When I finished my bachelor’s degree, I went home right away for a visit. Having raced through the last three years of classes in two years, I graduated in August, when there was no commencement (not that my parents would have come to that, just as they didn’t come to the June commencement for my master’s degree two years later).
Though my parents had consistently shown little concern for my education and weren’t interested that I graduated summa sum laude in the honors college, still I imagined they’d be proud of me now and would for once say so. I had been a depressed and self-destructive mess in high school. Now, 833 miles from home, I had found myself. I had succeeded. I had paid my own way. I took the train home to St Louis, was picked up by a friend, and was greeted with a festively decorated dining room.
My mother was singing to herself as she merrily planned a party – not for me, though. It was a birthday party for Norb, my father’s friend who had drunk himself out of his second marriage, his job and his home. Norb, who was living with my parents and hiding his spare vodka in the downstairs bathroom under the sink, was able to juggle the demands of full-time drinking with just enough attentiveness to my mother to charm her. My mother would sit at the piano and together they would sing 1940s songs. My mother would lie back on the couch as Norb read passages from her favorite childhood books to her. She soaked it all up as avidly as he guzzled vodka.
I’m absolutely sure it never occurred to my mother that I might feel hurt that she was covering the dining room walls with pictures of Norb and his former extra-vodka interests instead of planning a special family dinner to acknowledge my graduation, a milestone that neither parent ever mentioned. I was off-handedly invited to the party for Norb, though. “Oh! Sarah! You can come if you want to.” It turns out that I did not.
Copyright 2014 Sarah Meyer Noel. All rights reserved.