That’s the thing about reading, be it fiction or non-fiction, it flings open a portal into other worlds.
On a literary site, Catapult, I read a piece by Michael Venutolo-Mantovani, entitled “In Search of Grandmas.” His essay revolves around his situation – raising his son without a grandma; both he and his wife lost their own mothers years before they themselves became parents. As I read the piece, tears welled up. That’s how powerful, touching, and relatable I found it. Michael keeps his mom alive by talking about her to his young son. He and his wife share countless stories about their mothers, making these important ladies real to his child.
I felt pangs of guilt, realizing how little I had spoken of my mother to my young kids. The memory of those last tortured years of her illness, hospitalization, and demise loomed over happier memories, blighting them. I banished many recollections and lived life with my small stair-step children one day-at-a -time.
Now, my children have become parents of children themselves, and concurrently, reminiscences of my mom float back to me, sometimes unexpectedly. Certain of her characteristics manifest themselves in my kids. When I see my second son grinning optimistically for a photo, I see her wide smile and confidence. When my oldest boy buys something for his baby nephew, I recall her generosity and love of small children. When my third son strives so hard to succeed, I recall Mom, the teacher, proudly wearing her Phi Beta Kappa Key on her lapel at PTA meetings to impress parents, who sadly wouldn’t have a clue of its significance. And when I see my daughter’s pretty face and her can-do attitude, I know where she got those traits from. Like her, my mother was physically attractive. And on it goes. Though long gone, I discover reminders of Mom in addition to the knick-knacks, furniture, and Phi Beta Kappa key bequeathed me. Genes are stronger than I’d ever imagined when I was young and especially during my rebellious teenage years, when at times I hoped I’d been adopted.
So, this resonating piece – read on my desktop computer in my study during this time of social isolation as the coronavirus rages outside my microcosm of a world – has opened a flood of memories: memories of my mother, some suppressed for decades. That’s the thing about reading, be it fiction or non-fiction, it flings open a portal into other worlds. Some of them are worlds inhabited by people you once knew and loved and still miss. The realization that the past is never totally past hits you as you behold familiar habits in your offspring. This awakening gives you hope and comfort at any time but especially during crazy times and maybe these recollections provide a necessary medicinal boost during times of uncertainty and turmoil. Some things are meant to last.