No, Get Mom
At the beginning of my MFA at Brooklyn College, my teacher, the late, great Allen Ginsberg gave us an assignment: write your top ten memories. My number 1 memory was about the time I was in my bathtub, under 3 years old, and my dad poked his bald head in through a crack in the door and I said: No. Get mom.
When I wrote the poem about that moment, it felt meaningful, as if I had uncovered a truth about myself, my life, my relationship with my father. And regardless of the truth of that moment, I suppose I had. I was in the process of coming to terms (a process that appears to be never-ending, as I am still engaged in it, several years after his death) with the fact that I never really liked him. But instead of just accepting my feelings, I searched for reasons: the stack of Playboys in my parents’ room and the greasy bathroom of the auto-parts store which he owned, then lost. Another reason. And there was his awkwardness, his effort, his lack of effort. Yuk. I just didn’t like him.
No, get mom. I “remember” it well. In the memory, clearly a mix of reality and imagination, I feel disgusted by him, as if there is surely some sinister history or premonition of darkness sure to come. Over the years, I have softened a bit in my certainty, in every way, pretty much. But in particular, in my quest to find a reasonable explanation for a little girl’s genuine distaste for her daddy. My therapist used to tell me that all little girls lust, in a sense, for their daddies, suggesting that perhaps I was so hurt and felt so rejected for some reason by my dad that my revulsion was my desire turned inside out.
Sure. Anything’s possible.
Azalea was born 2 and half years ago. To say I love her is silly. After all, we’re not even separate people! Does one leg love the other?
My husband Thayer, Azalea’s daddy, has a better chance at loving her, and in fact they share the most honest, delighted, kind love I have ever seen between two people. They wrestle, they cuddle, argue, share stuff. He’s appropriately in charge, but they really play. Their hearts are open to each other.
So imagine my surprise, my psychic double-take, when one night Azalea woke up in the middle of the night, having pooped. Thayer went in to change her and I was half-listening on the monitor: No! Get, mommy!
I have to be honest. Now I am used to the rantings of my new mommy-mommy-mommy stalker, but in the beginning of this new regime, I saw just how attached I was to my own story about who I am and who my daddy was. Instead of seeing reality clearly: wow, this happens with the most well-adjusted father-daughter duos. That one event in my life doesn’t prove a thing. Hey, maybe I have mis-remembered a lot! Maybe things aren’t as they seem…what a relief!…
Instead of seeing clearly, I confess to having a couple unspeakable moments in the beginning of the tide change, thinking maybe it was Thayer’s fault that Azalea prefers me (it certainly couldn’t be my superior parenting or heart or personality; he even has better hair!) I know he doesn’t have a stack of Playboys anywhere (I have scoured the place…just kidding), but maybe he is thinking about his work crush too much in Azalea’s presence? Maybe because Azalea looks so much like me he is projecting some kind of wifely feeling on to her? And she is grossed out?
Forgiveness sounds like something you do. Once. Maybe a bunch of times. But these days I think it is a state of mind. Forgiving my father for his mysterious sin is something I may never finish doing.
Or maybe I haven’t even started.