It’s easy for me to remember all the crazy, difficult, punitive and nightmarish moments with my mother. They come to me on a daily or nightly basis. It’s so much harder to recall memories of joy, reward or love. After all, she did refer to my birthday once as “the worst day in the history of the world” which is a statement permanently tattooed on my heart. She did ask me not too long before she died, “how I could possible look in the mirror seeing such a hideous face.” And she made sure to remind me day in and day out that “everything bad that had ever happened to her, was my fault.”
But, here I am an aging woman about to celebrate Christmas with the sons and husband I love so deeply and unconditionally in the essence of the very best part of the season. I know that will be good and filled with pleasure and joy but I work hard to conjure up some good memories of my own past as well.
One recollection comes to me quite clearly and yet I believe I was only five years old at the time. I know that it had to have been before my sister, Alice was born because once she came into our lives my mother’s decent into madness escalated big time, (likely triggered by post partum mood disorder.) We moved to a larger apartment in the public housing development we lived in as well.
This took place in the original apartment we lived in at 765 Stanley Avenue in Brooklyn on the eighth floor. When I woke up on Christmas morning, it was as magical as it should be for a five year old in a normal family. I was stunned to see the presents along with my father’s excitement. He had played Santa at a party the week before and I was innocent enough to ask my mother, “Didn’t you think that Santa sounded a lot like Daddy?” I had no agenda or suspicion in asking that question.
But, there was one item that I simply stared at in awe and disbelief. There hanging on the double gooseneck lamp in the living room was the most beautiful ballerina tutu! It was actually a white tank style undershirt sewn onto a pink tulle tutu and it hung on my mother’s finest wooden hanger, My mother had MADE this for ME! I don’t remember wearing it, or handling it or outgrowing it. I only remember staring at it with complete joy and knowing without a doubt, that it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
I can assure you that it looked nothing like the photo I include here, but nevertheless it was sweet and generous and certainly made with love for a time when my mother still felt able to love me. Merry Christmas Mommy wherever you may be. I forgive you (mostly!)