I wrote this last dawn. It took me a day to post because I'm toeing the sleep-over-what-you-write line. I even e-mailed a friend asking if I should post this before I decided to, so... yea, no blah-blah build-up at all! :)
Maybe not 'ever since I was a little girl', but through much of my adult life -- fine, all of it! -- I've had a complex relationship with my mother. My childhood, since they're always telling you to begin at the beginning, wasn't bad. No abuse, no contemplating suicide, no abandonment issues, nobody died; I was a laughing, bouncy kid -- like Olive in Little Miss Sunshine (see pic), only slightly more off centre and a little bit more cheeky. But when I screw up my forehead and let frown lines dig their nails into my temples, when I train the lens of my recall power to not waver, to stay, like a command to a dog, I can in a flash conjure up the days when the going wasn't Olive, if you know what I mean.
And I mean this of the last ten years -- these complexities I speak of as if complexities weren't a word arrived at consciously. Well, more than ten actually -- I turned a year older just the other day.
I'm not sure how I've gotten started on this right now. I don't write about my mother. It stays tucked in, the cosy demon scrap book of memories. But there's obviously something eating me if I'm up at 4:something in the morning and I tell myself it's to shut the windows because its raining and because I sleep with them open because I don't like what the AC does to my skin and because the consequence of all this love for nature and love for vanity is going to have me moppin' up rainwater tomorrow morning.
So yea, of course I'm up to shut the windows. Except I kind of like that its dark and there's lightning and ha ha! the crows have had it because it's wet and they have to put off their stupid cawing till the patter stops. Besides its a Sunday and I wish these birds would take it elsewhere, get out of the suburbs. (Dorothy Parker anyone? -- Every year, back comes Spring, with nasty little birds yapping their fool heads off and the ground all mucked up with plants.)
So yea, here I am, sitting up in bed, my beautiful steel lamp turned down to its lowest illuminating factor, smelling my little ring of white jasmine buds for ten bucks lying next to me, and I'm constantly stopping to rub my eyes because the tear ducts are a bit scratchy from my solo sneeze festival some minutes ago. There's lightning outside too, did I mention? Net net: there's a mo-od! And what kind of half-assed wannabe writer doesn't cash in on the mo-od. Either I do that -cash in, or I go eat an apple and look out the window, be wistful rapunzel number one because damn, my hair's growing well.
All of what I've said above is true. And I did go get that apple (two apples -- I skipped din-din). And I did do the Rapunzel thing. I didn't toss the apple core out in the open, even though, I'm such a... a -- oh, aa.. excuse me! jesus! -- even though I'm such a hypocrite. I snarl don't litter to every person who I sense is about to lower trash on to my ground, and yet I've been the most guilty tosser-out of cigarette stubs from my car window when driving, and this is my pathetic new thing.
But back to the mommy issues. My mother's taken to ignoring me. I see this as a positive development (straight out of *Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood? -- "Forget Love. Try good manners"/ "The point is not knowing another person, or learning to love another person. The point is simply this: how tender can we bear to be? What good manners can we show as we welcome ourselves and others in our hearts?”).
I think I didn't wake up because of the rain or the window or the apple or the jasmine. Or the sneezes. Although how I would've sneezed if I were asle... anyway. I think I'm up because as a daughter, I'm telephatic. Is that a word? For someone, for a daughter type person, to wake for no reason, thanks to no outside stimulus? I just felt my mother wasn't in the house. I felt I was sleeping in an empty house. That it was dark and raining and, of course, she had to be in her room., didn't she? What else are you here for? But she wasn't. Because she'd left. She had a flight to catch. And she didn't say bye. Not last night when she could've said won't wake you, eat properly, and 'don't act too wild' -- which is what she told me last month when she had a flight to catch and I woke up for a 2-second groggy ok tata bye bye.
No okay tata bye bye this morning. She just left. And if I'm honest, I know I was up a good second before, long enough to catch her at the door, even if I had to pretend that I was woken up by all the pussy footing and quiet lifting of a puny suitcase for a week-long trip. I wasn't woken up by anything other than a restless heart. I am my mother. People ask me are you more your father or your mother? I sometimes wish I could lie. When I was told by an old friend, on the drinky evening of my birthday that there are facets of me that are my father, it topped my evening. That to me was birthday present riiiight up there with my various other thoughtful lovelies -- my baby hydrangea, a native of Nainital that survived the Delhi heat, my big ordinary but beautiful kettle with oil paints of all primary colours in it -- I've always wanted this (thank you, person reader, gift provider; you melted me), my cake, my book giftwrapped in what do you know -- olive paper -- with an orchid on it, my blue-brown-ochre hand-knitted scarf, and my birthday card in which my grandmother, who's mostly given up using pen paper, wrote to me, inscribed my card, called me a name she hasn't 'written' in years, and if this were to be the, heaven forbid, last card I ever got from her, I'll freeze it and put in a safe deposit and pretend I swallowed the key, like Jerry the mouse did in an episode you can't possibly connect with because you're normal and Jerry's a mouse.
I had a good day, sure. It was fine. There was wine. With fruits in it. Perfect prissy sangrias. The problem is I didn't spend much of it at home. I didn't see my mother, except in the morning. That hurt her, obviously. My parents were asleep when I got back in the evening. But it was something she said later, one little line, her perfect showmanship, an exhibition of the skill that is her laser tongue. That I can remember Dorothy Parker's words but at the best of times not be able to recall exactly what my mother said both fails and frightens me. It wasn't quite you're destroying yourself, but it sure as hell wasn't how was your day either.
And so it is that we're back in the cycle of sharp words and terse reactions. I don't suppose I can blame her for catching a flight and not saying bye. I am like that, too. I am her. I radiate joy like a truck expels diesel fumes, consistent yet toxic. But I can blame her for not processing that everything is a two-way street and that if I have walls that I try to festoon with humour ivy, its just my way of keeping afloat, of not becoming a sobbing degenerate with eternal mommy issues. God knows the truth is closer than that. I just wish there is a force that knows that while I'm fantastically grateful for things happening to me, including right now the awareness of a grey-blue sky, being my mother's daughter is not always one of them. And on some especially impossible days, I'd rather floss my teeth with jute than cross paths with her to say bye.