It’s been twelve years since I got married. I lived in a little apartment then. On the day of my wedding, my parents had visited me and my dad had changed into his suit in my bedroom. The next day, when I brought my new husband to what would be our temporary home, I remember finding a small, folded handkerchief on my comforter. This must have fallen out of Daddy’s pocket yesterday, I thought to myself. Then I thought about how he’d cried before walking me down the aisle. How he might have reached into his pocket for the handkerchief only to find it missing, unable to wipe his tears.
Though I’d not lived at “home” for about eight years, being a newly wed only child felt a bit sentimental. Realistically, my dad’s walking me down the aisle was done strictly out of tradition. I’d even asked if both he and my mom could do it… I didn’t like the idea of being “given away” by a man. It seemed sexist and, let’s face it, I’d not belonged to either of them for many years, if ever. Despite my liberal feminist mentality, there was still a bit of mauldlinness attached to my having married. The closing of a door, the beginning of a new journey, the official end of my youth.
Somehow this abandoned handkerchief symbolized so much to me. A part of me already knew that I didn’t have much time left with my parents. (I’m not exactly psychic but I have gut instincts. A voice whispered to me that I would lose a parent soon. I heard the voice again a few month before my mother did die… it told me she was the one going, not my dad.) That hanky seemed to embody everything I’d been feeling. Everything I was thinking. All of the emotions that are attached to major life events. The hanky allowed me to see my Daddy differently as well. Until that moment, seeing that handkerchief laying there, all by its lonesome, helped me to see my father as vulnerable. Human. Flawed. Less scary. Someone for whom I could feel empathy. These were new feelings.
At this point, you may be thinking I am crazy. (Which I totally am.) Ridiculous. Concocting romantic notions like a silly young bride. You might simply not be able to understand what I’m saying. If this is the case, you would not be alone. My mom had no idea what I was talking about either. I couldn’t wait to tell her about my emotional experience over seeing the handkerchief. Surely, she of all people, the woman who had spent most of her life loving this man, would see the beauty in my newly found softheartedness toward him . Sadly, I was wrong.
Once I’d spilled my guts, telling her all of the mushy gushy details of my moving ordeal, she simply said, “Well, you can keep it then.”
I could keep it.
I think that was the last time I let myself be so forthright and transparent with my mom. After twenty-five years of not being understood, I’d concluded that it was pointless to try. So I didn’t try anymore or ever again. I gave up. She died about three years later.
Every single time I am rummaging around in some old jewelry and hair stuff to find something from years go by (this time it was an Annie and Daddy Warbucks pendant to show my son who is currently in a local production of Annie Jr.) and I chance upon that pendant, it reminds me of how poignant I felt upon finding it that day after my wedding. It also reminds me of how misunderstood I always felt by everyone in my life, including my own parents.
Bob’s Burgers is my new television obsession. It’s about a family running a struggling Mom & Pop business. The family is made up of a weird Dad, a weird Mom, and three weird kids. And I mean that in the most loving way possible because I absolutely adore all of the characters and I can relate to every single one of them. The middle child, Louise, is nine years old and is often a source of confusion for her family. She’s three handfuls and sometimes they simply don’t know what to do with her.
So last week, the kids and I were watching an episode called “The Kids Run Away” where Louise
finds out she has cavities and runs away from home to avoid fillings. After failing to manipulate her into coming home, the parents just leave her with her aunt, also weird. By the end of the episode, the aunt has concocted this elaborate scheme where the entire family and the dentist and a family friend participate in acting out some kind of illegal undercover CIA-esque drama, all surrounding her dental work. As I watched each member of the Belcher family bust into the dental exam room with their pretend guns, delivering rehearsed lines in order to execute the charade, I found myself bawling my eyes out.
This family gets Louise.
Weird, complicated Louise is not always easy to figure out but, by golly, this family will literally do anything to help her out and see things from her perspective.
I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be raised in a family like that.
All three of my kids are pretty unique. Sometimes I am not sure how to deal with them and I don’t always understand them. But I work my tail off trying to understand them. I ask questions. I pay attention. I apologize if I don’t comprehend right away. And I work hard to embrace everything about their minds, their hearts, their personalities. I can’t help but imagine how Linda would respond after hearing Tina monologue on and on about finding Bob’s handkerchief the day after her wedding. Hypothetically, I bet it would have been a much different response than the one I received. A more empathetic, earnest, and passionate response, even if she had no idea about that which her daughter was going on.
I may not have experience that same level of patience in my own family of origin but I’m learning so much from the Belchers. Never before have I witnessed members of a television family show one another such unconditional love. And sometimes it’s just too much to handle.
On a side note, if you aren’t watching this show, seriously… this must be fixed. Right away.