Follow by Email

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The day my mother ran away from home

All I can think of when I hear the word “menopause” is my mother running away from home.

Etched in my mind is the look on my father’s face when he came home from work to find my mother gone, and us kids ashen and silent, gathered around the chrome and vinyl 1950’s dinette set.

It was maybe 6 p.m. and already dark outside because it was fall. The table was set for dinner but the plates were empty. Through the sheer orange curtains I could see lights on in the neighbor’s house across the street, where they were having a normal dinner, Walter’s Cronkite’s face flickering on their black and white television set.

My father was a man of few words, but in his love for my mother he didn’t fail to tell us how proud he was of how she was dealing with “the change of life.”

We didn’t know what that meant other than she wasn’t going crazy, we were told, like some women her age who were wearing go-go boots and mini-skirts and dying their hair peroxide blonde. Another plus, she wasn’t taking any tranquilizers. I’m thinking maybe she should have.

Looking back there were probably little signs indicating she was ready to blow, but kids being kids, we were busy bickering about who had to set the table, my older brother performing the “snake-bite” routine, which involved placing his hands around our arms, squeezing, and then twisting each hand in the opposite direction.

“You’re so stupid,” I screamed.

“I know you are, but what am I?” he retorted, over and over, no matter what name I called him.

Someone asked my mother over the din of bustling pots and pans and steam rising from boiling kettles what was for dinner.

Whatever the answer — probably “meat loaf” —was met by a chorus of groans. Someone said “Again?” in a raised voice.

My mother stopped in her tracks, turned off the stove and silently removed her apron. To this day I can still see her walking out the door, pulling an arm through the sleeve of her rain or shine coat.

We thought she was gone for good. Seeing that she didn’t drive, we pictured her hopping a bus to who knows where.

My father found her a couple blocks away, walking the dark streets in her sensible pumps, the soft, beige ones with a little heel.

I can think of only a few things more crushing than how we felt that day, pushing our poor mother over the edge like that. Maybe we had ruined her for life, but she came around and resumed her normal yelling at us and making us write 500 times “I will not call my brother names.”

At that age we had no clue how many more “changes” we would have to face — life seemed so immutable, so steadfast. There was a brief glimpse that day, a glimmer of realization that things really could change in an instant.

And for a short while, at least, we didn’t complain about what we were having for dinner.

Sharon Roznik is a staff writer for The Reporter in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Monday, May 07, 2012

Writing for Rainer

I'm wandering around the house today, from room to room, the sole of one slipper  torn and flopping around.

A cat keeps following - winding around my feet in an effort to try to trip me up and kill me.

I don't know where to go, anywhere away from the windows, I guess.

There are landscapers outside trimming all the bushes and I don't want them to see me.
 Of course they will look into the windows - how can you not look into a window?
I'm wearing a faded pink nightgown and over that a man's long-sleeved undershirt. I know I have to write for Rainer but the table I write on is near the patio doors - right where the arbor vidae needs trimming.

"Why don't you write on your blog?" he harps at me day and night from his Bavarian castle somewhere in Germany. I have never met him but have known him for years so I can imagine things about him: he wears old-man sweaters and likes to chop wood. His hair is unkempt  and he broods about quantum physics and the state of the European union. At night his pipe tobacco smells like oak trees after it rains.

I learned to hide from the outside world when I was little, inside a closet or crouched in the front hall. Those were the days when salesmen would knock on the door selling sets of encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners, steak knives, Fuller brushes, Stanley products.

My mom taught us to hide in the house until they went away. I can still feel all the shoes beneath me as I squat down behind the coats.

My sister and I still have that in us - the ability to pull the curtains and shut the world away. It's easy to do with social media, we pretend to be friends with so many people but we don't really see them. Ever.

Rainer hates Facebook and agrees with the European Commission's plan to stop the way the website "eavesdrops" on its users to gather information about what they purchase, their political opinions, sexuality, religious beliefs – and even their whereabouts.

Facebook harvests information from people's activities on the social networking site – whatever their individual privacy settings – and makes it available to advertisers.

He doesn't understand how Americans don't care about giving it all away.

They don't even think much about you Rainer or Europe in general except maybe a planned  two week-tour to some of the major cities after retirement.

 They do think about Africa however, traveling there with church groups in perpetual pilgrimages to fight starvation. 

I feel like smoking a cigarette after this - I'm so tired and not used to writing more than one Facebook sentence expounding on how I feel or what I like or what I watched on television last night.

I quit smoking years ago but I still want one every day and will cross the street to be near someone who is smoking so I can breath it in - let it waft over and around me like some sacred cleansing.

I hope you are happy now Rainer.