Carol Kirsch, 59, talks with her daughter Rebecca Posamentier, 30.
Carol Kirsch: My dad was always a tremendous support for me. I don’t remember any time that he tried in any way to discourage me from doing something I wanted to do. I miss him a lot. But I’ve had a rocky relationship with my mom.
Rebecca Posamentier: I think that her raising you is very different than how you raised me, and that was a conscious decision on your part. What about your relationship with your mom made you decide that you didn’t want that with your own daughter?
Carol: Mom was very insecure. She had polio as a child, and she had a limp for pretty much all her life. She was very talented at many things: she was a terrific singer, performer, and pianist. But she felt that she was not whole somehow because she had polio.
I think I’ve told you this before: I was afraid to have children. But I’m so glad I did.
Rebecca: Me too! [laughs] And so is Shana. I just want to say that whatever it was that made you consciously make the decisions that you did in raising Shana and myself were amazing. I just remember thinking, I could probably tell Mom anything and she’d be okay with it.
I remember a conversation you had with me right before I went off to college. We were sitting on your bed, and you spilled the beans about how there were times when you made mistakes and you didn’t feel you could tell your parents, so you had to figure it out on your own. You said that no matter what happens — even if it’s horrible, even if it’s terrible and I can solve it on my own — I should still tell you, and we’d talk about it. I remember thinking that I really could tell you anything, even if I did something stupid. I felt like you were just genuinely there, no matter what happened.
You were always there for the good: good grades, internships, everything. That’s just as important as being there when I had mono in college and went unconscious. Next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital bed and you were there next to me. I couldn’t understand how you’d gotten there so fast — but you hopped a plane and flew down the second you heard I was so sick. And you would do that for any of your kids. Those are the qualities of motherhood that I want to have, too.
Carol: Well, I’m not as calm and cool and collected as I used to be. [laughs] It’s not easy. I know that there’s nothing I can do about the Alzheimer’s, and I know it’s not my fault — I have to live with it. I try to make the most of each day, because I’m not the kind of person who sits and wallows in self-pity.
For me, right now, what’s important is to be as close to the family as I can be. I just am so grateful to have all of you in my life.
Rebecca: I feel so lucky to have had such a wonderful childhood and still have your support at thirty years old, and know that I’m gonna have it till I’m fifty, hopefully. It gives me so much confidence going into my own motherhood for the first time. I know I’m gonna be a good mom — and I know that because I had a good mom as a role model. Just like your father always supported you, you always supported me. You have those qualities, and you did a great job in passing them down. It’s my dream to pass them on to my own children as well.
Sophia is not due for another seven weeks or so, but when she comes, what are some of the things that you would want her to know?
Carol: Well, I’d want her to know that she’s going to be very loved. And when she’s old enough, I’d like to tell her stories about my grandparents and my parents. I’m worried that my Alzheimer’s will get worse and that I won’t be able to spend the time I want with her…I look forward to taking her places. I really hope I can do that for a while.
Rebecca: Me too. I used to love getting tucked in at night. And I know that you’ll do that for the baby.…[crying]
Carol: Oh, I will, honey.
Rebecca: I think I got tucked in till I was going off to college! But I used to love just sitting in bed and having you sing a lullaby to me. And you will for the baby, too. Maybe you could just sing one of the lullabies for her — for me and for her. And for future babies that aren’t here, twinkling in anyone’s eye quite yet.
Carol: Okay. [sings] Tu, lu, lu, lu, lu, hush. To, lu, lu, lu, lu, hush-a-by. Dream of the angels way up high. Tu, lu, lu, lu, lu, don’t you cry. Mommy won’t go away. Stay in my arms, while you still can. Childhood is but a day. To, lu, lu, lu, lu, hush-a-by. Mommy won’t go away.
Recorded in Lafayette, California, on December 13, 2007.
Carol passed away in March 2011.
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