My Mother's Dream
I am the reason why my mother never went to Spain. I seem to remember that being a dream of hers. An aspiration like that is hard to accomplish for a young mother trying to make it in the world alone. Were there other dreams that she never mentioned? Perhaps Spain is a euphemism for the things that many of our mothers sacrificed for our mere existence. Though this thought occurred to me at one time or another throughout my life, it was not until recently that the actual emotional impact of such a sacrifice manifested itself to me. As I surpassed the age at which she gave up many of a young adult's opportunities, her experiences became clearer to me, and I now feel compelled to make sure, at least through a smattering of heartfelt words, that we preserve those sacrifices, long hours of work, times of loneliness, and of course many moments of joy.
Deborah Jo Rosemond is her name. She was born in North Carolina, where we have a great deal of family still. I never dug too deep into her parents' views on the world, but there is certainly an underlying conservatism among the Rosemonds. Not conservatism as most people view it today, but that elusive, masked gentility of proper Southern behavior. We can thank the Puritans for most of that, but I will not do so, as I feel that it stripped most Southern families of our ability to communicate openly with one another, lest we say something taboo and suddenly fall dead.
I never knew her father. Nobody has ever told me a thing about him. Seriously. Not a thing. Well, except for my father, who claims that the man probably died because his daughter was marrying a Jew. One has to admit that the timing was eerily in favor of that argument. Of course, my grandmother would consistently wax baffled that there weren't more white players on the North Carolina Tarheels basketball team. At eight years old, I could only shake my head and wonder to myself whether this very educated woman was actually confused or simply dismayed.
My parents met in high school, which is an obvious recipe for disaster to any adult, but which makes perfect romantic sense (note the contradiction in terms) to any high school kid in love. They married young, had me young, and were consequently divorced young. I don't know the specifics behind their divorce, beyond my own deductions, but it's no stretch to figure out that it was my father's fault. I don't know if I'm mad at him for it or not; that's for deeper psychological evaluation. I do know, that my mother was now: alone with me, quite poor, and very upset most of the time. I remember the tears and the arguments as she would drop me off for visits with my father every other weekend. I remember her in a red "I'm a Pepper" soda logo tee shirt on Grove Avenue in Richmond, Virginia crying on the sidewalk as she argued passionately with my dad. I was in the car watching through the window.
We moved about once a year. I thought that's what people did. Now neither of my parents can figure out why I move so much. I do tire of explaining the simple stuff. So, we hopped around a series of apartments for a while. We lived in shabby neighborhoods, and we had painfully few friends. I do not have many great memories of that time. In retrospect it nearly brings tears to my eyes to imagine my mother taking care of me, watching me play alone with a towel safety-pinned around my neck as a cape, having to go to work and find someone to watch me, not having the things she deserved to have, like a life. My father at the time was a young surgeon with a younger girlfriend and only had me four days a month. This essentially must have added mounds of insult to mounds of injury for my mom. I recall one Halloween in which my mom took me out trick or treating; just the two of us. I can't remember what my costume was, but she was dressed as a witch. Soon after we headed out, she developed an upset stomach, and though she tried to keep me out as long as she could, our run was short lived. I knew that she felt terrible that we had to head in early, but I wasn't upset with her at all. I loved her, and to the extent a young mind can grasp it, I felt her loneliness.
Time progressed and she met the man who would become my stepfather, Kevin. Kevin is a good man. He's rough around the edges, fiercely honest, and would step in front of a truck for anyone he cared about. I respect Kevin a great deal. At six years old, of course, that didn't mean a thing to me, and I was just trying to figure out who the guy was, and what he was doing there. He was making my mother happier though, and he was a strong and consistent male figure for me. I truly feel that Kevin was a very positive force, overall, for both of us.
We enjoyed a great deal of camping, canoeing, and snow skiing. That progressed into them buying a boat with some friends that we would take water skiing, as well. By this time I had developed into a pre-teen, but I was still young enough to participate with my family in these events. This is the time I imagine my mother was happiest. We had some good family friends, the Solimandos, a half Jewish half Italian couple from New York, with their daughter, who was five years my junior and who I knew from the day she was born. I remember more smiles on my mother's face then. They did some drinking and laughing, and listening to music. It's a little vague in my mind now, but I know it was a better time for her: Maybe her best time. Our friendship with the Solimandos lasted for almost two decades, and I know it was devastating for my mother when changes in their lives made the relationship no longer sustainable. She lost another important relationship by no fault of her own.
By this point I was the quintessential pain in the ass, brooding, temperamental teenager, who performed at an absolute average level in school, and was prone to destructive tantrums at the drop of a hat. I alienated my family to a degree I cannot now even comprehend, or conceive to rationalize. I was the angriest person in the world, and my mom took the brunt of it. She was a talented labor and delivery nurse working the graveyard shift, because it paid better. Twelve hour shifts four days a week, if I remember correctly. When she was home, I essentially wasn't. I didn't eat dinner with my family (which now included my brother Kyle) and I didn't participate in family activities. I even bowed out of going to Thanksgiving dinner once, playing the vegetarian card. I'll never forget the look of anger, frustration, and humiliation on my mother's face that day. My argument felt weak and cowardly, and I felt like I was driving a knife into her gut. But I did it anyway, because that's what a hubris-filled moron of a teenager does, consequences be damned.
I spent the last year of high school living with my father, stepmother, and two brothers on that side of the family. Once again, I did not consider my mother's feelings on the subject. She sounded so hurt when I announced my decision, that for a second I had a flash of actual human guilt. However, it truly wasn't my intention to upset her, and the increased structure of life at my father's house actually did me some good. It also did some good for me to get out of the suburban neighborhood that I so despised. I had to escape what I viewed as a trapped existence.
Soon thereafter I was off to college. Then I was off to live in Argentina for almost two years. Then I was off to live in Puerto Rico for five years, where I got married and then divorced. The divorce devastated my mother, and afterwards she maintained a better relationship with my ex than she did with me. My father was equally upset with me. Neither of them asked for my side of the story; I guess they just assumed that I screwed up. It is a fair assumption, but in this case, inaccurate.
I did, however, become closer to my family after coming back to the states. I spoke with my mom on the phone numerous times a week. Saw her too infrequently, but the visits were all together positive. By this time, my mom had left nursing and got into politics, which excited her a great deal. Then, around the time I decided to move again, this time to California, she also became increasingly dismayed with politics, as well. She is still angry with me for leaving. She is still angry at Washington. I have worried about her happiness for some time now. She only watches 24 hour news channels. She never watches movies or anything for entertainment, as far as I know. I don't even know if she listens to music. My stepfather spends a lot of time on the road with his job, and Kyle lives in New Hampshire. Live Free or Die, I suppose. Is she angry at Kyle for being gone? Is she angry at Kevin for travelling so much for work? That I don't know. Her three beloved Golden Retrievers passed away within a too short period of time. Debby is quite alone. I internally resented her grief and detachment for a couple of years, I admit. However, I miss my mother, and it was important to me to analyze and map out, in this very broad stroke sort of way, what had brought her to her current state. She sacrificed many of life's possibilities. She struggled more than most should have to. I hate to hear sadness in her voice. I hate to hear defeat in her words. I hope she realizes, even when Kyle or Kevin or myself, don't come right out and say it, how much we know that she has done for us. I have no idea how to give her back her happiness. One day, though, I hope I am at least able to buy her a trip to Spain.