Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories  January 2015 | issue 469

Welcome To The Club

by Marion Winik

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Marion Winik lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where she is known for her guacamole, baguettes, and kasha varnishkes. Her books include Highs in the Low Fifties and First Comes Love. She writes a column at baltimorefishbowl.com.

marionwinik.com

Dear Mom,

As it has been six and a half years since you died, we have a lot to catch up on: marriages, births, deaths, graduations; all kinds of news, good and bad. Your little namesake started high school in September, and just a couple of weeks ago your pal Leon Katz died. I so wanted to call you to discuss it and reminisce about the old days. Maybe you could have told me things you couldn’t when I was a child. I would love to hear some fifty-year-old gossip.

The past seems to be getting more and more fragile, as does your sister, who called to tell me about Leon. She was stunned by how quickly we could find his obituary from the Asbury Park Press on the Internet. It was sweet to read, reminding me of his carpet store, his pedal-boat ride at the boardwalk, his kids, his dogs, and his menschy face — that curly hair, those rectangular glasses.

I tried to call Leon’s wife, Diane, but I got her machine. Another voice of my childhood, so long unheard. All your friends are locked up in my head somewhere, as if at a cocktail party in a hotel room on a floor where the elevator doesn’t stop anymore: Shirley Vegosen, Dutch Unterberg, Rainee Weinstein, Morty Silver. Meanwhile the future shows up in the lobby hot and solid every minute; everyone in it is named Tyler or Justin or Brittany.

Here’s a tidbit we could really gnash our teeth over: One of my kids ran into an acquaintance of yours in the city a while back, and she proposed that the reason Nancy and I are so messed up is that you were too busy playing golf to raise us properly. To my son she says this? Is she nuts? When I called Nancy to report the outrage, her reaction was: “How did she know?”

Whenever a friend of mine loses his or her mother (as one just has), I think, Welcome to the club, you poor thing. Welcome to the sad, bad club you can never get out of. People aren’t exaggerating when they say they miss their mothers every day of their lives — even if, like me, they moved away from home at seventeen. Your mother is there even when she is not there, and this continues after her death, but without the phone calls, the worry, the attentive ear for news that interests no one else. I imagine my own kids having to join this terrible club one day, and I hate it.

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