In My Write Mind
***From the IMWM ARCHIVES...originally written May 2004***
That sweater...it was an oversized contraption bought on sale at Alexander's a month earlier as part of a back-to-school package that included notebooks, glue and some shiny Alexander's Air Wack tennis shoes.
The wool that formed the turtle shell around my neck bruised me to the point where it put hickies on my neck like my name was Lil Shawn. It made my back and arms itch. It easily dwarfed my spindly body, going past my waist, more resembling a winterized dashiki. And while it was clearly made for an older child, it served its purpose as I would someday "grow into it."
It was all of those things. And yet...I loved it. It kept me warm against the cold October wind; it made me feel as if I had a shield on that no one could penetrate--an itchy, oversized shield--but a shield nonetheless.
And there I was, on the train with the one person who over the years would cause both some of my greatest joy and my greatest frustration: my mom. We were on what was one of our special trips to Manhattan--this one to see my very first Broadway play. I was downright giddy despite the itching that forever reminded me of what I had on.
Sure, the E train was full of pedestrians that afternoon that hovered over me like malodorous trees in a funky forest. Sure, once we reached the street, the buildings and Broadway lights overwhelmed me as we navigated through the tourists and shoppers on a crowded Saturday.
But none of that mattered. In fact, the play we went to see that day could've been anything--The Wiz with Stephanie Mills, Cats, Annie. You see, the play meant nothing to me compared to who I was there with--my mom.
She made sure that we had quality time at least one Saturday each month. Sometimes it was shopping at Gimbel's, followed by lunch at their cafeteria or at Chockfull of Nuts; sometimes it was a Broadway play. But it was always just me and her. Those memories will walk with me forever. As will the memory of that sweater.
Because just like the sweater, my mom kept me warm and content and made me feel invincible to the world as long as she held my hand. And, like the sweater, our relationship grew "itchy" over the years, with me at times feeling choked just like that turtleneck...and undoubtedly occasionally doing the choking.
No, the choking wasn't physical. It came in the form of stubbornness, both of us thinking we were always "right" instead of compromising. The more we butted heads through the years, the more being "right" became all wrong, adding more unnecessary "itch."
This relationship was strange, like a Prince song, but it truly wasn't bad by any stretch. In fact, it could be said my mom was my best friend when I was young. She taught me a lot, including how to treat a lady, giving me instructions on everything from holding open doors to walking on the right side of a woman while on the street. She walked with me to elementary school until I got the hang of it and showed up at every PTA meeting, even encouraging me to write and to use my imagination.
All of those things have contributed to me being the man I am today. As did the time that I saw my mom cry for the first time. It was right after my brother's death, and as I sat upstairs in my room reading a book, trying to come to grips with my older sibling never recovering from a seizure, I heard what sounded like sobbing coming from downstairs. When I reached the kitchen, I found my mother, in the dark, with more hurt in her voice than any human should ever know. I didn't say a word, just put my arm around her and held her for a while. It was on that night, a night when all of the choking was from holding back tears instead of being stubborn, that the sweater began to fit, that I began to "grow into" our relationship.
Eventually, those outings to Manhattan faded away. It wasn't easy to let go of those special days when I had it all as a wide-eyed pre-teen in the middle of the biggest city of them all with a mother whose love could fill a city twice its size. I felt somewhat betrayed, like I was losing a part of my mom's attention and her love along with those trips. It's the same way my mom must've felt when her youngest son decided it was time to leave the nest and find a path of his own. She felt abandoned, like she was left high and dry. Another "itch."
Sometimes, when I'm on the train, my mind tracks back to that day almost 30 years ago, when that sweater and my mother were all I needed. Times have changed, as have my mom and I. But I still smile at that memory.
I love my mother. She's my hero. She molded me, taught me, encouraged me, and loves me more than any woman probably ever will. Maybe I don't tell her that enough. She probably needs to hear it more often.
I owe her at least that much. And speaking of owing, maybe I'll pick up some tickets and a MetroCard and take "Will Mommy" on the train to see Puff Daddy on Broadway. He's just as stubborn as us, so we should be able to relate.
Now if I could only find that sweater...
HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO ALL!!! ENJOY THE WEEKEND!
scribbled by Will at 5/06/2005 08:00:00 AM
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I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. (Joan Didion)
The Write One
Will. Lefty. Since Summer 1971. Over the next six months, I'll be saying some hellos, some goodbyes. Living, laughing, growing. Don't.miss.a.word.
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