At the suggestion of my blogging bestie, Moksha of The Happy Panda, I’m going to attempt to begin a series of mother-related posts. My mother was a fascinating character, and I agree that her life story is one worth sharing. I will try to keep this relatively chronological. However, her life was quite chaotic. And my perception of her and her life was and is equally quite splotchy. Also, this is a person’s life. It’s their work of art, and this can never be comprehensively scoped. Especially because my mother is no longer here to fill in the blanks. But, I will do my best.
You might enjoy some of my other mother-related posts that I have written before this series began:
And please visit THE STORY OF MY MOTHER page in order to view all posts from this series.
MY MOTHER WAS FROM NORTHERN NEW JERSEY
I couldn’t tell you the name of the town my mother grew up in, because I’m not really sure. Daughters should know this information about their mothers, but I don’t. And I can’t tell you why. There was just always something more pressing to ask my mother about. And my time with her was so inconsistent and of such low quality. So, why would I have wasted that time on a detail like this? However, it makes me sad that I never really knew or remembered.
Her father’s name was Louis and he was apparently a very strict, very German, and very serious man. My mother had one sister named Lois but they never seemed to be close. They sort of tried, maybe. But no. I believe Louis, my grandfather, who I don’t remember at all, favored my mother, Christine. When I was young, he lived in Florida, and we visited him maybe once. No recollection, really. My mother’s mother’s name was Edith. And all I know of her is that she was Swedish and passed away from Alzheimer’s Disease. My mother recalls her mother sitting quietly, singing Swedish lullabies towards the end of her life. But other than that, I have not heard good things about my mother’s mother. My father described her as strange and perhaps not very nice. Their family had a successful piano business, but I don’t know much about that either.
I believe my mother grew up in a middle class neighborhood and was not poor or rich. She was born in 1942.
Christine Elisabeth Weber, July 1959. My first name is Elisabeth, even though I go by Libby. My mother loved the name Libby, and always called me that, even though I was named Elisabeth after her. She never once called me Elisabeth.
MY TEENAGE MOTHER
According to my mother, she was apparently best friends with the most popular girl in school. Which by default, I assume would have made my mother quite popular as well. But she always denied that assumption quite aggressively. And it always sounded like she felt quite invisible in school.
She told me once that she used to stuff her bra with socks. She was quite flat-chested, and my twin sister and I inherited this physical attribute from her. But I don’t mind, and I never stuffed my bra with socks. She’s also left-handed, as are my twin sister, my older half sister, and myself. My mother was 5’10” tall and always very thin.
She had her first beer on the roof of her house when she was 13 years old. I’m not sure if she was rebelling or where she got the beer from. But I always found this to be extremely scary. Although, not surprising at all, considering all of my experiences with my mother.
Since her family lived in northern New Jersey, they were quite close to New York City. And I do recall her telling me how she used to sneak into the city. On a weeknight? On the weekend? To do what? I don’t know. But I do think she said her father would get so mad at her. If I had to guess, she was going into the city to have fun, meet exciting people, and to drink a lot.
I’m not sure how old my mother is here, but I think it’s her class picture. Perhaps she is around 15 years old.
MY MOTHER’S TENDENCY TO LIVE ON THE EDGE
One of the most dramatic memories that my mother ever shared with my sisters and I was a story about her near-death experience. She has actually had so many near-death experiences in her lifetime that at some point I stopped counting. So, let’s just say that this was one of her earliest near-death experiences. I used to be obsessed with this story and every so often, when she was having a good day and was in a good mood, I would ask her to tell it to me, and she would obligingly, in her quiet and calm and charming way, emotively share her tale. The story goes like this:
She and her girlfriend decided one stormy afternoon to hop into a row boat and paddle out into the ocean (they were crazy). At some point, the boat tipped over and both of them fell out of the boat and into the thrashing water. The boat had flipped over completely, and both of their heads became pinned under the water with the rim of the boat running directly across their necks, keeping their heads completely submerged under water as their bodies flailed and struggled. As the waves crashed over them, they tried to push the weight of the boat off of them, but the force was just too strong, and she quickly began to come to terms with the fact that maybe this might be the end. She was holding her breath and praying when all of a sudden, two young men, maybe lifeguards, or possibly angels, or maybe just guys, saw the girls floundering in the water and came over and pulled the boat off of them. I believe she was something like sixteen years old at the time. Maybe early twenties.“
MY MOTHER’S LIFE WAS A MIRACLE
They say cats have nine lives. And in my mother’s case, I would say she had about 900. It’s a terrifying thing to be mothered by a woman who walks the line so closely to death, and so regularly. But, that was my mother. I don’t even think she meant to. She just did.
There’s much more to come in this series, and this is literally just scratching the surface. I hope to keep you entertained, although something tells me that won’t be a problem!
Thank you for taking the time to read about my mother. Much of my art is based on her, and it’s taken me many years of art-making to heal the wounds forged in my childhood. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, honestly. I love my mother. She was, is, and forever will be, my most precious muse.
Death Collage 10, mixed media on paper, 11″ x 15″ 2018 © Libby Saylor
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Featured photo by © Libby Saylor, Mom 1, mixed media on paper, 2002