Monday, March 15, 2010


My mother is moving to California in a couple of weeks. Last I heard. Maybe the woman who agreed to rent her house backed out. I haven’t heard if the lease got signed this week like it was supposed to. I called my mother yesterday to find out but only managed to leave a message. It is very rare for me to call my mother during the week, during the day. A special occasion. I felt I was doing it because she may only be here for another two weeks. And also I’d like to know for sure if it’s really happening now.

When I first heard she was leaving, a few months ago, I felt very sad. I felt a great sense of loss, not so much about her, but about her in that house.

I was very involved in the purchase of the small white clapboard house she has lived in for the last 12 years.

I was still iving in the ashram in the late 90s and my mother wanted to move up to the ashram neighborhood, rural Sullivan County. She figured if she lived near the ashram she’d see a lot of me and my two sisters who visited the ashram from California once or twice a year. Plus, my mother by that time had a lot of friends of her own in the ashram world. She knew the ashram routines and customs. She even had a picture of the guru in her house. She was part of the ashram fabric, a quirky party, but a part.

In the late 90s I was living in a part of the ashram most off the beaten path, away from the fancier, more central areas. I had finally, after 6 years, scored my own room, now had a toaster oven for baked potatoes, a radio for NPR and my own bathtub to read The New Yorker in. In Spring evenings I sometimes walked down the road, past mis-matched houses, rather than dash to the evening chant the way I used to.

And one evening, just a minute or two down the road, I saw a small hand-lettered For Sale sign stuck in the lawn of a small square house.

It was perfect and though it took a few months, my mother purchased it with a $10,000 down payment, her entire savings account. Scraggly lawn, scraggly woods, even a lake just beyond her scraggly woods. A place for her to garden. She planted every year. My mother’s gardens are always erratic collections of things that are working and things that are not.

In January 2000 I moved into an almost identical cottage next door. My financial consultant sister wanted to buy the second cottage when it went up for sale and my plan was to live there, paying rent and writing. Except that six months later I moved to Woodstock and Fred. I left my mother.

While I lived in the cottage I was aware in the back of my mind that I was filling a role very conveniently. My sisters, both younger than me, were married and living on the other side of the country. It was very handy that I was single and content to live next door to my mother.

But I walked out on that job when life opened up so unexpectedly and I walked in a very different direction than the plan of living alone next to my mother.

I remember sitting in my mother’s living room – or actually, I think it was in mine. Our living rooms were the same shape, the houses laid out almost identically. I remember sitting at the table with her. “I’m going to move to Woodstock,” I said. “I’m going to move in with Fred.”

I knew it wasn’t what she expected, not what she wanted. I was aware I was ruining something. I had liked living next door to her, and across the street from the Dobsons, an ashram couple with a baby whom my mother cared for every day. I was walking out on something. But there was no debating it. No contest. I knew I wanted to go to Woodstock and be with Fred.

A few weeks ago, visiting my mother, she said, out of nowhere, with a shade of anger in her voice, or a shade of strong emotion – not something that arises often in our conversations – “But you’re like that,” she said to me. “One minute you like something and the next minute you don’t. You never know with you!”

I hesitated, not knowing what she was referring to therefore not sure how to respond. But I could sort of see that many scenes of disappointment were in her mind. There have been many years during which I have been someone she could rely on – though none of them recent – and a few very dramatic times when I have leapt off in a new direction without explanation, for myself, leaving her stranded.

And now she’s leaving the little house that suits her perfectly. My sisters orchestrated it. I would have not said anything and let her live there until she complained or it became obvious something had to change.

She has acquiesced, my mother. My mother, who never expects love, is maybe glad that anyone wants to do anything for her. And, okay, she just lost her drivers license which makes life in the sticks a very different matter. I still wish she had stayed until it was clear she could no longer.

And in my head is a mixture of sadness that one phase is so decidedly ending, and it would be easy to get sentimental. I don’t want to get sentimental. I want to stay alert. The story is much more complex than mere sentiment allows.

1 comment:

Leëta said...

I think that "never expects love" fence is one of the trickiest to climb, and there ain't no gate.