chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

four dozen oysters

D and family at Earl Carroll

This photograph dates from the year my mother met and married my father, but he’s not in it, and whether that meeting — their blind date — had happened yet I don’t know. We see my mother, at the far end of the left side of the table, with her family — her mother, brother, uncle, aunt, cousin, sister-in-law and her mother’s second husband — at Earl Carroll Theatre Restaurant in Hollywood.

My parents didn’t discuss the intersection of their premarital lifestyles, but there must have been an adjustment for both of them. My mother was used to privilege — fur coats and Oysters Rockefeller — while my father, a hardworking civil engineer newly returned from war, hailed from people of very modest means who were more concerned with family than with fashion.

In fact, my parents were opposites in many ways. Where my mother was emotional, my father was cerebral. He was quiet, she voluble. She was delicate; he was a rock. She said whatever came into her head; he rarely spoke an unconsidered word. He was serious, she was a party girl. He was loved, she felt unloved. My mother, who outlived my father, had a litany of physical complaints; my father had little use for illness and was hardly ever sick until the very end of his life. His family was deeply religious; her family saw religion as a social group. She loved dressing up, he didn’t. He loved children, she didn’t.

The extremes of their oppositeness contributed to their initial attraction and, over the years, tempered somewhat. My mother missed her fancy-dress life, but she eventually admitted that she would never turn my father into a man who would truly care about the cut of an elegant suit. My father uncomplainingly indulged my mother in her own taste for beautiful things, but drew the line when it came to man-jewelry.

And yet, after decades of marriage, it was their oppositeness that wore them down and, although they stayed together, pulled them away from one another. My mother wished for someone with emotions as hungry and uncensored as her own; my father would have appreciated some restraint.

In myself, I find them both — the needy and the withholding, the flamboyant and the modest, the satisfied and the discontent — looking for the words and the voice that will give expression to a single integrated identity.

6 responses to “four dozen oysters

  1. tomwisk July 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    I wish I hadn’t been adopted. I want to know about my birth mother and what happened after she dropped me off at the home. My adoptive parents were nice, but I’ve learned about them.

  2. jik July 11, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Can you find out anything about your mother? Seems like there are more resources available these days for people who want to search…

  3. Carey Taylor July 12, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Honest, poignant, beautiful. My own “polar opposite” parents eventually forced a balancing of myself–that sweet spot I took years to feel comfortable in. I love these stories, and they have been helpful to me. So glad you are sharing them with the world.

  4. jik July 12, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Thank you so much, Carey. Intriguing how we’re drawn to people and stories similar to our own… I’m looking forward to reading yours.

  5. Kim Bultman July 18, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Saw a lot of myself in your post (and my marriage) (and my parents’ marriage) — grateful for your perspectives. This photo of your Mom reminded me of her self-portrait a few posts ago; she had presence, that’s for sure. Your final paragraph knocked the wind out of me. You are a poet AND a writer — duality is in your genes? Awesome post.

  6. jik July 19, 2013 at 5:44 am

    Thank you, Kim. Your comment makes my day. jik

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