Happy Mother's Day!
Momentum: HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, MOM
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Although the mother-daughter relationship is grounded=
in a deep, deep love, it can also be a psychological minefield. Resolving = its problems, I've found, can be a journey of discovery and delight.
Last month, when my mother, Rose Kagan, and I went to Paris, I had a lon= g list of things I was going to do. For sure, I was going to visit all the= flea markets. I was going to get a stylish French haircut. I was going to = walk in picturesque neighborhoods and daydream that I lived there. I was go= ing to see the Van Gogh's at the Musee D'Orsay. I was going to eat pate eve= ry single day and to hell with my cholesterol level.
I did one of the above. I also had a list of things I was definitely n= ot going to do. I was not going to play tourist. I was not going to visit = historical sites. I was not going to gawk at the Eiffel Tower.
I did all of the above. The reason? My mother. Yet the trip was the= best one I've ever had, and my mother feels the same way.
The idea for the trip came a few years ago, when I realized that since I= had left my mother's womb, we not spent any time alone together. When I wa= s young, she was busy with my father, my brother, and our large extended fa= mily. Also, as a frustrated Broadway musical comedy star, she was fighting= to make space in her rigidly structured 1950s suburban life for dancing, c= horeographing, and performing.
Back then, I never appreciated her struggle; I only felt abandoned by he= r ever-increasing involvement in amateur theatrics. Also, our family suffer= ed from many of the more common dysfunctional family dynamics -- we could b= e a heart-wrenching, best-selling memoir, if anyone had the heart to write = it.
But people grow up. They change. If they're lucky, they learn to forgive= . During the last 10 years, my mother and I have buried my father and my= younger brother and started reaching out to each other. I happily gave her= away at her second marriage, to Harold Filler, who I love. They started v= isiting me in Vermont, although Harold, who washes his white Lincoln Contin= ental every day at home in Ft. Lauderdale, has a hard time understanding wh= y we have dirt roads.
I started visiting them in their Florida condominium, timing my trips to= coincide with the Broadway-style productions my mother writes, directs, ch= oreographs and performs in. I've grown to love the dress rehearsals, the di= va-like temper tantrums, the dancers -- all over 65 with great legs, the gl= itzy make-up and costumes. Most of all, I love watching my mother -- who ha= s real star quality -- on stage. I'm also impressed that with these shows= , she touches the lives of over a thousand people every year.
But as time went by, I started longing to share a one-on-one experience = with her. I suggested many things, but, it was the idea of a leisurely cru= ise down the Canal du Midi, followed by a visit to Paris, that finally drew= her away from her busy life and into an adventure with me.
When we met at Charles DeGaulle Airport, though, I was afraid we had wai= ted too long. The overnight Miami-Paris trip can be brutal for a woman in = her 80s. She was nervous about not speaking the language, afraid she could= n't handle the money, scared to be in an environment where she had no contr= ol. She hadn't traveled without a tour guide for 30 years. She had vertigo.= My dynamic, beautiful mother was a small, terrified, bewildered creature. = I hadn't realized how frail she was. I had a moment of terror -- was I goin= g to kill her just because I wanted to spend some time with her?
Travelin= g through France was difficult, but once we reached the boat I was impresse= d with her good cheer and resourcefulness. When it was too cold to be on de= ck, she gave dance classes below. She studied her French. While I held my = breath, she stole lilacs out of a walled garden in Homps. About the rich f= ood, she joked that she would tell her friends weate peanut butter and jell= y sandwiches so they wouldn't get too jealous.
One day, on a visit to a winery, she tasted so many fine wines thatI fou= nd her humming and two-stepping alone in a corner. On the last night, she d= elighted the other passengers and the crew by writing charming limericks fo= r them. (Sample: "There was a lady named Betty, and please don't think I am= petty, but with a gin and tonic, she became supersonic, and they called he= r Betty Confetti.")
At one point, we talked about what kind of story we m= ight write about our trip.
"I thought we would have two contrasting viewpoints," I said.
"But we don't," Mother said. "We both see things in almost exactly the = same way."
We were amazed by this discovery.
In Paris, because Mom couldn't do much walking, we bought tickets for on= e of those endlessly circling buses that had a tape loop describing the sig= hts in four languages. We hopped on and off it at will. At the Musee d'Ors= ay, I loved the Van Goghs, while, with a look of childlike wonder, she ador= ed the Degas dancers. We ate in small restaurants to save money. I showed= how to read home-town newspapers on the Internet.
So I didn't do any of the things I had planned to do. Instead, I did som= ething unexpected-- I walked around Paris holding hands with my mother, lau= ghing at all the same things.
At the airport again, I watched Mom walking down the tunnel to her overn= ight flight. Her hands trembled, but her head was tilted upward, her nose w= as pointed into the air, and her face was determined. She's quite a charac= ter, I thought, a formidable woman. How lucky I am to be so much like her. = How much I love her.
For days after I got home, I missed her presence.
"I miss you too," she said. "After all, we were Siamese twins for 13 ve= ry arduous and exciting days. I now feel the distance in miles between us."=
So whatever happens to us in the future, Mom, remember this (and yes, I'= ve been waiting the whole column to say this). We'll always have Paris. H= appy Mother's Day.
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist who writes aboutculture, politics= , economics and travel.