Mom Used To Say

Mom Used To Say

Life is Rashomon, my father plays King Lear
Mom plays Lady MacBeth or Katherine, the shrew, depending on the moment
Brother Tony and I were both busy choosing our own roles, We weren’t always certain of the play
Mom used to say, “No one told you Life was fair.”
Mom used to say, “Retroactive abortion might be a good idea.”
Mom used to say, “Do you know how much I love you?”
Mom used to say, “Do I look fat in these pants?”
Mom used to say, “You’re lazy, fat and worthless.”
Mom used to say, “You’re so beautiful,” and kiss me
Mom used to say, “You said you’d return that two weeks ago.” and bang my head against the wall
She’d play “skiing from the Nazis” as we parallel turned down the slopes
Mom told Mrs. Berman, who showed boxes full of sketches I’d made during science class
(though it hadn’t affected my grades – the “smart class” and the honor roll),
“Pretty good work, I’d say.”
And led me out of the room, sketches in hand
Mom used to say “Elephants don’t give birth to kittens
I’m not sure which we were
Mom used to say, “I need a facelift, don’t you think?”
Hating herself was my moms “resting bitch face”
And I was never sure if it was the ways I looked just like her
Or the ways I definitely didn’t,
of which I’d come out worse
Without mutual exclusivity, both were probably true
Mom used to say, “You’re a loser.”
But when creative differences
Got me kicked out of the planned performance of my good friends
On a field trip to Idyllwild when I was in the 7th grade
Right before the show
I had little time, and no ideas, for what to do alone
She collected clothes from somewhere, so I could have a lot of layers on
And said, “Put on your red pajamas underneath”
I thought she’d lost her mind
They were red, one piece long Johns, maybe even with feet
And I was still a tiny little girl
My mom said, “Do a striptease to ‘Let Me Entertain You”
Down to her actual underwear, and DD bra, huge on my prepubescent form
Until I was just in my pj’s
It brought down the show
I’m creative, but NOT the creative one
My mother used to say, “Be careful what you wish for”
And sometimes that’s the cruelest kind of true
But sometimes it means it’s best
To never wish, at all
My mother said, “Without children there’s nothing to live for”
As I sat childless in my forties, her group of friends agreed
My husband was jettisoned from family gatherings, at the time
My mother used to say, “We go to family funerals just to make sure they’re dead.”
Though decades living ten minutes apart
I see my nephews every few years – haven’t been invited to be the Aunt Suzi they could know
Fortunately,
They got a spare Aunt Suzi in the deal
She may be in Australia
But their whole childhood, when I saw them
My mother always said, “You remember your Aunt Suzi”
They’d nod their little heads, for years
Then insist that that their Aunt Suzi, was definitely not me
I’m 12 hours drive away now
Still unsure of my crimes
But I’m not a fucking Catholic
You can’t excommunicate me
I’ve had the same best friend for over fifty years
And geographical convenience means nothing to me
I’m THAT kind of Scorpio, five times in my chart
Sun, moon, rising, Neptune and mercury, Venus and mars in Sag
I’m a fixed object
underwater volcano
I’ve outlived airless magma underworlds
I’m not going anywhere
But mom says, “Why are we estranged?”
I didn’t know we were
My mom’s review of Titanic was, “Where the fuck’s an iceberg when you need one?”
When I was eleven she asked if there was anything about sex I wanted to know
“In a blow job, do you blow, or suck?”
The only question I had
“It’s just a figure of speech, Suzi.” Mom said
Leaving it at that
I don’t know what she told Tony, and I guess I never will
But her gift to me of a painting, I’m sure she just thought it wasn’t good
But I love the thick red abstract, and what my mother said
Painted in black freehand
Her bloody painting said
“Today I felt like something red, so I ate my Mother’s heart“
“I could have a hundred lovers, if I could wear a blazer to bed”
My mother doesn’t write much
But that’s what her poem said
I’d think she’d know that blazers
Aren’t as alluring as she said
But I’ve got my own collection
Mama in my head
She wasn’t at all religious as a Jew but
Crossed herself entering churches every time
“Bread and butter,” mom would say, superstitious,
when there was a reason to drop my hand –
‘”never parted,” in case you don’t know,
is what it meant.

–Suzi Kaplan Olmsted


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