Now Smile At The Microphone

The Next Family

By: Ann Brown

Ann Brown

Talking Histories is all the rage, did you hear? It’s the new Yogilates.

So my sister and I set out to make a DVD of Mom. Just in case, you know, she dies.

Of course, the fact is that Mom is going to outlive all of us because that’s the pact she made with the Devil. I mean, how else do you explain a woman in her mid-eighties who -on her way home from a full day’s work- stops at Trader Joe’s, stands in line for student rush tickets to the Mark Taper Theater, simultaneously attends two meetings to save the Yiddish language from extinction, and still has time to get the eggplant in the oven for dinner? There has got to be some shady deal going on; nobody lives life to the fullest that much.

And then, she calls me and says, “hi honey, what did you do today?” The truthful answer to which is, I almost found the apple core that’s been under my bed for a month. And I feel pretty psyched about it, too.

So, really, making a DVD of my mother is moot because, clearly, she is going to be around to tell her life story in person to my great-children while I will have died years earlier, stuck under my bed, having followed the scent of rotting fruit in pursuit of that fucking elusive apple core.

But, a trend is a trend, and NPR is really pushing this storytelling thing, so Karen and I put Mom in front of the camera and – after forty minutes, five phone calls to our children for tech support, two batteries and a nap – we began to document.

As soon as Mom began talking, my mind wandered. I have the attention span of a baby gnat if a sentence does not begin with, “Ann Brown, this is going to elevate your position in life…” or “Here. I have fresh bagels.”
I remembered when I interviewed my grandma for some sociology class I took in college. My niece was about 3 years old then and she sat with me while Grandma talked into the cassette player. Well, first, Grandma talked into the phone answering machine and then directly to the kitchen table but that just isn’t as funny now as it was then in light of the fact that my kids recently witnessed me trying to remotely open the door of my car with an i-pod. But what I remember most about that interview was that when Grandma, talking about the Cossacks and the pogroms in Russia, said, “it vas a terrible, terrible period in history…a terrible period” and my niece exclaimed, “Oh! My mom gots her period right now!”

It makes me wonder if my sons know enough about my life. I mean, they’ve heard most of my stories, and what are our lives if not the sum total of our stories? But is knowing that I walked next to Stephen Stills at the 1968 San Francisco peace march or that I paid a friend to take my one science requirement in college or that I once had to sing Jewish folk songs in a maximum security prison in Tracy, California, really enough to give my kids the essence of who their mother was? Shouldn’t I sit down with them in honest, intimate dialog and share my life experiences with them, perhaps forging the way to a deeper understanding of who they are and surely strengthening our family bonds for generations to come? Isn’t that a parent’s responsibility? Isn’t that the greatest gift a parent can give a child? Isn’t that what the holidays are really about?

Or, I could just forward them my year of Facebook statuses. With a $25.00 i-tunes gift card. You know, to open the car door.

Ann Brown

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