I am certain that all of you HuffPo readers have had at least one dinner with a family member that left you with a rock in your stomach and pain in your heart.
I will do my best here to illustrate the dinner with my mother that helped me understand why ” I am what I am” – to quote Armand from my favourite movie ‘The Bird Cage’.
The setting: beautiful Stowe, Vermont; where rivers and maple syrup flow. Stowe is home to the famous Von Trapp singers and home of Anita, my mother.
Lucille, my circus puppy and I had come for a week’s vacation. I hadn’t had an opportunity for rest and relaxation for quite some time. I was so happy to be here. I began to breathe again – even the air smelled sweet.
My mother’s country house is situated on top of a long lonely hill. This had suited my loner father perfectly but was torture for my mother. My mother cannot be still for a moment – therefore the last place she would ever want to be was home for dinner. Luckily, that would not be necessary tonight, as her friend Tony owns a restaurant just down the road from her home.
As we arrived at Tony’s Trattoria, the smell of his ripening tomatoes so heady I plucked one right off the vine and ate it then and there. On that beautiful starry night as we proceeded into the restaurant, my mother asked me whether I wanted to sit at the bar or in a booth.
I preferred to sit in one of the shabby-chic booths that Tony swore he hand picked plank by plank from his cousin’s now defunct pizzeria in Sicily. This is where I felt held and happy. My mother knew I preferred a booth, so this was a trick question I have always answered incorrectly.
I so desperately wanted her just once to say “Katharine: I only want to be with you. Let’s sit in a booth so that we can have a heart to heart mother-daughter reunion and catch up with each other’s lives.” You know the expression when pigs fly? When you see those little piggies with angel wings flapping by your front lawn, you will know that my mother has finally responded to my heart’s longing.
On this occasion, I opted for the path less travelled that might provide me with more success. I told my mother that I would love to sit at the bar.
One point Katharine. Zero points Mother.
Mother proceeded to sit down at the bar next to a very large, loud gentleman who appeared to have had more than his share of the suds. My mother either didn’t notice or didn’t care. She was simply pleased that a rather loquacious man was talking to her and .. Mother nudged me “He looks wealthy!”
One point Mother.
Zero points Katharine.
We were now tied.
As I twirled my fettuccini onto my fork sitting on the too-high bar stool, together yet alone – I thought: Here is the genesis of my deepest wound. Never being seen – valued – adored. What would I have given for my mother to turn to me and say these three small words “How are you ?” Everything. I would have given up everything.
But this particular dream can never be realized in my lifetime. Then and there – in that somewhat tacky Italian restaurant – I had my very own personal aha moment. Thanks Oprah! I realized that I could either choose to stay the victim, or I could put on my big girl panties and start to play the game.
Instead of turning once again to my mother, I turned toward my seatmate on my right and said “What’s a nice dyke like you, doing in a place like this?”
2 points Katharine.
1 point Mother.
First they ignore you,
Then they laugh at you
Then they fight you
Then, you win.