I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately and thought I would catch you up on what’s going on in this part of the universe.
On more than one occasion, lately, I’ve heard your voice in my head when you were faced with moving from the house we grew up in and your home for 40 years. “But I’m going to miss my Von’s!” So white, middle-class, I used to think. That whole ownership mentality based on your social standing. Pure entitlement.
My house has been on the market for the last six months and every time I have turned into a slot in the Von’s parking lot here in San Diego I have felt that twinge. Where will I shop next? No more running into familiar faces at Starbucks, or the cleaner’s or the Hallmark Shop. No seeing every 8th grade mother picking up balloons for graduation, or the smiles of the girls scouts and the trick-or-treaters who look a little different each year. Turns out I thought all of that was mine, too.
Not that I go to Von’s much anymore. I try for the bargain groceries at Fresh & Easy or Smart & Final or Food for Less. I’ve even joined a co-op where I help pack food boxes for needy families and get to shop among the leftovers once a month. It feels really good, Mom. It feels authentic.
I know that you would have hated the cold in the warehouse, the odd collection of packers, some with rough skin and wild hair, some with missing teeth. Some angry if the boxes aren’t stacked right or if the carrots are put into the wrong corner. Turns out every social endeavor has its tricks of the trade, a pecking order, and someone with a strong stake in being in charge. Could be the Baptist women setting tables for the Spring Tea or the hungry food packers grateful for a free box of crackers. Not as far apart as you taught me to believe. You’d be surprised.
Probably you’d be surprised by a few other things. The price of gasoline – wow, your mauve Cadillac would cost a fortune to drive these days. And the Bullock’s department store at the mall is now a Target. And it’s open on Sundays. Banks aren’t so eager to make loans anymore. Those 14% CD’s you used to have tucked away aren’t happening anymore. Interest on savings accounts is under 2% now, even though those credit cards that you refused to use have become much scarcer.
And now that I’m nearing that empty nest and would rather watch the Oscar’s at home instead of going to a party, and can barely stay awake on New Year’s Eve, I’m getting a taste of that aching loneliness that made you cry so often and demand my attention and try to make me feel guilty for not visiting enough. Every time I stop myself from judging my daughter’s romance or my son’s job choice I think about your crushing disapproval of how I lived my life and see that it’s just two ways of coping with the same fear — losing control. And because you failed so brilliantly at accepting life’s changes, you taught me to release my expectations and lift my arms and open my fingers and surrender everything and be grateful always.
Somewhere, I think that there is a spirit of you, mom, watching me live so differently than you did, and speaking into my heart what you could never say in life, “Good for you…”