My mother gave me a stack of letters she saved from the time I was studying in France. Because any act within a family is layered with unspoken meaning or meanings this one made me think:
- Of her mother, whom I called Grandma Howard and she called Mother. Grandma Howard was briskly unsentimental and the opposite of a hoarder. If you handed her a birthday card she would read it quickly, say “that’s nice,” and shove it into wastepaper basket.
- At the end of her life there was very simply nothing left. Cabinets were empty, a closet was hung with her single blue synthetic quilted robe, and the possessions we thought we would divide among us amounted to a punch bowl and a couple of chenille bedspreads.
- I think it helped her leave this earth. She was so very unencumbered.
- Is my mother contemplating her own leaving?
- My other grandmother was a hoarder but that’s another story. The Brothers of the Rose Cross pamphlet is from her.
Back to the letters. My tone surprised me: so confident, so logical, so bossy. Dear Kids, I would start each one, in writing cramped onto thin aerograms, then I would tell my stories and give instructions as to what I needed: money, information, favors done.
I think of myself as tentative, with overwrought thinking about matters I wish I could sail through in a manner that looks confident, logical and even bossy. But during this time in my life I’ve been thinking about how I present as opposed to how I “really” am and wondering which one is real. More overwrought still is the writing in my journal: in turns, depressive, dreamy, indecisive, self-doubting.
So, kids, which one is the real story of my life?