My mother grew up somewhat as a black sheep in her Midwest town of Holly, Michigan. She grew up independently minded in a conservative environment. She ended up attending an experimental liberal arts program at Alma College where she continued to develop her singing, and acting, while studying philosophy and other courses under a mentor she called Dr. Sam who ran the program. Armed with knowledge and talent, she went to New York to pursue a show business career. Life took its twists and turns during screen tests, opera singing, and love, and she ended up being a single mother with Melody, who was learning disabled. Through her tenacity as an artist, and scientist, she ended up teaching in the New York City public school system, while holding down other jobs performing around the city, all while raising Melody. Eventually she met my father, during a business interview. They fell in love, had me, married, and then all four of us moved from NYC to Teaneck.
Because of the struggles my mother had in finding proper placement in schools for Melody, my mother took it upon herself to study special education law. When the first neuroscience classes were taught at Teacher’s College in NYC, my mother signed up and started her study of the brain. In learning about the education system in Teaneck, special education law on her own, studying neuroscience, and finding other parents who were having similar difficulties, my mother ended up creating a parent advocacy group, the Teaneck Parent Information Center, and later the Parent Information Center of New Jersey. Over the next 30 years, my mother diagnosed, mediated, special witnessed, educated, and represented different parents and their children with special needs that the system tried to shaft and abandon. And to top it all off, my mother did all of this pro bono creating a non-profit organization, which grew into the Parent Information Center of New Jersey. She had the belief that the system needed to be changed, and that she could empower people and help those who needed it most. She also ran for governor of New Jersey while I was in high school with her platform concentrating on education reform and campaign finance reform.
Since my sister’s death, my mother created an early childhood development school, the Melody Arons Center for Applied Preschool Research. All the funding for the Parent Information Center had been grass roots funded, through donations, and concert fundraising. The press and those in power often ignore and overlook her because she is a “radical” political liability. She has taken care and empowered so many of those who have been powerless, and abandoned. Her drive came first from Melody, who was initially abandoned by a system that told my mother that she would never be functional and needed to be committed. As a determined mother, however, she did everything in her power to raise Melody into the fully functioning independent adult she grew into being before her life was taken. Through the end of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and now the first decade of the new millennia, she became the most feared non-lawyer representative/parent advocate in the country.
My first memory of my mother was when I was 2. I was watching my mom swim in the indoor pool of a hotel and she asked me if I wanted to ride on her back to the other side of the pool. I was a little scared but also thrilled at the prospect because the other side seemed so far away. I agreed and remember the holding her around her neck and feeling the sides of her arms crawl stroke as she swam across while I buried my head in her neck feeling wet skin and hair. I couldn’t look up for too long or else my face and mouth would be covered in chlorine treated water. After what seemed like a long time, she put me on the other side of the pool. I was amazed that I lasted the journey. She asked me if I wanted to go back to the other side. More confident in showing off my bravery and courage I agreed. I remember feeling like an adventurer that accomplished a lot that day.
There is just too much to say about my mother has done as an individual to list, that there needs to be a book and movie done just about her. She is a legend in her own time, unrecognized, and underestimated by so many in power. In the context of knowing myself, the important thing to note, is that since the TPIC was run from inside the back porch of the house I was raised, in addition to my mom teaching piano and voice lessons, I was raised in a house where there were strangers constantly coming in and out of the house, either for music lessons or starting a special education revolution. Since parents are the first Gods any child first learns to know, the first idols, and the first role models, watching my mother wear so many hats, and wearing them all with aplomb, was inspiring to me. I thought if my mom could do all of this, then it must be in me to do the same. While I realize this isn’t true with all children and their parents, in my case I very much saw where I wanted to go and who I wanted to be by watching my Mom being a leader, teacher, activist, performer, spouse, parent, philosopher, and sage. She has been quite the role model. The most amazing aspect with my mother is that despite all of her constant work she takes on for herself even now that she is 70, she always made time for me and my sister. Sure there were times when she was busy, but never too busy for a personal emergency. It boggles my mind to this day how she juggled so many things at once, and compulsively kept the house clean, and made sure there was food on the table. Seriously. SOMEBODY MAKE A MOVIE ABOUT MY MOM! Her story really needs to be told. I swear she has some secrets to life.
In fact one of the most unique experiences about being raised by a mother like mine was how much she kept from me, what she never told me about herself, her life, or things that she went through. My mom was very strict about exposing me to things that I only needed to know. Everything else, whether it involved issues of her career, her past, or with dad, she often kept to herself, never exposing me information unnecessary to raising me as her son.
One of the reasons I trusted my mom so much was because from what she did share with me, she lived a very full life full of challenges, and experiences. She lived during the 60’s after all. I am just now contemplating that my sister was born the same year, months before Martin Luther King was assassinated and Robert Kennedy. I can only imagine what it was like having a newborn and living during these times as a single mother.
When it came to development and issues about love relationships, I could talk to both my mom about anything. Nothing I ever brought up to my mom was out of bounds. It always seemed she had contemplated every idea I thought of as new. She had an extensive library in their bedroom, and noticing that she had books on sex, and alternative subjects, never grossed me out. The fact that my mom owned so many books on different subjects, including sex, made me feel comfortable with the fact that sex and my imminent sexual development was as natural a subject for discussion as subjects like evolution, Shakespeare, and history. When it came to some of my ideas about religion, she would reference her favorite anthology on religion, the Golden Bough. When I tried to associate the spreading of spirits to the decomposition process of a dead body, she said it sounded like Native American religions.
We engaged in conversations about life, one of which I remember involved me asking her what her favorite sensations were. I was thinking about chocolate and something else at the time (I was 9 or 10 at the time). After she thought about it, she agreed with chocolate but would not comment on the other things she thought of because they were private. And I respected this boundary. My mother believed that it was more important to be a good mother than be my friend, and she raised my sister the same way. Yet even as role as mother, and one that kept a watchful eye on everything I did, we still had fun. What I don’t understand with some parents today is that they think they have to act like a peer of their child in order to have fun. Besides playing music together, we had plenty of conversations when she took me on trips into Manhattan, my favorite one being the Museum of Natural History as a youngster, or when going to the farmer’s market in Teaneck and getting my favorite, a carton of strawberries. My mother always kept me moving as a kid, and kept me busy, knowing from my earliest age that I needed to be kept busy in order to be satisfied. While my most of the kids on the block made it out into the city alone during adolescence, my Mom was very protective wanting to know where I was at most times. I had to get permission to go anywhere, and did not make into the city without a chaperone in the city until my last year in high school. One of my senseis from karate, not Lou, used to tell me that my mom kept me under a glass jar, a metaphor describing how overprotective she was of me. All things being equal, my mother’s overprotection kept me on the straight and narrow and out of trouble. I was always so impressionable. Most of the time I didn’t feel constricted as opposed to my sister, who often felt like she had to get out. My parents were always there for me, to talk to, to come home to, to take care of me, often when I felt so lonely in making friends amongst my peers, yet they were never acted like my peers.
One of the biggest outlooks I believe I mimicked from my mother and my father to a certain extent was a me-versus-the world mentality. Because I was so smart and talented, my mom told me growing up that kids were going to be jealous, and that’s why some of them picked on me. Or another explanation she offered was that they did not come from as stable as a home as I did, and therefore were badly behaved. Generally, my mom raised me believing that most of the world was crazy, and that I needed to be careful so that I would not be taken advantage of and hurt. Obviously my mom spoke from experience, so I listened. Additionally though, I feel that overall I took this me against the world too much to heart. In retrospect, some times I wonder if I were more open to receiving my peers equally and giving them a chance before I assumed they were going to hurt me or gang up on me, that I would have had a more rewarding social life.
Throughout my life, at times, I could sense the amount of hurt my mother went through in her life, and the amount of struggles she had to endure to be the helpful, selfless, and generous dynamo she has been her whole life. Besides my father, I wished that more people would help and support her the way she’s done for thousands of parents and their children. At times, I can sense that she has given up on anything else but a challenging life. This is both inspiring and some times depressing. Perhaps the biggest thing that I inherited from my mom is the quality of not being easy on myself, in favor of constantly pushing myself, and not thinking about what would make me happy for me when I’m not working. Both my mother and I are in a constant state of going and being productive. I think we both get the same pleasure from our accomplishments. She has the wisdom to let them go, and the ability in finding joy in helping so many people. She also knows when to rest. I have not helped as many people. Most of my work has been by myself and for myself. And I’m still figuring out how to rest so that I don’t get myself depressed, sick, or overly isolated.
I wanted friends, a girlfriend, popularity, admiration, riches, and fame. At the same time I wanted to help people like my mother and father did. It was not just the way they helped people but also the fact that they were often met with obstacles that would intimidate most other people. The inspiration to do so much work for underdogs often seemed more amazing than the actual actions. The motivation my mother had I believe lit a fire beneath me to live my life similarly. I did not have a reason to be overachieving. I just liked the ability to accomplish so much, and the fact that so many people seemed to watch in awe that someone could be so inspired and motivated to accomplish so many things, while often others had trouble just getting one or two things done. I figured out early that if I could accomplish as many deeds as possible, as many as I enjoyed doing, and as many as possible that impressed my parents, and other grownups, then I could apply this power to do anything. This left to me to a final conclusion about my purpose in life, that perhaps it was not so much about what I did, as long as I got it done. If a task was too easy to do, it was not as worthy. On the other hand, if I proved not to be very good at it, I often would give up. My favorite tasks to accomplish were those that I had talents for and could achieve extensive accomplishment and recognition. It was through recognition that I thought I would find the answer to my loneliness and feelings of abandonment around my peers. If my peers would like me for my accomplishments, then I would be valuable to them and they would keep me around. It took me a very long time to realize that this attention was fleeting, and not lasting, nor had any basis in my character as a person, the part of me I had been most fearful to expose.
Additionally when it came to desire, I sometimes felt and feel that there is a catch to fulfilling desires too quickly. Food tastes so much better when one is hungry. My father turned me on to the idea of delayed gratification at an early age. I even vaguely remember a conversation when he shared that term with me. Between my father’s idea of delayed gratification, my mother’s complacency with her challenged and often unheralded lot in life, and not being allowed video games or junk food, I grew to enjoy not getting everything I desired. It took me a long time to realize this. In today’s day and age, where everything is so accessible, and so many foods are easy to get to instantly gratify a craving for sweets, I find that most youth whether they are rich or poor, do not understand the value of hard work, and the value of being denied desires. Without getting into a deep analysis about what desires are appropriate to quickly satisfy, or satisfy at all, a big lesson I learned from both of my parents is that the most worthy desires to have are some times those that require the most patience, discipline, and perseverance to satisfy. A person’s destiny is based on fulfilling these desires. However in society, often we are sidetracked and distracted with less fulfilling desires in which little work ethic is needed to satisfy, often leaving people without the wisdom or tenacity to fulfill the bigger desires that can shape their destiny.
In commercials I see on television, the ones selling products, which is pretty much all of them, people are shown fulfilling their dreams, their American dreams by acquiring material products. However what I have learned from both of my parents, especially my mother, is that you don’t always get what you want. Today, it is scarier than ever to commit whether to a person or a dream. So many people start a commitment and end it. Some end their commitments after being confronted with too many challenges. And while some challenges are too overwhelming to overcome, like death, extensive betrayal, or loss of hope or faith in oneself, many commitments are the most fulfilling after these events, either by chance, or because they were “meant” to happen. Regardless, today too many people make the easy choices, the ones that require the least commitment, and hence the least risk, and less reward. My whole life, I have been committed to my dreams of being a financially successful, communicative, and skillful artist that touches peoples hearts and reaches peoples dreams.
I am fully dedicated and committed to my art and my career. I have not had the same commitment with people in my life, besides my parents who have been there for me regardless of what I have done. I have not been able to commit to people in my life as I have my art. In some ways I think this is a product of my own beliefs about people, that I have not met anyone worthy of my commitment or dedication because I have not related to the ways they relate to themselves. I have never met anyone who takes their life and career as seriously because they are too busy to take breaks like I am, and coincidentally the ones that I have ended up being with have social lives they consider to be healthy, and I consider to be distracting. And like my fear of getting someone else’s brain, I am repulsed by falling victim to similar distractions, especially those like drinking for the sake of getting drunk and escaping demons for a night or a weekend. Maybe this behavior reminds me of my sister, and my issues with what she represented as far as my peers. Perhaps in some ways, I wish for the same sober us against the world attitude that my parents seem to have. In the same breadth, though, they were older when they met each other, in their mid thirties, and they also have softened up to being more social and expanding their social circle in their older age.
Table of Contents
Part I – My Material (Physically Having) History
- Chapter 1 – Race, Money, Fashion
- Chapter 2 – Plants, Pets, and Education
- Chapter 3 – Jobs
- Chapter 4 – Connections, Opportunities, Genetics
Part II – My Sensual (Feeling) History
- Chapter 5 – The Satin Edge
- Chapter 6 – Gifted, Hyper Competitive, and Overly Sensitive
- Chapter 7 – Puppy Love and Status
- Chapter 8 – Busy-ness as Salvation
- Chapter 9 – Karate and Self Image
- Chapter 10 – Homophobia and Musical Expression
- Chapter 11 – Digging a Pond, High School, and Music Camp
- Chapter 12 – Heterosexuality, Self Esteem, Avon Fashion
- Chapter 13 – The Opposite Game, College, and Sex
- Chapter 14 – Cruise Ships, Internet, and Control
- Chapter 15 – Saturn’s Return, Delayed Gratification, and Aging Dreams