Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Heaven holds a place for those who prey.

They're gone. Off to school. Never looked back. Little bastards barely stood still for the obligatory photo. I have to work, but it makes me wonder what my mother did in these moments of eerie calm.

My guess is, she'd fire up a smoke, make a few beds, and whip up a curried shrimp quiche for her bridge club. I'd ask her, but she'd likely take a puff of her smoke and start to cry. "What do you mean what did I do?! (exhale) I was the perfect mother". End of conversation.

My childhood memories have, for the most part been suppressed, thank God. It's like a huge chunk of my life was spent swimming underwater with my eyes open, unable to hear, or see clearly, everything that was happening above the surface. While difficult to breathe, it's safe and quiet under water.

So, I'm a fucked up product of my environment. No need to call in Dr. Phil.

I do recall my mother telling me I needed stitches every bridge night. I have alot of stitches from head to heel, so she must have played a great deal of bridge. I often wonder who drove me to the hospital, because I have no memory of that.

Growing up during a time when Moms stayed at home, while Dads went off to work in the city seems so 'other worldly' now. We lived comfortably, in northern New Jersey and my Mom drove my Dad to the train station every morning, where he caught the Erie Lackawanna into Manhattan, and his job on Wall Street.

Manhattan, in the late sixties, was different than it is today. Business lunches were Mad Men-esque boozy affairs, and no one headed to the gym for a workout. Men smoked and flirted with secretaries and never worried about rushing home for Billy's soccer tryouts, or because they were coaching the hockey team. Dads were distant, and smelled like after shave and cigarette smoke, and power. Or, at least my dad did.

One memory I have not suppressed was jumping in our baby yellow Mustang convertible and meeting my dad's train. My brother and I would get watermelon Zotz candy somewhere near the station, and my Mom would sit in the car and smoke, looking all dark-eyed and glamourous. Looking back at photographs, she was a babe. I look like my dad.

Before my mother left to dutifully fetch my father, she always whipped up a blender full of whiskey sours, placing the glass container into the freezer, so they'd be perfect when he got home. I remember sugary packets of whiskey sour mix and the blender noise signaling the approaching father figure.

Let's just say we didn't exactly rush for the baseball mitts when my dad came home. He retreated to the sanctuary of my parent's bedroom where he would place his loose change on the dresser, remove his suit, smoke, drink whiskey sours, and prepare himself for a role he was never really cut out for. Banker he could handle – being a dad was like a suit that never quite fit.

Once, and I remember this vividly, we went to meet my dad's train. The Erie Lackawanna arrived, then pulled away. My Dad never emerged as he normally did. This seemed odd, and in pre-cell phone days I'm sure my mom sat and waited for the next train, and possibly the one after that. Who knows. As it turns out, that evening my dad stayed on the train, whooping it up in the bar car 'til the end of the line. Those of you who find that sad, and take pity – pity not. I am my father's child. I likely would have done the same thing.

I remember working all day, and before heading into the house I'd drive around the block a few times. I was so fucking tired but I knew the minute I walked in the door I'd have to slip into Mommy skin and be happy, and bursting with love and energy. Of course, there were no whiskey sours waiting in the blender, because I was a single mom. In fact, Jack was strapped in his car seat as I cruised around the block peacefully. That heavenly purgatory between who I was all day, and who I had to morph into at home, was like swimming under water.

Yesterday, I drove an extra lap around the block unnecessarily, but only because my neighbour's boy was loading up his car heading off to a second year of university. I wasn't wheeling around to say "good luck" or anything. Feeling very much like Mrs. Robinson, I went around the block to catch another glimpse of Ben. No shit. Ben. I drove around the block to take another look at Ben. No longer the curly headed teenager, Ben was a man. Benjamin was a gorgeous man with no shirt on and abs that looked like a grilling pan from a shiny, new oven.

I almost hit the tree in front of his house.

Now, imagine if this were the late sixties and I was 3 whiskey sours into the afternoon and beautiful and confident and horny. Imagine, if I knew my kids were in school and my husband was likely grabbing the secretary's ass in NYC, and I had the moxie to sidle up to young Benjamin and seduce him. Hey, I'm no Anne Bancroft but whiskey does strange things to a middle-aged woman.

Of course, I didn't seduce Ben. I just waved – twice – and kept driving. Jack had hockey and I had to work. Besides, who am I kidding, I couldn't seduce the last olive out of a jar.

I just can't help but think parenting in the late sixties must have been way more fun. Every house had a Contiki bar in the basement. Moms stayed at home and drank and smoked all day. And I don't recall ever looking up at a baseball game and seeing my parents cheering positively in the stands.

Dads today, well, they are scent-free and drive unsexy mini vans. They leave work early to coach teams, and drink wine occasionally at dinner parties, and maybe a beer watching the game. Moms work full time and raise kids full time and rush around all fucked up and loaded with guilt about having to work – and worse – wanting to work. Hey, going to work is a hell of a lot easier, and often more rewarding than staying at home, raising a pack of ungrateful little kids who grow up and write shit like this. No wonder my Dad stayed on the train. I get it.

Needless to say my parents divorced. The train ride between work and domestic life was never quite long enough. My memories of it all are fuzzy, but sometimes when I'm walking through Sweet Jane's retro candy aisle, I pick up a little canvas bag of Gold Nugget gum, or Charleston Chews and I get flashes of sweet, and sour, childhood memories. If you haven't been to Sweet Jane's it's a hell of a lot cheaper than therapy and you won't believe the emotions that can surface in a fucking candy store.

Swimming under water certainly has benefits. You can cry under water. And, while under, there's always a glimmer of hope that when you emerge from the deep end, someone will be standing at the edge of the pool waiting to hand you an ice cold, whiskey sour.

Look at the time! Jack will be home for lunch soon and I'm fresh out of mix. Where did the morning go.

Sweet Jane's is on Doyle Street and they deliver, just in case you're rushing around trying to get ready for work, or a bridge game.