Thursday, June 10, 2010

Conversations with My Mother


My mother and I went to a movie together last night. A lightning storm was starting and we both expressed a preference to stay outside and watch and listen to this shared pleasure. It felt good, this moment before entering the theater. Inside it was the usual chick flick fare. Predictable and silly, perfect for popcorn.

The movie featured two sets of lovers, one young, one old. As expected, the old lovers reunite. In that moment I looked to my right to see my mother crying--I knew instantly she was thinking of her first love. It is strange, this story she told me while I was a sophomore in college about that first, intense love she ever had. He left on a mission for our church and she, for all the reasons under the sun, married someone else while he was gone. I always felt saddened for her, for her regret of this first love who entered her dreams during her first marriage (my father is her second husband). When she told me about it, I remember thinking our relationship had changed, that I needed to start seeing my mother as a complete human being with a full story and not merely as my mother.

This is her reality, or what I perceive to be her reality: romance is real and a perfect ideal which we all should seek after. True, deep, sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of love exists for her. And when a love like this envelopes you, you never forget it.

When the young lovers confessed their love for one another at the end of the film, I felt nothing. To me, the woman of 29 who has never actually been in love, it all seemed forced and unrealistic. All flossy and insubstantial. It was, after all, a movie. My reality: I think it is just shy of miraculous that anyone finds themselves compatible enough to fall in love. I believe in finding your best friend with the added benefit of chemistry (whatever that may be) and making the best of things. I think being swept off your feet sounds like major head trauma waiting to happen. While my head is in the clouds about so many other things, when it comes to love, I've had a history of disappointment and reality checks. Romantic love is flimsy at best--brain chemistry gone awry which eventually corrects itself. (And, to be fair and honest, there is a small voice called hope or wishful thinking or what-have-you that is holding vigil for the chance I'll have to eat some of these words one day.)

We exited the theater to see the storm had moved on to the north. And we started talking about our notions on love. I asked her why she cried, only to have my suspicions confirmed. I then shared this hunch I have about myself: I'm too old or too smart or too hardened or self-protective to fall in love in the manner she did. She got tangled in it, still an adolescent. I didn't necessarily mean this to sound like a good thing. To me, it is a loss, knowing I can't throw myself into something with quite the same emotional, logic-be-damned vibrance that a teenager can. I never had that opportunity. The window for such irrational but glorious frivolity is over. I'm Elinor, not Marianne.

She, on the other hand, told me she's fallen in love numerous times. None so great as that first time. And then we each quieted into our own thoughts, looking west to the last flame of sunset. And I wondered which of us was worse off. I felt a pitied sadness for my mom, for this deep regret she still holds after 45 years. This kindling inside her for someone who, frankly, is now another being entirely as is she. And then there is me, knowing love only in theory.

The light disappeared slowly from the sky. My mother gave me a hug and said farewell. I came inside to an empty apartment, dark but for the deep grey of dusk seeping in through the windows. In the distance, I could hear the rippling of thunder.

* image found here.

10 comments:

Shannon said...

We are all on our own journey with love, aren't we. The great thing about that, Brooke, is you will have your first love as deeply and as intensely as anyone, but you will have eyes to see things and a heart to feel things that adolescents have/had no idea about. And that is enviable in its own rite.
What a beautiful thing to share an evening with your mom. I loved this post.

Jen said...

Very, very nice. I sometimes wonder if I will ever tell my kids about my high school passions. I read my journal and was very disheartened by my shallowness and the way I was run by sheer hormones.

Jen said...

PS Good post for today, my dad and stepmom's 20-something anniversary. Here is to a good second marriage.

Lildonbro said...

Very good post. I feel like I needed something like this today. At the same time though, I hope that 45 years down the road, I am finally over my first love (or married him :) But only time will tell these things.
You write beautifully by the way.

Rie Pie said...

This is such a great post. I remember the memories that my mother shared with me that made her so much more dear to me. Imperfect. Lovely. A women.

PS. I think it is important to realize that Elinor did fall into love just as passionately as Marianne did. The only difference is that Marianne was vocal, and even unmannered, about her feelings.

You are like Elinor. Beautiful, smart, wise, and sisterly. You will find your Edward. Until then enjoy the storms, because they really are beautiful.

PPS. Col. Brandon was a 'second husband'. Which is not too shabby if you ask me. He is my very favorite of the Jane Austen heroes.

Stephanie said...

There is much I want to say about this post, but I suddenly find my heart too full; words have failed me, so I will simply say: Thank you for this post.

Wendy said...

Wow...touching. This is my favorite...I think.

Kris said...

Beautiful. Just lovely.

Terresa said...

Girl, for "life's little musings," this is a seriously sweet piece of writing.

I feel things, I fear, too passionately, with maybe even too much love.

I, too, went to a movie last night with my mom (Robin Hood). My 2 sisters also joined us. And guess who were the 2 people crying throughout it? My mom and I.

Amber said...

Can I be a mixture between Marianne and Elinor? Leaning more towards Elinor, Marianne is WAY too dramatic and out there for me. First love leaves a hard impression on our hearts, but I am not convinced that it is the truest love. When you are young you see the world with such an innocence, simplistic and I think reality is foggy. Regrets are a hard bite to chew, but I think you are right on! Mom and that person are totally different now and she is remembering what they were. I guess the good news is that love can happen more than once.