Monday, October 07, 2013

Memoir Challenge Four

The following is the second of 15 blog posts I'll--fingers crossed--be posting in the month of November as part of the October Memoir Challenge

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.
Fulfill (verb)
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.  

11 comments:

  1. Although details and certain circumstances are different, I can definitely relate to this. My biological father's first marriage after my mother was terrible. She used him and was just an all around bad and mean person. I don't know that she ever tried to stab him but I don't really care enough to ask. At this point, it's so far in my past that it is forgettable. I knew she didn't like me but I didn't like her. The second relationship had him moving in with her after only having known her for 3 days. She too can be mean. Rarely does she unleash it in my direction. I do hate hearing her say mean things to my dad and he's told me that if he didn't mind being alone, he'd divorce her but he thinks he's too old to find anyone else.

    Not living with my dad full time made it easier to deal with his moving on so I can only imagine how it feels when the only person you really have decides to be with someone that makes you unhappy. Maybe you didn't/don't look at it like that. I can't help but to look at it that way, I'm jealous like that.

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    1. It's not unusual for a person who is involved in an abusive relationship to leave one only to end up in another. And I don't think you're jealous in this situation. More like empathetic.

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  2. What a great post that shows that marrying someone for a reason other than love is never a good idea. Sad that she entered another bad relationship. I'm glad to get to know your life a little better.

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    1. Angie, I'm not convinced marrying for love is the answer either. Many people who love deeply still fall apart in a marriage and there are still arranged marriages where love grows over time. But the second Larry wasn't a bad relationship. She fell head over heels in love with this man and when a woman falls in love there is little space for anyone else, even a daughter. So while it was a wonderful thing for her, at the time, it was not a wonderful thing for me. However, they are still married now, and I have grown to love him very much.

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  3. "My mother gained a husband but lost herself and, when she lost herself, I lost the only family I had." This is such a brave, true, astute thing for a young woman to learn. I'm glad you wrote it.

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    1. Deb, Thank you. There are times when writing something you feel the rightness of how you put the words together and this sentence is one of those that just felt right.

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  4. Wow -- way to leave on a cliffhanger! I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment. Thank you for your emotional honesty in these posts.

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    1. Amanda, Believe it or not, I'm not intentionally leaving cliffhangers on any of these. I'm writing for as long as I can, given my schedule and such. But it has seemed to work to my benefit. :)

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  5. Interesting insight about how your mother's unhappiness and how things worked out in your childhood -- so much makes sense. I learned things later in life about my mother that made things slip into place.

    Joy's Book Blog

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    1. Joy, Some of the pieces are very recent (like finally learning how she met my father) but it's funny how many things made sense to me earlier on. I realized as a teenager why she chose her specific field of nursing and it would take my mother nearly another 10 years to make the same connection I had made as an adolescent. Still, the more I know, the more I can connect one thing with the other. I hope that my children will make some of these same connections for themselves through these pieces and the stories I share.

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  6. So sad how you and your mother were on such different trajectories. Thanks for sharing so openly. You've inspired me to write about this relationship tomorrow.

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