When adult children and their parents fall out, it hurts most during the holidays, as Buffalo-area families get together to celebrate. And Amherst publisher Prometheus has got in the middle of a family feud, going Hollywood, that will touch too many nerves of recognition in Western New York.
But the main players in this drama are Nancy and Jennifer Aniston, known to her Buffalo fans as Rachel on "Friends," recently voted the "girlfriend" you most identify with.
Problem is Jennifer, good friend to Brad Pitt, is less than friendly to her mom. In fact, she has gone years without seeing her.
Through her research, the elder Aniston has "found that estrangement from grown children is epidemic in our society." Abandoned parents suffer terrible pain, guilt and shame and have "rather elaborate methods of hiding the truth."
This was an unusual project for the Amherst publisher to take on, admits Prometheus representative Jill Maxick of Williamsville.
"But it deals with issues that are all too common, the way the parent-child relationship changes as the child becomes an adult," Maxick said.
And sometimes the resulting alienation -- as the elder Aniston points out.
"I wasn't alone in my feelings, and apparently most other parents also find this truth too shameful to tell. Being suddenly rejected by your child, I've found in my research, is very prevalent today. Parents will go to unbelievable lengths not to speak about it because it's so embarrasing," the photographer added in an interview.
The truth in this case is when her daughter told her: "I'll never forgive you."
Her mom, who raised the actress in New York, did an interview with a TV show, told that it was about her daughter's school. With some dastardly editing, the show turned into something else. "When the show aired, and my segment ended, I couldn't believe what I had seen," Aniston recalls in her compelling "Mother and Daughter to Friends" memoir. "They had deleted the entire portion about the school! All that aired were those few innocuous comments about Jennifer, spliced intermittently with some clips from a rather silly videotape of Jen and some friends from high school behaving like typical teen-agers -- a tape I didn't even know existed! There were more empty comments from me about a mother's pride and more silly tape."
That "silly tape," aired in early 1996, is why Nancy Aniston says her famous daughter abandoned her. Her daughter was on more magazine covers than any other actress in September, even more than Michelle Pfeiffer.
Aniston said she went with the Amherst publisher because she felt confident they would take the issue seriously.
"It was impossible to accept that a misunderstanding over something so innocent, so well-intended, caused this life-alternating reaction. It simply couldn't be that Jen had misinterpreted my motives as something so terrible that I was never to be forgiven. NEVER!"
Our children are never really ours, but be careful about praying for fame for your kids.
Following the success of "Friends," Jennifer Aniston signed with a new agent, and "a whole staff was rounded up to take charge of her every need. A business manager, a publicity man, a lawyer, a personal assistant, and she told me that even a maid was found by the manager. Ironclad contracts had been signed, and a coterie of strangers had taken over her life."
But the "dark hole of child-parent estrangement can happen to anyone," said Aniston, who is divorced from her daughter's actor father, John Aniston.
Today, she is philosophical about the loss of her daughter. You grow through pain.
"No one can control the future, but I now can choose to control my reactions," she pointed out. "I've made a silent promise never to "suffer' loss again. When people or things leave my life or enter at any given moment, I will strive to view it as a need for change, change that is a necessary part of existence, orchestrated by higher wisdom for everyone's good."
Yet she admits, in her memoir, that few "days pass when I don't miss Jen. Her fame brings constant reminders. If it becomes too overwhelming I sink into a comfortable chair and remember 26 years of blessings brought by her presence. My newborn baby; my delightful, fascinating toddler; my wide-eyed little girl; my cranky teen=ager; and that stunning young woman discovering the world.
"More than three years have now passed since the day we first separated, and the feeling of loss is just as intense as if it happened yesterday. Until Jennifer and I reconcile, I suspect it won't go away. When I first lost contact with her, there was nothing inside of me but misery. I have recently noticed that my pain has been gradually dwarfed by the richness I now allow to enter my life." She hopes to comfort other parents left in the December cold.