Saturday, May 08, 2010

Our Inner Mother and Inner Goldie Child

(After a long absence, we're glad to be back with another Sepia Saturday contribution. Check out the others here.)

Of all the challenges of growing older, I think the most difficult and comforting is dealing with the memories of those we will never see again on this earth and how their memories and presence grows stronger.

It should be no surprise to focus on my mother this week for Sepia Saturday after several weeks "out of the game". The last Mother's Day I celebrated with her was in 2003. She died March 12, 2004.

This above picture of her is from around 1927 with my mother in the center, the "sullen" child as she would sometimes call herself and her younger sister Goldie in foreground on the left. They was barely 16 months between them, and my mother often said that they were the mirror opposites of the greater whole. My mother was the serious, cautious, protective, reflective one -- always calculating risk and potential hazards. Goldie was, quite literally, the Golden Child -- joyous, foolhardy, always running, never afraid, and always singing. Her golden locks brought her the name of her maternal aunt.

My grandfather was the conductor of the Alameda line street car in Kansas City at the time. Goldie and my mother would often ride with him. My mother would sit in an obscure corner with good light and read a book. Goldie would prance into the center of the car, delighting my grandfather -- a huge fan of jazz and the Charleston -- as she sang "Birmingham Bertha" or "Sweet Georgia Brown", hands on her hips and she did pelvic twists wise beyond her mere three years.
Here we see Mother and Goldie in the spring of 1931. It was a rainy, sick season. Three weeks later Goldie died of rheumatic fever. The family never recovered on many levels. My grandfather invested hard earned Depression dollars on tap and voice lessons for my mother, who was clearly a book not stage person. They went to Shirley Temple movies at once uplifted and heart sick as the cheerful singing tot reminded them too much of Goldie. Years later, I remember my mother watching Paper Moon with me, but suddenly running out in tears as Tatum O'Neal's tough cookie preteen in a bowl cut reminded her too much of what her sister would have been at that age. This photo of my mother and her parents from 1937 was often called the "wave shot" for obvious reasons. There is poise and happiness in the three but I also see the pain in their faces from the loss of the fourth family member that should have been in the photo. A few months later, my mother's second sister, Barbara arrived. She was a beautiful woman on many levels but had a strained relationship with my mother and her parents from the start. My mother resented a baby coming into the house when she was about to enter her teens and felt she often played the role of the nanny. My grandparents groomed her from the start as the "new Goldie" instead of recognizing her unique, individual personality. She had an aptitude and competence in music, but it was always an uphill, deliberate skill for her. She feigned an effervescence, always cracking rather awkward jokes and laughing but never taking to it intuitively.

At the risk of this sounding like a morbid and downbeat Mother's Day post, I'll qualify why I have, with the passage of time, have come to love and appreciate my mother even more. Sometimes I think what drew my parents together was that both of them came from households that were tortured by the loss of a daughter at a young age. From the outset, they said that they would raise their children with no expectations of who or what they should be but honor their personalities. I can remember being taken aback in high school when my father told me, "You know, I've never raised a son before, so we're both sort of learning this as we go." As a tot, I had a reputation of breaking out in song at family gatherings or in shopping centers , hands on hips and gyrating as I got wrapped up in my own act. My parents -- and even my grandfather -- looked on with pleasure and no judgment, even if I was singing "The Man I Love" or "My Boyfriend's Back" at pitch volume at the Piggly Wiggly. A bit of Goldie did live on in the family, without pain, and I feel blessed to have parents and grandparents who could embrace it coming from the most unexpected of packages.

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16 Comments:

At 1:31 AM, Blogger Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

A truly beautiful post, Gregg. Drawing on the tragedies and blessings of the families that have sired us, trying to make sense of the shadows and songs that the leave and grow in our own lives. One of the most moving Sepia Saturday posts I have seen anywhere

 
At 1:34 AM, Blogger Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

By the way, I'd be curious to know who the other girls are in the picture, including the one nearly hidden in the shade of the tree

 
At 6:55 AM, Blogger Martin H. said...

What a poignant chapter from your family history. I was totally engrossed from start to finish. Glad you received what all children deserve...unconditional love.

 
At 8:07 AM, Blogger Pat transplanted to MN said...

Striking photos and I could relate to and see the haunting look in the eyes. Very nice tribute. My favorite is of the 2 little girls, your Mom and her sis.

 
At 8:39 AM, Blogger Barry said...

An excellent, if ultimately sad, story, very well told.

I'm glad a bit of Goldie lives on in you.

 
At 10:06 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Lorenzo - They are cousins. Yes, I love the stance of the girl, cousin Ruby, in the shade.

Martin - Yes, I think it is a reminder that patterns in family can be stopped and that everyone has that capacity to love.

Pat - Yes, I love that one too. She always felt a void where her sister was. She would have been an amazing woman had she lived past age four.

Barry - Sad, but I can find the joy in honoring all of their memories. I can be happy at Mother's Day remembering my mother.

 
At 6:34 PM, Blogger Barbara and Nancy said...

You look a lot like your mother in the 1937 photo and it sounds like you've inherited your aunt's personality. So it seems like you have a little of both your mother and your aunt in you. A very nice combination!

 
At 7:15 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Nancy and Barbara - Thanks for dropping in and for the comment. How fitting that my younger aunt was Barbara and grandmother was Nancy!

 
At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Nana Jo said...

Your beautiful, poignant post has left my eyes swimming. I see the residual sadness in your grandparents and mother's eyes, but the love and warmth, also. How wonderful that pieces of Goldie are renewed within your own spirit.

 
At 5:37 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Nana Jo - Sadness and loss are always around the corner in any family I think, but not reason to find the joy and hope that are also out there.

 
At 5:37 AM, Blogger Alan Burnett said...

We have all missed your posts. They really add something to Sepia Saturday - there is a depth there which you appreciate the more you read them

 
At 6:49 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Alan - Thanks. I hope to slowly come back.

 
At 1:58 PM, Blogger John Hayes said...

A beautiful tribute & family portrait.

 
At 5:58 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

John - Thanks!

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger The Blue Elephant said...

Your mother was such a beauty!

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Jim - Thanks. She always said that she was "dowdy".

 

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