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April 10, 2005

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Last night I flew into LaGuardia from just about a week in Louisiana. I had expected a hard trip, and the anticipation gave me fits of anxiety for the two weeks leading up to my departure. Despite my preparatory fretting, I really wasn't steeled for what the week was going to be like.

I'm going to be circling back to this topic a lot over the next few weeks, and I think the most economical way to introduce the situation with my mom is to summarize it: I realized this week that I've wanted the same thing from her for over twenty years, and I realized this week that I'm not ever going to get it.

It's not very complicated, and when I write it down in words it sounds so sad and sweet and pathetic: all I've wanted is her attention and approval. When I was a child I thought I had it, and perhaps I even did; Lord knows my mother was proud of her bright, bookish little girl. When I was a pre-teen I began to suspect that it didn't actually run very deep. There was a time when she concentrated on me quite intensely; this coincided with the start of my menstrual periods and lasted about a year.

Because I was now a young woman, it was time for me to put down my books and learn to be a young woman. And what does a young woman need to know? How to be a wife. I was eleven years old. Up until then, my mother had left me alone, and I'd get home from school, homework already finished, and I'd read. Suddenly now I'd get home from school and there'd be this shit for me to do. (I should also add here that my mother is not a very good teacher. She is impatient and perfectionistic, all about product and unclear on process, and profoundly insensitive to emotional nuances. Her lack of teaching skills, coupled with her well-intentioned, yet creepy, wife-building agenda, made these sessions horrific for me.)

I think this may have been when she figured out that she'd gotten a changeling baby, although maybe she already knew back in Arkansas in 1971, when I spat out her breast milk in favor of a bottle. Whenever it was that she came to the realization, it was when I was twelve or so that she gave up on me. Me, I was more than happy to give up on her. She made me nervous and miserable. I knew even then that I didn't like being around an irrational woman given to fits of weird, misplaced sentiment and peculiar, angry outbursts.

Anyway. I'm 33-years-old now, and I kind of thought that things might go differently on this trip. I kind of thought that with all my years of therapy, and with all those years in general, that I might be able to help us forge our relationship into a better state, one of greater closeness, or mutual recognition, or even both. I was pretty fucking full of myself.

In short? It didn't work. It's not going to work. I'll surely write more about the details, but what I'll say now is that I have done my best, and I now understand that I was doing my best twenty years ago, too, and I think perhaps I am simply alien to her in some unfixable way. I don't find that surprising, though of course it is sad. But it is not my fault.

Posted by Rose at April 10, 2005 05:09 PM