A Mother Like No Other

Call me Itty, Call me Ingrid, Call me Crazy

When I was 11 years old my mother and I were on the way to Synagogue. My mother was wearing a long black wool vest, a white shirt and a tie. It was 1998. “Don’t I look like Diane Keaton?” she asked me. I just nodded my head up and down. Her question was clearly rhetorical. I couldn’t break her heart. I wish instead my mother would have asked me how I felt because my answer would be, ‘You’re not Diane Keaton. Take the tie off, make a different choice.’ We walked into the Synagogue together and just as I had predicted, every woman and their daughter turned around and watched us walk up the stairs and find our seats. “Itty! What are you wearing?” Could they all tell I wanted to melt into the ground? Because their plan was working, their stares were burning me from the inside out.

But her unapologetic love for Diane Keaton wasn’t the only reason she stood out. My mother had a slew of O.C.D. tendencies that were considered quirky when I was growing up. She would fold her t-shirts and stack them on top of each other with great pride. There were many times I wandered into her room to find her standing there tapping her t-shirts into perfection. She thought the tapping of t-shirts was productive, I thought the tapping of t-shirts was abusive. She would put a container away in her closet and then touch it at least 5 times to make sure it didn’t go anywhere. She was constantly lining things up and then counting them. She was also constantly cleaning. When I was younger, cleaning products were part of the pillars that brought us up.  I was number 6 out of 7 children so by the time I came around, nothing mattered. I’m pretty sure I was bottle fed Windex as a baby. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you cleaner.

I think it’s important to say that my mother’s style and obsessive cleanliness didn’t take away from her ability to create close friendship and connections. Every person she encountered, ever in her life, became her friend. Everyone was treated as equals. The guy at the laundromat, the guy working at the fruit market, the receptionist at the doctors office, the high school kid working at blockbuster, the seamstress, the lady doing her nails, a pigeon, the stewardess, the lady cleaning the house, the outcast, the misunderstood, the popular, the unpopular. When she would pick us up after school, the carpool line turned into this short stopping nightmare. She stopped at every car, window rolled down with her hand stretched out, to talk to every person there. It didn’t matter that her kids were in the back seat with their heads rolled back from exhaustion and nausea. As her children we were also treated like equals. This gave us confusion when we were looking for parental advice or guidance. When giving advice my mother would either ask, “What do you feel?” or “What does your gut say?”
What do I feel? I feel like you ask me how I’m feeling too often. Discipline me.
What does my gut say? Who the hell is a gut
. Where can I find it?

When I was 14 years old my mother was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread muscular pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. That basically means, some days my mother is feeling ok and some days my mother can’t get out of bed due to pain and fatigue. On her bad days my mother would refer to herself as Ingrid – her english name, after the actress Ingrid Bergman, thank you Mrs. Fellig. Every time I call and she’s tired and not feeling well she tells me “I don’t know what’s wrong with me” and I always answer “you have Fibromyalgia Ingrid.”  She didn’t relate to the person who was in bed with pain. She wanted to be the person out of bed with her friends and feeding her children bottles of Windex. I think this diagnosis has been the hardest reality for my mother to accept. I think it’s because she feels that it took away from her being able to do more or be more for us when we were younger. It did take away from her physically being there but it didn’t take away from her being there for us in every other way, at any moment of any day and for that I am grateful.

When I was struggling through my first marriage my mother was one of the only people I turned to for advice and support. I can’t say her advice took away the pain and struggle but her support was priceless. I was young and I was insecure for not being able to figure out how to be married well like my friends. In a period where I felt lonely and small, my mother was there to pull me up and show me strength.

My mother lives with tremendous passion. Everything in her life is amazing all the time. She surpasses the saying, ‘Seeing the world through rose colored glasses.’ My mother sees the world through rainbow colored glasses with unicorns and dolphins diving in and out. My mother’s sense of wonder is the same as that of a 4 year old’.
“Doesn’t this tree look magnificent?”
“Aren’t you happy we have a 9 hour drive so we can talk for 9 hours straight?”
“Doesn’t the air smell amazing?”
“Did you see how yellow the sun is today?”
“Have you ever seen a sidewalk like this?”
“This is amazing – when I drink water, I’m not thirsty.”
“Look at those clouds. Aren’t they amazing?”
“This coffee is delicious. I feel so energized!”
I know I will never be able to match my mother’s pure enthusiasm for life but it’s inspiring to watch.

My intention for writing this is to say that my mother is not perfect. I think I’ve made it clear she’s far from perfect. Combined with all those imperfections, my mother’s love and compassion is what really stands out to me as I look back at my upbringing with her.

I’m here so my 33 year old self can tell my 11 year old self,
“I understand the embarrassment you felt but now I see the truth. What I can see now is my mother’s ability to stand out in a crowd and how comfortable she is to truly show herself. What I can see now is how creative and courageous my mother is. She took something she was inspired by and brought it to life. If only I had known how cool my mother was, back then I just thought she was experimenting with cross dressing.

I’m here so my 33 year old self can say my mother’s no guidance was guidance in itself. The way she always went back to asking me how I feel has taught me to lead my life with my heart and trust my intuition. Perfection doesn’t exist. I’m so happy I am able to experience imperfection through my mother.

My mother has always said, “We call come into this world the same way and we all leave this world the same way.” I believe it’s through this sentiment that love and humility are born. I believe this sentiment is why my mother truly does stand out. It’s this sentiment that has brought me to realize all her quirks and crazy have taught me so much and enriched my life.

I can tell you that through the beautiful moments and deepest hardships, my mother always loves intensely, laughs with tears, speaks with wisdom, cooks minimally – if ever,  lives with passion, counts her objects, dresses in menswear, listens with no judgement and stays true to who she is. My mother is unusual in every way and it’s been in those unusual ways that I have learned to be true and honest and kind.
To my mother, this message is for you, from my heart to yours, please continue to live your life with the same level of intensity and insanity. 

I love you always, Happy Mother’s Day

2013-09-28 22.55.43

The Corona Edition

Quarantine #DayWhoTheHellCares


For the first 2 weeks all I did was cry. While I cooked, cleaned, folded laundry, signed into zoom classes, signed out of zoom classes. I was either holding back tears or crying. Crying from disbelief, anger, shock, fear. I’m an already anxious person who spends most days living in my head playing out worst case scenarios so that I am “prepared” for anything. (Is this how all people stay prepared and protected?)
Then Corona. The virus that changed everything. The virus that changed every aspect of everyone’s life all over the world. Whoever I spoke to in Australia, South Africa, Montreal, they were all going through the same devastating turn of events. I wanted it to stop, I wanted to go back in time. No I don’t want to home school my kids, why can’t they just play outside in their underwear and come inside when they feel heat stroke?
No I don’t want to prepare 16 meals for my kids throughout the day. Why can’t I leave bowls of water around the house for them for when they’re thirsty?
No I don’t want to social distance, I like warm hugs.
No I don’t want to make my own hand sanitizer because the world ran out. Why can’t I drink alcohol instead?
It hadn’t dawned on me the amount of free time I had before. I could make appointments and then go to them. I could make a call and then have a conversation. I could make a coffee and then drink it. I could take a walk which I never did. I could spend time planning and preparing dinner which I never did. The point is that I COULD do all these things. The freedom.
That freedom also came at a price. I felt guilt all the time. I talked myself out of it of course. It’s OK to leave my baby home with someone who I trust and loves her so I can go to appointments, make phone calls and have coffees. It’s OK that when I pick up my kids after school, it doesn’t take long for me to want to drop them back off at school.
I recently told my therapist in one of our sessions that I feel like I’ve re- engaged with my life. She thought that sentiment was beautiful. Yay for me, I impressed my therapist. She must have known it was a big deal for me to hear that because she knows I have an irritating need for constant validation. #workingonit And no I don’t want to talk about it, unless you want to compliment me, then yes I want to talk about it.
So now I don’t have the freedom but I don’t have the guilt, which one feels better ?
After 2 weeks of crying I started to get into the routine and reality of this new life. I felt more at peace and more uplifted. I can do this, I can figure out zoom and print out the lessons and do the homework and mop the floor and do the laundry and prepare dinner and wear a cute apron. I essentially turned into an octopus and found myself doing 8 different things all at the same time.
Then the adrenaline wore off and I was in a fog worse than in the beginning. In the beginning it was hard but it was new. The grief and reality and sadness of what was and what is now became so real. The realness of the situation then turned into me feeling like I need to ‘show’ my husband how hard everything is. This involved a lot of very loud sighs whenever he walked by. It involved a lot of me asking “I’m drowning over here why aren’t you?” I thank G-d I married a kind and patient man because I have been neither one of those things.
We need to flatten the curve. We need more tests. We need to wear masks outside. We need to wipe down all packages – after letting them sit outside for 24 hours. We need to wash down our fruit and vegetables with water and soap. We need to stay away from friends and family. We need to home school our kids indefinitely. The virus can be transmitted from direct contact. The virus can be transmitted through droplets 6 feet a part. The virus can be transmitted through the air from 13 feet apart. The virus can be transmitted through being alive. Stay safe. Stay home.
You know what I’ve learned over the last who the hell knows how many days? I’ve learned that in the end, I don’t know and you don’t know and none of us know. Without any knowledge of what will be, we are still here living and loving. Maybe that’s what Gd wanted from us, to do and to love before we know and understand.
Quick but important question, does drinking wine out of a crystal glass make it ok to start drinking at 3 p.m? Asking for myself.