Saturday, November 25, 2006

This is a picture of my mom (on the left) taken in 1938 when she was eleven years old. If you read the post about my dad you can see mom came from a much different background. This was taken at her home in upstate New York, a place called Tall Pines, after the tall pine trees that lined the long drive up to the large white house. My great great grandfather built the home, and the adjacent carriage house. There were also stables, a large barn and a small airport across the road. The road is named Marsh Road, which is the family name.

Mom and her brother and sister are wearing crinoline and patent leather. They are well fed, well versed and they know their manners. They’ve been told to smile sweetly for the camera, which they do, although my uncle Jack stands slightly apart as though he would rather be somewhere else.

My parent’s childhoods look very different. They were actually quite similar. Both of their fathers were alcoholics. My mom’s father was a pilot, an actual wing walking barn stormer. He was a hard drinking womanizer too. But not much of a family man. He only came home long enough to “hang his pants on the bed post” and get my grandmother pregnant three times. He had affairs with other women, it is rumored that he fathered another child and he made no effort to apologize or hide any of it. He was a spoiled rich kid who abandoned his family and left them to be raised by his own parents at Tall Pines.

My mom doesn’t really remember much about her father. What she does remember is the pain of abandonment. Her own mother had to go find work in the city. This left the children at the mercy of their grandmother, who although she loved them in her own way, she was in denial about her son and she had harsh ideas about raising children. It’s as though she was so ashamed of her son’s behavior she believed she could cover it up by exacting high standards from these wounded little children. She was very strict and religious and Mom spent her childhood intent on earning love.

Alcoholism robbed my mother of childhood nurturing. Hugs, and kissed boo-boos, hours of story time, mud pies and wrestling on the floor with Dad. The children were never free to just have a childhood. It also robbed her of the ability to know the truth. Children were to be seen and not heard. They were shut out. There was an elephant in the room. The scandal was more important than healing.

My mom began her healing years later, although she still sets sometimes impossibly high standards for herself. It was not so easy for her brother, who committed suicide in 1964; or her dear sister who has had years of therapy. My mom has a warrior’s heart and she met her soul mate when she met my father. His father had also been an alcoholic, and he understood her soul and her pain. Perhaps they began their healing journey together without even speaking of it. They were married for forty years. That’s another post.