Fill in the blanks


When I came into my office today, I found a sheet of paper with a very basic drawing of a woman in my in-box. It was just an outline really, but with a short cropped hair-do and big ol’ blunt bangs. I figured this was Miss Patricia’s doing (the previous day I came in to be greeted by half a dozen squeezy bananas that she  stuck in and around my door).  If the first words out of my mouth are “what the fuck?” chances are, Miss Patricia has something to do with it.

Once I opened my email, I found Patricia’s proclamation that our area was going to have a drawing contest in honor of Mother’s Day. We were invited, nay,  required, to do some kind of representation of our mother. It could be realistic or symbolic. It could be drawn, or collage, or made out of macaroni noodles. It didn’t matter. It only mattered that you played along, lest you incur the wrath of Miss Patricia.

Some people immediately took to the task, and the results were uh, interesting.  Either I work in a place where everyone’s mother is a big ol’ glamor girl, (or a drag queen) or people are engaged in wishful thinking.  Miss Patricia pressed me all day about what I was going to do for my drawing.  “I dunno, a big ol’ puddle of tears, or perhaps I’ll put her behind prison bars.”  “Oooooooooooo, I’m tellin’ your mama what you said!”  Miss Patricia chided me.  “What?  You said we could be symbolic.  My mother was a depressive agoraphobic.  She gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘stay at home mom'” Conveniently, Miss Patricia had a client waiting, so the conversation ended there.

I want to play along and do a drawing, but I’m at a loss.  My mother has been dead for 28 years now. I was 22 when she died. I don’t have bad memories of my mother, nor do I have particular good ones.  Truth is I never missed her all that much because we were never particular close.   Is that a horrible thing to say?  But, it’s not like I’m angry at her.  She was mentally ill, and back in those days there was still a lot of stigma around mental illness.  So, she stayed trapped in our shitty little house in a marriage that was completely devoid of affection.  It does make me sad that she had to live like that.  She was a smart lady.  But something happened – I have no idea what – and after I was born, fear and depression overtook her life.

My brother and I turned out OK though so she must have done something right – I just can’t remember what it was.  My best guess is that both my parents knew they could offer me very little, so they gave me a lot of freedom to get my parenting from other families, or from my teachers.  And for that I am grateful.  They also gave me a lot of independence from a young age, and trusted me enough that I wouldn’t get into too much trouble.  They also fostered my love of animals, and I don’t think they ever said “no” when I brought home my newest injured or lost creature.  They were good and decent people, but were far too wrapped up in their drinking and depression to be emotionally available parents.

Even though it is going to be challenging, I’m going to play along and do some kind of representation of my mother.  Who knows?  Maybe something will get dredged loose in my psyche and some nice warm and fuzzy mommy memories will reveal themselves.  Yeah, that would be nice.

17 responses »

  1. Just as an outsider, looking in at a very brief glimpse of your relationship with your mother, its seems to me you already left quite a few clues that are representitive of your mother and your memories of her.

    I don’t know if I agree with the “you have to play along” game, but since you are willing to give it a shot, I hope it works out for the best for you.

  2. I love your new work environment….there are so few places where someone like “Miss Patricia” would be free enough to foster such a creative group project at work. This says something about the dept. you have.

    I’m glad you recognize that your mother was ill…many would just harbor resentment and anger about the situation they were forced in. This speaks volumes about you and what you have overcome. A toast to you for surviving so well.

  3. I think feeling a little conflicted about our mother is a good, normal, healthy thing. After all, if we felt nothing but affection and love and need for them, it would be impossible for us to detach from them – to ever grow up and become independent adults.

    Having said that, I can’t imagine how it must be to have a mother who was so ruled by fear and depression, and to lose her at the age of just 22.

    So, I salute your willingness to join in this group project. Go girl!

  4. Sometimes, I think what impresses me most about your writing is the clarity. I don’t just mean the straightforward, clear description in a physical sense, I mean emotionally, too. There is no spin of drama, no extra infusion of emotion, not even any major editorializing in this really personal account- which- if anyone is allowed to put their opinions in, you are.

    It’s so straightforward and down to earth. How on earth do you do that?

  5. Off the top my first take was that for those folks whose life experience is outside the ‘norm’ should have the freedom to opt out and without comment from others.
    I was glad to see by the end of the post and from your tweet that you decided to give it a shot.
    Also, what Am said in spades. Kudos on what and how you wrote this.
    You’ve left me curious as to what you came up with…. I hope it turned out to be an enjoyable and revealing project.

  6. dunt listen to the whimps ~ Miss Patricia rules = suck it up an dive in dude (yeah but itz too late for dis ad vice cuz U all red eye dun that, rite?= nice yob baby!) ~ wenner ya gonna post the rezultz?

  7. I know it’s corny but one of the most important things I learned when my oldest was about ten is: The best two things you can give your kids are roots and wings.

    I think you’re right about your parents giving you lots of freedom!

    BTW, did you get my email? I’m in the bay area.

  8. Adam – Yes, I do have memories of my mother, but just not the typical ones that evoke any typical mother-like imagery.

    BQ – Yes, I think every department needs a Patricia. Occasionally she gets to be a bit much (especially when she gets out her can of flowery air freshener), but I love how she keeps things lively there. Since she is reports to neither me nor the other manager in the area we are powerless to discipline her, even if we wanted to. So we just smile and enjoy the ride.

    TMC & Lea – Excellent suggestions!

    woo – my mother and I never had a typical mother/daughter relationship. The reasons for this I explored extensively in therapy. The most likely theory is that we never really bonded when I was an infant – rumor has it I spent my first 6 months or so in the hospital – and/or my mother emotionally detached herself as a self-protective measure in case I didn’t make it. Who knows?

    Am – Thanks. 🙂 It was weird writing this because it seemed so matter of fact – bereft of the drama that one would expect from a dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship. I guess it was the years of therapy that helped me see it clearly, stripped of the veil of tears or anger.

    Norm – If I truly didn’t want to do it, I simply wouldn’t, and would not feel the need to make excuses for it. But, I do love a challenge.

    As for the final product, well, let’s just say what started out as just having fun ended up being very close to the truth. I opted to do a collage. The mother had Donna Reed’s head (the ideal mother when I was growing up), but she dressed not in pearls, but in a frumpy housecoat/muumuu, pink fuzzy slippers while smoking a cigarette, a drink in her hand. In the background there is a TV, and on top of the TV is an array of prescription drugs. And at her feet is a happy, yet very dirty baby. Yeah . . . analyze as you wish.

    Monkees – I did take a picture of the result. I’ll post it at some point soon.

    Corina – My parents very definitely gave me wings. The roots? Not so much. 🙂

    Yes, I got your email. My schedule has been a bit wonky, so I’ve been hesitating making any plans. I’ll call you soon.

  9. pill in the banks
    spill on sum planks
    will with a prank
    thrill with a spank
    now wear tawkin mzpatreesha

  10. eye came across sum timeless ad vice that eye think is an excellent follow up project =

    Sleep well and dream of drunken squirrels with big racks and small erections.

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