Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Black Hole Years

In continuing to give a quick expose' on some of the characters in The Portland House: a 70's memoir, today I will talk about a character who plays a much bigger role in the book, namely my mom.

Obviously, Mom is a central character in the book , after all she is the one who got us to the house and the one running it. But that doesn't mean she is always present in every story. Many of the stories involve interactions with siblings that ultimately ended up at mom.
Mom turns 40. April, '73.

Mom worked full time during our years on Portland Avenue and as a result, she had to rule remotely. Sometimes this was done over the phone, She says she used to hate it when my sister Jane and my brother Rob would call her from separate extensions in the middle of a fight they were having. To add to this scenario, Rob was hearing impaired so had trouble hearing mom's responses on the phone. She shouted, "You two figure it out and I will deal with you when I get home!"

To which Rob replied, "Huh?"

At which point, Mom would repeat the threat again in a slightly louder register. All of this done within earshot of the clerical staff she was in charge of.

I can only imagine her rage.

When I was trying to decide on a title for this book, my wife recommended, "Black hole years." This may sound like an odd title, but it refers to what Mom used to say when we told her a story that she had no recollection of.

"That must have happened during the black hole years," she'd say.

I imagine that having six kids would require a certain amount of memory loss or blackouts. Memory suppression may be the secret behind her making it to the age of eighty four.

None of this is to say that Mom wasn't there for any of us. She was. I remember once she brought home a new desk for my room. I forget whether it was given to her or was one of those unpainted things that was cheaply made, but mom was determined it would work. Anyhow, as I was working on it it seemed rickety and had a few popped nails. I complained to her that it was falling apart and that I wasn't happy with it. As an ungrateful kid, I wanted a new one.

The next thing I knew she was holding nails in her lips and was pounding away, fixing the desk. When she was done, the thing was rock solid, as good as new. And she said to me, "I bet you didn't know your mom was a carpenter, too."

Indeed, I did not.

But that is my mom's role in the book in a nutshell. She was keeper of the piece, writer of the checks, and maker of the pork chops. She taught us that family came first, that we could be whatever we wanted if we put our minds to it, and that a house is made into a home by the love therein.

Blogging off...

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