Threshold

 

My never-drinking mother, toasting with a plastic cup of champagne.

My never-drinking mother, toasting with a plastic cup of champagne.

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A writer friend was staying with me this week and we talked about exposure.  About how (especially with memoir) you have to decide how much of yourself you can bear to put up for public consumption.  That whatever your choice, the final decision comes down to one thing:  You have to be willing to stand by your book — your story — over the long haul, and within that comes one question:  What is your threshold?

My birthday is one month after my mother’s.  Every year she would say, “I feel fine on my birthday, but then yours comes and I feel so old!”  Which may not have been, since I was due to be born BEFORE  her big day, on the 4th of July, and arrived a whole month later.

Tomorrow would have been my mother’s 69th birthday.

For the longest time, I have fought to remember my mother as she wanted to remember herself.  Young.  Vibrant.  Sexy.  Thin.  Capable.  Strong.  Sassy as all hell.  But this year, for the first time, I choose to remember her as I want to:  in that last year.  About six months before she died, the whole family got together at her house for a barbecue.  We drank champagne, of all things.  We laughed openly.

This birthday, I miss my mother’s sassiness.  The way she held her ground.  I miss her giant laugh.  Her irony, and her look on life.  Here’s to you, Mom.  Here’s to the real you, the fully exposed you.  You are beautiful in all your exposed self.  And you are missed.

Mom thoughtful at BBQ August 2001

 

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14 thoughts on “Threshold

    1. Teri Post author

      I can hear her in my head right now, “You posted a picture of me drinking!?!”

      Yes. Yes I did! 😉

  1. Joe Ponepinto

    Happy birthday to your mom. She sounds like someone I would have enjoyed meeting.

    How difficult it is to remember one’s parents in the way they would have wanted. How treacherous, for me at least, to remember my dad, because what comes to mind are his shortcomings, his coldness, what I see as the adverse effect he had on my life. He passed away when he was 69, btw. I try to think of him as a victim of his time and his upbringing, raised during the Depression, a decade when sentiment was a luxury. He knew only the grind of work, necessary to raise a family, and never learned to dream. But he gave me that opportunity, whether he meant to or not, and when I imagine, and write, I think I honor him, in a way.

    1. Teri Post author

      Yes, Joe. All of this perspective comes with age and also with our willingness to see our parents as real people in their circumstances. My mother was also a victim of her circumstances — twice divorced, poor, unskilled, shamed by her Church. But she was tough as all hell and, until she got sick, willing to work herself to the bone and stand her ground.

      The one thing I never worry about is how she would see my writing. She’d be nervous about it, but thrilled, too.

      1. Mary Lynne

        You are spot on about the perspective that comes with age. I wish I had had it when my mom was alive. Hopefully she can see inside my head from the other side so she knows that I finally understand. Of course if she was here, she’d say, “C’mon kiddo, buck up!”

  2. amyg

    yes, happy birthday to her. i’m so happy she had you – as i’m sure she is too.

    here’s to allowing ourselves to be the full proprietors of our memories.

  3. Averil Dean

    It’s so complex, isn’t it, the way we form and carry memories, how methodically we choose the ones that matter most. Somehow in making those choices we also remake the person, so it feels important to pick the right ones—the fitting ones, the ones they’d want us to remember. We become (or continue to be) caretakers, constantly on the lookout for memory interlopers like dandelions on a grave.

  4. donnaeve

    I am fortunate to have both parents still, and I try to learn from those who don’t. Happy birthday to your mom, and I’m glad she drank the champagne. From that twinkle in her eye, I’d say she rather enjoyed it.

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