Happy Mother's Day
Don’t worry. I show no favoritism. I don’t like Mother’s Day either.
Americans are required to study and pass an exam to be allowed to operate a motorized vehicle. We do this to ensure the safety of ourselves and others when we are zooming down the road.
I find it ironic that there is no such license to ensure the safety of ourselves and others when we give birth to another human.
My mother was 20 when she gave birth to me. She tells of my birth as if it were a tragedy. She began laboring on a Friday and headed to the hospital where my great-grandmother worked, not the hospital that was closest. Her mother accompanied her and remained until I was born on Sunday evening (Father’s Day) at 6:35 p.m. She always tags the Father’s Day and no drugs and that her mother berated her. She was reprimanded to stop making noises and complaining about pain.
My mother’s mother had five children; my mother was her first. My mother’s mother remained married to her sweetheart for 30 years until he passed away at 56 years old. My mother’s mother was a strict disciplinarian, politically-correct drunk who stayed home to raise her children and make her husband look polished in his military career. She maintained the home with pristine cleanliness and efficiency when he was overseas. She relocated to each of her homes as his career moved them, even as far as Germany when it was safe to be there. Other peoples’ opinions of their family and home was of the utmost importance to my mother’s mother.
My mother’s mother was my Granny. She was not a culturally beautiful woman, but I thought she was the most elegant lady I’d ever seen. Her hair was always kept with the times and there was always a glossy, apple red shine on her naturally-long manicured fingernails. She smelled of Chanel No 5 and cigarettes. Her home always had a hint of bleach and moth balls. Even as I write and describe this odd combination of items, tears come to my eyes thinking about how much I loved the smell of her and her home. She loved me very much. Wherever she was, I was home.
My mother's mother became my Granny at the young age of 41. She spared no expense adorning me in ruffly, lacy dresses in every color as long as it was blue. I was her first grandchild and she was present in my life. Granny expected me to be a little lady from very young. “Don’t show your panties,” and “Ladies don't chew gum in church,” were directives I heard regularly. With that discipline came a shower of love and opportunities, gifts and acceptance that gave me the hope a child needs.
And then I was taken home to her daughter...her polar opposite.
My mother was in her second marriage when she gave birth to me. Although he was long gone by my arrival and she was a full-time college student, she needed to keep me. She needed love in her life.
So the two of us trudge through life in college apartments eating box-macaroni-and-cheese, practicing art lessons and skills, just the two of us until a new man came along and she got pregnant outside of marriage. (He pops up later, so stay tuned.)
I barely remember that mother with memories of my own. I can think of pictures I've seen. I have matched stories she has told to me with the memories that I have like how I potty-trained so early. (Thanks, mother. I peed in the floor of the pink tiled bathroom.) Stories I have no memories of at all like teaching my great-grandmother how to cook..."Just watch tv until there is a commercial and then the food is all done." And stories that no human should really tell to another, especially if it is true.
"I held your head under the water in the bathtub once. I am not sure if I wanted to drown you or if I just wanted to see what would happen, but once I saw the panic in your face, I let you up."
Yep...sit on that for a moment. I don't remember this (thank you, Lord Jesus) so I don't know if she truly did this. But real or fake, who tells this? And who tells this to their own daughter who they say they did this to?
You should not be surprised then that she threw me across a room when I was five because I asked, again, to go play outside. I still have that scar. Or that she let me go to foster care for being beaten even after they gave her an out if she would just leave him. Or that she didn't believe me when I told her (twice) that I was being molested.
I will tell you, though, that I was done with this woman being my mother after I turned 10. It is a vivid, detailed memory I have that my mother does not recall even though she was present.
I had waited three days to tell her about being molested, a second time, by her boyfriend. I didn't want to tell her while he was around, but I knew he was heading out-of-town to guard duty and then I would be safe to tell her this horrible news. I was so worried that I would break her heart because when I told her about the first incident, she assured me that she would leave him if he ever did that again. I was worried that she would be mad at me. I was so nervous. I sat in her bedroom on the wooden edge of her waterbed. I stared down, so ashamed, at the speckled linoleum floors in our welfare apartment. If I dared to look up, I'd glance at the jewelry box and odds-and-ends piled on her golden oak dresser. Oh, those memories! And then her reply, "Well, he said that he was just curious about what a girl's body was like when they started puberty."
Don't laugh. She said it. I don't know if she made that up or if he actually had said it. I don't know anything about all that. But I know what I did when I left that room.
I walked down that hallway to go outside and play on the swing set and vowed that I would never tell her anything again and expect her to do anything. I would never trust her to take care of me. I knew that I was on my own from that day forward. And I knew that I would die before I told my Granny anything about this because I had no idea what she would think...of me.
Mother's Day was no time to celebrate.