beyond the pale motel; not a book review

8b5f1569c9220987b7d6c753c73ea11cTo be honest, I have not reached a point where I have forgotten that my mother has died.  I will hear some people say that they wanted to share something with their deceased parent – maybe a bit of good news, maybe something not so great – and they were dialing the phone before they realized “oh yeah, mom’s dead, I can’t call her”.

I’ve come to realize that I have been preparing (mentally, anyhow) to be motherless for years. Since high school, at least. My mother always seemed on a path to self destruction, in danger of oblivion at any given moment, and so long ago I’d stopped even being sad about it.  It was an inevitable thing, and probably sooner rather than later. So I’m really not continually surprised at her absence, and when I do find myself wishing to talk with her about something it’s more akin to an itch that I’d like to scratch rather than a wound I’d forgotten was there.

I just finished reading Beyond The Pale Motel, by Francesa Lia Block.  I recall discovering this author on a Barnes and Noble shelf when I was in my early twenties and floundering quite a bit.  I was struggling with dull classes and a dead end job and a dead beat boyfriend and I just didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing with myself.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to want for myself.  My greatest love at that time, I think, was poetry – magic words stitched together to wrap me in a blanket of beauty that I desperately needed as a loser band girlfriend in a shitty go-nowhere beach town. She wrote stories the likes of which I’d never read before and barely dared to dream about; she felt like a fairy god mother with her tales of love and magic and beauty and wishes and soul-mates in the midst of harsh, contemporary landscapes and young adult struggles. Her fairy tales of a girls living in a “jasmine-scented, jacaranda-purple, neon sparked” Shangri-La seemed to be both memoires of lost souls finding themselves and how-to manuals for the small town mouseykins yearning to make those discoveries as well.

I purchased, with my small paycheck at that time, every title on that shelf. And I as I am now somewhat taken aback to remember, I shared them all with my mother.  I drove to her house within the next day to dump them all on her bed and tell her that whatever she was reading, she should put it aside and inhale the books I was giving her as quickly as possible.  I knew, at that time, that the stories and characters and magical writing were elements that my mother would have loved; I know now that I was sharing these stories of beauty and tragedy and redemption with one of the most lost souls I was ever to love.

As I read Beyond The Pale Motel this weekend, I sadly realized I no longer have the passion or the patience for Ms. Block’s writing. The book was dark, certainly darker than those strange and sparkling coming of age tales I remembered from almost twenty years ago, and there was no happy ending to be found. Never the less, I finished it in one sitting. I was both angry and sad about the ending of the book and the lack of magic contained therein; sad and wistful, I think because I had changed over time.  Maybe, I don’t really need those sorts of stories any more.  I have made so many of my own magics and created so many stories for myself since I first discovered her writing; perhaps words I once found so bewitching and transcendent no longer resonated with me.

Upon closing the book once finished, my first instinct was to call my mother.  I have still not forgotten that I cannot do this.  What is unexpected though, is the hot rush of tears that filled my eyes  and the painful twist of my heart when think of how I can’t ever share these insights and discoveries with her anymore, ever again. As someone who thought they were prepared for this eventuality, who had numbed herself to this outcome… this sudden heartbreak, this piercing grief –that’s the part I never saw coming.

2 Comments on beyond the pale motel; not a book review

  1. lau
    September 22, 2014 at 5:42 pm (6 years ago)

    oh, i know this feeling. driving to my aunt + uncle’s house this past weekend i had the strangest thought pop into my head, i thought “i used to come here with my father, but now he’s dead”. it was so matter of fact, odd, and gut wrenching. the only thing permanent is death.

    so many hugs + so much love to you, my dear.

    Reply
  2. Pamela
    September 22, 2014 at 6:00 pm (6 years ago)

    I always love how you manage to put into words the thoughts that so many of us must have but are unable to clearly articulate. While it has been many years since my Mother died, I too am struck every now and then how a thought, or a memory can in an instant flood you with emotion and bring back the pain like it was new. While it may be a softer version and last just a moment, it reminds us that you never truly get over losing a parent, or anyone else you loved. I think we just quietly learn to live with the memories.

    Reply

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