My sister and her husband say how they have hired a Feng Shui consultant because they know their house need something, but they didn’t know what. the consultant has made a lot of suggestions like changing the floor boards to a lighter wood. It sounds to me that what they really have is an interior decorator. I have never known why anyone would hire an interior decorator. It still surprises me when my mother, father and two sisters turn out to be so ordinary.
When I moved into the sparse little cottage after the ashram I called up a Feng Shui person, a devotee that everybody swore by. She came. Said I should paint my front door green and put mirrors in the four corners of the ceiling of the basement because it was really bad to have a garage under a house. A certain plant by the computer and a bowl – a white bowl – of salt.
I did all these things, even buying some cheap mirrors at the local drug store and climbing up a ladder and sticking them somehow to the fucking ceiling as if it were a spiritual practice, as if not to do these things would signal a failing, proof that I wasn’t serious and didn’t deserve good things.
Yesterday afternoon Maurice called to say that in the process of upgrading my computer he had accidentally erased my entire email program. Next to my writing, the most valuable thing on the computer. “But Sally did her intuitive thing and says it’ll be alright,” he said. “Bullshit,” I thought. An hour later Sally was still insisting that my mother lode of addresses would reappear. I heard her insisting in the background as he said, “Well, she isn’t usually wrong, but she sure was this time.”
Four young white mothers have gathered beside me in this café, each with a wriggling hardly-walking toddler. They talk about what foods each kid is eating. I hear something about “avocado diarrhea.”
My mother. Can I hate her? It seems utterly taboo, but I am drawn to this area as if it were the place on the other side of a wall I can’t see over.
I hate her for not having been a happy person, for having been so beaten down even before I was even born, a woman completely defeated who had decided the best way to survive was to not ask for much.
I’m not allowed to hate her. It makes me go to war inside. On one side: hatred. On the other: the voice that says I should care for this poor woman who is so gutsy and outspoken and cute.
But she wasn’t that for me. When I was little she was the one who said no, you can’t be pretty, you cannot be a success, you will not make it, how could you? These things were not allowed for me and now they are so foreign to me I cannot invite them in for you.
In my head she protests, says she always thought I was special. And I can imagine she did, back in some frightened crevice of her consciousness, but she had to make me normal to fit into her everyday, to make me someone she knew how to talk to.
And my father I hate with a rage that makes me scream at him to leave me alone. I rage against the years of his cloying presence, his assumption that he was welcome.
I have not written to or called him for several months and have not heard from him either. It feels easy. The other day, putting mugs away in the cupboard, I imagined the call coming from my mother. How will she put it? “Dad died this morning.” I feel ready. At peace. A thousand voices rise up, telling me this will not last.
The four mothers talk to their wordless babies in voices that rise up in swoops. “You don’t want to go hoooome??” The baby cries and struggles not to have its coat put on, but of course mother insists. “It’s not usually this hard to get her to leave!”
My mother. My mother. My mother. I looked at audio books today. It soothes something to imagine giving her a present. I could hide behind that. If I had money I probably would. I didn’t today. I knew it was extra, over the top, hiding something.
My mother sitting alone in her living room. Eating alone, by the window. I can remember feeling this way when I was nine years old, being left at boarding school. I had to be careful. She could be hurt so easily.