The burning question when I woke up after my date with curious mom was whether or not she liked me. When I turned on the computer that morning, I was crushed not to see a letter from her. Though I wanted to dream beautiful things, my mind immediately churned with fretful anticipation.
Perhaps she did not want to be associated with me. Were the rules for this mother daughter encounter the same for any type of blind date? Should I hold off as long as possible before sending a missive of my own so that I didn't seem too desperate for contact? What would I do if she didn't write at all or if she sent me a polite dismissal that stated how nice it was to meet me but that it was time to end things before they even began? Was I prepared for this rejection? Yes. My life shaped me to wonder what insult would come next.
And what I had done to contribute to such an outcome? I reviewed my behavior from the night before and regretted as always my constant chatter. Why does every silence have to be filled? I chastised myself. Why do you act like you are on the gong show performing your song and dance, all the while looking over your shoulder to see if that baton is ready to send you off the stage? Though my non-stop talking is always something for which I criticize myself, the alternative is not something I easily navigate.
My grandmother lived a life she could not talk about and so my childhood was filled with a raw silence, a silence brimming with guilt and frustration and profound sadness and the threat of death always on the perimeter. My grandmother filled that silence with curses and ugly words as she rattled down the corridors of our home; God damned son-of-a bitch was her daily mantra. I tried to block out the sound of her voice but wherever I hid, her message found me. I was extraneous, a nuisance, a scrappy girl who tended to enrage her more with my presence; and she was a broken down old woman who had put any happiness behind her.
Growing up with my grandmother has profoundly affected my ease with women. As much as I can talk the talk and walk the walk, it is an unfamiliar alliance. I was born into a world where the bonds between mothers and daughters are disturbing and shadowy and fraught with negligence and sorrow. There was no modeling or relating or comfort taking. Other than for occasional gossip or complaint, women were absent from my grandmother's life and the insular one she founded for me. I was the one who wanted to draw women to me, whether as surrogate mother, sister, or friend, but my grandmother did not welcome them and because of this, the skills necessary to cement these connections did not come naturally to me.
As a child, I tried to understand my grandmother's distancing behavior and find a way to win her over, but more often the best I could do, was avoid her fury. As I sat in front of the computer waiting on curious mom, I knew that I no longer wanted to be the girl who was locked in a back room and ignored, who emptied pots of her own excrement each morning under the daggers of my grandmother's stares, who dodged pots and pans like explosives, or hid in cupboards to avoid being scolded for not being grateful enough for what it meant that my grandmother had taken me in.
I wanted to release the feelings of being an intruder or an irritant and being continually on guard for warnings and admonishments. I wanted to soothe my raw nerves and fully embody the confident woman who placed an ad for a mother and in doing so, said I am ready to be embraced by a woman whether as a mother, sister or friend. It was time to start a completely new framework through which to see myself.
I thought back over my childhood to the moments when I could turn my grandmother's grumblings into, if not praise, at least a calm to treasure. "Do the dance for me, Michelle, she'd say when too exhausted to do anything else, the ballet one with the box." and I would spin in circles until I saw the faintest hint of a smile. These moments tied me to her and also to my mother in the hospital as my grandmother often made the request for my mother as well. In this brief moments, the music and my movement became a clearing for our hearts to meet. We had our communication.
As I remembered this small joy, I had the blissful idea that I could finally release my fear, but I was still humbled by it. Was it too soon in my quest for me to really expect that I could become someone different?
This woman with gentle charm was not my grandmother and I was starved to hear what she thought. After two days with no contact, I knew I had to make a decision. Was I willing to risk writing to her and learning my fate? I wrote a letter, then deleted nearly all of it. Then I turned on the music and began to twirl and spin. You are okay. You can do this. Before the song ended, I had found my faith. I was ready to know if we were on the same page in this or if I was alone once again.
I am very happy that you suggested that we meet. I enjoyed our dinner and the opportunity to get to know you. I would love to hear your thoughts.