Friday, May 28, 2010

Family friday

Last week I wrote a recipe that I got from my mom many years ago. When I was in college, I was obsessed with capturing my mother on paper. It started from taking a class with Barbara Yngvesson who in an anthropology professor that deals in those tricky waters called family. The class was called Culture, Identity and Belonging, it dealt with how people view themselves in the space they inhabit, and how that view reflects how they interact with their space. The class became the basis for my DivIII (think thesis).

But back to my mom obsession. It was also fueled by the fact that when I was in college friend's parents started dying. It scared me, made me want to document EVERYTHING in my life, and made me want to hold tight to my parents. It was during this time that I made some amends with my dad (only to lose them and then gain them back over the years since) and pumped my mom for information about my grandparents. We don't talk about feelings in my family, it makes us uncomfortable; we are not huggers and tears are more likely to incite anger than sympathy and we are all criers. We cry in frustration and in anger, we yell and we fight with passion, we are explosively emotional BUT we let it build up, we don't talk about it before we explode....So it was hard to ask the questions I was being told to ask for class. Questions like : How did it feel to have children? Of the homes you have lived in, where were you most comfortable? Loved? Settled? How did you come to be you?
I skirted the questions with questions about food, about my growing up, about my siblings as kids. I answered the emotionally charged questions with her silences, and her sighs. I talked about how intrusive it felt to ask the questions whose answers I didn't want to know. I talked about how I had no answers because it is rude to air your family secrets (even to your family sometimes apparently).

My mother's voice is distinct. She was the first person my friend Tom met who actually used those stereotypical Brooklyn pronunciations of Dawg and Cawfee. She says more in her silences then most do with their words. She kayaks, gardens and goes to church every Sunday. She bakes the kick-ass cake for her cranky but loving husband. She has 9 grand kids with the option for more. She doodles when on the phone. There is a notebook in a box somewhere in my closet that has her voice written down in my chicken scratch scrawl. There is a recipe book on my counter that has her cooking. I don't have much of my own grandma; a cup, a few memories of ice cream and cola on Sundays are the things I hold onto after 16 years of knowing her. I want my own kids to have more to hold to of my mother, so I write her down and visit more than she likes.


kristine said...

OH my. This post. This writing.

What are you writing?

Anyway, beautiful. Poignant.

Can't wait to meet you guys. (hint hint)

Liz said...

It seems strange to me that you had friends with parents dying in college when you were supposedly the one with "older" parents...

And yes, notice that I am commenting on the facts of the situation and not the emotions ;)

regina said...

It is strange to me too but i had friends with sickly parents or tragic accidents and 9/11 hit my demographic in multiple ways...

you should actually track down some of Barbara's writings, She writes mostly about transracial/transcontinental adoptions, and (if i remember correctly) she has something to do with Ethiopian adoption in Sweden (or switzerland, some blond country anyway)