Into the Mystic

30 Jun

Mystic Seaport has been on my list for many years, mainly due to one really cheesy 80’s film with Julia Roberts, Mystic Pizza. I don’t know why that film touched me the way it did, but its probably something to do with a romanticized yet pretty true caveat about women. From their friends to their mothers alike, women seem to understand each other infinitely better than men do. It must be our hormones. So, it made all the sense in the world to me that I would be going with my mother to Mystic Seaport to see what I could see and to go back to that land of the 1980’s. I hadn’t traveled with my Mom in years, and I mean YEARS, not since I was a teenager going on excursions to Myrtle Beach.  I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t realize how much about my mother I would understand on that trip. And about her connection to me.

Of the many moments we spent together in Mystic, one principle really made itself evident quite quickly. I am an introvert. As chatty and gregarious as I can be, I need alone time, even in the presence of others, to process my thoughts and my world. Especially in the morning. I am NOT a morning person.

Not.    At.      All.

My mom is an extrovert. Her entire world is processed verbally in connection with someone else and its pretty constant. She also needs the safety of plans. Firm plans. Assured plans, plans that are reaffirmed every five minutes so they don’t change. And she doesn’t trust herself quickly, or her ability to troubleshoot if the first decision goes awry. I’m much more relaxed than my mom, and I practice radical honesty which she isn’t used to. She micromanages because she doesn’t trust that even if something goes wrong it’ll all be okay. On our first day in Mystic, within the first two hours, I made her cry simply over trying to read the map to get to the Mystic Seaport Museum less than five miles from our Bed and Breakfast.

Our first dinner was a struggle. We were seated by the Mystic River at a lovely table. It was amazing and I tend to try to quiet myself and just allow. Usually when I eat with others, I’m so wrapped into conversation that a lot of the experience shifts to connection rather than the moment and my interaction with it. But I needed to feel the river, the sunset and attend to the smells, and sounds, and tastes around me. That’s nearly impossible with Mom when she is uncomfortable. The seating wasn’t right, so she moved chairs, twice. The oil and vinegar for the bread needed parmesan in it whether I wanted it or not. The discussion couldn’t lag. Car horns at the drawbridge were alarming, and scary and bothersome. And, I nearly lost my mind. I wanted that experience so badly and I was being prevented from owning it. When she went to the bathroom, the sun was nearly set. I breathed a sigh over the short reprieve and lost myself in a short thought.

The song came easily and I drifted my heart right back into Brian Hall’s voice and tried to send my spirit up and out onto the river.

We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

I had to steal a moment just for myself.

And I suppose I was a bit angry about it and needed to let it go. We walked after dinner and then went across the bridge to an ice cream parlor. Mom has been the queen of “fat free this, sugar free that” for centuries and it took her that long it seemed to decide what she wanted. When she, for the millionth time, forewent the full fat ice cream for the “better for you” kind, when she obviously wanted the real deal, I lost it.

Out loud and in front of the ice cream clerk.

“Mom, I am buying this ice cream for you and if I’m paying for it, you are getting the full fat kind!

I’m not paying for something that has nothing in it, damn it!

Life is short, eat the ice cream you like.

I am not having this mess!…end of story.”

So I told the ice cream clerk to serve her up the full fat kind and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. When the clerk looked at Mom, who was mortified at my outburst, and then to me, she broke. She laughed so hard that all of us got the giggles and began to laugh. That’s all it took.

What I realized more than anything is that my Mom needs me to be the leader, because its in my nature and not hers. She is who she is and I have to love her in her faults and imperfections in the same way she has had to love me for mine. I can’t change her. I have to accept her the way she is. It doesn’t mean I have to drop my personal boundaries, though. My mother will never truly perceive me.  Its not possible. But, she can appreciate me and that will have to be enough.

The next evening we had a more informal dinner at Abbott’s Lobster Pound. I had turned Mom on to mussels and we ordered a big pile of them and crab rolls and corn, popping out a bottle of Riesling of our own at one of the picnic tables on the grounds. We ate and watched the water and talked deeply for the first time in a long time. I was able to tell her how much I loved her, how beautiful she was, and to identify the qualities in her that I admire…. like her ability to be friendly with just about anyone, her creativity in decor, her enviable ability to be just fine living alone, something I am still learning to master. And she teared up and told me how proud she was of me and how many talents I had like writing, teaching, painting, and as she puts it, “being smart”. At that moment, I could really see my mom. I have to love her for her honest attempt at living a good life more than anything else.

So we had great moments and not so great moments for the rest of our trip. I’ll never forget that night at Abbott’s, and how the water wove its way into my relationship with my mom, the past and the present all combined.

And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when that fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear it
I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
Then magnificently we will float into the mystic……

How strange our connections to parents are…half person, half creator, deeply a part of ourselves.

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