In the last month, I have received 2 pieces of shocking news. My 18 year old daughter got married, and my son's girlfriend is pregnant. Now both of these pieces of news, in another context (if they were both older!!!), would be the most delightful news a mother could receive. I, however, did not take the 'news' in such a context. In fact, I took it in probably the worse possible context, I made it all about me. Both of these events made me 'look bad' and I have been profoundly embarrassed. Besides what others think about me, I personally feel defeated and a failure as a mother. But as I said, it's 'all about me', which I am conscious of, know it's inappropriate and so further feeds and justifies my self-condemnation.
I have a lot of negative qualities, but fortunately self-pity, self-flagellation and self-indulgence are not some of them. So I have put the 'events' into perspective. First of all, my children are alive, healthy and still wonderful. I still talk to them both almost every day, so our relationships are strong and loving. They haven't destroyed their lives with these choices, they have changed their lives. And I know, in a very profound way, that these will be potent and meaningful lessons for them...even if they some day have regrets, the growth and lessons will be blessings on their lives. And so what that I can't brag that my son is in medical school or that my daughter goes to Julliard, I'll get over it.
In the last two weeks, I accepted two invitations from different U.S. friends to visit them while they were in Europe. One friend was in Paris, had use of a luxurious apartment and I said, 'why not'. I put myself in her hands, and spent 3 days going out to lunch and dinner with her Parisien friends (most of which were ex-pats). My friend is a very 'big' Hollywood publicist and her Paris 'crowd' consisted of mostly very, very wealthy people in the design industry (for example, CEO of the company which owns Louis Vuitton, Pucci, etc). All of the people I met were very lovely, very generous and included me in all the invites to the wonderful restaurants.
Usually, I can hold my own in any group of people. In Florence I socialize with diplomats, politicians, teachers, nobility and the major designers. But I realized after a couple of days, that no one among this group was really interested in me. And probably for the first time in my life, I felt that the reason for this was that I wasn't rich or successful enough to be 'one of them.' My reaction was more of surprise than rejection. I certainly didn't feel like I was 'less or lower' than them. Still I had fun, and filed this away as an interesting experience.
The following weekend couldn't have been further from the experience in Paris. My friend, Debra McGuire, who I have known for more than 30 years, had work in Munich and suggested I meet her there for the weekend. Debra is a costume designer for TV and movies, famous for 'Friends' and 'Heroes' as well as the movies, Anchorman, 30 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and is now working on a film with Robert DiNiro and Al Pacino. She comes to Munich on a regular basis to sell a line of her clothing designs on Home Shopping Europa (the European version of HSN).
On Friday, I went directly from the Munich airport to meet her at the television studio and watch her shoot 2 shows. It was a gas, Debra spoke in English, her host in German, and they were both adorable. Then we went back to the hotel room, to cry about our children. laugh about our children, comparing their escapades to our own and the wonderment of the different stages and facets of our lives.
When she knew I was coming to Munich, Debra wrote me that she had been wanting to visit Dachau (the concentration camp) but didn't have the strength to go there alone. So on Friday, we did HSN and Saturday, we did Dachau. From the most superficial and meaningless to the depths of incomprehension and darkness, quite an itinerary?
Debra and I are both Jewish and both are known to cry very easily. Both of our sons, when they heard where we were going, warned us to take enough Kleenex.
Neither of us shed a tear that day. Later, we looked for words to describe our experience. Numb, stunned, and scared. The most difficult part of being there was not knowing that this was done to people just like us.....that it could have been us. But that it was 'done' by people like us....normal, intelligent people. The realization that people can lose their humanity to such a degree that they can keep charts of the efficiency of killing people, or cost/benefit ratio of feeding a worker versus killing him.
Another realization of the day. When we entered the camp, there were two plaques thanking the US troops who had liberated the camp in 1945. Later, I related to Debra how moved I was by these simple statements, and I asked her, when was the last time you felt proud of the United States? Neither of us could come up with another time, when we felt the pride we did at the gates. Sad.
And so I come back to my personal drama and trauma as a mother. Somehow, after these two 'extreme weekends', I was left only with feelings of love, appreciation and gratefulness. My children are alive, they love and are loved, they look forward to tomorrow and they have the luxury of making choices, which is underlined by the freedom to make poor choices and powerful ones. Shame on me, that I would look at their lives and feel sorry for myself..