That Was Perfect. Now, Do It Again Completely Different.

Posted: December 6, 2012 in Life, Mom
Tags: , , , , , ,

Mom became obsessive about my performances. I would have to read a script over with her 50 times while she hashed and rehashed every little nuance. Sometimes she’d look at me and go “That was the best performance I’ve ever seen. You just booked this.” or sometimes she’d say “That was terrible. You call yourself an actor? I’ve seen better acting from ___” (fill in the blank with whoever she thought was terrible at the time – usually Mac Culkin). Sometimes, I’d get those two completely disparate reactions after doing it the exact same way twice for her. It always made me slightly unsure of my performance. Music was the same way – I’d practice for hours (which probably made me a better musician) while she picked apart what I did. She’d spend time looking for that “one time” that I did it “so incredibly well that it blew [her] away” – in retrospect, that “one time” was probably in her imagination, just like “the One Russ” (sounds like The One Ring, doesn’t it?).  This is probably a reason why I hate performing so much…I’m very judgmental about myself and my work, and always a little insecure. When I would complain, she would cite the Jackson 5 as an example – they stayed in all the time, worked hard on their music, and became legends. “But maybe you don’t have what it takes to be great.” she’d say, and leave the room. Inevitably, I’d chase after her – promising I’d give it my best and really work. She’d relent, and we’d be at it for a while longer.

Anyway, one day while driving back from the city she had a moment of clarity completely out of nowhere.

Mom: I haven’t been very with the program lately, have I?

I was stunned. She was still obsessive and paranoid, seeing Machiavellian plots at every corner. I wasn’t sure if it was a trap, so I wasn’t sure how to respond. I decided a bland, noncommittal approach was best.

Me: I guess not.

Mom: Well, I’m sorry.

She took the next exit, which again was out of character. She usually wanted to go right home after we had spent a long day in NY.

Me: What’s going on?

Mom: I’m taking you to the mall. You can get whatever you want.

This, too was a huge deal. If I asked for something specific, she’d usually argue with me and tell me “that’s not what you really want”. Throughout my childhood, I argued till I was blue in the face for a SEGA Genesis, only to be told I didn’t really want it. I really did, damn it. This trend has even continued to day, where if she asks what I want for Christmas or birthday, and I tell her “Mom, I’d like a blue guitar” at best, I’ll get a red one of a completely different kind than I asked for. At worst, I’ll get a microwave – arguably, what I “really wanted”. Even eating wasn’t exempt. It wouldn’t be unusual for a conversation on that topic to go like this:

Mom: I’m hungry. Where do you want to eat? You pick.

Me, knowing how the conversation was about to go, would try to throw the ball back into her court.

Me: I really don’t care…what do you feel like?

Mom: Anything! I’m just hungry.

Me: How about McDonald’s?

Mom: No, I don’t want that.

Me: Okay, well, how about Outback Steakhouse?

Mom: No, I don’t want that.

Me: Well, you told me to pick. What about Denny’s?

Mom: Ok.

Then, on the way to Denny’s – we might even be as close as 3/4 of the way there – she’d say something like

Mom: I don’t really want Denny’s. Let’s do Red Robin.

It was enough to make me nuts. Sometimes discussing dinner turned into an hour long ordeal. It was usually better not to have much of an opinion about things, because you probably weren’t going to get your way regardless.

Anyway…that day, she drove me to the mall and – completely without argument or comment – let me get what I wanted. I think I got a couple of Dick Tracy comics, some Spider man and Batman comics, and a novel or two. On the ride home in the car, she promised things would be better…she was feeling better (I didn’t know what that meant, and I’m still not entirely sure I do now), everything was going to change.

I assume she tried – it just didn’t stick. She got slightly more bi-polar about things. We’d go to the amusement park, and she’d be all excited to go, and we’d get on a ride and she’d say “I hate this. This sucks.” and be miserable all day. We’d leave shortly after. Or she’d be all excited about decorating the Christmas tree, only to cry – and I mean really, truly weep – while doing the decorations.

I don’t know what prompted her single and momentary change. Can someone in the throes of a severe mental illness like she had spontaneously “get better” without treatment, even for a moment? Or did she decide that she really didn’t need Russ, that she was strong? Or did she decide that the Mafia was really going to support us, and her dreams were coming true after all? I don’t know…I probably never will.

  1. Ermilia says:

    Wow, what a childhood. I can see how that would taint the joy of performing, but if it’s any consultation, you’re a wonderful writer.


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