Ravings of a Mad Therapist
Never marry a man who hates his mother. Never hire a woman who hates her father.
Never join a cult. Never have twins. Take your select few meds and use your
imagination. Don’t get to tired, too lonely or too hungry. There’s no such thing as
death. Little kids make little messes, big kids make big messes. It gets better after 50
if it doesn’t kill you first. You can get a whole book out of a divorce.
That’s it. Now you can close the book. Save your money. Or, if you are male, ask
your ex-wife (or your mother if you don’t have an ex-wife) to explain how women can
get snappy in menopause, especially after one too many affairs and/or marriages.
If you’re not on speaking terms with one or the other yet, go ask your “over-reactive”
girlfriend, or female friend, if you dare.
Except, well, I did just want to tell you what happened—it’s unbelievable. I didn’t
mean to sound strident. Sorry. I’m sorry. Really. Are you OK? If you are a guy, please
know that I realize it’s not a good time to be a male in this culture. But it’s never been
an easy time to be female, especially in midlife, what with raging hormonal changes
Look, I’m trying to get better impulse control. The problem is though, besides my
neurons constantly misfiring, I’m conflicted. I don’t enjoy being this way, I’d like to be
calmer and milder but even if it weren’t chemical chaos right now in this body, I can’t
keep up a front.
In a job scene, it’s six weeks and then boom, I loose it.
I don’t know why they wired my brain that way, maybe they were drinking on the job.
However, I do think control is over-rated; and for that matter, so is work.
I wasn’t born to increase the gross national product, you know. And neither were you.
Yes I know it’s even harder on men, the expectations. Believe me, I know, it killed my
father at my age.
How old am I? Guess. Thirty five? Well, if you subtract, roughly, the decade and a half that I tried to keep the sixties alive, sure.
Oh I don’t look old enough? Thanks, you’re so sweet. It was my Peter Pan phase, makes me come off immature, that’s all.
My hair? Totally. Still no gray, can you believe this is natural? How does that work?
I have a secret but I’ll tell you because you took the time to ask: I keep changing.
Works like nothing in this world. It’s amazing. I may be haggard but man I’m young
on the inside.
No it’s OK, I don’t need your sympathy. Save it till later in this book.
Besides, you can only loose for so long before your luck changes. And--- wait! Stop!
Don’t close the book: if I really was a loser, I wouldn’t have said it now, would I have?You’re waiting for me to make my point and start the story? What, you want some tits, some fucking, you want blood?
Christ, give me a chance.
NO, Wait! listen, don’t go! There’s this part, chapter 5, I think, where I take off my clothes.
Am I hot? Depends if the lights are on or not. And who’s asking.
Yeah, I know it’s you asking, but I can’t see you either, dummie.
I already told you my age and if that’s not enough, having 3 kids wrecks the body. If
you want “hot” go back to high school.
Oh you have a high school lover.
OK, well, I could be like this confidante on the side, OK?
Oh, don’t say I’m superficial, that’s such a shallow reaction. I have plenty of wisdom,
but not enough to not get wasted on certain species.
Loook, I know you don’t know what I want from you. Just read the damn book. And I
don’t have to kiss your touchass. Oh, so what if you don’t buy it. You think I do this
for money? Are you kidding? I do it to torture myself and while I’m at it, to get back at
men, that’s all.
And please don’t look at me like that.
Am I really acting crazy? Hey, it’s just these hot-flashes, that’s all; they make me say
things I mean….
Yes I know I’m, what did they call it at the government agency I was fired from —A
Of course I’m angry, guys run my world!
But, hey, you have no idea what I’ve put up with, it’s amazing I’m alive to tell you.
Don’t hurt me. I’m really a good person, you know the kind, hard on the outside, soft
on the inside? Christ... I’m groveling.
Oh, Go ahead. Spend the thirty five cents, and call your ex and ask her why women
are so pissy these days.
Yes, call her, even after what she did to you.
Look, just have the courage of a woman and go tell her it’s not your fault and it’s not
hers. It’s history’s fault. Do it for yourself, do it for the kids. Do it for your next life. Just
do it. It won’t kill you.
You’ve already survived the worst.
I feel like the woman who hijacks a plane at gunpoint and says, “Now, no one is going to get hurt. I just want you to hear some memoir I’ve been working on.” Oh just go ahead and read it, I’ve annoyed myself enough.
The psychologist and hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson, understood that , “any story
told twice is a lie”. To that idea I would like to add, that while much of what I recall as
true has been distorted by my own projections, some which had not occurred in normal waking consciousness reflects a truer and deeper reality.
Hence, in the following pages you will find a collection of “faction” from my life,
including my memories, dreams, true lies, and ravings of a mad therapist (yours
truly). Where damaging remnants remain, names and places have been changed, as
well as some dialogue scrambled between my mind, the muse, and what some one
might have said, had they the insight or will to say it…. or had they been who I wanted them to be.
Writer, Muriel Rukheyser once said that if one woman told the truth about her life, the world
would split apart. Well, here’s to splitting.
“It is easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.”
Dear Family and Others Who Believe You Know Me,
Some of you are at a disadvantage: you are dead. And so I am not too worried
about how you will be affected by my writing. Not because I believe you won’t catch
a ripple out there wherever you are but rather because you will not care, as you have
no doubt cast off your egos. I hope. I presume, since none of you are presently
haunting me. I also presume that you may want to correct me where it is warranted.
However, I urge you to use constraint, as those living will no doubt use none.
Now to you who are still sludging along in this morass of misery—I have to clear
myself. I didn’t mean it. Whatever I wrote that you thought is about you was purely
coincidental. And as for any men who think I am writing about you, hey don’t flatter
yourselves, you’re not that important and you’re not the only men I slept with or even
married and besides you’re not that exciting. I hold no grudges.
So there it is. My disclaimer. Now please take the next opportunity to clear out of the
courtroom in my head? There are ample exits.)
Oh, and Mom, you had mentioned that the people in the book all are evil except me:
“There is a crack... a crack in everything.... That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
In the beginning, Dad and Mom made a Mistake. As it grew, it split in half. As mistake
number 2, I hid directly behind my other half. That way, no one could detect me until
it was too late, and, what’s more, when we fought over “turf”, “twin A” wouldn’t be
able to kick me back. When, two months before we were due, the doctor had finished
pulling one baby from Mom’s drugged body, I’d followed my my other half’s rear end.Clocked at a close 60 seconds, I’d made my indomitable debut on the birth certificate, as “Twin B”.
Mom hated doctors, calling them false “gods who gave bad advice”. When the doctor
awoke Mom, with, “Guess what, Millie, you have twin girls again!” she’d retorted with
an exhausted, “knock it off”. When he convinced her that she’d done it again, she rationalized it was a blessing in disguise, a second chance to get it right.
While Mom believed in fate and some intellectual form of God, Dad, the agnostic and
traumatized war-hero, was infuriated by mistakes and bewildered by surprises.
How had he and my mother could have produced girl twins twice, in seven years?
Only the hospital administration was genuinely happy when we made Medical history
in Hartford on January 23, 1953.
My life would henceforth be stamped with existential doubt and generalized guilt.
I’ve read that the mind naturally groups things in fours. As child- number- five, I must
have tipped the scales. If we had been Pueblo twins in times past, Cindy and I would
have been left under a tree or thrown into a river. Pueblos believed, or rather, they
understood, that twins brought bad luck. But my folks, not being privy to such
options, were forced to do the job themselves: subtly and over time. I would have to
Thus began my lifelong career of upsetting my superiors’ norms and expectations.
During much of the first eight years of my life, ours had been the home where the
neighborhood kids all congregated, visiting my big sisters. In the fifties in the finished
basement, they were spinning records, making out in corners, and sometimes they
would let me sit and watch them twist, from where I was stationed quietly on the
stairs. I was in love with all their male friends, who fawned over me, but fussed more
over Jackie, the dark eyed beauty, the sensitive smart one, they did not seem to fuss
over Eleanor, the book worm, picking at her face.
Extended family was in and out constantly, especially weekends at barbecues, with
Dad grinning over the hamburgers, cigarette smoldering nearby. In the late Spring and Summer evenings when the shadows grew long over the manicured lawns and ample old houses of West Hartford., Mom reads “When We Were Very Young” to us, making her voice go way up and way down, stern and growling one minute, whining and infantile the next. The neighborhood kids play kickball in the driveway are interrupted by mothers calling out their doors, “MICHELLE! It’s time to come in!”
Cindy and I have to get into our matching light cotton PJ’s which is an unforgivable
waste of precious daylight time. I want to yell “no!” , refusing to come in, and when
Mom would come out to tell me that I was getting tired, insist, I’m not a bit tired. And
when she would tell me I was, because she knew everything about me better than I
knew myself, as if she was omniscient and in my body and in my head, I wanted to
yell, “I’m not tired, You’re tired! You go to bed!” But that would have thrown her world
into chaos and Mom was too in control of everything to ever let me have my own way.
I would like to scramble up a tree where Mom and Dad couldn’t get me. And when
they would see me smiling down on them, like an intangible Cheshire Cat , they
would finally admit defeat. They would throw up their hands and look at each other
and shrug, saying “you win! “and shaking their heads at each other, marveling, “what
a little imp!” And then, poof , they’d disappear, too.
Mom is brushing out our long brown braids. She is pulling them too tight.
Tomorrow Danny will promise to cut my hair to look just like the girl down the block.
Louisa May has silky brown hair down to her butt. How exactly he will do this is
magic. Mom leaves me with him the next day, while she goes shopping and he all
but scalps me. I take a deep breath at the boy in the mirror and forgive my brother
because he is the smartest person in the world and I am grateful for any attention
from such an important person. Mom comes home and almost drops the groceries
on the side doorstep. The next day she takes me to a barber. I don’t know why she
gets so mad at him.
I am obsessed with a mica rock behind the house with its sparkling sheets of silver. I
pee back each sheet, trying to get them thinner and thinner like paper before they’d
practically dissolve. I take the thinnest sheets and looking through them at the sun, I
inspecting colors and textures in different lights. I would have probably eaten the
David Winkler who lives down the street is my best friend. We play doctor with eyeglass handles we take each other’s rectal temperatures.
One day we break open a thermometer and roll the mercury around in our hands and
the little balls of silver split and split again. We decide to make ice cream by mixing
the mercury with some ashes from his wood stove and adding cool aid and freezing
the concoction. We eat small bites and insist it is the most delicious thing and somehow we don’t get sick from this or die.
David Winkle eventually grew up to become a millionaire. I know this because Mom
tells me that she ran into his mother who said something she couldn’t relate to: “so
are your children rich yet?” Mom asks me, if that isn’t an odd thing to say to someone you haven’t seen in three decades?
As a child I am having conversations with everything, especially the one big maple
tree on which I draw with crayons in the front yard. I’m apologizing as I do this,
feeling oddly. I am amazed to see that the reds and blues when on top of each other
look brown. I am looking at flecks of dust in the sunlight and seeing the whites aren’t
really white but also made of colors, exposed to my staring eyes like the brown had
done upon closer inspection. The rain pounding down on the grass played a rhythmic
beat on the drum of a hungry earth. The dropped foliage crackling under foot spoke
to me loud and clear; respond to my feet with their crunchy talk.
Mom is in the kitchen preparing a bloody brisket and roast potatoes. I want to go
sneak over to her and untie her space shoes when she’s not looking. I want her to
trip, just a tiny bit and then look at me and laugh. I can’t do anything of the sort. I
want to come up behind her and untie her apron then whip it off her and hold it up
like she’s a bull and I’m a matador. I want her to fuss and fume and pretend and try
to go through it. But she would kill me. She wouldn’t mean to kill my joy but she would because she doesn’t understand joy.
Dad doesn’t understand either but pretends: he will haul me up on his shoulders and
sing loudly and parade me around. I will be scared because he’s so big and he never
bothers to find out if I want to be up there and I’m never sure if he’ll put me down
right away when I ask and he feels sweaty and fat and the back of his neck is red
and tight. It makes him so happy when I let him play with me. I’d rather play with
someone not so bulky and unpredictable and I squirm away while he mimics my “oh
daddy” groans, to go looking fo Danny to swing me around. My brother Danny holds
my head at arms length from him and tells me to go ahead and hit him and I am
swinging my arms now at him but I can’t reach him. I don’t like this so much but it’s
better than playing with Cindy who keeps ending up crying about whose turn it is and
who demands the best doll, which is always whatever it is I’m playing with. I wish my
older sisters had time for me. I can’t figure out why whenever I try to hang out with
them I’m doing something wrong. Eleanor plain doesn’t like me, can’t stand me.
Jackie is in her own world. I can’t even enter her room.
Things Mom Would Deny
My mother, Millie, might tell you I’m lying if I write that she told me she married my
father for sex. I don’t know if she would soften if I wrote that it was the only way for a
nice Jewish girl to get laid in 1942. She would probably call me insensitive if I wrote
that she knew as well as us four girls did, that she should have married Uncle Jack
Mom firmly believed you always put your sisters before your self, and stuff any
resentment about doing so. In fact, she taught me that if you and someone else were
on a life raft and one of you had to drown, it had to be you. While doing the right thing
can be costly, being at odds with your siblings and parents is even more expensive.
As a child, I protested to Mom about my violent father, “Why did you marry him? Why
couldn’t you have married Uncle Jack instead?” I would have insisted she divorce
Dad to find someone more my type, but I knew from experience that her ensuing
denial would have grated on me in that unique way known to Jewish mothers, which
could cause an un-scratch able itching in my brain. It was an irritation so tenacious
and full of possibilities that it just might someday interfere with my brain function (a
risk I preferred to take on my own with drugs, later on). Uncle Jack had met her sister first. “You always put your sisters before your self” (and stuff down any resentment about doing so).
I took on the self-ordained job of proving Mom wrong. My needs came first, even if hers did not. I felt I had to be selfish, or I would have turned into my twin. Besides, my generation was the “me” generation.
I tried to teach Mom that you had to think of yourself if you were to become a real
person. It wasn’t beyond me to try to raise her consciousness about what she/I
wanted. Didn’t you need to have a self before you could give one up? And how were
you to not hate your sisters for all the little pieces of your heart you gave up to them,
despite your best efforts at egocentrism?
Uncle Jack, the comic shrink, was playful without being ridiculous, like my father
Lennie, the “chronic” war hero, who made dumb jokes, tickled too hard and basically
had no idea how to meet kids on their own turf.
While Mom was always working on Dad to be more patient and understanding, my
uncle Jack gave Mom advise, like, “When he does something that bothers you, Millie,
tell him how it makes you feel.”
I’d always warmed in the easy rapport between my uncle and Mom, who smiled and
was able to laugh at herself when he came around, not nervously fixing up hurts and
figuring how to avoid against Dad’s potential blow ups.
Jack and Mom discussed psychology and politics; swapped advice, and argued
happily over a Sunday brunch of bagel and lox, white fish and cream cheese while
my Dad seated himself over blueprints in the living room and chain smoked Lucky
Strikes down to the unfiltered end, with yellow stained square fingers. I always felt cheated when my uncle would wipe his mouth and raise his mythical, large frame from the kitchen table, to callously return to his coveted life.
In spite of her denial and general annoyance at my routine bluntness, or perhaps
because of it, Mom accused me of always saying what people thought but didn’t say.
I would walk into the room from outside, and ask who was yelling long after they’d
While, my wisdom told me to get what you want or die trying, Mom seemed to live by
the wisdom of Jewish mystics, who’d advised not wanting what you don’t have and
wanting what you have (or, in her version, at least, appearing to want what you have).
But Mom was not held hostage to her desires, not tormented by visions of what could
be, if only she could force others to comply.
However, when I was in my twenties and my uncle suddenly divorced Mom’s sister
and dropped his adoring nephews and nieces without so much as a “goodbye”, I reconsidered. Uncle Jack’s only explanation regarding abandoning us all was to Mom: “Millie,” he’d said sadly, “I promise more than I deliver”.
At age 32 I ended up with a man who had dated my sister years before, a man who
was just like Uncle Jack: funny, well liked, and a people-person. When in 1996,
Mitch, turned out, just like idealized Uncle Jack did, to promise more than he could
deliver, I started reconsidering Mom’s views. For one thing, the bells and whistles
didn’t necessarily point to good marital material. For another, I learned not to mistake
intensity for intimacy. I began to see that the men with great acts were simply great
actors; and not the loyal soul mates I’d romanticized them to be. Mitch, like uncle Jack, had hung in there for decades, probably pretending that one day he’d make good on his vows to love, honor and obey a wife who unnerved him.
Dad had stopped playing piano in big Swing Bands for a living because it wasn’t a
considered a respectable career and because he felt threatened by the unbridled bar
scene. He began inspecting jet engines at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft.
Dad might have lived past 50, had he realized that raising a family did not need to be
a life-threatening ordeal. Dad hadn’t lost his nerve in WWII, when he’d jumped in
front of the line of fire to save his comrades, and didn’t complain when he was shot in
the ankle. Yet we girls could drive him to thrash out at us is if his life were at stake;
startling easily and over-reacting to both giggles and crying like it was Armageddon.
Being a war hero now won him no respect and he was bitter. There was nothing Dad
could really save us from; we wouldn’t allow it. Dad only got in our way. We showed
no mercy to the big sad guy who could go red and blow like a fuse. But he had no mercy on us.
While Mom had problems with doctors and children, Dad, had problems with half of
the world. He knew incredibly little about females of any age, nor did he wish to be
My father named Laura me after a song he used to play on the piano. He only knew
that first word which he’d bellow out, my name, and then fade as his fingers took over
the that baby grand. A once successful concert pianist, he renounced playing for a
living when he married, fearing that his wasn’t a respectable career.
Phil, Lennie’s disapproving dad, was a Polish immigrant who worked as a self-
employed upholsterer, and didn’t value my father’s music. His wife, Sonya, was a
strict German Jew who ruled her two sons with an iron thumb. Phil imparted to dad
the myth. he wasn’t a man until he made it in his own business. That myth killed him.
Peculiarly, as I grew up I got the idea, that I wasn’t a woman unless I was a man. To
be a man meant I had to make it in the business world as well. But conversely to Dad, I had to be able to work for someone else. That myth drove me literally mad.
After the move, Dad became a compulsive neat-nick who believed that children
should be seen and not heard and who couldn’t stand growing girls. . He made rules
such as “no playing in the house”.
When my sister Jackie was a budding adolescent she went to sit on Dad’s lap. He
pushed her off. When he was at a dinner party with mom and a beautiful woman sat
next to him, rubbed his arm by mistake, he bolted from the table, all flushed.
Dad’s rules included, “don’t be sexual, be warm, don’t talk, be out front, don’t have
feelings, don’t be silly, don’t be serious, don’t play in the house, be gratefully, don’t
make a mess, don’t be a girl, be a boy, don’t be a girl who acts like a boy. The most
important was “there’s no such thing as sex. “
In my promiscuous heydays of the sixties I proved to him that there was such a thing
by being wild and so alienating him to an extreme. Dad and I had a love/ hate relationship when I was little: he loved me and I hated him. Later we learned to agree and hated each other. He couldn’t break me and would have done better to try controlling himself. Although Dad had issues with women, he made an exception for Mom. She didn’t take shit and she didn’t scream and hit, (like his mother had done). According to Mom, he worshiped her. She seemed to take him on with the same resigned sigh, mixed with a cool love, that she dealt out to us and probably to all things in life.
I let Dad know he wasn’t alone by reacting to his strict controls, by exploding, an act
that was supposed to be reserved for him. I didn’t want a militant father, no matter
how brave; any more than Dad had wanted girls.
If I was a handful, Dad was a wheel-barrow-full. Mom devoted herself to enlightening
and liberating him, and in the process protecting us from his rages. But as far as I
could tell, her intellect and love found no soil in which to root, other than affection.
And even that isn’t enough to drain the wrath of one person, he has to give up his
ghosts. But how can he release that which he refuses to recognize or remember?
Our wondrous wombs can grow and produce life, which is an incredible feat and
miracle, but-we can not change a man. Even God can’t do that. Man destroys what
God creates and yet God continues to create. Yet my father saw no evidence of this,
to my chagrin. Everything was physical; he forfeited magic and music and in return
had credit cards.
Who’s Who in the Mirror?
At G. Fox clothing store in downtown Hartford in the early sixties, Mom tried on
clothes while Cindy and I played hide and seek until we were lost. Surrounded by
stocking-clad-legs and whirling, circular clothing racks, I’d panicked, until I thought I
spotted Cindy amidst the merchandise that was threatening to swallow me. It was a real Kodak Moment: the estranged beloved, re-uniting in slow motion ecstasy, right up until the instant my nose slammed against a full-length mirror. Not being “all alone” hurts---when you’re rudely awakened to the reality that you really are just you.
I don’t know what’s worse, being alone or being cloned. Oh, it was great to have a
person in the nearby “twin” bed, who‘d finish my sentences when I got groggy…. or to
have someone who could look at me and giggle in response to my unspoken
musings. When I was three or four, I turned to Cindy, asking, “…isn’t it funny, the way
we loves each others?”
We felt privileged, eulogized even: when out in public, we’d draw small crowds of
wistful admirers. Lunching on the deck of a prestigious L.A. restaurant (after my
Hollywood brother’s wedding in the early seventies) we’d given patient explanations
to the familiar inquiries of “fans”, who looked upon us as if we were some exotic,
endangered species. We felt smugly superior, sharing a window into the rest of the
world that we found so absurd; a world where people pressed their noses up against
imagined barriers of separation. Weren’t we all kindred? To us, the unaffected
perception of childhood twins required as little explanation from us, as the world
required explanations for its valuing individuality. Our bond held at bay the
forthcoming tide of doubts regarding finding a place in that dizzying world where
people perceived themselves as islands. If there was a country of loneliness and
alienation, from which those questions whose answers we thought obvious came, as
long as we had each other, we were immune to living there.
I’m six. I’m in the kitchen, bombarding Mom again with details from last night’s dream. Cindy overhears it from the living room, and bursts in. She chokes out through tears, “That was MY dream!”
Bedtime in the summer cottage at Amston Lake: I say, “Goodnight, Cindy”.
“ Goodnight, Laura”.
“OK this is the last time, now, GOODNIGHT.”
Silence... the clock ticks... she can’t stand it; her words hang in the air unspoken,
begin to condense, and then swell in her mind towards overflow. Finally, shamefully,
she whispers, “goodnight”.
“I mean it, and this is it! Goodnight!”
Tick, tick, tick…. Cindy. “Goodnight, now that’s it.”
Then Mom comes in. Suddenly Cindy is crying because you won’t leave her alone.
It’s not fair you protest. “What’s not fair?” Mother asks. But you don’t say it’s not fair
to be a twin. Mom would tell you how lucky you are and you will feel confused and
What did it matter who said goodnight last? You went drifting off, carried on a blanket
of that voice. Yet you know you will cease to exist as a separate entity, if your voice
is not the last
This is not what people think of when they wish for a twin, a soul mate. Even I was
subject to, hypnotized by, the myth of blissful twinship. The reality is, I’ve been
struggling to be singular from as early on as when I was four or five. Cindy had
absolutely lost it once because I had the nylon socks she wanted and I wouldn’t give
them up. When finally I gave her the good socks I had been about to put on, taking
the floppy cotton ones she’d rejected just to shut her up, I was saying to myself, “so
this is what it means to be grown up.” Now I knew who was who; what was me; or, rather; “not Cindy”.
When Mom claims that I was her best friend when I was little, I can’t agree. If it were
so, it is probably because she made sure I had no others. Cindy was supposed to be
all I needed. Mom believed that twins should share. Everything: friends, clothes...but
wasn’t it enough we once shared the same embryo? And who in their right mind
would want to share a womb? Mom would escalate her efforts from trying to teach, to
trying to force me to put Cindy the less resilient, first. When I refused to let Cindy play
with me and cousin Jane, Mom called me cruel. When I took from the drawers the
shirt that Cindy had wanted to wear and refused to give it up no matter how much
Cindy cried out in protestation, I was “selfish”. And when we both liked the same boy
and I won his affections, she dubbed me “Sadistic” and did my best to prove her right.
She would do everything from revoking my social privileges to covering her ears. She
once cried out in utter exasperation, “You want what you want what you want!” and I
wondered what else a person could possibly want.
The fantasy/Parent trap twins
Everyone wants a twin. Even I fantasized about having that twin, without the inherent
confusion. Sure, I wanted that special relationship—the Hollywood version. But we
were not Hayley Mills, playing her double role as identical twins in the movie, “The
Parent Trap”, and the only parent trap we dealt with was the one called “home”, from
which we tried to escape.
Cultural demands upon twins wreak havoc with our minds, not to mention friendships
and romantic relationships, as we fight external expectations to remain “one”, while at
the same time trying to develop into individuals.
You find it hard to hide, although you try. You try to make her go away. But she’s haunting you as if the egg never truly split: she’s in your dreams, your moods, thoughts.
I’d have to fight overwhelming fears that: a) I didn’t really exist b) My mother or someone else could control my thoughts, or c) I was an extension of Cindy.
A Child’s Nature Is So Inconvenient
A housewife marries the house. A dad marries the job. Mom, dad, and the kids all feel abandoned or betrayed as each tries to fulfill their role in a system that is ultimately geared towards one thing at the cost of our souls.
Not yet the feminist she became after Dad died, Mom’s early Myths and rules
included, “I own my children’s bodies. Like anyone who is controlling. Don’t trust
anyone who isn’t family. Trust people. Say what you think. Don’t express negative
feelings or it might kill people, particularly your parents; Intellect and debate are
good. Don’t think too much or you’ll go crazy; it is selfish to trust yourself. Don’t grow
up or be sexual. Always tell the truth/ Protect your siblings and parents from the truth.Don’t be selfish. Don’t be angry. Watch your mouth and above all else: Don’t disappoint Max! To disappoint her father, Max who boasted, “My children are my assets and grandchildren are my dividends,” was to fail God. Before I was born I must have said, “let’s see, who will not “get” me at all? I’ve got it!
My parents.” Mom and I were opposites. While she suffered from cold hands and
feet, I complained about sweaty extremities. She didn’t whimper, purr, wail, or whine.
She was thrifty and singular, monetarily and emotionally anorexic while I was the
glutton for attention and favors. I had not grown up in The Depression, as she
had...and the depression that I was working on in my head, apparently didn’t count.
I felt betrayed by our incompatibilities but learned later in life that this is nothing new.
As an adult, I was complaining to Mom that I felt something one of my kids said was
a betrayal of confidence, she threw her head back and laughed, then said, “don’t you
know that sooner or later all children betray their parents? And that all parents betray
Mom was not ruled by love, recklessness or intuition, but by her unique mix of fear
and her socially acceptable balance scale of justice. When Millie had a goal, it was
done efficiently and against the grain of nature: just as she put us away for the night,
and always much too early. She was a slave to the almighty clock..
She was not prone towards indulgence or spontaneity and put her easel and oil
paints away, to care for her children and later go out and work as a dental hygenist.
My mother had been a humming, buzzing, nineteen-fifties’ “housewife: the house’s
wife”. She was stove mistress, washerwoman, dryer-spouse, and refrigerator wife,
her feelings compressed and stilled, like a bottle of chilled preserves. I thought she
was simply crazy for making her life surround meeting the petty endless needs of the
energy gulping house, and had no respect for her authoritative stance from which
she issued orders, warnings and admonishments designed to avoid spoiling or soiling the minds or bodies of her children.
Circa age 7.
Mom habitually exiles us to bed early, especially when they have company. I feel
restless, deprived, I can hear the kids playing in the street at dusk, I’m aware their
parents are having lemonade on their porches and I’m in bed for no reason. I feel
like a trapped animal. I feel small and punished and put in a corner. I could scream
but it wouldn’t do any good. I’m itchy with energy and water laden with tears that I
need to cry. I’m tight in the head and I can’t keep my eyes closed. They flutter open
and I am feeling panicky and claustrophobic. Powerless and choiceless. I am
twitching and full of energy to go outside and get away from the feeling that the
adults are in a special, privileged, sensuous, talkative, world and I’m forbidden and
unwanted and in the way and at the same time I’m supposed to be there like a pet
that gets locked in the garage. My room is supposed to be my haven when it’s my
jail. I have my eyes closed when I realize that it is not completely dark behind my
lids, that I am seeing pricks of moving light. Instead of darkness, there are spots and
points of colored lights, swimming and swirling. I open my eyes and they are not
there. I close them and they are. White silvery specks and paisleys swim wildly and
randomly in every direction. They give the impression of fuzzy dots on a defective
TV set. I try to make them disappear. They persist.
I throw back the covers, jump out of bed, and scramble towards the living room. I
stall in the hall; fretfully, beckoning my mother. She looks at me with puzzled concern
and comes to me. I try to explain what happened, and when she stares I begin demanding explanations.
Wide eyed and spooked, she pronounces “they’re just dead cells floating around on
your eyelids now go back to bed”.
They didn’t look dead, not one bit.
I whimper and stall until my father looks over and starts to get up and then I go back
in a huff. I close my eyes and there they are, alive as ever. I panic. I can’t make them go away. I lie awake until the sky is almost light. Every night it seems, from then on, I avoid going to bed.
A child’s Nature is so inconvenient. I once read that the very word, “child”, means
something like “interfering” in people’s lives. Surrender to Mom was a small
concession really; since according to her, I couldn’t possess a self, could I? Wasn’t I
simply a lump of unformed clay, as far as my personality went?
But how far did my personality go?
I had needed a friend that I could talk to about both my fears and my ideas. At
times I could find that friend in my mother. She listened to my meanderings with
respect and curiosity, until I frightened her with spiritual ramblings and meanderings
that she couldn’t address. My mother was not an agnostic like my father, but she
seemed content with viewing life as a mystery, full of unanswerable questions. She
grew more perplexed as I approached adolescence.
Mom gave me alarmed blank looks in response to my esoteric questions… “What is
before the beginning?” I can’t go to sleep until I know. Instead of answering, she
pushed back my hair from my eyes because she said I had to keep it out of my face
in order to see, when all I wanted was long bangs I could hide behind. When I
pressured and asked, “what if I don’t really exist,” she told me not to make crumbs.
And when I demanded to know what “never” and “always” really meant, trying to
comprehend the meaning of the infinite, with a finite brain, she said to sit only at the
table and pull up my chair. My questions got tougher. “Why are we here (on Earth)?”
I am answered with being reminded to do my dishes. If I ask, “What exactly is time,
would it exist if it didn’t have a name?” Or, “How can there be such a thing as not
existing?” Mom answers suspiciously: did I do the dishes—all of them. If she gets
desperate she goes into a litany: Did I use Brillo; did I dry my hands and face; let me
see them. If she is truly worried about my impending insanity she will go on
ceaselessly, just to be sure to drive me there herself: come here in the light; don’t
frown; what were you and Cindy fighting about and yes you were fighting. Why are
you so mean to her when she loves you so much.
What else had I eaten? When? Had I washed my hands? Had I been biting my
nails and did I know there were microorganisms under them that were very bad for
me? Why was I scratching down there- did my behind itch? You could get an
infection. Go wash your hands. Aren’t you hot? Get your hair away from your face!
You must be freezing in that thing! You are tired! You need to rest, go lie down.
Mom jumped out of bed to the alarm, fussed over Dad and all five kids at once,
fought with the twins about matching clothing she’d bought without their consent.
Then shuffled us all out the door to walk the mile and a half instead of driving,
arguing, “when I was a girl”. She plugged herself in to the wonderful middle class
world. “Would you prefer low class?” she asked me, when I accused her of liking her
There were telephone calls, buying and returning things, with the driven efficacy of
her Singer Sewing Machine. “What did she run on?” remains an unanswered mystery
of all mothers throughout time. But my hunch is that whatever it was, it was aided by
her perceiving herself as having no real needs of her own beyond the maintenance of
Sometimes if Mom was busy and wanted to address me when I walked into the room,
rather than stopping and straining to recognize me or asking simply, “which one are
you?” she would run through the gamut of names until she hit the right one. I was
“Cindy, Laura, Eleanor, Jackie” all in one breath.
She once even attempted to give Cindy medication twice, thinking Cindy was me.
When Cindy protested, Mom looked more closely and realized her mistake.
If we had been born fraternal, like Eleanor and Jackie, we could have at least had an
egg each. Splitting ones’ egg-self in two, seems to me, to be a sure prescription for
psychological problems, later in life. I would have to fight massive existential fears
that I was an extension of Cindy.
Had I been a kitchen utensil, Mom would have returned me, having failed to read or
understand all the directions. Mom handled me like I was made of glass, at arms
length, and with great trepidation. The world was also glass and the best way cope
was to avoid it.
The wolf is dead
I was sick; I was going into a trance over a romantic era painting by my bed of a dog
howling over a dead sheep on the snow. I loved that picture.
When Mom came into my room to force more ginger ale down my sore throat, she
found me transfixed, as if I’d actually stepped into it. If Mary Poppins could walk right
into chalk sidewalk drawings, so could II?
She look at me with anxious worry, most likely thinking I was being traumatized, lying
that,“...The dog is howling because the sheep is sleeping”.
I snapped out of trance. “No, the sheep is dead!”
It made her recoil but what could she say? “Oh Laura, don’t be so real”?
She could have fought dirty, with, “Don’t be rude”, or, “Don’t interrupt me”, but Mom
always did have a weakness for truth.
If necessary, Mom would drive us both mad so that I might one day awake well adjusted.
Mom says, “Small people, small problems; big people, big problems”. But what could
be bigger than when my brain jams and I feel that defiant chaos that is life screaming
“I am alive”! as it spreads in tingles and colors throughout my body. In the void, not of
all that energy, but of no explanations, doubt is spreading into my brain and
threatening to swallow me with endless and unanswerable doubt, with a pervasive
and terrible secret knowledge that there is something malevolent in my head.
In my forties, I went to visit Mom and I saw a squirrel jumping onto her bird feeder. I
was quietly cheering its antics: it had to throw itself, onto the window ledge and then
bolt towards the feeder. So clever!
Mom is horrified. She yells like a cop to my step-dad, to come quick and shoo it away, “... that one! That little shit with no manners! The nerve!”
I shrink away, half-thinking she’s talking about me, until she adds, “They’re so damn
wasteful. I saw that squirrel the other day stealing apples from the tree; you know
what that little rat did? He takes an apple, one bite, ONE and throws it on the ground
and reaches for another.”
Neither that “rat” with the big tail, nor I, grew up in the depression like she did, and we
will forever be on her shit list.
Millie was the middle daughter of her family of origin; she was the peacemaker, lost
child, and the good girl. Mom’s goal was to be loyal to everyone except herself.
Her mother, Sonia, having survived rape in pogroms, had had good reasons to try to
freeze dry her three girls. Mom said Sonia was “fear personified”. Sonia taught her
daughters not to do anything original, creative or impulsive. Sonia’s myths included:
“The world is a bad place for women and children. Sex is dangerous. Children don’t
know anything, and Women in my family must never mention sex or look provocative.”
Mom bought the package without examining its contents, just as she no doubt,
bought into motherhood without considering if she were emotionally fit for the
demands of playful children. Underneath that proper exterior, however, something
subversive stirred: something that defied her awareness. But I saw it. Tried to name
it. “You’re not nice”; I’d charged Mom, who looked blank and wounded beyond reproach.
Mom hired herself a woman to help with the kids and chores. When we would become too old for a Nanny Mom would be plunged back into Motherhood Hell.
At age 40, Mom got up off the couch where she’d lie exhausted begging me for foot
rubs. Unexpectedly, she pursued a new career in teaching, with a tenacity I’d not
formerly seen, studying what she quipped was “Sadistics” (math) with nothing but
enthusiasm. She changed her career from dental hygiene to teaching. Her job
expanded from saving Dad or us, to the more realistic arena of educating the world
and rehabilitating inner city Gang Leaders.
I’m in Heaven hanging out with some Angels. We’re playing catch, tossing around a
ball of clay and with every throw and catch its shape and color and texture even
keeps altering, right in mid air. It keeps rearranging itself like it can’t make up its mind
what to be. It’s supposed to coagulate into a form with color and texture and possibly
some kind of substance you can see through, something complex. This ball is going
to, or is supposed to, at least, contain certain patterns that have to do with me and
the form my next lifetime on Earth will take: who I’ll be, who I’ll be with and what my
mission is. The idea here is that it will contain a sort of schema for my next
incarnation. However, after many tosses it becomes evident that the clay is actually
refusing to hold to one form or plan; it just keeps staying this nondescript ball of dull
clay with no imprints and no designs to it.
So finally, this angel tosses the ball in the air, catches it, and announces like he’s announcing a score,” “It’s not time yet”.
I reach for the ball. I don’t buy it.
“The odds are stacked against you,” he warns and throws it to me. “I’ll take my chances,” I answer, throwing it to someone more sympathetic, I’m hoping.
But they’re getting the same sense. So the next one says “Forget it.” and drops it to
the ground. I make a mental note not to ask that one for advice in the future.
Another one, a female of course says, “Why don’t we sit down and talk about this”
and the group all sits, some smiling sympathetically, others dead serious, no pun
intended. They try out other tactics, they say I’ll be alone, my pals the Native Americans, and aren’t coming back for a long time. If that’s flattery because they know I’m into that stuff, it won’t work.
So they try pleading. They tell me on Earth there are people who won’t be able to
understand me. But I say I’ll educate them. Then they try freaking me out with
warning me that there are people whose souls have actually wandered off, sort of like
machinery left idling, while the owner is at lunch. When that doesn’t move me s, they
stoop to gossip-saying that Jesus or Moses, or one of those biggies, claimed that,
after the way he was treated on Earth, he’d think twice about ever returning.
But not me. So what if the present structure down there has absolutely no use for me,
so what if I have no idea what to do in such a place? So what if I’m setting my self
up for failure. I only see incarnating as a win /win situation: I learn something and if
not I come back here, which isn’t so bad. I have nothing to lose. I say I want to try, I
insist on another chance.
Then they try humoring me: a maternal type is pulling me to a picnic table; motioning
me to sit. “Coffee? Donut? “
We don’t do food over here. I’m impatient and don’t want to be teased like the child
that I perpetually seem to be. I’m getting impatient and she sees it in my aura, which
She stops joking, says you don’t just throw yourself at the world, you work your way
up through lifetimes, meaning I don’t have enough past lifetimes on Earth to pull this
next venture off. Meaning that it will be a waste of time.
I stoop now to sarcasm, belligerence: “who showed you my resume?” It can’t work,
others will suffer, and she would like to say but only looks at me as if drilling her lightness into my memory banks for a time when I will need it.
Then, suddenly as if the movie is stopped on that frame, there is a pause, and I can’t
see her, I can only see that blasting golden light that never fails to come at
momentous beginnings and ending, like these. I hear the river, but it is no longer by
the field where we’d tossed the ball of clay, instead it is rushing through me, and its
sound is that of a long universal sigh. God is sitting in heaven shaking her head,
saying have it your way, then. After the rushing inside of what will be my head but is
only energy so far, when it subsides enough that I can identify distinctive sounds, I
finally hear, “ It is done.” And at that moment I am unbearably sad. It is then that I come to my right mind, I re-consider, but like a babe being born, I cannot crawl back into the womb.
“Well can’t you make some kind of provision?” I call out in terror as I am being
propelled through a tunnel swirling now with the muted and changing colors of my
own thoughts. I am calling out but everyone has blurred and passed behind me;
while way, way ahead, is a spinning vortex of golden light. “Remember!” something
echoes, “Remember!” Remember what? And I’m spinning down, squishing through a
pinhole, it seems. I can’t possibly survive, it seems. I will pop right back out and land
in that field. But I don’t. The noise has stopped. Silence brings one true thought: The
light, it must be the light I need to remember.
From a long distance almost like a dream a voice is faintly calling out to me, in my
other name: “Little Sun! Little Sun! If you succeed in pulling this off, the gains will be
50 years later I know they were right. I am in the wrong era and on the wrong planet.
I don’t belong here, not one little bit. Yet, unlikely as it turned out to be with all that
rejection I gave and received, I’ve made some gains I wouldn’t have made any other