This is a serialization of the chapter by the same name from Confessions of a Former Child: A Therapist’s Memoir . This series began here.
In the psychodrama that followed, Elaine plays my grandmother. We began with a scene where my parents and I go to my grandmother’s Greenwich Village apartment for our typical Sunday dinner. I am the only man in this training group so I choose two women, one to play my mother, the other, my father. I come running down the hallway ahead of my parents towards a bowl of fried meatballs waiting for me. I can’t eat them fast enough. They are a special treat made for me by my grandmother, and I can’t wait to eat them. Food is love to my grandmother, and I love her food. As I eat them, my father kisses his mother hello, and my mother warns me not to eat too many of those meatballs. Elaine as my grandmother figures out the role very quickly, and starts arguing with my mother that I don’t have to worry about eating too much, that there is nothing wrong with good food, and insinuates my mother’s cooking isn’t so great. In no time at all I feel like I am six years old again. I am trapped, and don’t know how to speak up. It happens every week, and as much as I look forward going to Grandma’s house, I can’t stand the tension when we get there. We are barely in the door, and the trouble begins again. My grandfather (played by another woman in the group) comes out from a back bedroom to make an appearance. Within five minutes of arriving, my grandfather has his coat on and is taking me out to ride my tricycle. We ride along Sixth Avenue, then down the stairs to the subway. After a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, we come back just in time for supper. By then my mother, father, and grandmother all have long faces. At a make-believe kitchen table the group members take their positions as people in my family. As if Elaine had grown up watching films of our Sunday meal, she starts humming Italian songs, and bursting into little dance steps. This is all much to my delight, but my mother is making faces, and shaking her head disapprovingly. The woman playing the role of my father has captured the look of his weak smile, and as if she’d seen him do it a thousand times, starts looking for the Daily News to get lost in.