February 22, 2015

Listen To Your Mother: Audition Piece

My Mom's 'Theories of Everything'

I am (obviously) not a mother.  But I do have one.

This is for her:

Every time I was sick as a child, my mom said that if she could take it away – take it on herself instead of me – she would. I think at times she did.

My mom is a lawyer. When I was 2 years old, she had a child care issue and had to bring me to Court. She set me in the jury box, where I could watch, and a kindly judge asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. “A police man,” like him, I said, pointing to the bailiff. It was not the answer he expected. Ironically, I became a lawyer anyway.

When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me that I had to try things three times, and if I didn’t like it after the third time, I didn’t have to do it. Because that’s what Kasdan’s do. It’s a pretty neat trick, actually. Because I can’t remember ever stopping doing anything after the third time.

I have strong memories of my mom cheering for me at my basketball games in middle school. Back then, I was a truly terrible basketball player. Each game, I could count on several turnovers, an unhappy coach, and extremely loud chants of GO KASDAN from my mom in the stands. It was embarrassing. I also loved it. I also ended up playing varsity basketball in high school.

My mom consistently gets movie titles just ever-so-slightly wrong enough to be funny. Every time. ‘The Theory of Everything’ becomes ‘The Theories of Everything.’ There is just one theory, Mom. That’s the point.  Or “Blade Running,” instead of ‘Blade Runner.’ It’s not a PSA for holding scissors the right way. It’s a dystopian battle for our future.

Anyway. When I was 11 years old, I transferred from a small private school to public school.  It was difficult. I had no friends. We threw a movie night and invited everyone, and to get kids there we rented the scary space thriller, Alien. (My Mom called it ‘’Aliens’). Only problem: I’m terrified of scary movies. It was quite the dilemma. My mom watched the movie the night before, noted all the scary parts, and then –as I watched among my classmates – would call me to help in the kitchen or with an errand right before every scary part. Every one.

In high school, my mom read every book that I read – at the same time I was reading it. A Separate Peace. Catch 22. The Catcher in the Rye. Lord of the Flies. Melville. Shakespeare.  My books would disappear at bedtime and reappear the next day. She must have stayed up so late re-reading those books, after long days at work. So we could talk about them. So when I struggled with my book report, she could lend a helping hand.

When I was 16 years old, I went to Italy with my mom. It was a business trip. A real estate closing in a remote town in the countryside. We would be traveling back with a suitcase full of cash. I was the muscle, the hired help. Or so I was told. We rode mopeds in Rome. And in the countryside, in Brindisi, we met her clients. They spoke no English. She taught me that you could connect with someone, even if you can’t speak to them or understand their language. We ate fresh figs off their trees.

My mom is a serial sharer of interesting things. She cuts out articles from newspapers, circles the interesting parts in pen, jots my name or my brother’s or sister’s and then sends them to us. As my Facebook friends may tell you, I seem to have inherited this “an unshared life is not worth living” attitude. Things you read or write simply taste better when shared.

My mom has an other-worldly ability to get other people to help her in life. She kills them with kindness and then says things like “thanks so much for helping me” before the person has offered help. It’s like a Jedi Mind Trick. But actually it’s not. She connects to people – quickly and easily and on a human level.

My mom still buys me things. Socks. She loves socks. You lose a lot of heat through your feet. Tooth brushes. Also important. And of course, foot powders and creams.

My mom sends me text messages. Every day. And to my brother too. And my sister. Short ones. Long ones. Simple I’m thinking of you ones: “Pleasant dreams and good thoughts. Love.” That right there is a connection – a touch.

After a visit and when my Dad isn’t watching – my mom presses a $20 dollar bill into my hands. Or gives me a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts gift card. I do work, and I have my own ATM card. But that’s not the point. It’s just generosity. And – like every other thing my mother has done for me and continues to do for me - it shows me – all of us actually - how to move in this world.

Now I’m 40 years old. I’m armed with a lifetime supply of socks, toothbrushes and moisturizing creams. There is something profound in that trinity that I’m still working to uncover. I still don’t choose to watch scary movies.  And I email the articles I read and write to my own kids – Jacob is 13 and Lauren is 10 –  throughout the day when I’m at work.

So you see, it all worked its way into me. And I’m the father I am to my kids because of the mother my mom was – and is – to me.

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