Northern California Wedding Shower - Jenny Jedeikin From the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday magazine, 2005

Wrapped in thick glimmering red paper and tied with a white linen ribbon, the little box reeks of home grown marijuana, as I watch my Mother nod discreetly to its donor and quickly tuck it under her chair. “Thank you, Nan,” she says, her face drawing tight, subtly articulating her decision; This is one wedding shower gift that will miss receiving the customary “oohs and aahs” by the assembled ladies this evening.

A hundred-dollar gift bag of Mendocino-County-cultivated Pot is not a traditional wedding shower gift, but my seventy-four year old Mother is not a traditional bride. Two years ago she became a licensed Marriage and Family therapist in the state of California, and in order to quell her anxiety studying for the oral exams, which have a 45% passing rate, she smoked pot every night. Except when her winter cough was acting up and smoking was deemed impossible; on those night she ingested popcorn doused with pot butter, expertly engineered by her fiancé, Mann. A fifty year old computer engineer, and twenty four years younger than my Mother, Mann is a person with no social graces when it comes to civil conversation, but he will smugly share instructions for condensing marijuana into butter, if necessary.

He is not here tonight.

Harriet the host is telling us to gather in a circle in the sunken living room. She has arranged a special tribute for my Mother. My mother is instructed to introduce everyone in the room, chronologically by how long she’s known them. I am first because I am her daughter and I am thirty nine. I offer to help her with the rest, because she doesn’t always remember things easily. After me comes Geraldine, a 59-year-old physically challenged woman who, prior to heading the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, was a New York City street gang member. My Mother met Geraldine through Geraldine’s sister, who used to be in my parents couples group therapy group in 1970 before my parents and all the other couples in the group divorced.

The woman on my right is next, my Mother’s friend Joan, who hitchhiked through Peru in 1973 with her two and four year old children. Joan is perhaps most famous in my family for having had a brief affair with my Mother’s boyfriend, the lascivious details of which I heard broadcasted over a jealous screaming fight, while lying on a futon reading x-rated R. Crumb comic books at the age of twelve. But those days are over, and now Joan is one of my Mother’s closest friends. On my left is Terry, a 62-year-old therapist who was the mother of my first boyfriend in high school. We introduced our Mother’s, and the two women had a brief entanglement when I was away at college. It was Terry’s first with a woman, but not my Mother’s. A couple years later, Terry and her two sons came out of the closet all at

once. But those events are not mentioned tonight, although Terry wistfully notes their absence to me in an aside during another woman’s introduction.

The storytelling continues with my Mother distinguishing each of the eighteen characters from the next by some post-sixties paradigm through which they’ve climbed through or fallen into, before arriving at their present, postmodern, post-Freudian point of view. And all the while, I’m crouching on the window sill of my paradigm watching the view, and remembering my Mother when she had bleached hair and wore tennis shorts, before she was saved by ram dass, EST and tie dye philanthropy, before she left my Jewish attorney Father for a 24-year-old college drop out with red hair down to his waist.

Now Harriet instructs the group that it’s time to honor my Mother by going around the room and recalling something “sacred or saucy” from our personal experience with “Adelle.” I close my eyes as the accolades begin. Her supervisor, a no-nonsense middle-aged woman named Cynthia talks about my Mother’s “astounding abilities” to connect with the hard to reach, hard luck clients; the fifteen year old foster family failures, the heroinaddicted single mothers, angry little boys who bite off bits of other children’s ears.

Next a big woman with a floral print points to my Mother’s age as inspiration

for her own second half of life and recalls listening to her chat about Eminem with the nose-and-tongue pierced crowd. I am listening quietly as other women chime in, echoing a similar theme: If you’re HIV-infected, homeless, disenfranchised, and particularly estranged, looney or otherwise deranged, my Mother will find a way to reach you. I wonder, maybe if I am deep enough or raw enough for this crowd, I will achieve instant Sainthood just by being the humble product of this wonder woman. “We just can’t train therapists to be like your Mother,” says another therapist, shaking her head in allegiance to a cause more powerful than she can describe.

Others recall her unorthodox choices, like the time she dressed for a Halloween party as a hermaphrodite flasher, complete with store-bought silicone male apparatus poking through her raincoat.

Now it is my turn. I look out at the group and wonder how many people here know my story. I want to articulate everything, but I’ve changed my life recently and the emotions come on strong. I swallow and close my eyes. Waves of red push out my ears. I begin talking about many things. I mumble about having a Mother who has always been interested in living her life and not someone else’s. I say, by her example, she encouraged me to do the same. What other Mother, I offer, sends her nine-year-old daughter to a psychic to explore her “ghost” sightings? And while I am talking I am aware that my voice is cracking like it did when I spoke at my oldest sisters funeral.

My Mother’s first child shot herself in the open mouth ten years ago tomorrow, I am thinking, but I am talking about something else. I say that I am grateful to have been raised by someone who is incapable of making small talk, or leaving people with small impressions, someone who is disinterested in living a life defined by some preconceived notion of what living life means.

And when I am finished talking I know that what I’ve said makes my Mother happy, and somehow, to the others in the group who are not my intimate friends, it makes me sound very young and naive, even though I am 39. But I don’t mind. I know that I’m neither. And then we are all in the kitchen again eating dessert and my Mother makes another speech. She looks out among a small sea of coworkers and old friends who respect her and she feels comfortable. She is in her element and she talks with a different voice, the voice of a professional. She teeters on the brink of her own words, and she laughs the laugh of a woman greeted by admiring eyes. She talks about Mann. She is marrying Mann because she likes how he takes care of his cat. It doesn’t matter what she says. To these women, she is a dignitary. They don’t see the small things, the dark night that creeps into her little home too early in the afternoon, like I do; the kitchen counters that need to be regrouted, the husband that lives outside the lines of any DSM manual. Tonight, in this house, she is a leader among them.

The evening shower is winding down over pie and I am speaking to one of my Mother’s oldest friends, Joan. It has been inspiring to hear my Mother so praised and to be privy to this night of tribute and we are deep in smiles as we move to speak on other topics. I have recently left my husband, with whom I share two preschool-aged daughters, to live with a woman, and my lover with two older children has done the same. Knowing of my recent life changes, she asks, How is everything? “Good,” I say. “But my brother and sister are barely speaking to me.” Among many horrific accusations which have strengthened my soul, they accuse me of being “just like my Mother.” That is perhaps, my worst crime. And tonight, among the silent exposure, it makes me glad.

Jenny Jedeikin has written about pop culture for Rolling Stone, Playgirl and In Style. Her stand-up comedy has appeared on Comedy Central and she has worked as a producer for MTV. She lives in the Bay Area.

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