Birthdays are bittersweet. Most holidays are. The awkward silence of family get-togethers; so much of me, unable to attend.
Advent calendars were my favorite part of Christmas. Those little swinging doors, patiently opened one day at a time, marked my jubilant, albeit Protestant progression towards the Nativity. Immaculate birth. Virgin Mary. Joseph getting short shrift for his role in the matter.
In March of 1989, I traveled to Montreal to meet my mother again. We’d had no contact since our last on February 2, 1968. I didn’t know I had a younger brother until just a few weeks before my trip. Lying on a trundle bed next to him on the first of my four-night stay, he told me that every year on my birthday, our mother locked herself in her bedroom and murmured sounds of crying would drift through the walls.
The bathroom was the only room in our two-story house with a lock on the door. It was a legitimately private space where Mom wouldn’t question my absence at age six, or less. Sequestered on the toilet, pants up, feet dangling and door locked, I attempted to send telepathic messages to my other mother. Mimicking Disney films where dogs talked, cars flew and little children escaped to Witch Mountain, I was left to wonder whether she ever received them.
There is an evolutionary imperative about our ability to recognize faces. I loved to play records on my family’s green plastic portable stereo. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. Along with the sunshine. There's gotta be a little rain sometimes. I sat there fixated on the album cover, mesmerized by her beautiful face, my trance interrupted only by changing the record. Lynn Anderson. We had tickets to see her in concert at the Quincy Junior High Auditorium in 1973. I sat there in rapt anticipation to see my dream girl. When it was announced that she was sick and substitute entertainment was trotted out on stage, I was heartbroken. Mom whispered Anderson’s illness was probably a horse show.