My Mother's Bed
In a childhood sanctuary, a woman confides the disappointments of her life--and finds comfort.
BY: Elizabeth Flock
The bed is already crowded when I crawl into it. The cats have arranged themselves neatly around my mother, and they are not happy when I climb aboard and upset their cozy set-up.
I fit easily into my father's mattress indentation. He's begun his day, but the covers have kept his spot warm. My mother is just awake, still soft from sleep. And that is perhaps what I like best about this infrequent ritual, the intimacy of lying close to the yawns and stretches of a fresh day.
I live out of town and cannot visit as often as I would like. Time skitters by far too quickly on these trips. Days become filled with friends, family squeezed here and there in between. So although I am certainly far too old to be crawling into my parents' bed, I relish the private time with my mother. Not to mention the youthful implication of climbing into one's parents' king-size bed.
Our talk can be about simple things—how we slept, whether we liked our dinner the night before, plans for the day ahead. Then we meander to meatier topics ("Is so-and-so happy? It seemed like they were strained when we ran into them yesterday"). Meatier still are the questions aboutmy
Truth is, my life is nothing like what I thought it would be. Pretty much every friend I have says the same thing. My friend Kathy is fond of saying, "If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans." God must be laughing big time right about now.
I'd always imagined a storybook marriage, kids, home, friends. I thought the big dilemma would be how many children to have …four, to make it even? Two, to make it affordable? Of course, this was back when I thought 40 was ancient, and eating an entire bag of Doritos wouldn't show up on my body which would, by the way, always stay effortlessly fit.
At 35 I visit, we lie in bed looking up at the ceiling and I ask my mother if everything's turned out the way she thought it would. She seems surprised at the question and answers "It'sbetter
than I thought it would be. Different but better. Why, honey? Are you okay?"
And so, there in my mother's bed, I tell her. I tell her I cannot have children of my own.We talk about the fertility clinics, the failed procedures and the soul-crushing reality that it is not in the cards for us. For me, that is. My husband has two daughters, and if it weren't for them I think I might have withered up and floated away. They are my girls, pure and simple.
At 40 I visit, we lie in bed looking up at the ceiling and I ask my mother how she and my father have stayed married for four decades and counting. And I tell her. I describe the heartbreaking realization that my marriage will not continue. Wait, did I fail to mention that it was my second divorce? Though the circumstances were far different each time. That's something, right? It should mean something that I've managed to stay close to my second ex-husband, shouldn't it? I may have failed miserably at marriage but post-marriage, well, I've nailed that. My friends say we're the coolest divorced couple they know.