Last week was my birthday and I turned fifty. We said we’d have a party.
When my mother visited a couple of weeks ago, sitting in the shadows of the little room I call the library, sitting there on a cheap hardback chair I got from her actually sometime last year when she was giving away a bunch of small furniture that she’d been storing for a friend of hers – a woman who’d lived in the ashram for years and years – had children there and everything – a pretty woman with dark skin and a South African English accent – she stored her stuff at my mother’s for years after leaving the ashram, then decided she didn’t want most of it and Fred and I got first dibs – so now my mother is sitting on one of those chairs in my library on a Wednesday afternoon. We are drinking tea. Fred is there, though sometimes he gets up and leaves the room which I don’t do, I guess because it’s my mother and she’s driven fifty miles to see me. It was her idea.
She asks me if I’m going to have a party and I say I’m not sure, I don’t know. I have been quite quiet during her visit, not going out of my way to entertain her. When I speak with her a few days later she comments on that. She says, “You were a little quiet. Is everything all right?” and I say it is and feel guilty because here she is, showing concern, right? But I cannot take her seriously, cannot for a moment consider revealing anything of my actual life to her. “Well,” she says with a wry laugh, “I’ve come to realize I just have to let my kids have their own life.” I make some kind of noise that seems appropriate. I am faking everything here.
She sends me a card a few days before my birthday. I open it. My main interest is to see if there is a check in it. There is. $50. $25 less than last year.
Part of me breaks at the thought of my eighty-two-year-old mother sending me anything at all, let alone a check.
I sweep the kitchen floor, make lunch, thinking about inviting her to the party after all. It's only two days away now.
I ask Fred to call her. He’s been making all the party calls. I hear him speaking to her on the phone. I listen from the next room with big big ears. The conversation is surprisingly short. No extras, just when and where.
Fred comes into the room. “How was it?” I ask. “She didn’t say much,” he says. “That she’ll come if she can.”
I thought it would make her happy to be invited. I like the thought of making her happy. but there was no resounding response to this late-issue invitation.
Then I kick the whole thing out of my head. Whether she comes or not, whether I should have invited her or not – I kick it all out of my head and feel ready to go with whatever happens.
She calls the day of the party, leaves a message on Fred’s phone, she can’t make it.
It’s unusual. My mother usually so happy to have an invitation.
I call her the next day, the day before my fiftieth birthday, a time when usually things would be as smooth as silk, I feel a distance, as if she is holding me at arm’s length.
It’s as if someone has told her that I have been writing about her and me over and over again, and posting these stories on the blog – they are not private anymore – these stories are out there, words about my mother – I think my sisters have finally found them, I think they’ve said something to my mother, something like, “Don’t be so nice to Bim.”
Bim is crumbling. Good old Bim who was so nice to have around. Oh my god, she’s disappearing. I think it’s good. I think it’s good.