If there is a heaven, for my mother's sake, I hope heaven has a skylight roof, six escalators, seven hair salons, eight movie theaters, ten shoe stops, a Sears, Broadway, and a few furniture stores named after famous early American patriots. That might bring her eternal peace.
I never understood mom's love of the grand indoor shopping malls, but then, I never understood my mom. This is true. And the lack of understanding was mutual. We directed eye rolls in each other's general direction from the day I screamed my way onto this planet.
We practiced a certain amount of unkindness upon one another. The reason for this escaped me then, escapes me now. Sure, I have theories, everyone has theories, but the thing is, I could have risen to the occasion, but didn't; been the bigger person in this relationship, but wasn't.
So we gave up on one another very early in the game.
It wasn't until she had Parkinsons that we played nice. Me, because what kind of a shit wouldn't treat someone with this disease kindly, and she -- she had way too much on her plate to bother chewing over an ancient grudge. And both of us, because we only saw each other about once a year.
Not that we ultimately, at the bitter end, liked each other. That Titanic of childhood and parental bonding or non-bonding rarely swings a 180. Still, I do realize I've spent way too many hours in this life thinking about my mother. And after all those ill-spent hours, I've reached a conclusion: I don't believe she screwed with me intentionally. More likely, accidentally -- incidentally. Perhaps inevitably, and from her point of view, quite forgettably.
That's the thing with most intimate relationships -- you generally don't press the save button on similar memories. And why a certain one means so much to you and so little to the other is probably more significant than the incident in question.
But back to the malls.
Our relatives from Europe would visit. As social and cultural coordinator, Mom didn't put the Getty or a national park or the Art Institute on the docket. She piled all who were willing in the Monte Carlo and drove to cathedrals of consumerism called something like West Haven Galleria, Grand Traverse Mall.
I remember one uncle preferred to stay back at our home and play bocce balls. Bocce balls is a tedious, pointless game. We got quite good at it, my uncle and I.
When mom and relatives returned, they didn't drag in trunks full of plunder. Maybe just a modest upscale bag or two. While mom loved the malls, relished the act or the process of shopping, it rarely led to an actual purchase. Same with the relatives. After all, they had shops, likely better shops, back home in Europe.
When the relatives left, so did I. I think the only time mom and I felt some degree of comfort in each other's company was in the leave-taking ritual. We waved, and I ran through the airport like running for my life. When my plane taxied down the runway, I sighed with relief, mostly. And unexamined regret.
Where did we go wrong?
Wasn't there a time? There was a time. When you came to my first grade class, dressed in a beige velvet suit, gold and pearl earrings, with a solje pinned to your white linen blouse. I don't know why you were there -- maybe to talk about Norway or painting, art. But beautiful more beautiful than any movie star. I looked around the room and saw everyone adored you. But you didn't belong to them. You were mine, in all your glamour, and I owned you. After your speech, I grabbed your hand and dragged you out of the classroom to the hallway, tugged at your shoulder so I could kiss your cheek. I tried to tell you something important, but my feelings out-sized any words I knew. "I just love you so much." That's the best I could muster. You looked surprised, but not displeased. Touched a cool hand to my forehead.
This is also true.
Was there a love between us, a love up for grabs? Did you not see me reach for it? Did you reach for it too, when I wasn't looking?