My Mother’s Voice

Alzheimer’s being the conniving thieving bitch that  it is, my mother wasn’t herself in the final years of her life. The  woman I visited in the Alzheimer’s special care unit was a stranger wearing my mother’s skin but not much else, like the invasion of the body snatchers had taken place, month after month beneath the surface, until one day we looked and the woman we knew was gone, replaced by some alien being. An imposter. Intruder alert. Intruder alert. She died back in 2012. Don’t worry; I won’t be getting maudlin on you.  My real mother–not that stranger in a wheel chair, head nodding on her shoulder–is who I want to think about today.  My real mother —Enid Maude Good nee Hayden, a prim, old-fashioned name, perhaps the only thing about her I didn’t love— was British-born and had a lovely London lilt to her voice her whole life even though she left England in the mid-1950’s. I suppose at thirty, her vocal patterns were already frozen in place.  Sounding like a cross between

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Graduation Day 1971: Throwback Thursday

I dug this one up out of my archives, a two time nominee for a Throwback Thursday. First, because it's about my high school graduation which seems right for the times. Second, because it's a piece I was able to place in the Daily Breeze, a Pulitzer Prize-winning local newspaper, in their 15 Minutes column. So called because everyone—even the general public, even introverted writers with social anxiety—could have their 15 minutes of fame if the editor liked their submission. Translation: I didn't get paid but I got to put another publishing credit in my file drawer. My baby boy was two, my mother watched over him while I drove to the newspaper office to have my picture taken. He's twenty six now, and she passed away six years ago. Here's this week's Throwback Thursday bit of memoir, packed with reminders of personal pain for yours truly. 

Class of '71

We were the class of '71 and believed that graduation day really was the threshold. Bold new worlds to conquer. Exciting new vistas. The magic. The mystery. Our futures were out there somewhere. A new day had begun.

We were a swirling, twirling swarm of promise and potential ready to infiltrate the land and seize control. The SAMOHI Class of '71. The Soshes. The Jocks. The Potheads. The Science nerds. The Drama Wierdos. And the rest of us. Half of us didn't even talk to the other half for most of our high school careers, and suddenly here we were graduating together.

United under a sea of blue caps and gowns, we floated on stage for our diplomas. Loved ones watched with tears caught in the corners of their eyes, something called pride bubbling in their throats. Hearts were leaping. Fathers coughing. Mothers sniffling. Cheering. There was much pomp and circumstance.

I wore hot pants under my cap and gown. Pretty gutsy for a girl who felt too out of place to go to her own grad night celebration at Disneyland, who went to Westwood and stood in line with her best friend to see some long-forgotten movie instead. But then I was the girl who didn't even dare to dream about going to the prom, so I wasn't the least bit disappointed when I wasn't asked. Talk about your Ungreat Expectations.

Babe potential
Leafing through the yearbook, I find my face on page 77. Hair a bit too bleached-out in those before-highlighting days. But an almost babe. While it isn't exactly crammed with entries, the book isn't empty either.

You're a wild, weird chick. Don't change. You've got a personality that a lot of girls wished they had. I know I do. This from Dolly, and I remember being shocked at the time. I was so busy wishing I could be like practically anybody else that I couldn't believe anyone could wish to be at all like me.

You're really a nut. I wish I had your personality and self-confidence! 
Hah! I'd entered school in October of the 10th grade and been so petrified to walk through the quad to eat lunch alone that I'd spent the first two months of lonely lunch periods inside the bathroom. And I mean right inside the cubicle. Self-confidence? I don't think so.

I'm so lucky you were in my bookkeeping class blah blah P.S. No one really laughs at you, so cheer up. 
Excuse me, Karen! So now I'm paranoid?

Don't think about the people who laugh at you behind your back (snicker) You're just a late bloomer. 
Well! Thanks for clearing that up, Debbie.

A late bloomer, huh? Well maybe so. I didn't get married until my 39th year. (That's if you don't count those six months I spent as Mrs. Clifford when I was 22. Believe me, I don't.)
It's a fact. The road to true love isn't always easy to find.

And at 42* I'm a first-time mother to a toddler prince. Oh boy, was he worth the wait! Besides, all us aging baby boomers are doing it. My "Mommy and Me" group is filled with older moms like me. (Or are they grandmas? Yikes!)

So what was wrong with me? What accounted for my reticence? Paranoia? Why do I still feel a sting when I drive down Pico toward the beach and see the history building that housed the bathroom where I holed up?

And then at the back of the book I see it.

To my dear Simmy - You are a great kid with a giant inferiority complex of which you have nothing to be inferior about. You are beautiful and sincere. You've been a real TRIP to know. Love Velma

I find her picture and remember. The patchouli-and-gauzy-skirt type with a real and gentle smile. Did we have Birkenstocks back then? She would have worn them. And probably didn't shave her underarms. Because you know, she knew who she was. She was too busy living life to worry about a little hair under the arm and who was watching and what they were thinking about her pits or her patchouli.

She knew what life was. It was a TRIP. And the only thing to do with a trip is to take it.

Congratulations to the class of 1995 
It's a Long and Winding Road* Enjoy the journey.

*The road has become longer and windier since I wrote this for almost twenty years ago for the class of '95 but more and more one thing is clear; it's the journey that counts. Leave your baggage behind and Enjoy it.

*The Beatles classic Long and Winding Road was the No 1 song in June of 1971.


  1. Loved the honesty of the post. Took me back to many of my uncertain past steps.

    1. Thanks, sadly Uncertainty rears its head from time to time.


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