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November 23, 2015 / thackersam

November 22 – The Inner Selfie

Inner SelfieLet me explain. No. Let me sum up.

Before you read the article I wrote but didn’t post last week as my complaining and accompanying picture didn’t seem appropriate at the time, I want you to know that while I am oh so very proud of myself for taking the trip to visit my nutty, old stepmother in Holland and glad it is behind me, I have suffered some bizarre effects upon my return. For starters, during a conversation with my staff regarding the annual company Thanksgiving luncheon, I insinuated some sort of violence in my upbringing. I only recall one such instance and truly believe it was a one-time occurrence for which all parties were remorseful, so among all the issues in my family, violence was not one of them and I didn’t quite understand my outburst. Then the next day, because we were chatting between callers for the afternoon session of the online chat with a doctor who works with our department, I began to sing “You Sexy Thing,” that 70s tune by Hot Chocolate (not to be confused with Sexual Chocolate from the movie Coming to America). There was a reason, I promise. I was explaining that one of my many trepidations of taking the trip was that I had to get myself from the Amsterdam airport to The Hague bus station by train, then get on the #22 to my stepmother’s apartment, which I did with more ease than I thought I could considering I was in another country and in the handful of times I’d been over there, I’d always been picked up at the airport. So reversing the process to get home was a snap, and as the #22 bus pulled away from the stop in front of the apartment house, the song that was playing on the cigarette smoking driver’s radio was “You Sexy Thing.” The doctor, being just a bit older than I, knew the song, but my colleague did not, ergo, I had to sing the opening lines “I believe in miracles. Where you from. You sexy thing,” and relayed that my inner selfie cried out, I’m from New York, and I am going home! Of course my odd behavior didn’t stop there, and when the doctor started talking about grammar during another break, and the difference between “I feel bad” and “I feel badly,” each time he said “I feel bad” I heard James Brown yell out “I feel good” and found it necessary to voice the notes that follow out loud. “Na na na na na na na.” You know it.

Now, read on. Or not. Up to you. But just look at that picture of me and try to resist at least taking a peek into what inspired it:

Behind my stove sit two of those corked ceramic jars that have words or expressions carved into them. One reads Snide Remarks and the other Ennui. They were both gifts from my colleagues at the craft gallery where I worked in Bayside. If you have ever been there, yes, it was the one with all the cats. I believe both jars were special orders just for me. Snide Remarks would be obvious to anyone who knows me. I am snide, but not churlish, I hope. I have been known to be quick-witted, and in case you think I lack humility, I have also been known to be dim-witted, at times. The one that says Ennui is another story. The word itself sounds kind of snide, as many French words may. It translates as boredom but has a wider feel as it represents lethargy, listlessness, disinterest and as one definition notes – utter weariness. You’ve all felt it now and then and when you do, you feel it all over your body. It makes your head feel heavy and you want to just lie on the floor and tell everyone to leave you alone and come back another day. Perhaps that is an extreme and diminishes the power of the word boredom and the ability to scream out “I’m bored” as an effective way of communicating the sensation. Saying “I feel ennui” does not come across the same way, and to emphasize our boredom, we have expressions like “bored to death” and “bored to tears” to illustrate that immense unfillable void.

So when my crazy old stepmother, who had gotten herself hauled off and locked up in a psych ward and has now been living in a nursing home in The Hague not far from her apartment where she yearns to return, called me at 4 in the morning, her time, and cried out “I’m so bored,” I felt for her, big time. Even before she was taken away more than a year ago, she would call me in her wee hours, knowing that it was well before midnight my time, to chat. I was glad to be there for her as that would be the time she would get herself into trouble, and I was glad that she would call from her little room, as she describes it, that was making her so sad and so bored. “Can’t you come,” she would say, and I would always come up with an excuse. It’s true, I don’t like to fly anymore, and now with plane crashes happening a little too frequently, it is getting scarier. She eventually accepted that, but I know that if I really wanted or needed to, I would buck up. I’d been putting it off for years. We get along so much better over the phone.

My last trip four years ago was such a disaster, that I vowed never to return. She has a habit of dragging out the child she never knew, and poking at her many sore spots. My stepmother can be quite mean when she wants to. Last visit she kept bringing up my mother, how beautiful she was and how sad, as if I didn’t know that. She wanted me to take family pictures home with me as she didn’t want them anymore, but I have them all already and I told I didn’t mind if she threw them out. “No, no, you have to do it. You will have to rip them up. I can’t do it. You mother was too beautiful.” Yes, she wanted me to rip up pictures of my tragic mother. I think I don’t have to explain further and as tempted as I am to say “and you know what else she did? I’ll spare you. And me.

But I’m a strong person, I am, and I’ve recovered again and again, and have protected and comforted that little girl. I should point out that my stepmother was never a parent to me, and we only became friends after my father (who was also not much of a parent) died about 25 years ago and there have been times when I think we were actually fond of each other. Many times. So, as she is 89 and said that she won the right to return to her home (which has been confirmed if she gets 24 hour help), I decided it was time and just made the plane reservations before I could talk myself out of it again.

There was none of the spoiling she had promised me, not that I really expected it and she used me as a nursemaid, which was more like what I did expect, just not to the extent it was. She kicked the little girl again, and made her cry, but I managed to curtail it and it only happened once. I tried being more kind and helpful than before, as well as independent, getting from the airport to her apartment by public transportation and doing the food shopping on my own, both of which made me feel even stronger. No, this visit was not as bad as last time, however the word gross can describe much of it. In fact, when I got home after greeting a much relieved Max, I showered longer than I have since I was in high school.

And that’s all I want to say about it at this time. I am home, I am happy, Max is happy, and the rare selfie you see that I took while sitting on my stepmother’s old dusty couch in front of the large portrait her first husband painted of her, depicts the face that I covered with a much more serene one throughout my trip.

I promise next week, less complaining and more music and exercise. But just remember I said “less” complaining.

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