Rob received good financial news yesterday.

He and I went for a walk with Tobi the puppy and he talked about how great it felt to be finally caught up on his bills, especially during this uncertain time.

When we got back to the house he decided to go to the liquor store and we all gave suggestions for celebratory drinks we'd like to have.

My mother sat in the living room listening to all of this excited chatter from my son, my daughter, myself and Rob.

Two kids in their twenties and Rob and me, that's a party in the making!

My mother was angry and disgusted and she tried so hard to shame everyone into thinking that the alcohol was evil and wrong.

Her efforts didn't work.

Rob bounded out the door in high spirits to go buy the spirits.

My mother's the one who insists we make the enormous pot of Swedish Glogg every Christmas.

Her Swedish father's recipe for Glogg makes my Swedish friends laugh out loud.

It have Aquavit, and Brandy, and Vermouth, plus the wine and the cardamom pods.

It's the Wanderer's Punch of Gloggs.

So she doesn't really have a leg to stand on in the alcohol-is-evil discussion.

Nina made us a beautiful vegetable curry dish with cauliflower and fresh green beans, chick peas and fresh ginger.

Rob returned, bottles were opened, and we had a great dinner.

Then one of Rob's clients and a favorite friend of mine named Joe came over to the house to borrow an electric bass from Rob.

Then my son made a bonfire in our new fire pit.

Then the great young couple who live next door saw that Joe was visiting and they came in to our fenced yard with drinks in hand and sat down on one of the outdoor wicker love seats I have out there.

Everyone stayed far apart, all of us think we've had it and recovered but can't prove it.

My mother was so disgusted with the whole thing, and she stayed inside in the living room, knitting.

Rob served small bowls of his new homemade salsa and small bowls of chips for all around the fire.

Tobi the puppy bounded around spreading joy.

At one point Joe decided to brave the house to use the only bathroom which is on the second floor.

He somehow hadn't heard that my mother was visiting and was startled to find a woman knitting in the living room.

He came back to the fire saying that my mother wasn't nice to him, and he was smiling as he said, "I like her! She says what's on her mind."

He told me that she said to him, "Oh you must be Joe. Well, they all love you."

He said she somehow managed to say everything with suspicion.

Earlier in the evening when Rob said that Joe was coming I thought to myself that I wanted to be made at Rob for bringing someone here when my mother is visiting.

I wanted to tell Rob that it's too much.

I wanted to say that I can't handle people being around when we've already got five people and one bathroom, and one person suffering with delusions.

At one point I went down to the basement to fold all the cloth napkins and dish towels I had laundered that day.

I stood in the cramped unfinished basement, in front of my washer and dryer I bought new when I moved in almost four years ago.

 I thought hard about what kind of person I had always wanted to and loving.

I took a few deep breaths and I went back upstairs and I was grateful that my friend Joe was coming and I just did what was required of me.

I ate the dinner.

I washed the dinner dishes.

When somebody handed me a glass of my favorite wine I took it gladly.

I put on my warm cape with the fur collar because it was a chilly evening.

I walked out to the fire and I enjoyed everyone's company.

That was all that was required and I got it right.

Another day has passed that I was able to stay up above the fear.

What is there to fear?

I guess I fear my own anger and fear of my mother and the past.

But I'm learning to forget about it.

It's just plain old gone.

My son spoke to me last night at the end of the evening when the neighbors had gone home and Joe had left, Nina and my mother had both gone to bed.

Rob was sitting with us, listening.

My son said, "Mom, it's pretty obvious to me that you have to forget the past."

He said, and Rob agreed, that I'm fighting a battle that's all in my mind.

The actual woman, my mother, eighty-five and frail, has no hold over me whatsoever.

She's harmless.

They both said that when she says something disapproving to me or of me, which she does pretty often in the course of a day, I should ignore it.

When I ignore it everything continues smoothly and she drops it.

When I try to defend myself, she gets all riled up and fights back.

I get angry and I disappoint everybody by not being the great person I should be.

I always say something like, "Yeah well, she's just lucky my brother never killed her, and she's just lucky I haven't killed her....yet."

I say stuff like that.

I USED TO say stuff like that.

Honestly, I can't even imagine uttering words like that now.

So I must be changing.

It's not funny.

Cynical humor is not as helpful as I used to think.

It was a coping mechanism for my brother and for me, but look where it got my brother.

He had a great sense of humor and he always made me laugh, but it was always at the expense of our parents and it always distanced us further from them, made us hate them more.

I don't want that.

The punchline of this story is that at one point in the fireside evening the neighbors and my friend Joe all commended us for having my mother with us.

My friend Joe actually commended me personally for having her come to visit, commenting that he knows it wouldn't be an easy thing for me.

I could feel myself glow inside.

I felt so good about what I've been doing.

I feel now that my mother can stay as long as she wants, and come back as often as she wants.

I'm free.

My happy soul is untouchable.

My happy soul thrives.

Mental illness, disapproval, cluttered spaces, chaos of five in one house, these things do not define my happy soul.

Around me there is peace, kindness, order.

I am peace and kindness and order and beauty.

This is me.

This is Courtney.

I create from self-expression.

I create from joy.

I am.

I am.

I am.

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