I will lay down my heart and I’LL feel the power
But you won’t, no, you won’t
‘Cause I can’t make you love me
When you don’t – Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin
I realized today another way in which I am like my mother. We both have struggled to get the people we love to love us, mostly without success. I remember how my mother so wanted the woman she thought of as her best friend to attend my wedding. I didn’t actually know the woman but it was mostly a celebration for my mother anyway and so when the woman said she would not attend, I wrote her a special note to beg her to change her plans and be there, telling her how much it would mean to my mother. Still didn’t come. I know my mother was very disappointed but what can you do when you don’t mean as much to someone as they mean to you?
My mother loved some of our relatives, always inviting them for the big holidays, wanting to spend time with them, trying to get them to travel with her when she was widowed. There were visits from them, accepted invitations but I always felt like they came out of some sense of duty and not because they enjoyed her company. She loved her grandchildren and knitted or embroidered or sewed gifts for them. And she gave them money as gifts and to get an education, a start in life. In the end of her life, that relationship became the 10 minute visit to pick up the check for the birthday or holiday.
I guess the thing is that my mother was like me: opinionated, sharped tongued, quick to anger. Loyal to a fault maybe but that doesn’t really matter when people don’t feel like they can easily spend time with you. I have spent my life chasing relationships with people, calling, writing, making the effort to visit while most people never return the favor. I told myself that they really did like me but I was the one who had to keep it going. In the last few years, I have stopped, stopped chasing, stopped calling and mostly stopped writing and the silence is deafening. I have my husband for company and so it isn’t as important as it was for my mother who was a widow for nearly 30 years. But today, with the realization that there is another point where I am so like my mother, at the time of year that she loved so much, I wish so much that she were here so I could tell he: I know. I understand. I have been there, too. I love you.
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant – Anne Bradstreet
We are having one of the coldest winters in Germany in a long time and it reminds me of the cold winters in Minnesota when we were kids. My mother would paint snowflakes on the windows when we were small and one Christmas she painted the three of us on the window kneeling at a crèche. I haven’t thought of that in years. Makes me have a different feeling about her when I remember it.
When we were smaller before my Dad got his first snow blower, the snow would pile up on the boulevards to what seemed like great mountains. We would try to tunnel from one end to the next or build “forts” in the highest snow near the driveways and have snow ball fights with the neighbor kids. I remember it feeling like a great adventure. It was different with the snow blower; the snow doesn’t pile as much.
We used to go sledding on the hill across the small river behind my parent’s house that we called “the Crick”. The hill was basically covered with trees but that was part of the fun, dodging between them to get to the bottom. Once we didn’t make it and the fancy toboggan my dad had bought had a wonderful dent in the front curl. But like with all things, he found a way to fix it for us and we used it a long time.
The Crick is where I remember skating, shoveling off the snow to make a rink but I think we learned to ice skate on the Lagoon, which was organized and you had to pay to skate there at least during the day. I have a vague memory of the whole family skating on the lagoon, even my Dad but that maybe wrong. I don’t remember how long it took me to learn to ice skate either. Funny that. Maybe it wasn’t so hard. We all wanted to be Peggy Fleming and glide like an angel over the ice. I know I never achieved that but some school mates got pretty good. When I got older I would go to the Lagoon alone at night and skate. That seems pretty much like craziness now but it was a simpler world back then or at least it seemed like it.
The ice on the Crick was also a hockey rink at least for the boys. I remember my younger brother coming home with a mouth full of blood, minus most of his two front teeth after a hockey stick missed the puck and found his face. Great drama and stainless steel caps. As we all got older, I don’t remember us spending much time on the ice. It was mostly my older brother playing football on the snow covered field around the corner. I remember feeling privileged to stand in the freezing cold and being the line marker for where the ball was supposed to be since there were no lines in the snow. Silly really but being a part of it was all that mattered.
The last winter in Minnesota that I remember is the one when my dad died. Ten days later was Christmas Eve and I remember the temperature being minus 95 degrees with the wind chill. I don’t think I really noticed.