My mother loved to read, and she loved movies. She shared both loves with me from an early age. The things that she liked reading and watching most were warm family based comedies, and stories that were gently romantic ending in domestic bliss. Among her favorites were the book Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes and the play/movie made from it "I Remember Mama" and Life with Father by Clarence Day and the movie made from it.
I noticed in reminding myself of the author's names that the movie Life with Father came out in 1947 and the movie "I Remember Mama" came out in 1948, both years that my mother was a school teacher living in boarding houses in towns away from her rural home. Meaning that she had more opportunity to go to movies in those years and more freedom to choose movies that pleased herself, than at any other time in her life.I duly noted my mother's love of these stories, and read the same books, saw the same movies. The original Dialing for Dollars movie was on an independent TV station in the San Francisco Bay Area and daily it brought movies from the 1930's and 1940's into our home. My mother talked about these stories as if they evoked fond memories of childhood.
But I also knew, in other portions of my brain that my mother's actual childhood was nothing like these books and movies. I knew that my grandmother was frail and often ill, and her illnesses often precluded normal holiday celebrations and family activities. I also knew that my grandmother had died shortly after her seventh child was born, just shortly before my mother's eighth birthday. I knew as well that my grandfather felt he could not raise a daughter and passed her off to his sister to raise, and that my mother often felt abandoned and unloved as a result. Most of my mothers stories about her actual childhood included included longing regrets for the connections that she did not have, and the sense of being a perpetual outsider in her own family.
It has only been since my mother's death in 2012 that I noticed the contradiction between the warm nostalgia of the books and movies she shared with me and wounded and anxious memories of her own fractured family life. I realize now that she was trying to create a foundation on which to build her own family out of other people's memories.