May 14, 2017

On Mother's Day

My best friend in grade school was Karen Feldstein, whose Jewish father married a
blonde, German shiksa, right after the Holocaust. It was scandalous to our parents, but whatever they thought, all I knew was that she was beautiful; tall and willowy with that long blonde hair; and she was young, around 20 when Karen was born.
I remember a day when she came into our classroom for some reason. All the 8-year-old boys drooled over her and all the girls wanted to grow up to be her.
I wanted that mother.
My mother was 31 when I was born, which was old back then, so by the time I was in kindergarten she was speeding toward 40, and looking like 50. She wasn't young, she wasn't blonde, she wasn't beautiful. She was just my mom. So there was that.
And then there was the reality that my mom and I never had a deep connection, not from the time I was very little. Why? Who knows. Was it because we were so much alike or because we were so different? I see evidence of both today. Whatever the reason, we had a difficult relationship until she died; contentious early on, tolerant later.
It's sad to say I don't miss her, but that's the truth of it. But when I think about her now I can only imagine what it would be like to have a daughter who obviously did not like you; how hurtful and baffling that would be. It makes me sad.
As I got older I made an effort to understand our relationship, and I remember a particular conversation we had where she asked me what she could do. I had no answer but I thought, "You could be Karen's mom."
The truth of that was that Karen's mom was manipulative and controlling, and Karen never connected with her mom either.
Family is a lottery; sometimes you win and sometimes you don't. Do I wish our relationship had been different? Of course. But it was what it was. Mostly I wish I could tell her I'm sorry; that I know she did the best she could. And happy Mother's Day.

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