- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH
A Visit with My Grandmother
Thinking about My Father
The Yellow Door House
There is no way to be somebody's mother without having been, first, someone's child; and the kind of mother I am is all wrapped up with the kind of mother I had. Some of what my mother did is precisely what I've chosen not to do. Some of what she did is imprinted on me so strongly that now and then I'll hear myself saying to my children the very words that were once said to me. (Of cookies on a plate: "What you touch you take." Or, to a child wailing over being sent to bed: "That just shows me you're overtired.") Some of those lines probably go back a generation or two before me, and probably one or two will survive, through my children, into the twenty-first century I think it wasn't until I had children myself that I understood the power of inheritance and the meaning of heritage.
Of course I've rejected, railed against, and even cursed parts of my heritage, as most daughters have. But in the end, I guess I never for a moment questioned the essential belief my mother possessed (and possesses still): that there could be nothing more worthwhile and challenging than having and raising children. Fashions in raising of children dictate, now, that women leave their little girls more free to choose or reject childbearing. But my mother raised me to be a mother, and (though I'm always quick to say not "when you have children," but only "if") the truth is I am probably passing on a good deal of the same pattern to my children too. Patterns are hard to break. If I had to name one occasion on which I learned that, it would be this one. The year was 1979. Audrey had just turned one. I was twenty-five, my mother fifty-seven, my grandmother eighty-six. One day there were four generations. The next day there were only three.
My mother called to tell me that my grandmother was dying. She had refused an operation that would postpone, but not prevent, her death from pancreatic cancer. She could no longer eat, she had been hemorrhaging, and she had severe jaundice. "I always prided myself on being different," she told my mother. "Now I am different. I'm yellow."
My mother, telling me this news, began to cry. So I became the mother for a moment, reminding her, reasonably, that my grandmother was eighty-six, she'd had a full life, she had all her faculties, and no one who knew her could wish that she live long enough to lose them. In the last year or so my mother had begun finding notes in my grandmother's drawers at the nursing home, reminding her, "Joyce's husband's name is Steve. Their daughter is named Audrey." She rarely saw her children anymore, had no strength to cook or garden. Just the other week she had said of her longtime passion, Harry Belafonte, "I gave him up." She told my mother that she'd had enough living.
My grandmother's name was Rona Bruser. She was born in Russia, in 1892, the eldest daughter of a large and comfortable Jewish family. But the comfort didn't last. She used to tell stories of the pogroms and the Cossacks who raped her when she was twelve. Soon after that her family emigrated to Canada.
My mother has shown me photographs of my grandmother in the old days. Today a woman like her would be constantly dieting, but back then her stout, corseted figure was the ideal. She had a long black braid and the sort of strong-jawed beauty that would never be described as fragile. She was pursued by many men, but most ardently by Boris Bruser, also an immigrant from Russia, who came from a much poorer country family and courted her through the mail, in letters filled with his watercolor illustrations and rich, romantic prose. "Precious Rona!" his letters begin. "If only my arms were around you." "Your loving friend," they end (as little as one week before the wedding), "B. Bruser."
My grandfather, like the classic characters in Isaac Bashevis Singer stories, concerned himself with heaven more than earth. He ran one failing store after another, moved his family from town to town across the Canadian prairies, trusting the least trustworthy of customers, investing in doomed businesses, painting gentle watercolors, while his wife balanced the books and baked the knishes.
Their children, my mother in particular, were the center of their life. The story I loved best as a child was of my grandfather opening every box of Cracker Jacks in his store, in search of the particular tin toy my mother coveted. Though they never had much money, my grandmother saw to it that her daughter had elocution lessons and piano lessons, and the assurance that she would go to college.
But while she was at college my mother met my father, who was not only twenty years older than she was, and divorced, but blue-eyed and blond-haired and not Jewish. When my father sent love letters to my mother, my grandmother would open and hide them, and when my mother told her parents she was going to marry this man, my grandmother said if that happened, it would kill her.
Not likely, of course. My grandmother was a woman who used to crack Brazil nuts open with her teeth, a woman who once lifted a car off the ground when there was an accident and it had to be moved. She had been representing her death as imminent ever since I could remember and had discussed, at length, the distribution of her possessions and her lamb coat. Every time we said good-bye, after our annual visit to Winnipeg, she'd weep and say she'd never see us again. But in the meantime, while every other relative of her generation, and a good many of the younger ones, had died (nursed in their final illness, usually, by her) she kept making borscht, shopping for bargains, tending the most flourishing plants I've ever seen, and most particularly, spreading the word of her daughters' and granddaughters' accomplishments.
On the first real vacation my grandparents ever took, to Florida—to celebrate their retirement, the sale of their last store and the first true solvency of their marriage—my grandfather was hit by a car. After that he began to forget his children's names and could walk only with two canes. After he died my grandmother's life was lived, more than ever, through her children, and her pride, her possessiveness, seemed suffocating. When she came to visit, I would have to hide my diary. She couldn't understand any desire for privacy. She couldn't bear it if my mother left the house without her. Years later, in the nursing home, she would tell people that I was editor of The New York Times and my cousin was the foremost artist in Canada. My mother was simply the most perfect daughter who ever lived.
This made my mother furious (and then guilt-ridden that she felt that way, when of course she owed so much to her mother). So I harbored the resentment that my mother, the dutiful daughter, would not allow herself. I, who had always performed specially well for my grandmother—danced and sung for her, offered up my smiles and kisses and good report cards and prizes, the way my mother always did—stopped writing to her, ceased to visit.
But when I heard that she was dying I realized I wanted to go to Winnipeg to see her one more time. Mostly to make my mother happy, I told myself (certain patterns being hard to break). But also, I was offering up one more particularly successful accomplishment: my own dark-eyed, dark-skinned, dark-haired daughter, whom my grandmother had never met.
I put Audrey's best dress on her for our visit to Winnipeg, the way the best dresses were always put on me for visits twenty years before. I made sure Audrey's stomach was full so she'd be in good spirits, and I filled my pockets with animal crackers in case she started to cry. I scrubbed her face mercilessly (never having been quite clean enough myself to please my grandmother). In the elevator going up to her room, I realized how much I was sweating.
For the first time in her life, Grandma looked small. She was lying flat with an IV tube in her arm and her eyes shut, but she opened them when I leaned over to kiss her. "It's Fredelle's daughter, Joyce," I yelled, because she didn't hear well any more, but I could see that no explanation was necessary. "You came," she said. "You brought the baby."
Audrey was just one year old, but she had already seen enough of the world to know that people in beds are not meant to be so still and yellow, and she looked frightened. "Does she make strange?" my grandmother asked.
Then Grandma waved at her—the same kind of slow, finger-flexing wave a baby makes—and Audrey waved back. I spread her toys out on my grandmother's bed and sat her down. There she stayed, most of the afternoon, playing and humming and sipping on her bottle, taking a nap at one point, leaning against my grandmother's leg. When I cranked her Snoopy guitar, Audrey stood up on the bed and danced. Grandma couldn't talk much anymore, though every once in a while she would say how sorry she was that she wasn't having a better day. "I'm not always like this," she said.
Mostly she just watched Audrey. Over and over she told me how beautiful my daughter is, how lucky I am to have her. Sometimes Audrey would want to get off the bed, inspect the get-well cards, totter down the hall. "Where is she?" Grandma kept asking. "Who's looking after her?" I had the feeling that, even then, if I'd said, "Audrey's lighting matches," Grandma would have shot up to rescue her.
We were flying home that night, and I had dreaded telling her, remembering all those other tearful partings. But in the end, when I said we had to go, it was me, not Grandma, who cried. She had said she was ready to die. But as I leaned over to stroke her forehead, what she said was "I wish I had your hair" and "I wish I was well."
On the plane flying home, with Audrey in my arms, I thought about mothers and daughters, and the four generations of the family that I know most intimately. Every one of those mothers loves and needs her daughter more than her daughter will love or need her someday, and we are, each of us, the only person on earth who is quite so consumingly interested in our child. Sometimes, when she was a baby, I would kiss and hug Audrey so much she starts crying—which is in effect what my grandmother was doing to my mother all her life. And what made my mother grieve, I knew, was not only that her mother would die in a day or two, but that once her mother was dead, there would never again be someone to love her in quite such an unreserved, unquestioning way. No one to believe that fifty years ago, she could have put Shirley Temple out of a job, no one else who remembers the moment of her birth. She would be only a mother, then, not a daughter anymore.
As for Audrey and me, we stopped over for a night in Toronto, where my mother lives. In the morning we would head for a safe deposit box at the bank to take out the receipt for my grandmother's burial plot. Then Mother would fly back to Winnipeg, where, for the first time in anybody's memory, there was waist-high snow on April Fool's Day. But that night, she fed me a huge dinner, as she always does when I come, and I ate more than I do anywhere else. I admired the Fiesta-ware china (once my grandmother's) that my mother set on the table. She said (the way Grandma used to say to her of the lamb coat), "Someday it will be yours."
Steve traveled light into our marriage. (Few childhood possessions remain. His parents moved often while he was growing up, and always, when they moved, held yard sales to dispose of excess baggage.) I move through life weighted down with possessions: every Barbie doll I ever played with, and all of their outfits. Junior-high poems. Letters from camp. My collection of fifty-odd salt and pepper shakers. The family Christmas ornaments, including a virtually shattered, nearly forty-year-old egg with a Santa face drawn on that my mother made in the first year of her marriage to my father. (When my parents divorced, the Christmas decorations all came to me.) Like her, and like her mother, I cannot bear to part with things.
Still, it occurs to me, it isn't things, chiefly, that will be my inheritance (or my bequest). When I am most likely to think of my mother, when my mother is most likely to think of her mother (and when my children will be most apt to think of me, I suspect), is in the kitchen. Baking. Baking pies, especially.
I make a good pie crust. I make pies fast, and often; my freezer's full of last summer's berries, and I'm never without a backup can of Crisco on the pantry shelf. At six o'clock on a Thursday afternoon, if I suddenly get the idea to invite a couple of friends over for dessert, pie is what I'll bake; forty-five minutes later I'm ready, and all the guests need to do is maybe pick up the whipping cream on their way over. I particularly like the moment when I take the pie out of the oven and set it on the table, cut the first slice, watch the steam rise.
Later, as we're sitting with our coffee, picking bits off the edges of the crust to straighten it, or forking up stray raspberries from the bottom of the pan, someone is likely to ask for my pie crust recipe. I could write it down for them, of course, but the truth is, there's no such thing as a recipe for good pie crust. There are the novelty crusts, made with cream cheese or spun up in a Cuisinart. There are the classic debates—vegetable shortening or butter?—and there are state-of-the-art tools: rolling pins you fill with ice cubes, acrylic slabs on which to roll out the dough. But really, the secret to good pie crust is all in the hands, and not something any cookbook I've ever read has properly conveyed. I guess it must be possible to make good pie crust without having had a mother who makes good pie crust, whose mother before her made good pie crust. It's just a little hard to picture.
I use one of my mother's rolling pins when I make a pie, and a 1940s Pyrex dish of a weight and design she has always claimed superior to modern equivalents, and a wooden-handled pastry blender meant to duplicate hers. In my mind my mother is inseparably linked with her pies—the smell, the taste, the score of little rules she laid out for me long ago, beginning with how she assesses the baking day's climatic conditions, right on through to the unthinkableness of serving a cold pie or failing to have whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on hand to accompany it.
It's sometimes a mixed blessing, this maternal heritage of flaky pie crust and soup from scratch. I remember a day, a few years back, when my friend Kate was up from New York visiting for the weekend, and we sat together on stools at the kitchen table while she sipped a beer and I made pie crust. She took notes, said she'd never been able to bake a decent pie, and when I asked about her mother's cooking (because therein hangs the tale) she laughed, describing a childhood full of cold cuts and canned tuna.
We had spent the earlier part of that day climbing a nearby mountain—she and the man she eventually married, my husband, our daughter and I. There had been a moment, coming back down, when we were sitting in a grove of trees and Kate's boyfriend, Greg, had picked her up, was throwing pine needles in her hair and down her shirt, and the two of them were rolling down the mountain, while I (in that early stage of pregnancy when one looks merely plump) sat watching, bearing a backpack filled with the remains of a seven-course picnic lunch. And our daughter, just three (but linked to me, it sometimes seems, directly through the nerve endings), put her arms around me and started singing "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" with a faintly forced mirth designed to be contagious.
My friend—aged thirty-one, plenty of love affairs, and no children or pies behind her—swims a mile a day and plays championship tennis. Having had a mother far less domestically defined than my own—one who had positively neglected her children, it often seemed, from my friend's stories—left my friend freer than I, in some ways, to define her self. At that moment, in my kitchen, she seemed to me, suddenly, to be not so much lacking a crucial piece of knowledge about cooking as she was in possession of a precious and enviable ignorance. She wanted to learn how to make pie crust like mine, she said. And I felt hesitant to teach her. Not out of any proprietary sense about my pie crust, only a reluctance to see such a free spirit with a ten-pound bag of flour on her shelf.
It should be possible, of course, to know how to make good pies without necessarily having to produce them. But in my case, at least, the one goes with the other. My domestic training brought with it a certain bondage to domesticity. If my mother is, in some sense, defined for me by her pies, well, so am I (not to my husband or my friends, only to myself) too much defined by what comes out of my oven. I can't even say I'd choose another woman's life over my own: The truth is, I like and feel at home in kitchens, I enjoy stitching doll clothes and sewing colored plastic animal buttons on children's cardigans—and certainly I love to cook. What I don't like is the sense I have, sometimes, that this was not so much a course I chose as the route laid out for me from earliest childhood, and one I have to alert myself to avoid laying out for my daughter. We spend some of our happiest times baking together. She has her own cookie cutters and a scaled-down pie pan and rolling pin, and already she knows some things about pie crust a person won't find in The Joy of Cooking. She has heard my running commentary on the process often enough that she can, and does, instruct her brother.
Excerpted from Domestic Affairs by Joyce Maynard. Copyright © 1987 Joyce Maynard. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted May 10, 2014
Posted May 9, 2014
((See orre res 2)) The trio each flew on thier respective Pokemon. Before them, a man, apparently a Team Forgotten admin, is trying to take a poor challenger's Pokemon. He was very muscular, with hazel eyes and hair of which true color cannot be indentified for it was dyed deep violet. "Oi! Leave that kid alone!" Kinera shouted, drawing the admin's attention towards her. This allowed the Trainer to escape. "What are you doing here?" growled the man. "No, what are YOU doing?" Michael remarked. "To get some Pokemon of course," he replied. "To get Pokemon is to catch them with a Pokeball. You were stealing," said Dora. "I, Deziar, will now take YOUR Pokemon for meddling," Deziar said.<p>You are challenged by Forgotten Admin Deziar!<p>Dora sent out Dragonite.<p>Michael sent out Pidgeot.<p>Go! Ace!<p>Deziar sent out Rhyperior, Drapion, and Salamence!<p>Kinera's and Michael's Aura Readers reacted. The Drapion was a Shadow Pokemon. Kinera knew the Rhyperior would be trouble, so she brought her Staraptor back to his Pokeball, and sent out Rocky. Each time Kinera and Michael threw a Pokeball at the Drapion, the other Pokemon destroyed it with Hyper Beam before it touched the Shadow Pokemon. Suddenly, the Drapion went past the opposing Pokemon and attacked Michael. Kinera didn't know if Deziar meant to have it do that, since Shadow Pokemon sometimes attacks humans. Michael struggled against the Pokemon while shouting commands at his Pidgeot, and the other Pokemon tried to help as well, but the Drapion endured the attacks. Eventually, Deziar brought back his Pokemon into thier Pokeballs, and escaped. Michael su<_>ffered from a gash on his left leg, the skin around it tinted purple. The sc<_>ar above his right eye and the sc<_>ar across his left shoulder were less serious, but still. ((Gtg night.))
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 26, 2014
Posted April 1, 2014
Posted February 13, 2014