Saturday, May 7, 2011

Oy Vey, Mother's Day

My mother recently disowned me ─ in writing. Since she was, for many years, a rockin' great copyeditor, her epistle was impeccably crafted. The woman always knew how to use a semicolon to underscore a point. No emoticons necessary.

The moment I spied the envelope, I knew what would be in the letter. The crisp typing of my name gave off a familiar vibe, one I characterize as Pissed Off Martyr. I was not at all surprised by the content, nor by its tone. I grew up with this stuff, this "stuff" being the ritual disowning of family members and then returning them to boil in the family crucible before disowning them again. My mother's mother did this with such predictive frequency that it became somewhat of a family joke. No joke.

When I mention being disowned, Christian friends look at me with horror and pity. I hasten to assure them it has nothing to do with becoming Christian and, keyn eynhore, Roman Catholic. Other Jews roll their eyes and groan. I don't have to explain a thing. The story is so bizarrely familiar that we end up swapping stories and laughing. I find the shared laughter weirdly comforting and it sure beats the other options. Mother's Day? Oy vey.


  1. Oy vey indeed!

    Kinehora indeed!

  2. Oh, I know those letters. We're Irish Catholic, but the guilt-inducing mother thing seems to be a big part of our culture as well. My dad died suddenly four weeks ago, far too young-- he was our only real parent, and I miss him terribly-- but your post reminds me of a favorite quote that he used to share with Jewish friends, from the Irish writer Brendan Behan: "Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis."

  3. Normally, I do not publish anonymous comments but have clearly made an exception because this one really needs to be shared. So sorry for your loss -- it took me nearly a year after my father died (1998) to realize he was truly not going to pick up the phone and make me laugh.

  4. Was it for something? or just because?
    I got disowned when I converted from Presbyterianism to Catholicism. I never got officially "owned" again though; I think everyone just basically forgot about it. I mean, I wasn't going to slink away like I was ashamed or sorry,now was I? So they basically had to keep coping with me, and my goofy husband, and my pack of kids and my nutty (Catholic) ideas...

    And sympathies on the loss of your father, my dad died when I was 27. I felt most keenly the loss of the stories that I hadn't heard yet...

  5. Being in rather a psychological slump myself on Mother's Day -- to be truthful, I was at the bottom of the pit -- I managed to get to the 6pm Mass at my church and sat in the back row, fully expecting to sob through the entire liturgy. Much to my surprise, a good friend who(m) I hadn't seen for months and who always makes me laugh sat beside me, and before we parted we concluded that the whole concept of Mother's Day is a very poor joke since there is so much pain involved with being a mother as well as having a mother, that it's nothing more than Hallmark's distorted attempt to sanitize something that is clearly not an experience to be relished. That is not to say that there aren't some wonderful experiences and great joy resulting from being a mother (and having a mother) but there is so much angst caused by our own mothers and so many neuroses we unwittingly inflict upon our own children that Mother's Day seems like a good day to wonder why we ever got involved in this business in the first place.


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