But if you come up here, be warned. It’s been one of those days.

Monday, September 18, 2006


I have a fear of bridges. When I drive over them, I feel an imaginary pull, as if I am going to be sucked over the side. I must be in the middle lane. I focus straight ahead and feel my heart race. It’s hard not to speed. Walking on a bridge isn’t as scary. I feel more in control- I’m not relying on a car to get me across. My heart still races. Every summer, I cross the pedestrian drawbridge into Perkins Cove, over and over again. 8 years later and my heart still races. I don’t think anyone notices. I hope no one notices.

There was one time in Vancouver, British Columbia when everyone noticed. I was there with a group of friends for the Gay Games. We went up to the mountain just outside the city for a hike. We came to a rope bridge. A fairly large one, but still, rope and boards. Over a deep gorge. It would sway back and forth as people walked across it. I couldn’t do it. I tried. I remember thinking I was going to wet my pants. My heart pounded so hard it hurt.

I could not make my legs walk across that bridge. The terror seemed to live independently in my muscles and it was too powerful. I felt helpless.

I know where my fear of bridges comes from- at least now I do. As a child, my grandparents- my father’s parents- lived in Ithaca, a town famous for it’s gorges, rock formations and colleges. My grandparent’s house was a short walk away from the Suspension bridge over Fall Creek Gorge. I would go with my father and brother. They would try to make the bridge shake by jumping up and down on it. In 1970, it did shake. I would be scared. And I would still go every time they were walking down there. I hated it. I loved it. There was a thrill, a rush of adrenalin I could not resist.

Once, we went because it was heard that a student had leapt to their death from the bridge. Suicide over bad grades was not that uncommon until they put up the safety rail. I was little, eight years old, at most. We all went to look. I remember my father picking me up and pretending to get ready to throw me over the bridge. I remember wetting my pants. I was frozen with absolute terror. He put me down and with my brother watched as the emergency crew gathered around what seemed like a small, metal basket covered with a white sheet. I stood, trembling, soiled, and holding onto my father’s leg, too afraid to let go.

I am afraid of bridges. The bridge itself feels powerful. I dream I’m falling over the side of that bridge. There is a peace once I’ve given up the struggle. I’m just falling. The worst is over. It’s not about dying or being afraid of the impact. It’s about not having control. Not having a choice about whether or not I go over the edge. It’s my father’s hands and quiet laughter while holding me high in the air that is unbearable. The final arc to the water and rocks is peaceful in comparison.

I’m on that bridge again. I am afraid of not being in control of my life when I am most in control. I feel the imaginary pull to the side. Do I go try one more time with my mother, to feel her love and recognition, knowing full well I will only end up uprooted, dangled? Do I work diligently to try and care for someone else’s needs in hope of getting the golden light of approval, absolving myself of the sins of needing, wanting something in return for myself? Do I keep loving people who can give so little in return?

Or do I understand it is only a feeling. A fear. I am in control. I have choices. I’m not eight. I no longer have to hold onto those who frightened me for safety. It is deeply ingrained but not permanent. No wound ever is. It means giving up the thrill, the rush of adrenalin. It means walking away from the pull.

I want to be able to drive over a bridge and relax my clenched muscles. I know I will make it to the other side. Maybe even look, for a moment, to see the view. I want to walk across the footbridge to the Cove and join my kids jumping in the middle, where the two sides meet, making the bridge jump up. I know it will hold me.

I’m tired of being afraid of bridges.

I’m tired of being afraid.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bad B-Movie

I am my mother’s daughter. I said something to my wife so absurd she started to laugh. I was very serious. Teary.

Scene Four, Distraught Daughter, Take three. Snap.

If I don’t go… If I don’t, she will die. This time, she will die. And it will be all my fault.

Yup. I said that. Word for word. Not the 50 years of heavy drinking. Not the same amount of years smoking. Not the surgery or the complications of her completely scarred liver. Nope. My mere presence is enough to tip the balance. Life or death.

It’s hell being God.

I cannot believe I really said that. What’s worse? I believed it. I had the mirror held so close to my own face, it steamed over.

I really am my mother’s daughter.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I need to write a correction to the blog. My sister in law called me and wanted to make it clear my mother had said she could not see Jeanine. It was too painful. She never once said she would not see her grandchildren. She always wanted to see the boys.

My guess is that to refuse the boys would have ended up like a bad B-movie script. Violins rise sympathetically in the background. Our heroine, propped in bed against a pile of pillows, throws her arm over her forehead.

I can’t. I just can’t. The pain is unbearable.

But … you must. Just one last time. For the babies.

I cannot… I am… too weak.

Fade to black.

To me, she needed to, again, make a point- I had hurt her so deeply, she could not see my wife as it reminded her too much of me. The kids, who look like me, were fine. Jeanine, with her long, black hair and gorgeous Mexican skin (see earlier photo- I am as white as they come) would be too much. It was, in my opinion, an attempt to garner sympathy for her plight.

But not consciously. And that’s where I feel it’s important to cut her some slack. I don’t think she knows the things she does, to quote her statement about me. I honestly don’t think she actively thinks about how to be hurtful or manipulative. I asked the question before; does a narcissist see himself or herself in a description of narcissism? I don’t think so. While everything is about them, it is also about their generosity, their heroic efforts. Their kindness. The image in the mirror is only of their face. In turn, they describe all they see. It is by reflex, not by intention.

So, correction made. My mother always wanted to see her grandchildren. She made it into an event that was about her, her needs, her vision, and her rules. But always, she wanted to see them.

A heroic effort, indeed.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Birthday List

Yesterday morning before running out to school, Ben handed me his birthday list. A silver IPod video- wants to be a big kid- Pokemon decks- nah, maybe still a little kid- Motorola Razor phone- big kid- a ton of skittles- definitely a little kid- and the last item? A baby sister who is 2 years old.

At first I thought it read, a babysitter 2 years old. No, a baby sister. Clear space between the words. It’s spelled right.

On the walk home from school, I mentioned his request.

Um, Ben? That's not going to happen.

There is one reality of being a lesbian- it is knowing absolutely, positively, there will be no more babies. We are not playing with fire. No sperm involved unless it’s bought and defrosted. We are the queens of Planned Parenthood.

Why?? You can adopt one, you know. And she should be blonde...

Jake pipes in, So she'll be like me!

… And her name will be Gwen...

BEN, no! I'm not kidding.

It doesn't cost any money, Mom... that would be slavery. It's free to get people.

Okay, at this point, I don't even know where to go with the conversation. So many choices. People are free? Does that include IPod videos and Motorola Razor phones?

Ben... no. No more children in our family.


Is this some cruel and unusual punishment I am handing out? Once again, I am soooooo unreasonable.

Ben, do you want to call Luke about hanging out this weekend?

I’m going for distraction. Hey, it’s worked since he was a baby. I’m not ready to give up that tool yet. (Note: I am not allowed to refer to it as a play date. Play dates are for babies. He is not a baby.)

He has two little brothers... Ben points out, as if I am robbing him of the right to have what every other kid in the school has. Baby sisters and Heely’s, in his opinion, rank up there with notebooks and pencils. Necessary equipment to function at school.

Zachary, usually Switzerland in these discussions, being true to his middle child role, mumbles, Might be fun to have a little sister...

And we could help her with all her princess outfits- Ben is rejuvenated.

NO. You guys, it's just not that simple.

I thought to myself, on one hand, I love this kind of discussion. I love the fact that they are talking- the walk home can be filled with grunt responses to my questions. I find with my boys I have to be engaged in a physical activity to get them to loosen up enough to go beyond simple answers. On the other, I am desperate to get to the house so I can put a snack in front of them, a sure distraction to get them off the subject of baby sisters.

With blonde hair. Named Gwen.

After dinner last night, he came into my office and with a heavy sigh, crossed out the baby sister. He wrote, MonkeyBall Adventures, a video game, in her place.

Poor Gwen. Somehow, I know it’s not the last I’ve heard of her. In the meantime, I can do MonkeyBall Adventures.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Four Pets

Jake comes in for snuggle time this morning.

Mom, he says, you and Walter are the same and Momma Jeani and Allan are the same.

Why is that?

Well… Momma Jeani and Allan are the brains….

He pauses to poke my nose with his finger- this observation came easy.

And Walter and I?

You are the garden people.

Jake finds this quite amusing. Yesterday, his teacher pulled me aside after school and with a big smile, shared a Jake-ism.

We were working on number groups, she said, and Jake came up with four… he has two moms, two dads and I said, so you have four… begins with a p…

Pets! Jake announced.

No, parents, she corrected.

I am so grateful my kids are all held and celebrated at a school where everyone knows them. Another parent who is new to the school, also a lesbian, and I were chatting after school let out asked me while I was being said hello to or waved at by almost everyone passing- teachers, parents, kids- do you know everyone?

We’ve been the only ones, I responded, referring to our celebrity status as the only gay parents in the school.

But that’s a cop out. It’s not true. The reason why we know everyone, the reason why I have a connection with teachers my kids haven’t’ even had, is because I’ve worked at it. I knew how important it was to be active, welcoming, available. A friend and political activist said to me before my oldest went to kindergarten, you will be, like it or not, representing gays and lesbians. You will be a role model. So many people think they have never met a gay person. Be thoughtful about how you are, how you act.

And I was.

I am incredibly fortunate to have a small, public school- only 250 kids from grade K-5- and a group of parents I genuinely like. Sure, there are a few nut cases- I wonder, do nut cases, like narcissists, see themselves in their description- but I have also found some new friends, people with who I’ll have a lifelong connection.

Jake has his four pets. His teacher’s delight in his miscue. A community we have worked hard to build around them, holding their family as unique and normal, all at once.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Full Circle

I just had a friend ask whether or not I write in the morning or night. I said it depends… and what I write is different from morning to night. Today, for instance, I was working on a piece about friendships gone wrong, along the line of cancerous friendships, from benign to malignant. It felt a little extreme, though. I did come up with a great picture- one I felt reflected the topic.

Then I spent a lot of time researching the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It was a perfect evolution, having spent the morning ruminating about malignant friendships. I learned a tremendous amount but couldn’t quite figure out how to write about me and write about narcissism at the same time.

Go figure.

Then, I am afraid of getting sued. But it begs the question, would a narcissist see themselves in the description of narcissism? If I described a relationship, in depth, that I had with someone I believe has NPD, would they see themselves? Because everything has to be about them. Everything is about them. And yet it would not be complimentary, contrary to their belief about themselves as above everyone else.

Food for thought. Not sure I want to risk being sued but life is short, as someone responding to one of my blogs recently wrote me. Might as well go for the gusto.

But as I go through the day, I start to mellow, start to find more humor in the moment. Probably because I pick up my kids at 3:00pm and they have a way of putting the world in perspective. I find myself no longer furious but laughing. Instead of being incredibly intense, I poke fun at myself. Both sides are important.

Perhaps if I wrote at 4pm, I’d find more gray. More blurry edges.

I listen to Ben and Jake fight in the other room about the same things they always fight about.

JAKE, just stop LOOKING at me, OKAY?

I’m not doing anything… Jake replies while sitting dangerously close, tilting his face up towards Ben. The countdown commences. Five, four, three…

OW! MOM! Ben just hit me for NO REASON.

Yuh. I think I want a referee shirt and blow the whistle. Offsetting personal penalties. Fifteen yards for unnecessary roughness. Fifteen yards for unsportsmanlike like conduct. Everyone, TO YOUR ROOM.

Except Zachary, ever the middle child, he is sitting with a book. Innocent. I look over to him and he shrugs his shoulders and goes back to his book. Don’t get me wrong, he gets in trouble, too. He’s just very sneaky about it.

A friend calls and asks me to pick up her kids. Traffic is bad. Help! I get her kids, who are at the school just a block away. Yo, Dude, they say to me. Peace sign flashed. I flash one back.

Yo, Dudes. Let’s go. I love taking care of other people’s kids. I get the freedom to not be a parent. I can be fun. Playful. I become a different kind of role model. One that allows expression and supports individuality. A cheerleader, not the police. I always wanted to be a cheerleader. Okay, honestly? I always wanted to sleep with a cheerleader.


When they get here, a game of Kill the Carrier commences. Not very PC, but a lot of fun. Eyes are bright. Dirt is everywhere. Later, pizza consumed. And, yeah, there I am with the milk again.

My life comes full circle in a single day. I am angry and full of myself in the morning. Raging against the indignities not only I faced, but so many people faced. The world revolves around my hurt. I slowly start to move away, realizing my complicity in the equation. Ultimately, my kids bring me back to the moment, back to the present.

I’m off to tuck in three boys. Clean from baths, they all smell fresh from the soap. I will answer Jake’s question about how electricity went from the lightening bolt to the key. Zachary will allow, in a private moment his buddies cannot see, a big hug and kiss. Ben will want me to sit, for a long time and talk about which singer is in the top ten this week and will they remain there. I’ll stroke their heads. Jake still wants me to sing to him. The older boys simply want my presence, quietly, at their bedside.

It is the end of the day. My work is almost done. I’ve gone full circle.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Jake's Early Morning Thoughts

Jake came downstairs this morning for our snuggle time. Every morning, he and I are up first. Ususally, he comes to my side of the bed and pats my cheek and says, Mom? You up? and then in a loud whisper, MOM YOU AWAKE? ARE YOU READY TO GO DOWNSTAIRS?

Often, he's already been up a while so he comes in costume. I've had Batman, Superman and Spiderman come and wake me up in the morning. I never know what I'll see when I open my eyes.

We then go downstairs and snuggle together in a chair. Sometimes, we chat. Sometimes, we simply sit quietly.

This morning while sitting in my lap, I asked him why he was sleeping in my bed this morning. I had specifically laid down the law last night there was to be no small children in my bed. Everyone needed to stay in their own. If there were bad dreams to address, I would do so in their own bedrooms. After several nights of additional thrashing limbs in my bed, I drew the line. I do not do well on little sleep.

He smiled at me. I wasn't in your bed, he said. I was on Momma Jeani's side.

That's still my bed.

No, that's Momma Jeani's bed- it's her half. She said it was okay.

The reality is Jeanine doesn't wake up when they crawl into her side making it the prime choice of late night visits. Even the cat picks her side.

I think this kid is going to be a lawyer.

A little while later, we went to feed the dog and get Jake's breakfast. He asked me how old the cat was.

She's almost a year old, I said. Her birthday is next week.

So, then she's zero.

Not really, but she's not a whole number yet.

She's a big cat for zero.

Yes, she is.

And she can catch a lot of stuff. Birds... mouses... she can even catch her tail!

Yes, she can.

And there you have it. The first edition of Jake's Early Morning Thoughts.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Subtle Change in Direction

I was going to resist the urge to write something about September 11th, or nine-eleven as even my children now know it. Jake was a only a year old when it happened. I walked them to school this morning and talked about the anniversary and how it would be discussed in their classes today.

Ari’s Uncle died, right? Ben asked.

Right. He was on one of the planes.

Yeah, the Twin Towers, he sighed with world-weariness only a ten year old can muster with a straight face. He was in kindergarten when it happened. We carefully avoided all television, hid the newspapers, and tried to keep the images of planes crashing into buildings away from all three of the kids. They were babies. Still, it soaked into their experience- we could not protect them.

What I am most struck by on this anniversary is the idea of paths we chose, when we chose them and why. Sometimes, the crossroads present such a clear choice, you feel as if there wasn’t one when in fact, there was. September 11th was a crossroad for millions of people.

For me, it was a day I became really clear about my family and the importance of Jeanine’s career. We had recently signed a deal to buy a yet to be finished loft in West Hollywood. Modern, fabulous space to put Jeanine in the heart of her business- she writes music for television and film. Being in LA was essential, she had said. I have to be there.

I did not want to live in LA. The image of hot pins poked in my eyes was more inviting.

So we compromised and bought the loft. She would travel back and forth- a lot. And she had been. The Boston to LA routes were all very familiar to her. Her favorite was Flight 11; the American Airlines flight because it had better service on the plane. More comfortable seats. She had a seat booked on the flight, returning to LA to finish a project and meet with the realtor about the loft.

A couple of days before the 11th, she changed her flight. I haven’t seen the kids for days, she said. I think I’ll hang around so I can have breakfast with them. Take them to school.

I remember thinking she would get charged a fee and it was a waste of money. The trip was a short one- only a couple days. She could wait. But I agreed.

I came home from having coffee with my friend Margaret, having talked about transitions and our kids. My oldest had started kindergarten. It was a milestone event. She was worried about her oldest daughter and wanted to think out loud about the things she was seeing at the time.

I walked in the door and Jeanine was coming up from her basement office. Did you hear? I said. I had not. By chance, and really everything that day feels like it was random chance, Walter was working in the yard. I called him in. We turned on the TV. The image of smoke coming out of the building and the words the announcer was saying made no sense.

Well, Jeanine said, then today is the safest day for me to fly.

You aren’t going anywhere, I said.

Now, Sara, when a plane crashes, the odds are so great… she started to say. On TV, the second plane hit the second tower. We watched it fly into the building. We were all quiet. Eventually, we started asking questions, out loud, to each other, to no one, what the hell is going on? What is happening? Is this real? How could that happen?

Jeanine, white as a ghost, said, no, I’m not going anywhere today.

The phone started to ring. And ring. And ring. Because everyone knew Jeanine was flying to LA that day. Call your mother, I told Jeanine. I called mine. I heard myself over and over, on the phone say, no, Jeanine’s home, we’re okay. Everything is okay. Finally, my sister called started to cry when I said Jeanine was booked on the flight but had changed. Then I started to cry. Sob. The fear washed over me. I almost lost her.

She chose a different path. A subtle change in direction.

My friend Terry called, relieved Jeanine was home. Two hours later, she called from the car, driving to New York. Her brother had been on Flight 93. Are you sure? Yes, she replied, I have to go be with my family. I remember listening to her and calling her back a half an hour later. I spoke with her wife. Are you sure? I couldn’t understand what she was saying. The words came out but my own fear was pounding to loud, I couldn’t really hear her.

It took Jeanine three years to acknowledge how close she came to being on Flight 11. Too scary, she said. Too much. She no longer travels to LA and back. She found work in her field at home. Not out of fear but out of understanding how important being with the kids really is to her. Suddenly, she couldn't simply fly back and forth. It brought new light to an old issue.

Today, I’ll think about all the paths I’ve chosen since then. Sometimes, clear forks mark distinct choices- it’s easy to remember them. Something as little as changing a flight, an ever so slight shift, though, can end up making the biggest difference.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Nancy's Gift

Tomorrow is my first day of work.

I can’t wait.

My office is clean. I have no more sorting or filing. Everything is ready.

While I was cleaning out my desk last week, I found a letter from my friend Nancy. She wrote it seven years ago after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Four years ago, she died. She was a delightful spirit, with sparkling eyes, always looking as if she could burst into laughter or song at a moment’s notice, even when she was so sick. In her letter, she wrote about how she saw me, the way in which she delighted in knowing me. She wrote extensively about her belief in me- I did not understand it at the time. She said she wanted to give me a gift.

“The gift is: use your noggin to the highest level of consciousness, not only to create your life, but to enhance your children’s lives and by daily example of who you are, enhance others around you. You’re loaded with insights and wisdom, compassion and empathy… You are an old soul being asked to push away boundaries of beliefs in regard to relationships. Trust in your ability.”

She reached into my messy desk and plunked her letter back down for me to read again. I would not have gone through those piles without the time. I had long forgotten about it. Nancy believed in spirit guides, something I thought was nonsense but acknowledged as a possibility. It was hard not to respect her thoughts because when she held something, she held it deeply. You’ll believe someday, she said smiling, with those eyes I could not resist.

Now, maybe, I do a little. I have a feeling she’s standing with me right now. Encouraging me to believe in myself. And maybe break out into song, if the mood strikes. To lighten up and remember I am alive. She is not. If we are to lose people so young, we owe it to them to live- not perfectly, not without mistakes- but without regret.

So, Nancy, it’s time for me to grow. To grow beyond the level I have reached, to not be satisfied with what I have done, but to think about what I can do next. It's time for me to use my noggin, as you said, and to push boundaries.

If I am to serve as a scapegoat in my family, I will do it with as much dignity and composure as possible. I resolve to never again entrust my self-esteem with someone who doesn’t appreciate or know me. I will not invest so much of myself for so little in return.

Leaving my job was the right thing at the right time. The experience has been exhausting, emotionally, but well worth it. I am proud of what I accomplished. I learned a great deal about myself. It was a personally gratifying place where I pushed my previous limits.

I will trust my intuition you respected so deeply.

Thank you, Nancy. What an amazing gift. Your letter will sit on my desk. And, spirit guide or not, you will be standing with me.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Oysters Under the Stars

I spent today working on a piece about my mother. How she had refused to see her grandchildren today because it made her too sad. How she decided seeing Jeanine, who would be bringing them over, reminded her too much of me and it was impossible.

She would not see her grandchildren to drive her point home. I was going to write about how she had now stepped over the line- do not involve my children. Do not hurt them or you will never see them again. Your argument is with me. They are only guilty of loving you.

I could write a lot about that. I have written a lot about that.

Tonight, though, something touched me so much, I knew I couldn’t post a rant about passive aggressive manipulation. Tomorrow, perhaps.

Walter, Allan and I had dinner tonight. Oysters under the stars. Island Creeks, Salutations- oysters from Prince Edward Island, Massachusetts, California, over fifty, all washed down with a crisp, white wine. I started the night by complaining about my mother but was slowly steered to more productive conversations about goals for me, post working at the investment firm. We all shared different things we’d like to do. See more plays, I said. I want to hear the cadence and listen to the craft. Karate and welding, Walter said. He needs something physical. Allan sighed, with two more years of PhD work, he has little choice. But he and I have decided to learn how to do the Tango. I said, I’d lead. He said, in your dreams.

We all watched the cute waiter. Decided the couple in the corner was two women together, two men together, but one of the men was best friends with one of the women- and talked about subtle cues we give off that tells our stories through body language.

The waiter slipped the credit card in his apron pocket in such a sultry way even I was interested. Body language, indeed.

At the end of the night, Walter described the last time they had Jake for a sleep over at their house. The boys go to their house sometimes as a pack, sometimes just two, sometimes only one for special time. Jeanine and I looked forward to the times we are left with one, having time to connect, focus all of our attention on a single child, if but for a night. And the kids feel they have two homes, two places to sleep, two places to be and on weekends, it is often their choice where to go.

They all love their alone time at Walter and Allan’s. Yes, they like being the only ones at home with their moms but they still have mom rules like napkins on their lap, no burping and they have to brush their teeth.

But then, Walter and Allan have the same rules, so it must be a guy thing.

Walter described how he woke up early and peeked at Jake sleeping. There is something powerful about watching a sleeping child. They are vulnerable, beautiful, and in the moment of watching their chests rise and fall with each breath, simple. The feeling of love was so strong, he said, it made him start to cry.

Later, at Dunkin Donuts (okay, that is a dad only thing), he told Jake how he had watched him sleeping and was filled with love. How great it was. How great Jake was.

Jake leaned over and with a giant grin, touched noses with Walter.

And as much as I want to be angry with my mother tonight, I can only think about the love my children have in their lives. It feels so good.

Two Dads. Two Moms. No divorce.

Pretty amazing.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hooked Again

My mother has decided to refuse treatment for her various illnesses. None by themselves are particularly life threatening, except for the cirrhosis. The combination, however, has left her bedridden. Unable to walk. In constant pain. It is no way to live, she has said.

I agree.

As angry as I am, as much rage as I have right now, I do not wish her pain. Physical pain. Yes, I want her to grapple with the ways in which her alcoholism has fractured the family, fractured me. I want her to know how her self absorption, like a mirror held so close to her face the room disappeared, left her blind to the three young children right in front of her. Children who needed her and loved her desperately. I want her to feel that because I do everyday.

I do not want her to feel the physical pain, though. I am not cruel. I have been physically tormented- I know how it feels. As a child, I remember my arm pulled so far behind my back I thought my shoulder would rip apart while being held face down against the floor, unable to escape the stink of feet, dog pee and mildew…while she was somewhere. Around. Busy. I would wait and wait until I couldn’t bear anymore of the pain and then finally cry out her name.

Mom… Mom… MOM!!

And how it happened over and over and over again, in different ways, with different limbs, by different people.

I don’t want that for her. I don’t want her to feel like she has to wait until she cannot bear anymore. I knew at nine years old what it felt like. I am wounded but not broken. I would never want that to happen to someone else.

I deserved it. Or at least I was told I did. The experience gave me compassion. I may have been bad, I may have been selfish but no one deserves to be tortured for their character flaws. I cannot watch someone suffer and not want to hold them and care for them. I know pain. Not just of my shoulder ripping but of the struggle to accept it, being unable to and ultimately crying out for help.

She has made her decision. At least for today, it is her decision. She will get frightened and change her mind. Everyone around her will embark on the roller coaster ride of the crisis she has created to keep all eyes on her- the mirror she holds close is as hard to resist as the next drink.

Her emotional pain I have no time for. Her choice. Her mirror. But the physical pain- I cannot stand. I know. Let go, I want to say. It’s okay. I want to hold her hand and by doing so, give her all my strength.

I don’t want her to wait until she cries out, unable to take anymore.

And I realize, I’m hooked again.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I feel like I’m breathing again.

For the last couple of days, I haven’t had to go to work. I haven’t had to worry about where what paper was or if this client or that client was all set. I haven’t had to read the Wall Street Journal.

I drove to the grocery store today, in the middle of the day. No lines. Saw a few other parents I know. Chatted. I found myself smiling. A lot. I can feel the grip of tension slowly leaving my body. I wasn’t anxious at the stop light thinking of all the things I needed to do before some preset time in my head- before getting the kids, before dinner, before work. I opened my window and felt the breeze.

I remembered feeling that way a lot before I went back to work. Mind you, I am and have always been, high strung. But when I stayed home full time, people actually described me as calm. Peaceful. I felt some of that today. It was … strange.

And the debate starts again. Is it better to go to work? Or stay home? When am I a better parent? When I’m engaged in outside work or when I’m focused on their needs? My kids are who they are today because, I believe, I stayed home with them for almost all of their lives. I also believe they witnessed me being involved and excited about work outside the home. I was more than a mom. There were times they didn’t get something because I had to go to work. There were times I didn’t get to see something they did because of I had to go to work. Always being available doesn’t give them a real sense of the world.

There were more people caring for them. Walter and Allan had to become more involved because of my work schedule. And I was often tired at the end of a day and unavailable in the way I was prior to working. When I didn’t work outside the house (notice, I’m already changing that tune), I would be tired at the end of the day, too, but I didn’t expect my day to end until the kids were in bed. When I got home at 4:30pm from work, I was done. But I wasn’t. Which often led to a cranky mom.

I’m not sure right now which is better for my kids. Both have their good and bad sides- working, not working. I’m blessed with the choice. When I told the kids I quit work the other day, Jake let out a big HOORAY!

You’re glad?

Yes, Mom. Now you can play with me more.

Which is better? My guess? Both are good. Both are bad. It’s a gray area.

God, I hate these gray areas.

But today, I was breathing again.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Last Night of Summer

It’s the night before the first day of school.

We’re all very serious.


Jake yells for me from the stairs. I think a leg is broken by his level of shriek.

What?? I come running.

Does this map show the whole, entire world?




It’s really small. How do all the people in the world fit in it?

Good question.

Backpacks have been loaded, unloaded, checked and loaded again.

Except for Zachary. His teacher has already given an assignment. He’s not happy. It has to be bigger than 12 by 12 and smaller than 24 by 22, I say to him.

His face melts. This is more than he can deal with. How to shoot a bow and arrow? He’s there. Swim across a lake? Okay, he’ll try. 12 by 12? You have got to be kidding.

Hey, I said to him when he was having a fit, this isn’t second grade!

Oh. My. God. Did I say that? The big leagues. Third Grade. I am turning into a Newton parent. This is a scary moment for me. You are going to do this, you will do it well and there is no crying about it!

Okay, if I were a real Newton parent, I would do it myself and have my precious baby sign it. If I were a Weston parent, I would hire someone to do it AND sign it.

He ended up doing a great job. Tear stained face and all.

You have to try, I said to him.

He looked at me like I was the anti-Christ. Ooookay.

I called my wife, Jeanine, in the middle of it.


Um, okay, I was being a little high strung. I have never been the craft mom. I hate glue. I hate cutting things out. I’d rather throw a baseball or play tackle football in the mud. Just don't make me sew or help design a Jefferson Memorial replica out of marshmellows (see below. Ben's creation.I did not help. Jeanine sat and applied glue while Ben stacked. I simply carried it to school- no small task.) I'd rather sit through non-stop PTO meetings.

Currently, Jake is running around the house with a marker-

But mom, it’s washable-

Zachary is just out of the bathtub-

No, I didn’t wash my hair, Mom. I washed it last week-

And Ben is in the bathtub singing “Buttons” by the Pussy Cat Dolls.

It’s the night before school.

Edges are fraying as I type. Jake is crying. Ben tried to wash off the marker Jake got all over himself. In the process, soap soaked Jake’s pajama bottoms. Great indignity. Zachary is talking to his dads on the phone- such a middle child; he is discussing what special he’ll have at school tomorrow. Ben is talking about what he’s going to wear tomorrow. Dark jeans. Pizza is Greater than Veggies shirt.

I love September. I still feel the transition of school. It feels like a new year. January 1st has never meant much to me. But the day after Labor Day means new hope, new chances, new opportunity.

For me, today, I went to an investment committee meeting of a foundation where I serve on the Board of Directors. People respect me. Think highly of me. Value my opinion.

And when I said I had left my job, I was pulled aside by a fellow member and good friend. Here, she said, come with me.

She showed me to the ninth floor of the building. It was where her new office space for her foundation was. Each room was described and I oooed and ahhed. Then she showed me the last room. This is your office, she said.

It’s been a day since I’ve been out of work.


For you to write, she said. Temporarily. You need to be writing. I’ll charge you… she smiled, a lunch a week.

Deal, I said.

I was almost in tears.

One door closes. One door opens. People who believe in me surround me. I'm grateful. No, I'm blown away. I can't help but smile all the way home.

We sat at dinner tonight with candles that were almost to the end. I lit them all and said, just like summer, these candles are at an end…

And then everyone started digging into the pasta and grilled chicken and Caesar salad. I was having a profound moment of recognition. They were hungry. Jeanine and Weezie looked at me, kindly, waiting to start.

I laughed. Summer is over! I said. So much for ritual.

Let’s eat!

It's so corny but true. One door closed. I am sad for the loss. Someday, I will wake up and realize I haven't thought about it for a while. A day. And then a week will go by. I'll feel faint stirrings of sadness, loss. Slowly, I'll heal. Today, the bleeding stopped. In time, I'll only see the scar.

And another door has opened. I asked Ben today as we walked up to the school to check out his classroom, how do you feel about school tomorrow?

I’m a little afraid but mostly excited.

And you know I am feeling the same way. A little afraid… but mostly excited.

It's the last night of Summer. Let the new year begin.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Big, Red Easy

I have a button on my desk my kids bought for me. It’s big, red and says “easy” on it. It’s a gag from the Staple’s ad and when pressed, says, “That was easy.”

Today, I wish the button really worked.

I have left countless jobs. I never looked back. All day, I wanted it to be easy. Simple. Clear.

It isn’t.

Am I making a huge mistake? Is it really all my fault? Maybe, if I had just been a little more understanding… maybe if I was less demanding… maybe if I was willing to accept the new rules outlined and tried, at least tried, to be different…

And the words are so familiar. They are in my mother’s cadence, burrowed deep in my head. You don’t try enough, Sara. You don’t work hard enough. You only think of yourself.

I feel like a failure tonight.

Maybe that is the easy button after all.

Words of Wisdom

Don’t ever have a friend for a boss or a boss be a friend. It doesn’t work out.

I quit my job.

The housewife turned worker is back to being a housewife again.

Now I’m going to have to clean out the closets.

Paint the master bedroom.

File all the bills stuffed into paper bags.

Put away all the laundry, not just the clothes but all the sheets, towels and dinner napkins, too.

This sucks.

I'm sad. Sad I lost a job I really loved. Sad I lost a friend.

I made my boss’s life easy. I pitched in during a crisis more than anyone else in the office. I started my job working 20 hours a week. I found myself working 30 hours in the office and more at home. I worked every day of my vacation. It wasn’t okay anymore. In the middle of the crisis, I could do it. Sure. But, crisis over. Enough already.

And that’s where having your boss as a friend doesn’t work. It gets personal.

Something happened along the line that made it an impossible situation. I cared. She cared. She listened to me during the biggest crisis of my life. Took it in and, as a friend, held it with me. I listened to her during the biggest crisis of her life. (What is it about being in your forties and having everything crumbling around you? Another blog.) I started to feel responsible for her like a sister. I started to see the business as part of my family.

It wasn’t.

I stepped on her toes. She stepped on mine. When I needed something I felt the right to ask for it, to demand it. But I was an employee. Not family. She would pull on the boss hat and say no. Take off the boss hat and be a good friend. Pull on the hat and be a jerk. Sometimes, in the same five minutes.


I wish I could say I was completely right. That I was in a horrible situation and I had to leave. I wasn’t. The tension surrounding our working relationship and personal relationship, the lack of boundaries, became too uncomfortable for both of us. Painful.

So I’m back to the piles of laundry. Full time. I’m afraid I’ll slip into depression again, struggle with seeing my role as Mom, Housewife and Writer as enough. My job had given me a clear definition of myself- I was a good person. I had a paycheck, happy clients, and usually, a happy boss to validate my worth.

I loved my job. I really cared about my boss. Still do. But now it’s time for me to see what I am truly capable of. My friend Rosa said once about work, "Given some time, I believe I can be exceptional." I was a great assistant. It gave me all the tangible rewards I craved to prove I was good enough. Smart enough.

I didn’t have to reach inside for confirmation.

Now I do.

I have the time. I hope I can be exceptional at the work I define.

Monday, September 04, 2006


It keeps running through my head, over and over again. “How can you do this to me?” My mother’s piercing, angry, question. How could I do this to her? And you know, for years and years, I wondered. I considered the question. How could I? How could I be so selfish? How could I continue, “time and time again,” to quote her, to disappoint my mother? How could I be so self centered to not think about how my actions effected her? How could I continue to do the same things, never learning, never understanding, and never improving?

I call and hear her voice, weak, or strong, either way, full of liquor and the nasty confidence it brings. She’ll ask the same question. How can I do this to her? Why do I continue to do this to her? Why? The she realized, in her self-deluded alcoholic reasoning, “You couldn’t possibly know what you do.” I don’t, Mom. I have no idea how living my life could be such a painful statement to you every minute of every day. I have no idea. My children are a joy to me. I delight in their very existence. I do not understand how horrible I am to have as a daughter. I cannot imagine any of my children being a miserable weight to carry.

I’m sixteen years old, sitting at the dinner table. My mother has made stuffed green peppers. I hate stuffed green peppers. I’m not allowed to say anything but “Mmm, this is delicious. Thanks so much for cooking!” I’m sixteen years old. I’d rather eat pizza; I’d rather eat cereal, anything but this disgusting, gelatinous goo stuffed into a wilted, sour shell. But I don’t. I graciously accept what is in front of me. I say thank you. I sit on the edge of my chair, watching every line in her face to see if I have accomplished the goal of making her happy. I can’t wait to get out of the house, so I can breathe again. She leaves the table unimpressed, but not angry. I have learned some new tools. I am learning how to keep my mother happy. It is essential.

But I’m not sixteen years old. I don’t care if my mother is happy anymore. No, I’m not going to ask what I can do to make it better. I’m not going to share with you pieces of who I am. It’s for me. Somehow, you will twist it to be about you. I am not playing the game anymore. Stop sending your sweet friends to cajole me into being a good daughter. I’m not. I’m not a good daughter. I am a miserable failure at making you happy.

I wish I could go back in time, sit at that table and tell her how horrible it is to be there. How it’s her job to take care of me, not mine to take care of her. That’s how parenting works. I watched in friend’s homes, where parents drank coffee with dinner. I listened in disbelief. No bourbon. No big deal to be a self-absorbed teenager. It’s normal.


I need to keep reminding myself that I’m done. I’m done being dutiful. It gnaws at me, not just old tapes in my head, but a presence with teeth. It is a powerful relationship, between mother and daughter that allows such pain, such abuse, and such cruelty. And still, somewhere inside, there is love. Even a dog learns to hate the master that kicks it. Not me. I keep going back for more.


I am blown away by her demand for it. My need for it. After all these years, I still seem to need it so desperately. And when all is forgiven, I’ve gone through the nasty spew of her anger and she’s fine, everything is fine, I’m left with this under current of anger, hate, and fury. How dare she do this to me. How have I let myself get sucked up into her game again?

Never has she been cruel or cutting or humiliating to any of us in front of anyone else. Only once, when I came out as a lesbian, did she blow it. She and her friend Mary Ellen were visiting me at college over the summer break at my rented house just off campus. Mary Ellen was a favorite drinking buddy of my mother, as she could hold her liquor, and never questioned how much was being consumed. That awful night, my mother asked if I was a lesbian, point blank. I said yes, unprepared. My mother turned wicked, and being so drunk, she began calling me things I had never imagined coming out of her mouth, ever. She was so horrible, and so drunk, I ran up the stairs and locked myself into my bedroom. She banged furiously on my door, demanding I come out and listen to her. I put some headphones on and closed my eyes. Mary Ellen had to drag her out of the house. She kept telling my mother to stop, to stop saying such things, and my mother cursed her, too. Within hours of reaching home, Mary Ellen was no longer a friend of my mother’s. Mary Ellen had refused to agree, and my mother couldn’t stand having a witness.

I feel cheated. I wanted to hate her. I wanted to be mad. For a long time. I wanted to be cruel. And I couldn’t. On some level, she still creates a world, and I still have to decipher what is true, what is crazy. Am I a bad daughter? Do I care? How do I get these teeth out of me?

And yet I still hold her secrets. To tell would be blasphemy.