“You look just like your mother.”

An aide in my mother’s nursing home told me last Thanksgiving,

 “You look just like your mother.”


What was I  supposed to do with that?

I looked at my mother, her hair a rat’s nest and her eyes sunken;

Her lipstick  on crooked.

She looked right at home in the movie Grey Gardens.

My mother had been a stunningly beautiful woman.

She was so beautiful you could feel a room stall when she entered.

She wanted that for me too. I chose to sidestep the gift.

I did not want to be anything like her.

I try to look at my mother through the eyes of another; a year ago she was beautiful.

Her bone structure so defined and her eyes haunting even in the hollows.

She does not look like the rest of her family.

She is some exotic hybrid;

Cherokee I remember thinking as a kid.

  I found doing  genealogy that we have an ancestor from Portugal. That seemed to make it fall together.

An exotic recessive gene. My mother has that in her DNA.

Too bad she has the Drunk DNA too.

My mother knew how to use her beauty. She saw it as a weapon and she was a marksman.

She was also Wicked Intelligent.

 A little over a year ago the Sunday New York Times crossword finally became out of reach;

until that time it was hers for the taking.

She had it all; by our standards anyway.

In her day the only cache came with the beauty; her deep bone intelligence was a curse.

My mother couldn’t hide it if she wanted too; it seeped through her marrow into the world.

I wonder if that is what drove her to drink.

We have a saying at our house, “Your brain is not your buddy.”

I have seen genius devastate.

There is such a thing as being too smart for your own good. There really is.

Did she self medicated to hide her pain?

The 1950’s were not amenable to a woman like my mother raised by an Englishman.

Be Quiet.

Be Proper.

Be Quiet. My mother was locked away inside her head most of the time.

I have locked myself up there from time to time and it is not a healthy place to live.

I was there yesterday and ran into some old demons.  It is hard to climb out, but climb out I did.

Be Proper meant stay away from Jazz and the men who played it.

Be Proper meant Play It Safe.

My mother was was not built for Safe.

I think that is what drove her to Chicago and the Jazz clubs.

Perhaps she was wandering looking for  Tribe, for adventure and adrenaline.

Wandering in search of acceptance.

I get that. I do.

I am more like my mother than I thought; I just have the luxury of being born to eccentrics and in a different time.

I did not grow up with Be Quiet.

I did not grow up with Be Proper.

I grew up knowing I needed to Go My Own Way.

The gift in that is enormous.

At this stage in the game, looking for any fucking gift I can find is all I have.

I need to find the gifts in time to give a gift beyond measure;

 1% Forgiveness and Love.

A Peaceful death and a hand to hold.

I Go My Own Way.

I can thank my mother for that.

~ by Step On a Crack on November 23, 2011.

7 Responses to ““You look just like your mother.””

  1. Hi Jen, What can i say. I know you. You are gifted. I get what your mom went through … and i get what you went through. Silent and good KILLED me. I wasn’t … so i WASN’T … and i felt bad.

    You are such a fighter! Putting the pieces together is a bitch.

    Recovery. Good.

    Pieces together: HARD, HARDER, HARDEST!

    CONTINUOUS! Keep fighting, and coming in and out. It all has to happen , “and we know that for sure” … xoxoxo mel


  2. Your brain isn’t your buddy. Truer words as they say

    It is difficult to be too smart for your own good, bliss is ignorance, bliss is contentedness

    You can’t be smart in this world and be happy, you can’t unknow what your smarts allows you to understand about the world, the people in it.

    You can only dull with substances and hope to reduce your intelligence to a level that’s tolerably conducive to living

    but then, how can you live with yourself so crippled?

    it’s enough to drive one to drink or other substances that will let you forget

    for a while, as if that’s ever going to be enough

    when it’s oblivion that’s the magnitude order needed


    • YOU totally understand! In our house we call it “Assimilation” the living with your brain and being who you really are (without substances: been there, done that…) and living IN the world. We also talk about how small a Tribe can be. It is a process of learning to live in the world and live in your head at the same time.

      I really can feel my mothers frustration. If she had been a ‘dowdy’ Woman in the 50’s she might have been better off in some ways. Being gorgeous was the only thing that defined a woman in that era.

      I am grateful to have grown up with parents who got it sorted out: Be who you are and find your people. Period. The drugs and alcohol destroyed my mom, but in some ways she was able to be who she really was with my father.

      Going Our Own Way allows me to live life on my terms and in and out of my head; the upside of growing up with ‘eccentrics’. Intellectual integrity is considered a virtue in our family. I can ONLY dig that. I refer to MY GOD and I mean that: My God is physics, seasons, MY morality, and a sense of wonder at the world. I have chosen who I love and growing up in my family I was not hindered by gender bending. I am grateful to my family for all of the freedom I was allowed and the lack of societal judgement. My life. My choices. I wish my mother could have had more of that in her life. Peace to You and thank you for stopping by! Jen

      I love your blog. Seriously thought provoking stuff. Yes!


      • It’s good to be able to connect with others, who understand without explanation

        who relate to the concepts, that are fully groked*.

        I am blogging to puzzle out all the conversations in my head
        to express what I am trying to otherwise suppress in order to go along to get along

        (* – Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein, to the non-SF fans)


      • yippe yi yo! Go Along to Get Along. I get it and Love It. That is exactly why I started Blogging. Looking for sense in the amazing meandering brain of my mother and my place in her journey.

        Yes, groked. Hard to find and a treasure once uncovered.

        Words. I love Words and their ability to lead me to understanding and hence, healing.

        LOVE the reference to Heinlein. How lovely to find a Fellow Traveler.

        hey, why Ntrygg?


  3. Not to make light of a beautiful post, but they really oughta teach aids in Hospices NOT to say, “You look just like him / her.”


    • Oh Al, there are SO many things they should teach them. I won’t go into here and maybe it is more a function of how to deal with MY family. We are just maybe a breed apart; maybe. I am grateful they are here AND I wish there was an existential hospice. make sense? Thank you for stopping by!! Jen


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