My brother, Mother, and Grandmother.
I was brought up with a lot of rules, and my mother was brought up with even more rules than I was. My father, not so much. He was the youngest of six Italian children. The last boy spoiled by his wonderful mother and his two older sisters. My mother was raised by an unstable, very pretty, and smart woman bent on being accepted into WASP society who tricked my Blue blood grandfather into marrying her with a deception so heinous ‘Lifetime’ could not have written it better. Such was my mother’s world.
My mother is obsessed with what was “Low class” or “Nouveau Riche” and a code of rules that is part of a world that would not even let her be a member. Good God, you cannot imagine the list. Some of them so amazingly stupid, as kids we would roll our eyes and make ourselves deaf. The boys more them myself. I took more of it to heart.
Mom is also crazy thrifty. That is an Old Money kind of thing. It’s a bit spooky, and it teeters on the line of Hoarders. I think mom has some clothing in her closet from when I was about eight, just in case she wants to wear it. I also hang on t0 things, I hate waste but I also like to purge. Still I have in me that “you use it up and then you use it a bit more” DNA.
I have been taught impeccable manners and I am very polite. I had music lessons, rode my beloved horses, was taught art, taken to the ballet, symphony and theatre. For all this I am grateful. We did not have a lot of money and my mother did well with what we had. All I was exposed to helped shape me and feed the very creative center of me. I know how to set a table for any occassion, how to write a thoughtful thank you note, and how to be gracious to others. I have impeccable taste and know how to dress for any event even though my own eclectic sense of style has shocked my mother more than once. She once called my daughter and I trash at the dinner table because she found out we both have our ears pierced twice in a single ear. Oh, and lets not get on the subject of tattoos. Her head spins and she spews foam.
“Susan it’s tacky to wear diamond earrings with your jeans. Why do you do it?”
“No Shit, really? I’m not sure. Perhaps to piss off the Vanderbilt’s. You know how easy it is to make old Vanny mad.” Of course I didn’t say this. Mother scares me, and has no sense of humor.
I did grow up to disappoint. No matter how hard she tried to raise us to exceed what I think she thought were her own mistakes, I don’t think her three children quite lived up to her expectations. I married “beneath my status” twice and in her opinion have carried the Blue Blood tradition of craziness on. My mother is convinced I am unstable. Something she has announced publicly and written to my dear husband about. (Poor man. He comes from a jovial Polish family. This is all so unnerving to him.)
I am estranged from my mother now. Two years ago this past winter, just after my dad died. It is was a painful decision that took me two years to make and cost me a relationship with one of my brothers. I am thinking that this year of exploration cannot be complete if I do not examine my feelings of guilt and shame around my estrangement from mother. As well as look at the ‘shoulds’ and ‘have to’s’ that I still carry from my upbringing, knowing full well that there are no ‘shoulds’ yet it is as if I have this list of rules stamped on me, carrying it wherever I go. I mean we all know I cannot wear stirrup pants, ever, ever with shoes. Okay, I can’t wear stirrup pants period. Nor can I ever put anything olive-green in my kitchen or tease my hair into a beehive…..or wear bright blue eye shadow. Oh, and never ever put those crochet doily doll things over your spare toilet paper rolls. You don’t snap your gum or pick your teeth with a tooth pick and you never ever use incorrect grammar. No more short skirts after forty and if you spend any money at all on your wardrobe it must be on good shoes.
I now need a nap.