My Mother Never Wanted Kids, We Bonded Over Psychics
We never made any pact about contact from the afterlife, but after she died I suspected she was trying
Cassadaga is a small town in northern Florida that bills itself the psychic capital of the world. Not long after my mom sloughed her mortal coil, I found myself driving nearby. We hadn’t made any pacts about reaching out from the afterlife, but since her death I’d begun to suspect Mom was trying.
Throughout my 1970s childhood, my mother looked nothing like the other moms of our Rust Belt suburbs. She wore her thick black hair closely cropped, paired with figure-flattering leopard prints and a bold red lip. Raised in Chicago, she couldn’t drive. Cabbies flirted with her. “That your sister?” they’d ask. Neither of us would answer.
“We’re living in Hell,” she said of one neighborhood. “Without the amenity of sidewalks.”
Her dreams of a bigger life often found outlet in psychics. At our back-to-back appointments, I’d wait on Miss Lorena’s wagon-wheel patterned couch till it was time to switch places. Afterward, we’d dissect our sessions.
“What did she tell you?” Mom would ask.
I lived for this precious attention from my otherwise distracted mother.
“She saw two kids in my future, but they wouldn’t be mine.”
“Lucky,” Mom said. “I wish I never had kids.”
In some sense, my mom was a product of her time. In 1972, Massachusetts — where I was born — became the last state to make oral contraceptives legal for all women (read: unmarried). In a 1975 survey, Ann Landers asked parents if, given a choice, would they have children again? Seventy percent said no. But I understood her stance on the matter of motherhood differently.
The women we watched on TV, like Mary Tyler Moore and Marlo Thomas, led lives that looked far more suited to my mother than stay-at-home mom. She encouraged these notions.
From my first kitchen creation — a concoction of flour and salt and water I baked in a muffin tin — Mom steered me in another direction. After one look at my pan, she hissed at my father. “Bob, she’s making cake.” The next toy I got was a…