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8:14 a.m. - 2010-09-11

I wanted to say a few choice things about the bitter ugly divisiveness that has turned our country into something so hateful and foolish. About how instead of rising above tragedy and using it as a tool for unity and strength as the British did during The Blitz that America has used it as an excuse to indulge in an orgy of bigotry, hate, and petty-minded political showboating which has hurt all of us far more than even a 1,000 planes slamming into a 1,000 buildings ever could.

But today is not a day for scolding, it's a day to remember. And remember I do.

From 2002.

In the interim between husbands #s 2 and 3 my mother had a running buddy. A pal, a goomba, a partner in crime. This woman might have been my mother’s only friend. Ever. They did friend things together. They drank. A lot. That’s what their friendship was about. She had two kids. My mom had 2 kids. Both women were divorced. Both women were alcoholics. You can see they had sooooo much in common.

This friend of my mother’s was the embodiment of “blowsy”. A loud, crude slob. The faux elegance of my mother’s persona and her snobbery deteriorated enough in the caustic solvent of alcohol to embrace this woman and the two of them spent a few years stumbling from bar to bar, picking up men, cadging drinks and the occasional dinner. When there were no men, the two would make pitchers of martinis and sit on the back deck of the woman’s messy house and get loaded. The 4 kids, all of an age, were thrown together for endless summer afternoons, lost weekends, and sometimes even holidays where there was no food or presents, except for solemnly exchanged bottles of gin.

3 girls and a boy. The boy was my age. We hated each other. We recognized that together our mothers were worse than when alone, and we blamed the other’s mother, and by extension-each other, for the mess our lives had become. He was an angry boy. Full of rage and a desperate longing to be out from under his mother’s disgusting non-care. He teased and said cruel things and even hit when he thought he could get away with it. I feared him and resented that he added to the misery with his sullen ways and meanness.

Time passed. The boozy friendship between the mothers waxed and waned and waxed full again. We kids weren’t together as often now that we’d gotten old enough to care for ourselves. No need to pool resources and share the babysitter to have just that much more money to hand the bartender. The boy and I were starting junior high the last time we were together in the “family” group.

Our mothers had cobbled together a safari of sorts. A trip to a theme park. The women were anxious to show the new men in their lives what wonderful mothers they were and what good wives they’d make. The trip ended early. The mothers were ejected from the theme park for being drunk. So incredibly snockered that security had to physically haul them out of the beer garden fountain where the two friends were dancing and having a water fight. Humiliated, we kids slunk back to the van while the staggering, sopping wet mothers were helped along by equally drunk men friends. The van belonged to the date of my mother’s friend. The adults thought being thrown out of an amusement park was hilarious. What a hoot! They had to share this story right away and made a stop at another drinking buddy’s house on the way home. The adults went inside and the two younger girls played Barbies on the lawn. The boy and I were too ashamed to even get out of the van. We sat in silence, flinching when the whoops and drunken laughter got louder.

Age had given us a bit of perspective. Somehow the enmity and resentment had transmuted into a mutual understanding. Our mothers’ behavior wasn’t our fault. The hatred was gone and for the first time we realized we were allies of a sort. Prisoners of war, getting on as best we could within the hideous confines of our mothers’ alcoholism. Wry smiles were exchanged.

We talked. Not of anything serious. Just stuff. The truce flags raised and the peace treaty signed with that first exchange of smiles. We both relaxed and laughed a little in the glorious relief of being with someone who understood. We had no secrets. No honor to defend. No shame to keep under wraps. We each knew the worst about the other and understood that the worst didn’t belong to us anyhow. It was THEY, the mothers, who were to blame.

We were 13. One girl. One boy. Alone with our new found camaraderie. What else was there to do? We kissed. Sweet kisses. Tender kisses. Healing kisses.

Not long after the theme park trip the mothers had a huge fight and never spoke again. I’d see the boy sometimes. We went to different schools, but we’d bump into each other. The County Fair. The bowling alley. The roller rink. We’d make small talk for a couple minutes and then allow our friends to pull us back to our own groups.

We finished growing up. I went away and then came back home. A couple years ago I saw the boy again. A man now, he introduced me to his wife. A girl I’d gone to high school with, she laughed over what a small world it was. We shot the shit for a few. He was working in Manhattan. He was in the Market. His wife went off, chasing after their toddler. We looked at each other. He asked, “You okay?” I nodded. “Yeah, you?” “I’m okay too.” He gave me a fierce hug. We stepped back, looked deeply at each other again.

Yeah, we were okay.

The angry lonely boy who’d survived his mother’s sodden messy life and had come out the other side relatively intact, with a heart unscarred and open to love, whole enough to make a good life for himself, died on September 11th in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

He left behind a wife, 5 children, and me.

It’s not for me to say how others mark the anniversary, but I will not be joining in any of the media frenzied “mourn-a-thons”. The horror and unfairness of Sept 11th is real enough to me without the bells and whistles. Forward me no maudlin poems and photos of crying eagles. I will be attending no rallies and candlelight vigils. Let the rock stars and politicians parade their “grief” and “patriotism” all over the airwaves. I won’t be watching.

The thousands of lives lost that day, in NY, in Pennsylvania, in Washington, have been embraced by the same hugging arms which were around my shoulders that day at the park. The loving arms of my old enemy. My old friend.

Remember the dead of Sept 11th? Jesus, how could I forget?

I love you, Tommy. I always will. ~LA

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