by Walter Brasch
American Reporter Senior Correspondent
July 22, 2009
IS 'CAKE' THE CURE FOR THE HEALTH CARE CRISIS?
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- This has been a summer ritual in my home for many years: the Mom visit.
It includes lawn parties with my friends, who have become her friends, and sometimes my friend's parents, too.
It includes Gallery Walk in downtown Brattleboro, where Mom is startled to find that she is famous here because of these columns.
It involves a three-day adventure in Saratoga - always including a Thursday - where we stay at the same motel my mother and father used to stay at every year when he took her to see The New York City Ballet, and, after his death, where my mother and her second husband stayed. It was after he died that I started taking her. That's 35 years at the same motel, and yes, they remember her there.
Why Thursdays? Because that's the day a local Saratoga lobster house offered two lobsters for the price of one. Mom loves lobster.
We always see at least two evenings of ballet, and we are always left speechless by their beauty.
Mom always complains about how cold she is - she lives in Florida and would never consider moving north.
Why should this year be different? Because Mom is now 92 years old.
Regular readers of this column know that my mother, Rose Kagan, is a lifelong dancer, choreographer and theater director. Her last production, in her Lauderdale West condominium, was this past March. It was called - ahem - "A Bouquet of Roses." She wrote the thing, directed it, choreographed it and starred in two numbers. It involved sets, costumes, live music, a cast of 30 and about 75 people working together behind the scenes to put it on. At 92, that's not a small feat.
Neither is traveling alone from Florida. She arrived frail and pale but determined. My mother's iron will is legendary, and she needed all of it to make this trip.
As she started moving about this foreign land of Vermont, I noticed that circles were forming and closing around her. Each contained a small miracle.
Last winter, for example, I was contacted by someone I had known back in high school. It turned out that her name was now Elle Schorr and she was a photographer living in south Florida. I invited her to a dress rehearsal of my mother's show, and she brought her camera.
I don't think I fully understood, however, that Elle and I had been more than classmates. I had forgotten that we were in the same Girl Scout troop, and that my mother was the co-leader. And that Elle's mother, now suffering from Alzheimer's in Rutland, had introduced the two women, and they had become close friends.
Elle, in other words, had very close ties with my mother. Meeting again after more than 50 years, they got along famously. Elle took several portrait shots of Mom, as well as a series of candids at the rehearsal.
Fast forward to last month, when Elle emailed that she was coming north to see her mother and could she drop by? The date she gave was a Thursday, and yes, we were going to be in Saratoga. I invited her to meet us there for a performance.
She stayed at our motel and revealed a taste for lobster. The restaurant my mother loved had gone our of business - an unwelcome closing of a circle - so we took a wild ride through upstate New York to find another. We had a wonderful dinner, made the performance just in time, and were enchanted together.
We spent the next morning sitting in the sun, reminiscing. Elle showed us her latest work and handed my mother a set of pictures from the March show. Mom was very grateful.
"This is my thanks for what you did for me 50 years ago in Girl Scouts," Elle said, and another circle closed.
While we were still in Saratoga, my late brother's daughter, Jipala, came to visit with her two young boys, Silas and Avery. These are my mother's only great-grandchildren, and she doesn't get to spend much time with them.
Wide-eyed Silas, who is four, has turned out to love princesses, wearing earrings, putting on makeup, acting and designing theatrical outfits.
While little blond Avery - who looks a lot like my brother at that age; another circle closing - crawled around in the grass, and Jipala and I quietly chatted, Mother and Silas, hand and hand, went picking flowers and making up stories - just as Mom did when she was a child.
It appears that the theatrical gene has landed again in our family. Mom and Silas were soul mates as well as playmates. They were made for each other. And another circle closed.
Back in Vermont, we met for dinner with my ex-husband and his wife, who are very close to us. His oldest daughter is getting married soon, and he wants to learn the hora - from Mom, of course. "She taught me to drive, and she taught me how to fox-trot for our wedding," he told me. "Who else would I ask?"
Drop a stone into a pool - or take an airplane ride - and circles within circles start to form. It's not planned. They just do it. It must be a law of nature.
When people say, "What goes around comes around," they don't always mean it pleasantly. But this trip has been about closing circles in the loveliest way. And even though Mom leaves on Sunday, and this may be her last trip north, we are far from seeing all the circles close.
Joyce Marcel (joycemarcel.com) is a Vermont journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.