This was my grandmother's lamp. When she died, my aunt asked me if there were any of her possessions I particularly wanted and this was it. I always loved this lamp and it reminded me of the fond memories I have of going to Grandma's house when I was a child. Grandma's house was the place of unconditional love. It was the only place of unconditional love that I was aware of at the time. It represented all of my instinctual needs being met. My desire for love and affection, security and survival, power and control. The lamp was upstairs, first in my aunt's bedroom and then in the hallway. Upstairs where the bedrooms were, which were pretty and soft. Unlike our bedrooms at home, which were small, undecorated, cold and crowded. The tv room was upstairs too where I could snuggle with my Grandma and watch her stories or have a lunch of grilled cheese and ginger ale while she took a break from ironing and watch Hollywood Squares. Grandma's house was also the place where I did not have to compete for attention. 2 weeks of every summer I got to go and be the only child, away from my two brothers. Not that I was doted upon but I was included. It was simple things, we did laundry on Mondays through an old wringer washer and hung on the line, ironing on Tuesdays while my Grandmother talked on the phone to her sisters, dusted on Wednesdays, listening to the soundtrack from Sound of Music (the Broadway production with Mary Martin, mind you), vacumed on Thursdays (though we carpet swept every day), grocery shopped on Fridays (at the Giant Eagle and Kroger because one had good bread and one had the sales). We picked lettuce from the garden and made dinner and then went for frozen custard. Sometimes I got to help in the hospital gift shop where she volunteered. Sometimes I got to swim at the community pool. It was just me and Grandma until Grandpa came home from work with his silly jokes. We went to Serbian Church on Sundays and it smelled good and was safe. Then my parents would come to get me and we'd have a big Sunday dinner that always started with homemade chicken noodle soup with the best noodles you have ever tasted. I hated to leave, to the point of attempting to run away from home at the age of about 6 or 7, packing my mother's white round American Touristor hard suitcase with a package of american cheese, by sitting in our apartment stairwell for an hour or so because my parents wouldn't let me stay longer.
If you look closely the top of the lamp no longer matches the bottom. Its design is pretty close for 60-70 years later but the glass is different, frosted not milky. The lamp reminds me of something different now. It was shipped to me from Pennsylvania and remained intact. It remained intact for about 1 1/2 years in our small condo. It survived our move across the river to our new home. But one day, during a simple little pillow fight, well you can guess it. My children broke the lamp. It was not done intentionally. They weren't even really fighting. They were fooling around in the living room as children do, they were laughing and joyous, they were middle school age, and a pillow went soaring across room, somebody ducked and the lamp crashed to the floor and it was unfixable. What I did to those children after that is unforgivable. I didn't beat them or anything. Did not cause physical pain but I screamed at them like I have never screamed before. I cried and swore. I was on my knees. I was inconsolable. I banished them to their rooms. I would not talk to them. The look on my son's face is one I will never forget. My daughter was upset, perhaps not as devastated by my reaction as my son because she was just that much older that disdain for me had entered her psyche. I'm not sure if I had glass in hand at that moment in time, I probably did, I usually did, but I was certainly in the throws of active alcoholism. I don't remember how much time passed, a few hours or a few days, I did apologize for my overreaction and explained why the lamp was important to me, or at least I think I did. I had grounded them, I don't remember for how long. I made them write me letters of apology. My son's was poignant. My daughter's less so. But they certainly learned their lesson. Though what that lesson was I'm not sure. I think the lesson they probably learned the most was that Mom loved the lamp more than she loved them. I can't forgive myself for that. I should not say can't though. I haven't. I hope to.
My selfish desire to have that pretty lamp and its memories overrode my love for them. I was dishonest when I let them believe that their normal childhood behavior was bad. I was self seeking when I wanted to feel better by acting out and making them feel bad. By making them jump through hoops to earn my love back. My fear, the real truth, was that I was not loved, by my parents or my children. That the lamp and everything it represented to me was gone. I owe my children an amends for this. This had nothing to do with the lamp or them. It was simply about an emptiness which was being filled by the lamp...when it could have been filled by a Higher Power. I am grateful it is now.
The Delicate Equilibrium
1 week ago