• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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77d32173f909fd37e414576bd6575025Last night my mother and I did a Q&A at RJ Julia, Connecticut’s premier indie bookstore. She was wearing a pink sweater set, her red-framed glasses, and seemed really nervous. But when it was her turn to answer, she was thoughtful and warm and succinct. When asked a question she didn’t want to answer she said, “as we say in Bridge, pass.” Mom! Killing it! We’ll be at the Westport B&N tomorrow at 3 and the New Haven JCC on SUnday from 4-6 if you’re anywhere in the vicinity — please join us. xo, B

Tell me about your mom.


19 Responses

  1. Yup, Roz killed it and she looked stunning.

    “Tell me about your mom.”
    Do we have enough space and time?

    My mother in seven sentences:

    My mother was an unsold painter, unpublished writer and a musician without an audience.
    She worked when other moms stayed home, for “little extras” like a washing machine without a wringer.
    As a survivor of teenage rape, which resulted in a nervous breakdown, she was hospitalized in the mental hospital, behind which, the rape had occurred.
    The Maureen O’Hara character in John Candy’s ONLY THE LONELY, is the personification of my mother, to such a degree, it is hard to watch.
    Caustic, witty, smart, funny and beautiful, she could have been a CEO and not simply ‘his’ secretary.
    Though she often stated I would be a business woman, who would probably never marry and have children – she loved my husband and adored my daughters.
    Unconditionally supportive of my creative efforts and business acumen, no greater stake held me steady against the wind.

  2. She did not understand poetry, but she read it for me. Atheist church pianist. Steely, wry, missed.

  3. Pink sweater set, red frame glasses. I can see it.

    I’ve started and erased my comment about Mom in this space several times already. “It’s complicated.”

    What I love about Mom – she holds no grudges, she’s loving, she’s a bright, sunny person, loves people, a talker, a giver, a forgiver.

    What annoys me about Mom – she lies, drops hints about certain topics like confetti at a ticker tape parade, is nosy, gullible, a bit narcissistic, a nervous passenger, a snoop.

  4. Once when I was a kid my mother and I were waiting in line at a deli. I ate meat back then, lots of it. The ideal sub was roast beef and mayo on fresh baked, hard crust, sesame seed Italian bread. My mother liked to wear tight stretch pants and an old Italian man behind her reached out and pinched her ass. My mother, Maria, turned around quickly, her dark eyes burning, but her fire fizzled when she saw the old man smiling serenely. She grinned and shook a pointed finger at him in mock admonishment. He shrugged. I was indignant upon this assault of my mother’s behind. Maria told me pretty much to chill out. “He just liked what he saw,” she said.
    Had it been a younger man, I do not doubt for a minute that she would have decked him and he’d be laying on the ground in a daze, wondering if he still had all his teeth.

  5. My mom: when I was 16, serious spinal surgery held me in a hospital for three and a half weeks, 150 miles from home. My mother left my siblings with my dad and moved up to a nurses’ dormitory across the street. Every day she sat in my room while I lay prone on a circle bed. She brought me fresh green grapes and KitKat bars. She bought Nora Roberts romance novels in the gift shop and we read them in tandem. When the nurses flipped me, she adjusted my hospital gown and preserved my dignity. She wove my hair into two symmetrical Swiss Miss braids. Later, she cleaned my sutures and replaced the dressing. She did all this without complaint or even a sigh. I relied upon on her, utterly, both in the hospital and during my recovery at home. Most of us receive this kind of care and attention as infants but cannot remember our dependence. Only later did I realize how lucky I was to know my mother in this way, and at an age to preserve the memories.

  6. More interesting than my mom and me is the relationship between her and her own mother. From my sister’s conversations with our dad, I’ve learned that my mom suffered some form of abuse by one of her stepfathers, a fact which occupies the subterranean culture of our family and used to surface now and then in conversation. “Your mother is a liar,” my grandma told me once, and, “Why wouldn’t she lie if it served her purpose?” Clearly there was bitterness between them, yet also deep love and compassion. They lived together for years toward the end of my grandma’s life, and I saw my mother’s fastidious attention and care of her–and exasperation, sometimes. My grandma was so difficult to please. Yet the night her mother died, my mom was sleeping on the floor beside her bed.

    All this is to say that my mom is the most fiercely loyal person I have ever met. When she loves, she loves hard, even violently. One time during my teenage years when I’d really pissed her off, she came flying down the hall at me with her little arms spinning, screaming at the top of her lungs. (It didn’t hurt a bit, and I totally deserved it. Two seconds after pummeling my head she had her arms locked around me and was plastering my face with kisses. Decades later she’d be arrested for assaulting her misogynistic Iraqi boyfriend. He deserved it, too.) She’s worked in a soup kitchen and as an ICU nurse. She collects antiques because she can’t bear to see them abandoned, as if they are people who’ve grown old and irrelevant and are breaking her heart. She’s pretty, lively, funny, eccentric. She smells heavenly, like roses and baby powder. She hides pouches of jewelry in her chipped Roseville vases, under lampshades and tablecloths and underwear, then forgets all the hiding places and suspects that her treasures have been stolen. She has a recurring dream of losing her purse. She calls me her little Babushka and insists that the word “droll” refers to someone angry, even after we looked it up together in the dictionary. (Total cheater at Scrabble, as you might imagine, but she always gets away with it.)

    I think she’s a fascinating, unknowable, deeply complex person and I love her to bits. I gave her your book for Mother’s Day, by the way, and she’s now trying to figure out what I meant by it. The little sweetie.

  7. My mother. She was a piece of work. A child of the Depression and a young mother left with an eight year old while my dad went off to WWII, she developed a spine of steel that served her well. She couldn’t throw any food away, she reused Saran Wrap (when it lost its cling after the first use, she just held it on with rubber bands), and she hid money under the rug in the closet “just in case.” She suffered the indignity of having to move back in with her parents after my dad decided after 23 years of marriage that there were better things to do with his time. And she made that work, so my brother and I never doubted that things were okay. Because they were, for us. I was a bitch of a teenager and those years were hell on wheels, because whatever I could give with my hormone-laden temper, she could give it right back. But we settled things and the last few decades of her life, she was a stalwart in my family’s life. She’d come for a visit, or go on vacation with us, and bring homemade noodles for my son and my husband. Her chicken and noodles could’ve made an angel weep. Don’t get me wrong, she didn’t get all gushy. Once when she came to visit when I was an at-home mom with an infant and a three year old, she said, “You should really bring someone in here to clean your house.” And I said, “But Mom, I don’t work, that’s what I’m supposed to do here.” And she replied archly, “Yes, dear, but you don’t.” Ouch. True, but ouch. She died in 1998, too soon at age 83. I was beside her bed, telling her it was okay to go, we’d be fine. Which we were, but it took awhile. She was a bridge player, too, by the way. Played with the same group of women, some who she went to high school with, on Wednesday evenings, for 50 years. The last three were at her funeral, dear women in their done-once-a-week hair and their double knits. I miss her.

  8. My mother passed away a few months ago, two months shy of her 90th birthday. Her last few years were challenging as health issues shrunk her world to doctors appointments and 24 hour FOX news.

    When I turned 60, she shared some valuable advice that I have since shared with each of my friends as they hit that milestone. Mom told me to “Enjoy your 60’s because that’s your last good decade.” In her 60’s, my mother was traveling, playing golf and laughing with family and friends. In her 70’s, health issues began to slow her down but she still laughed easily. In her 80’s, her friends began to die off. Some moved away to be closer to family. She laughed less and worried more. She often said that she had lived too long. Thankfully, a crises last summer caused my father and her to realize how much they still meant to each other and they had three great months together before she died.

    I miss her terribly but I am grateful for her advice. Seize your 60’s. They may be your last good decade. Personally, I plan to seize my 70’s and 80’s, and possibly my 90’s, as well. But, just in case my mother was right, I am making the most of my 60’s.

  9. “Tell me about your mom.”

    My mom was born in Ohio, the second of four children. She spent her early years on a farm. Her father was ruined in business by an unscrupulous partner around the end of World War II, and the family upped stakes and moved to Colorado. They had no home when they got there, and lived in a garage while her father and brother built them a home in the little mountain town of Manitou Springs, where she finished high school.

    After she graduated from high school she moved down the mountain and into Colorado Springs. She lived with girlfriends and worked in a film processing plant while attending art school.

    War came again, this time in Korea. The Tennessee National Guard was mobilized and sent to Colorado for winter warfare training at Fort Carson, right by the Springs. In this Guard unit was a young soldier from Memphis. He met my mom at a roller-skating rink and swept her off her feet with his Southern manners. She said the Colorado boys were nothing like that. She fell in love. His unit got its orders to ship out to Korea. He had just turned twenty-two and she had just turned eighteen, and they got married in the little chapel at Fort Carson. They celebrated their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary a few months ago.

    Their early years were difficult. He was gone at the war a long time. She had become pregnant with their first child before he left. They lost this child. She said it was the hardest time of her life. Her husband was gone off to a war that she didn’t know if he’d ever come back from (his younger brother, also a soldier, had already been killed there), and they’d lost their first child. When her husband — my father — came back, he was wounded and changed. He had seen and done the things that young men see and do in wars.

    My dad was devoted to the army and he was devoted to my mom. My mom was, I think, sometimes little more than resigned to her lot. She hated the army. It shipped her and her husband around wherever it wanted; sometimes it shipped him to places she could not follow. They lost their second child.

    The army shipped them to Newfoundland. My brother was born there. He had birth defects, but none cognitive or life-threatening. The army doctors told my mom she could never have another child — then she got pregnant again. They were shipped back to the States (my only ocean voyage, though I was still enwombed) and stationed in Massachusetts, where I was born. She said I was her gift from God, though I was a sickly child, too, and she herself was not well after I was born.

    We were shipped around a half-dozen more times before we settled in El Paso, Texas, where I grew up and where my parents still live. She did her damnedest to build the home she wanted, and was pretty adamant about it. She was at times a terrifically unhappy woman and could be hell to live with. I came away from childhood hating her. I do not hate her now. She told me that if she had it to do all over again, she wouldn’t have — she would not have married my dad. If she had been able to make a decent living and support two boys, she would have left him after he came back from Vietnam. Korea wounded him and changed him, but Vietnam fucked him up. It took him decades to unfuck. She stayed with him and helped as best she could.

    She loved him as best she could. She told me that the middle name she gave me when I was born was the name of the only man she had ever really loved. It was not my father’s name. I don’t know if my father knew this about that name, but I’ll bet he does. And you can bet I’m not going to ask.

    I’ve been up in Chicago three years now. In two weeks I’m going down to El Paso to spend a couple days with my parents. My son will be with me, and my brother and his wife will be there, too.

  10. My mother was the third oldest of eleven children born to Jewish Russian immigrants, from Kishinev. One was stillborn, one young son killed in a horse and buggy accident, and out of the remaining nine, eight were women. And smart and glamorous they were, each one of them. Their one remaining brother became a doctor, pride and joy of my grandmother, and moved as far away as he could to California and broke her heart. My mother’s father, a cornet player, died young, leaving my grandmother with this harem to raise.

    From this backdrop and that of the depression: my mother was painstakingly frugal. I never got a whole stick of gum as a kid. She counted out the M&M’s like they were coins. She met my dad at 18, working as his legal secretary, and married him, probably to get out of the house.

    My mother camouflaged her worries in stoicism. She never complained. She was one to accept her lot, the vicissitudes, the roller coaster of the stock market and horse races my father toyed with. She loved beautiful things, fine fabrics, Meissen and Spode and rose medallion vases and Regency andirons that she picked up in the Adirondacks for next to nothing. She was a brunette beauty, but without vanity. She was practical, refined, an intellectual, and a lousy cook. She raised her four daughters to be good people, and to get married.

    You could see the depths of her soul through her unassuming sapphire eyes. She lived to 99. And even in her last hours, I think she didn’t want to go.

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