well, besides Grumpy Bear?
But I don't talk much about my mom. Because I'm estranged from my mother. Because any good memories I have of her are inescapably entwined with many more bad ones. Because it's easier for me to set it aside and not think about her.
Because it's not funny. The stories about my mom. And I prefer the funny.
But look, I'd like to get something straight right away. I don't buy the whole, "but she's your mother" argument. Yes, she is. But mother love isn't universal. Not all mothers give their children the love they need. Some mothers are toxic. And some children need to push their mothers off in order to breathe.
And that's what I did.
So there's no discussion here. I don't speak to my mom. That's non-negotiable.
There were some good times though.
My mom taught me to swim and to love the water. She taught me to teach others to swim.
She encouraged my love of books and of dance. She and my father imbued in me an appreciation of the arts and theater.
My mom was an excellent cook. She never taught me to cook, but I've spent the better part of my adulthood replicating her garlic bread recipe. I think I've even improved it.
Sometimes she'd pull out her old records and teach me Sixties dances in the living room.
At Christmas, she'd read me stories about how other cultures celebrate the holidays. She was religious and unyielding in many ways, but she valued other cultures and taught me to learn about them.
She used to write me notes on my napkins that she packed in my lunches.
But make no mistake, my mother was a fearsome woman. It would take a volume of books to unpack my mom's neuroses, but there are many and they are complicated.
And there are two moms. There's the mom of my childhood: terrifying and narcissistic. There's the mom of my teens and after: addicted to prescription drugs and completely out of her mind. Both moms were controlling and abusive.
I don't exist as a separate person to my mom. I am simply an extension of her and exist as a subset of her existence. Suffice to say, she was controlling. Controlling is putting it mildly.
I was her little star.
If my mom had discovered pageants, I would have been a child beauty queen. So picture that. Only a child model (at the mall, but I was shy and hated it) and a child actress (on stage). I was in acting lessons and voice lessons and choirs and six dance classes. Not to mention violin lessons and soccer and horse shows and girl scouts and cheer leading and swim (of course).
Before you laugh and say I was spoiled and privileged, let me just say that I had no choice in any of this and that we were poor. My mom would go to any length to finance all of that because when I was out there shining, it meant she was shining.
My parents were in debt up to their eyeballs and often didn't know where gas money or food money would come from. When our water was shut off, we showered at my dad's fire station and used the bathroom at the Carl's Jr down the street. All for her little girl.
Never mind that I would have been happy with one ballet class and to spend most nights at home with a book.
But I had to shine. I was expected to be perfect.
A story: I'm 9. It's winter. And cold. I've angered her. I don't remember why, but it had something to do with the shirt I'd chosen to wear because she ripped it off of me and told me to go hide. I knew I had to hide because if she found me, she'd kill me. That was the implication. The understanding between us. So I hide in our family room/garage. I have no shirt on and no shoes. Just my purple sweatpants with the pink piping down the leg and my bare feet on the cold, hard floor. I stayed there for hours. Shivering and crying silently.
Perfect would never be achieved.
As I got older, as I began to achieve and travel and do things she'd never done, and she descended further into insanity, she became jealous. And cruel.
But that's a story for another day.