Catherine L. Burns
A funny and moving memoir about a daughter’s turbulent relationship with her mother – and how a child of one’s own can turn everything upside down.‘Life is a series of losses. I’ve decided to be very zen about it. I have lost two husbands, my parents, my brother, countless friends; it is just one loss after another. You might as well get used it.’ So muses the author’s mother in this poignant and humorous memoir about mothers and daughters, and the miraculous things that happen when daughters become mothers.Loss is a way of life for both Catherine L. Burns and her mother, but where it made the daughter ravenous for contact, it made the mother lose her appetite for people. While the two always had a fierce attachment, by turns intimate and tumultuous, decades of fractious and contentious and frustrating interactions found a reprieve after the birth of Catherine’s daughter, Olive. Witty and direct, weaving back and forth in time, the book charts the transformation of this volatile and unique mother-daughter relationship from longing to connection.A book about love, mortality, and the nature of family bonds, ‘It Hit Me Like A Ton of Bricks’ is a must-read for anyone trying to navigate their way through the distance between their fantasies of love and the realities of family relationships.
It Hit Me Like A Ton of Bricks
A Memoir of a Mother and Daughter
Catherine Bloyd Burns
My mother said, “When am I going to read it?”
“When I’m done,” I said.
“Are you being sensitive to my sensitivities? I hope.”
“I told you, it is a very three-dimensional, realistic portrait. Of both of us. I probably come off worse than you do.”
“Well I think you should write a disclaimer,” she said, “which clearly states there are three truths: mine, yours, and the truth.”
This book is dedicated to my mother. And to my daughter, who I hope will be sensitive to my sensitivities when the time comes.
Also for RM.
Table of Contents
Cover Page (#u51e8fa99-c2d1-5dcb-8c24-f09bf41fe278)
Title Page (#u8ffd0e7f-ec57-5cf0-ae58-f4cdf5923b60)
Part One (#ud0dc9e1c-5e31-528d-a76c-0dd368af4dc7)
SOMETHING NICE ABOUT MY MOTHER (#ucff3e179-94a2-5b57-91a0-d324209eab9e)
565 PARK AVENUE (#u5f5052a6-a368-5616-8098-a6cde6de4f88)
THE WHITE CLAPBOARD HOUSE (#uc32e6a9f-e256-58fa-a6fa-a6780e0018d1)
GREENWICH VILLAGE (#u091af60d-7d8d-5c5c-90ad-32a5228eb830)
THE FINGER (#ue04dd2c7-165f-5f11-ac32-5bcb1f1b062d)
MY ROARING TWENTIES (#u8abbef68-583a-5efc-a2a4-c5783ebcfafc)
LOS ANGELES (#litres_trial_promo)
Part Two (#litres_trial_promo)
IT’S A MAN’S WORLD (#litres_trial_promo)
AFFECTION DEFICIT DISORDER (#litres_trial_promo)
ME, MYSELF, AND I AM MY MOTHER (#litres_trial_promo)
MIND THE GAP (#litres_trial_promo)
GRACE AND INTEGRITY (#litres_trial_promo)
About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)
Part One (#ulink_b846e377-65a6-5259-90e7-c9aeb8638625)
SOMETHING NICE ABOUT MY MOTHER (#ulink_d8d89c28-b95d-5b60-a3a4-94e384e68a90)
My answering machine is ablaze. I have sixteen messages, all from her. She needs to see me right away. What a pain in the ass. She lives in the Village. I live in Harlem. “Please hurry,” she begs.
I walk in her front door an hour and a half later. She is in tears. I have been her daughter for nineteen years and this is the first time I have ever seen her cry. I don’t like it. I thought I would like it. I concentrate on hanging up my vintage faux fur coat. “I thought you were dead,” she tells my back.
“Well I’m not,” I say. She leads me to the living room, to the center of the U made by her three white Knoll sofas. There are tissues everywhere. She is shaking, clinging to me.
Oh my God, I think, this is it. This is the moment I have steered my whole little life toward.
“I’m so glad to see you,” she says, blowing her nose. “I thought you were dead. I was terrified you were dead.”
“I’m not,” I repeat.
“And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.”
I sit down next to her. She is going to reach out to me. She is going to apologize. I look into her bloodshot blue eyes.
“It suddenly hit me today,” she says. “I don’t know why, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. This has nothing to do with me. If you kill yourself, it is simply not my fault. I am off the hook. None of this is my fault. I am not responsible.” She looks almost euphoric as she takes my hand. “And I couldn’t wait to tell you.”
565 PARK AVENUE (#ulink_3e1970c0-fb5d-5473-a538-f87ecc16421c)
I am the chef, the star, the main ingredient. My mother is just the assistant. She explains what I do to the camera. “Cathy will pour the egg into the bowl,” or “Cathy will now mix.” Julia Child is also a chef and personality on TV. Julia Child throws all her garbage on the floor, which my mother cannot believe. I want to throw all our garbage on the floor too, but we are allowed to throw our garbage only in the sink, not on the floor like Julia Child. I also like how on Julia Child’s show the finished recipe is always waiting, fully baked, bubbling, and brown, in the oven. It makes her show very professional. I wish our show were that professional. But, as my mother points out, our show is just a game.
My mother says, “Oh I’ll just put my bagel right here while I go answer the phone.” She is not saying it to me, because I am not here. I am invisible. I am hiding behind this chair. I gaze at the buttery golden brown perfectly toasted bagel. I can smell the yeast from across the kitchen. When the coast is clear I take it—plate, napkin, and all—and creep out of the room. This is the life I am forced to live because the food my mother makes for herself tastes significantly better than the food she makes for me.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Cathy, it’s the same bagel,” she said when I told her.
“No. Yours is better. It has better butter. You try. Taste.”
“There is no difference.”