The Year my Mother Became My Auntie Mame
This Mother's Day article was published at Erma Bombeck's Writer's Workshop: http://humorwriters.org/2017/05/16/year-mother-became-auntie-mame/
When my mother turned 40, her hair turned red and that was it; she was off to the races. She became a liberated woman.
The local theater troupe gained an invaluable actress as well as a director. The local nudist colony had a valued new resident. The local Science of Mind Temple got a new congregant.
This sudden revolution in our nuclear unit did not take place without resistance. We were a conservative Jewish family. For my mom to break out of the confines of the home was one thing but to go outside of the circle of the religion? My dad is an honorable man, who really didn’t know how to handle the situation, and that train had left the station. Even the silent treatment he gave her as a last resort was no match for my mom’s resolve. After a week of giving her the cold shoulder, he realized there was nothing to put his foot down on. The foundation of our lives had shifted. It was no longer where it had been at all. I used to joke that we would soon be hosting a Martian convention.
I remember standing outside the laundry room a few years prior, listening to my mom quietly cry. I asked what was wrong and she said, “It’s nothing.” I longed to be able to do something for her in that moment. Her lament was not about her family. It was about innately knowing there was a universe inside her expanding and not knowing how to expand with it. The plight of the ’50s housewife was something with which she was not prepared to be content. What she was yearning for was wholesale liberation.
Once she made up her mind, she never looked back. Even Science of Mind was just the first station on her spiritual trek up a mountain that is, still to this day, rising.
I got swept up in her revolution, joining her in theatrical productions, at the nudist colony, at Science of Mind meetings, at a matinee of the controversial French romantic film Cousin Cousine.
Mom didn’t abandon the house. We still had our meals together, my sister and I made it to school on time, we still had clean clothes. My mom’s clothes, when she wore them, were brighter, still classy, always classy, but with more of a theatrical flair.
Overall, after a few months, there was just a lot more levity, as if there was an extra breeze that hadn’t been there before. Our house became filled with the laughter of wild thespians, authentically larger-than-life characters. Late-night parties ensued, complete with group singing, around our upright piano.
My mom had really just taken me along on her adventures, but I loved the whole thing. It was a grand opening that never stopped. It was as if I had popped into the novel Auntie Mame. The book inspired both the play and movie and was about a boy, his eccentric aunt, and their bohemian, outrageous adventures. “Life,” as Mame would say, was indeed “a banquet,” and not only was my cup overflowing, I was able to pour some out to those around me as well. I had friends at school and had made my classmates laugh, but my new extended theater family were really my people. My mother became a portal for us, to not escape into, but to be transported fully into who we were meant to be.
The fact that I became an actor, a musician and someone who aspires to inspire peace and connection between faiths, communities and colorful lifestyles all bloomed the year my mother came out to her fabulousness. I never heard her cry behind a closed door again.
Sally Lee Levin has become a dedicated fountain of life, a river of positive affirmation and a healing presence for those within the rippling circumference of her heart.
My dad was not only a good sport but also rose to the occasion of my mom’s transformation with award-winning valor. He still rolls his eyes at some of my mom’s beliefs, but acknowledges that she is very powerful. He is grateful for her and their invaluable, intertwining partnership.
My sister aimee, (she spells her name with a lower case ‘a.’) was a teenager and was essentially doing her own thing during mom’s emancipation. Still, I believe it sent a message to her that she could be strong within herself and become what she was drawn to be. My sister is a doctor of audiology with a thriving practice and has two wonderful children of her own.
So, here’s to unconventional, strong moms and how they model life for us inside and outside the circle of our expectation and understanding.
Happy Mother’s Day!
— Ira Scott Levin