Mother’s Day. Only, for me, it was always Mothers Day, because I had more than one. In addition to the quite stoic and saintly woman who birthed me and put up with the worst of me, I also had an aunt, Sissie, who — not being responsible for me — was able to see only the best of me, joining me in my delusion that I was something, was going to be somebody.
She’s gone. 10 Years Now. However, my Mommy is still here and I have spent the last few days and today making cakes and macaroni and cheese and such for a big family gathering here celebrating Mother’s Day (or, again, Mothers Day, for there will be at least five in attendance) and a few birthdays.
In this short respite between cooking and cleaning and prepping for the 5pm party, I was flipping on-line through the New York Times. Because of all that needs to be done for today, for the first time in my life, I opted NOT to go out and fetch an actual, physical edition of the Sunday Times, but, instead, am reading it on-line.
Which feels wrong. And once I saw this Op-Ed piece by Larry McMurtry about “Lost Booksellers of New York” (click here) it felt even more wrong. He ends it thus:
I was only in this Elysium for two days in 1965, but I was drawn back many, many times since and still go back, though now I feel as if I am visiting a city of ghosts.
Yes. I, too, have a similar tale. After Sissie died, I fulfilled a promise I had made to her after her long illness and blindness had embittered her. It was only toward the end when she confused me with my father, off and on, and voiced some regret about the things she’d never done, and the things she had, without much thanks, when she said, “You have to do what you want, don’t wait. Stop doing what others want from you. Go to the Algonquin on your birthdays. Do for you.”
I did. And, as she suspected it would be, my actions when I began to try to live my dreams and speak my heart first once in a while, were resented and counted against me. Nonetheless, I managed to get in on the tail end of there being bookstores in Manhattan, and I’ve still a collection of those books I got there, and, better, a collection of memories of those clerks who were so kind to me.
On my last “birthday” trip to New York, alone, which was how I liked to go, sort of a ghost trip with myself and Sissie, doing what we wanted, for ourselves, I went to my list of book haunts and they were all — each and every one I’d visited just the year before — closed. Gone.
I was left in New York, knowing even then my life was falling to pieces, had fallen to pieces, that I had somehow managed to shape a life like Sissie’s, in which, if I ever dared do what I needed, what was best for me, I would be pilloried and abandoned; a life in which nearly everyone who loved me did so in a conditional way, the condition being I live by their rules and be the character they wanted me to play.
I was never anything more to them — to many of the people coming today, in fact — than a ghost. And now, I wait, impatiently, to join those others. Sissie, my other Losts, the bookstores, and wander in that ether void — although, alas, I don’t believe in even that anymore.
Ready to hang the sign myself: “Closed.”
But first, I need to finish making the macaroni and cheese.