In trying to piece together the happiest time of my childhood being the saddest part of my mother’s life, I find myself breathing more easily. Knowing a truth that I probably suspected all along brings my intuition into alignment with my experience. My mother wasn’t happy and now so much makes sense.
Before we moved to Greenwich Village, my mother had been in love with two of the loves of her life and lost one and left the other. In Greenwich Village, she confessed to me that she had lied about my father being dead and I somehow came to believe that her happiness depended on being married. She tells me that the impetus for getting married was to provide me with a father and some of the stability she could not provide us on her own.
She had been dating David, who owned a houseboat, but the relationship was volatile and going nowhere. She met Larry B and started dating him very shortly after David faded from our lives. I knew they had met, she and this new man, on City Island where David docked his boat. Larry lived with a roommate in a big, beautiful home, across the street from a cemetery and we spent the night there occasionally. He swept her off her feet, during their courtship, and, when he proposed to us, not just my mother, she said yes because here was the promise of a normal life, a typical future, for the both of us.
During the courtship, his father also committed suicide leaving a wife, a business, and two other adult children behind.
The wedding was at a courthouse and there was a reception in some community hall, perhaps a synagogue or something. I don’t remember anything except my mother beautiful silver dress and my own white dress with a green velvet vest and matching green velvet Mary Jane shoes. It was the fulfillment of everything.
1. To bring to actuality; effect
2. To carry out (an order, for example)
3. To measure up to; satisfy
4. To bring to an end; complete
My formerly Catholic unmarried mother married a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx. She was creating family so she could conform to society’s expectations for her. And with the fulfillment came an end of our relationship as it had been. My mother gained a husband but lost herself and, when she lost herself, I lost the only family I had.
To say that Larry B was unstable is an understatement. He was a violent man, verbally abusive, and cruel but I was not the brunt of his wrath. Rather, he tore my mother apart, complaining about her body on their honeymoon, leaving her nothing to love in herself. And I started disappearing as well. I started skipping school at the age of nine and nobody noticed, until the truant office caught up with me and I was forced to go back to class. I went from being happy with school to struggling with division and we had moved from Manhattan, which was my home, to the Bronx, which was his, spending the occasional weekend with his mother, and trying to stay quiet.
We eventually moved back to Manhattan but it was too late for me. I left my friends and didn’t make new ones in my new school because we were only there a few months, not enough time for me to really sink in roots. I started junior high the next year and made friends with the outsiders while my mother continued to unravel, changing jobs, getting an abortion, and eventually having the marriage annulled. They married when I was 9.5 and the marriage was over just before my 12th birthday. Because of the annulment and moving into a new apartment, we couldn’t afford to celebrate my birthday.
Larry B didn’t immediately disappear. He showed up one night and attempted to stab my mother. When we moved, he left anonymous gifts for me on my birthday, although we knew he was the one behind the painted and decorated miniatures of the fellowship of the ring, including Gandalf the White. Eventually, however, he did leave our lives for good and my mother met and fell in love with another man named Larry.
When I told my mother that the worst thing she’d ever done was to marry Larry B; the second worst thing was to fall in love with and marry Larry E. But that second Larry, the man who was the third and last great love of her life, was not a mistake in the end. It was just bad timing, my being too young and overflowing with unrealistic expectations, and too many emotional wounds that had yet to scar over.