Circling My Mother
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Anna Gagliano Gordon, who died in 2002 at the age of 94, was the personification of the culture of the mid-century American Catholic working class. A hard-working single mother – Mary Gordon's father died when she was still a girl – she managed to hold down a job, dress smartly, raise her daughter on her own, and worship the beauty in life with a surprising joie de vivre. Bringing her exceptional talent for detail, character, and scene to bear on the life of her mother, Gordon gives us a deeply felt and powerfully moving book about their relationship. Toward the end of Anna's life, we watch the author care for her mother in old age, beginning to reclaim from memory the vivid woman who helped her sail forth into her own life.
brought me into the Brave New World. That it was not the world of music was probably due to my conspicuous lack of talent. I often wonder if my mother noticed that I was playing the same piece for ten years. Does that mean that she wasn’t listening? Or does it mean that the idea of playing the piano was more important to her than any actual piano playing? Or that she knew what was going on and, understanding me in a way I rarely give her credit for, knew it was the right thing? It is always hard
tongue). I thought you couldn’t do much better than that: a man who could buy you such a house, a yacht-club membership, a mink coat, and still take his children on his knee, and never lose his temper. At the yacht club I saw some Catholic celebrities from afar: Walter Slezak, Jean and Walter Kerr, Marie Killilea, who had written a popular book about a saintly crippled girl. I thought that I could be a writer and have a life like Mary Elizabeth. And I could take my place, as she did, at the
alcohol, then, after I was fifteen, I was given a real drink along with the others. All my mother’s friends thought drinking was an important sign of broad-minded adulthood: perhaps a holdover from their Prohibition youth. On these vacations, Jane was my pal; I was her sidekick. I sat next to her in the front, her navigator. As I became a teenager, she would turn the radio to the rock-and-roll station WABC, for as long as we could pick up the New York signal. Peggy and my mother, sitting in the
father of nine while the mother put the children to bed or did the dishes—they never understood that accommodations were being made for them, that perhaps if they weren’t there the husband/father might be helping his wife. But there were other kinds of priests, formal, elegant, who could only be served on the best china, using the real silver. Visits of these priests were anticipated, treasured, like the visit of a movie star to a small town. These priests tended to favor maiden ladies—often
enjoyed widowhood more than she did wifehood. Back home with her mother now, she was served; certainly, she didn’t have to work so hard. And the shaming aspects of my father had been washed away by his untimely death. She didn’t have to worry about money; it seemed, miraculously, that he died without debt. Soon after he died, my mother got a call from a woman saying she was his sister. My father had told us both he was an only child. She wanted his body so it could be buried with his family in