We Three

Me, Mom, Connie – Brooklyn

Last night, I had finally gotten around to watching last Sunday’s episode of Mad Men, which was downloaded last Monday from iTunes.

If you’re a fan of the show, you were probably as shocked as we were at Betty’s weight gain (January Jones’s character). It was a déjà vu moment for me, reminiscent of Robert De Niro’s weight gain for his role as Jack LaMotta in Raging Bull — and also of my childhood.

The same thing happened to my mother. Uprooted from Brooklyn, from her network of friends, from her roots, along with the diaspora of other Brooklynites fleeing to the suburbs of Long Island, the radical change in lifestyle initiated by my father took a big a toll on her.

Pregnant with my brother and, I imagine, feeling like a fish out of water, it was a struggle for her to find something or someone she could relate to. One of her main complaints was a lack of transportation. She had never learned to drive. There hadn’t been a need.

In Brooklyn, we either walked (she, pushing my sister in the stroller, and me, walking alongside) or we took the subway.

My father, meanwhile, commuted from Hicksville to Brooklyn every Monday through Friday to go to work. He also worked a second job on weekends. He never complained. But he must have been stressed. He was always angry about something.

After my brother was born, my mother was never able to take off all the weight she gained. She went the route of diet pills, just like Betty. Although her doctor wasn’t as cautious as Betty’s. He just handed my mother a prescription, basically, for speed.

Wired, she’d stay up all night watching T.V., then get up at 6:30 a.m. to prepare breakfast for all of us. In the afternoon, she’d nap. In the end, the pills didn’t work. She didn’t lose the weight.

From the moment we moved to Long Island, it seemed my parents fought all the time. I remember one day, my mother, sister and I were standing by the front door of our house, about to go grocery shopping. Suddenly, my mother began to cry.

I was very young, about 6 or 7. Alarmed, and somehow sensing why she was sad, I said, “I’m never talking to Daddy again.”

It was her turn to show alarm. “Oh, no,” she said, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. “Please don’t ever say that again.” I sensed fear in her voice.

It’s an incident I will never forget. When I referred to Raging Bull at the beginning of this post…well, my father, at times, behaved like Jake LaMotta. He was a jealous man and my mother was a beautiful woman.

One of her greatest qualities, in spite of all her tribulations in life, was that she never lost her sense of humor.

My fondest memories are of the holidays — my mother, sister (also hilarious) and me, kidding around, wisecracks flying, the music playing from her boom box on top of the refrigerator, and the three of us gathered around the stove laughing our heads off.

Miss you, Mom.

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