Sunday, May 9, 2010
I Remember Elizabeth**
My mother was a complicated person, a very private person as far as her emotional states were concerned, but a very public person when it came to her views about philosophy, politics and theology, for instance. Sometimes when I think about her I wonder if she was connected, even internally, to her feelings. Most of the time I believe she just dismissed her emotions. When Martin Luther King was assassinated, I was shocked to see her cry. It was one of the only times I can remember her shedding tears.
She was passionate about many things. She believed in creative expression no matter what, was fierce about women's rights and civil rights. She believed in non-violence with every bone in her body, and yearned to live simply. She told us many times that Ghandi owned only three things - his robe, his sandals and his glasses. When she talked about Ghandi you could see a misty, far-away look in her eye. What a character she was!
Mothering was not my mother's best thing. Some parts of it she was really good at. She did love us all dearly, even me - and believe me, I was not easy to get along with as a baby or a child. And, too, my mother and I had such a hard time seeing eye to eye. We tried, but ... we just didn't "get" each other.
Some of my mother's radical beliefs got in the way of her capacity to be a guiding force for us. She used to say, "We don't raise children - they raise themselves!" She seemed indignant when she said this, as if mothering in some way interfered with a child's basic rights. She was such a funny one, my mother.
I talked to my mother the night before she died. We were never close so it was just one of those amazing synchronicities that we happened to speak. I was living at Lake Tahoe then; she was still in Kansas City. She said, "Sometimes I wonder why I keep living. Sometimes I think it's just a habit." I teased her about it during that phone call but I wish I had been able to take it in, what she was saying. I wish I had had the presence of mind to shout DON'T DIE! instead of making a joke.
She didn't think much of Mother's Day. To her this was a capitalist scheme invented by the Hallmark Corporation in order to guilt people into buying cards and gifts. Oh my mother - she was something else. May she rest in peace.
**After she read a book by Betty Friedan in the late 1960's she announced to us that she had been called "Mama" long enough and instructed us to refer to her by her given name, Elizabeth.