• 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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I Ain’t No Monkey But I Know I Like


I did an event today with my mother. After the luncheon, I read a small passage from the book and then we took the stage. She in her Eileen Fisher, me in my Uniqlo. She accessorized up the wazoo. Me wearing my watch. Her nails flawless, mine chewed. Her hair styled, mine frizzy and unruly. A conversation ensued and, without warning, my darling 85 year old mother morphed into Rodney Dangerfield. She starts whipping off one-liners and zingers. And she’s getting all the laughs.In the car on the way home, she says, “Bets, I think I got the bigger laughs.”

Tell me about your mom.

16 Responses

  1. One of your best posts ever. Loved it. My mother was … well … there are no words, really. On the Newbery Awards Committee the year they chose “Sarah, Plain and Tall.” She was brilliant, charming, and looked, truly, a lot like Katherine Hepburn. She is reborn in my granddaughter, Jo, of that I know. She was everything.

  2. My mom just became a grandma. A few hours ago. And I just became an uncle.

  3. My mom went to law school in 1945 and didn’t even fully realize that that was weird and awesome. One of three women in a class of hundreds. But tradition pulled her back to motherhood and housewifery. She became deeply depressed being isolated with kids in the ‘burbs, with few other women intellectuals around. Though there were a few. She rarely wore makeup and swore like a sailor. And she had a monstrous mind for many things. You could hum her a few bars of any piece of classical music and she could tell you what it was. I often wonder where all that info went when she departed this plane. Miss her every day.

  4. My mom is 92. She has always been movie-star beautiful and is still stunning. She lives alone, dances, drives, gardens, shops, and goes to her club. She is kind, and funny, hugely extroverted and hugely concerned with looks. She adores me, but I have always felt like a disappointment to her. Weird, smart, introverted, and bookish, I am her polar opposite. (My late dad, who, no shit, looked a lot like Clark Gable, used to joke that my picture should be next to the word “disheveled” in the dictionary). All that aside, I am so grateful to still have my mom, and find it hard to conceive of a world without her in it…

  5. My mother was an unknown artist, an unpublished writer and a musician without an audience. If she had been born in my generation she would have been a CEO of something. I should write a book about her. Oh wait, I am.

  6. My mom was strict, with a wry glint in her eye. She understood me even when she didn’t approve. And vice versa.

  7. Caveat, I love my mother to death and understand her more since my father died.

    That said, she’s a pro in passive aggressive behaviors. I go to Raleigh every Monday to help her out. When I got there this past Monday, she told me she needed to go to Wal-Mart.

    I said, “Okay, let’s go, what do you need?”
    Mom: “Just some lotion. My skin is so dry!”

    Off we go. Mom fills the cart with lotion, milk, sour cream, half-n-half, dish liquid, bleach, water, and paper towels.

    (guess who’s paying)

    On the way home, she asks, “Hm. Do they have good grapefruit here?”

    Me: “Yes. But I’ve been buying them separate, instead of in a bag. They’re kind of expensive that way.”

    “Oh. I guess I’ll have to do without.”

    Mom: “I should have got some batteries too.”

    Me: “Hmmm.”

    Mom: “But, they’re expensive too.”

    Me: “I can take you back, and get them if you need them.”

    Mom: “No. I’ll just have to make do. Somehow.”

    Me: Rolls eyes.

    And then we play two games of Scrabble and laugh our asses off, and cut up, and it’s all good. But she drives me crazy with that shit.

    • When you take your mother shopping for things that she wants and needs it is bonding. It also lets her know that you are caring for her and you love her. It may sound materialistic but it is emotional and psychological. You are handling the situation well.

      • Tina, thank you. What you say is true, and it’s not so much about the money as the comments…that sigh. The “I’ll just have to make do. Somehow.” It’s actually sort of funny now. MELODRAMA MAMA. I think that would make a good title for a memoir – whaddya think?

  8. My mother dated a guy named Bob. My sister and I hated him and called him Blob. He was a wild man and took her out skiing and on outings that felt like exotic adventures to a Yonkers single mom struggling to make ends meet in the 1960s. He got all fucked up in a motorcycle crash and my sister and I were disappointed he survived.

    Blob had a monkey, a crazy eyed energetic little guy who took pleasure in peeing on the furniture and bounced all around Blob’s apartment like someone had shoved a Scotch Bonnet pepper up its ass. To my 7 year old mind, the monkey glared at me like I was the main suspect. The monkey eventually bit Blob and so the little creature went to live on a farm someplace upstate.

    Years later, after my mother married a seemingly sedate, conservative fellow who self destructed with alcohol, anger and hate, she told me Blob was just what she needed at the time because he made her feel young again.

  9. I’m forty-six years old and she still introduces me as “her naughty one.”

  10. My mother was always known by my friends as the fun mom, Even at age 75, she tagged along with me to a nude beach (although she wouldn’t sit next to me and made me promise I’d note in my story that she remained clothed, while taking copious notes). She is the source of some of my best material, and she has always gotten more laughs than me. She’s a tough act to follow. But mostly, she’s taught me to be able to laugh at myself–which is a damn good life skill.

  11. My mom was a small-town girl, born and raised in Ohio, who moved to Colorado with her family when she was a teen. She met my father when she was barely eighteen and he was a soldier turning twenty-two. War had come and he was soon to be sent to it. They fell in love and married the way young people do when war comes.

    She was — and she still is, for she and my father are still alive — a creative person, skilled at drawing and sewing and handy at home remodeling. A carpenter’s daughter, she was in art school when she met my father, but that part of her life ended when she married him and became an army-wife.

    She was never terribly happy, and often terribly unhappy. She had two children, my older brother and I. We were fortunate that she didn’t do what many army-wives did and take to cigarettes and drink. She took to religion instead, and when we were boys she took to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and took us along with her. She was not a well-read person, nor particularly intellectually curious. Ours was a home of Readers Digest, Time, National Geographic, and the Bible.

    We always had enough to eat, and not so much that we grew fat. We always had a very clean and very well-ordered home. There was not a great deal of affection. There was care, and there was discipline. Sometimes the discipline was harsh. We were a conservative, military, Christian family.

    My father was a career soldier who fought in two wars. He knows what the Purple Heart means. My mom learned early what it meant to have a husband go off to war, and how he came back different. Army-wives learn that. Our parents protected my brother and me as much as they could from knowing what they were dealing with and how it affected their marriage, but hey — we lived there, too.

    One day when I was twenty-four, my mom took me on a late-afternoon drive in Western Colorado, where she and my father were living at the time. He had retired from the army ten years earlier. My mom and I motored up to the rim of the Black Canyon, one of her favorite places. We watched the sun go down and we saw small herds of deer. On the way back to town, she told me that if she had it to do over again, she wouldn’t — she wouldn’t have married my dad. She said there was only one man she had ever really loved, and it was not him. I don’t know if my dad knew that, but he may have. That man’s name was my middle name. He came along a few years after my parents were married.

    She said there were times when she would have taken my brother and me and left, if she could have supported us. I have no doubt she could have supported us, but we would have been terribly poor and it would have been hard. So she stayed, which was hard enough.

    There were times when I was a kid and a young man when I hated my mom. It may be natural for all kids to sometimes hate their parents, but I really hated mine for a time. When I left home I went far away from them and didn’t have much to do with them for a while. But when I needed them, they were always there for me.

    I didn’t begin to understand my mom until my first marriage began to come apart. I was living in a sterile bedroom community, one of those automobile-oriented American suburbs where there is nothing. I was a stay-at-home dad raising a baby while my wife worked a day job and supported us. I was trying to write and photograph and I was losing my mind. Then I understood. To have artistic inclinations — no, not inclinations, but compulsions — and to be in such a world, with no community, no communing with harmonious souls, is to slowly die inside. I got lucky, I got out. I could get out, and so I did. When I called my mom to tell her my marriage had come apart and my wife and I were splitting up, that was the first time she and I talked to each other as equal adults. I finally understood what it had been like for her, to have so much of her life shut down and cut off because she fell in love when she was barely eighteen and found herself in a trap she could not escape; how that had angered her and frustrated her as her dreams had one-by-one died away, until finally so much time had gone by that the only answer left for her was to make her peace with herself and her life.

  12. my mom was a practical, organized, hard-worker but private to a fault. as an RN she hoped to go to university but her parents asked her to work and pay $25/month for her sister to go to law school. she did her duty. but she flew the coop, just mailed a money order home. she met my dad, the laughing policeman, and got married. her work as Matron of an ob/gyne ward made her a huge believer in reproductive rights but she was judgmental when it came to my mistakes.

    when she died it fell to me to empty her home and take care of her affairs. all those objects. they told me so much about her and, at this late age, i’ve come to understand that i have no idea who my mother really was. she was too private. there’s a lesson in that.

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