Just Me and My Mom

indexWhen my girls were little, the Mercer Mayer books were some of our favorites; Just Me and My Dad, Just Me and My Mom, and Just Shopping with Mom; they were all warm and fuzzy and carried a thread of family togetherness.  I adored my girls and we loved reading; sometimes we would sit together with stacks of books, a bowl of popcorn, unsweetened iced tea, and read for hours.

Back then, I was naïve enough to believe I was creating memories with them that they would remember for their entire lives; memories I didn’t have a chance to cultivate with my mother.  I wanted them to remember the silly preschool songs I taught them about monkeys jumping on the bed and hot dogs frying in a pan, or that I taught them to write, their colors, numbers, and the alphabet, all before kindergarten, instead of the memories I had of my childhood.

I longed to live out the fantasy life of the Little Critter mom in the books as my girls and I giggled our way through the stories, trying to forget my past.

***

My mom and I never had a very good relationship; I always had the feeling I didn’t belong, and that she simply didn’t like or didn’t want me.  I wasn’t special or unique in the family; I wasn’t the oldest like my sister, not the youngest like my other sister, and I was not the only boy like my brother.

I was just me; I talked too much, asked too many questions, and I was a picky eater; when I came in from school I would ask in one word “What’sfordinnerIhateitandIamnotgoingtoeatit.”  When we sat down to eat, I would move my fork through my food trying to make it look like I was eating; often gagging, and sometimes throwing up at the table.  It was a battle scene every night; meals were tense, to say the least.

The rest of my life was just as stressful; I didn’t get new clothes, as my sister was only three years older, I had to wear her hand-me-downs, but I was the only one.  My brother was the only boy so there was nobody to hand anything down to him, and my younger sister was 10 years my junior.  Needless to say, I felt singled out by the process; it could be that was just the way the cookie crumbled, but it felt bad.

Out of four children, I was the only one who excelled at school; I enjoyed being part of the academic world, and loved being away from home any chance I could.  I loved my teachers and they loved me; I never skipped school and didn’t cause any problems, except talking excessively.

***

When I started playing the flute, I was excited that I seemed to catch on quickly and had somewhat of a talent for the instrument.  I loved the way it felt to hold the beautiful instrument in my hands and play; it made me feel cerebral and elegant as I stretched my arms and fingers to reach the keys and hit the notes properly.

I finally convinced my parents to allow me to take private music lessons after school from my music teacher every Tuesday after school.  I would go directly there after classes and my mother would pick me up when I was finished.  I was in junior high school, but the music room was at the high school so I would walk across the field to his class, take my lesson, and then sit on the curb and wait for my mother.

Usually, I would get out five minutes early so I would be waiting for her and not have her waiting for me, as she had a tendency to be highly impatient with me.

One afternoon, I was sitting on the curb at 3:25; 3:30 being the appointed time she was to pick me up that day.  I waited for her and time wore on; it started to get darker and colder.  I looked at my watch, petrified to move and look for a payphone, afraid I would miss her; it was 4:30.  As it got later, I was afraid she had been killed in a car accident and that my brother and sister had perished as well.

5:00, no mother; 5:15, 5:30, 6:00; I was terrified that my father had come home in a drunken rage and had killed them all and that I would be left a 12 year-old orphan.  I was sobbing when she finally pulled up in the station wagon; she was furious with me.  “Get in the car,” she demanded, “Where the hell have you been?”

I was stunned; I had been sitting on the curb the entire time.  “Mom,” I cried, “I have been here, on the sidewalk.”

“No you haven’t,” she threw the car in drive and peeled out, “You little liar.  Wait until I tell your dad what happened.”

“Mom,” I begged, “I was here. Mom, Mom…”

“I have been driving up and down this street, around the block,” she lied, “I went to your school. You are in big trouble.”

I clung to the door, looking out the window and cried all the way home.

***

From as early as I could remember, my dad used to say to me, “You are so beautiful and talented; you are going to be our little model or movie star.”  My mom would just roll her eyes or glare at him.  I don’t know why he said it, I never professed a desire to do either, but he was insistent; a few times my grandmother commented as well because I was “so tall”.  I was the tallest in the family, but certainly short by most standards; as a full-grown adult I am now 5’4”.

When I was 12, my dad decided I should go to modeling school; he found one in Salt Lake City and enrolled me despite my protests.  It wasn’t something I particularly wanted to do; at 12 I still played with Barbies, rode my bike and played with my stuffed animals.  The last thing I wanted to do was go to modeling school.

However, my dad was determined that I was going to be the next Brooke Shields; I started attending the school 45 miles away every Thursday night.  My mom had to drive me every Thursday after school; I would attend sessions for four hours, from 5 until 9 at night.  She would pick me up and we would make our way back home where I would have to do homework and go to bed; often times waking up exhausted on Friday mornings for school.

Some weekends I went out of town for photo shoots, or did local shoots around town; I was told to drop weight from my slender frame of 90 pounds, and I was overloaded with heavy makeup no 12 year-old should be wearing.

One Thursday evening when class got out I sat on the stoop of the building and watched the women from my group leave, one by one; then I watched the instructors leave; and finally, I watched the janitorial crew leave.  I sat and I waited in the darkest industrial area of Salt Lake City I had ever seen; nobody seemed to care that I was 13 (by this point I had turned 13) and sitting alone outside in a bad area.

It was almost midnight by the time my mother pulled up; she was drunk and angry.  I silently slid into the seat.  She sped home; I watched as the speedometer reached speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, too scared to say anything; half wishing we would just die in a fiery car crash and get it over with, and half wishing we would just make it home alive.

***

The summer I turned 15, things with my mother and I had reached a boiling point; she was through with me in every way imaginable.

I cannot even recall what we were arguing over, but the fight escalated to the point where she attacked me; she began hitting me with everything and anything she could grasp.  At first it was just her hands, her fists, then it was a wooden spoon, a long stick kept in a planter to keep the plant growing straight, a handle of a broom, and finally a yardstick.  I had crawled underneath the kitchen table and she was hitting me with it and screaming for me to come out.

Later that evening, she called her friend; she was the wife of a co-worker of my father’s.  She asked the woman to come and get me and take me away for a while because she could not have me there anymore, she just couldn’t deal with me.  I was standing in the stairwell of our split-level home; I had a cut just below my eye and my back was welted from the broom and yardstick.

The next day her friend came to pick me up; she told me to pack my bag for a few months because we were leaving for Canada.  I begged not to go; I didn’t understand what I had done wrong, I didn’t want to leave, but I wasn’t given a choice.  I wasn’t wanted there.

***

Just Me and My Mom

 

My Two Precious Girls

I have not talked about them here because, honestly, it has been too painful for me to think about them for so long, but memories, thoughts, and pain are all too consuming now

Precious Moments – Sisters

so I had to find a way to release some feelings.  The only solution that came to mind was the soothing relief I feel, if only temporarily, when I put fingers to keyboard and start to tap away.

It seems strange for me to permit thoughts of them to enter my mind, as I spend a great deal of energy blocking them; but, as I draw in a deep breath right now and allow myself to type this, I am at the same time allowing myself to remember.  I have to children, daughters; beautiful, talented, intelligent, adult daughters.

My head is spinning, I feel dizzy, nauseated, my heart feels like it is beating out of my chest as I cannot seem to get the words out as rapidly as my head is thinking them.  I sense I need to write this, and then file my thoughts deep away in the furthest recesses of my mind, covering them with a hard callous, so I cannot be hurt by them anymore.  I thought I had been doing so well, pretending not to think about them, deferring the conversation when somebody brought them up in conversation, acting as if I was not hurt that my family thought I was the quintessential bad mother.  Everyone around me acted as if I spent my children’s lives screaming “No wire hangers” and whipping them every chance I had.  I didn’t.

I loved my girls with all my heart, I still do; but I was never meant to be a mom.  The example I had from my own mother was non-existent at best, abusive at worst.  When I was younger, I hated babysitting and being around young children, preferring to be alone or playing with stuffed animals and Barbie Dolls.  Quite contrarily though, I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, figure that one out.

But, when I became pregnant with my first daughter at the age of 20, I had been married for a year, and although not planned, I was happy and decided we could make it work; she was going to make us a family.  When she was born, I spent every second with her; my parents were shocked when the babysat her for 2 hours when she was 6 months old and she screamed and cried the entire time, she had never been away from me for a moment.

My second daughter was born 15 months later; I adored her as well.  I thought I really had the mommy thing down; I truly grew into being a mom.  We lived on an incredibly tight budget; I learned to sew and often made them matching outfits out of sheets purchased from the second hand store, I took them on outings every day to any free event I could find or even the park or library, and I entertained them by reading and doing crafts.  We were never bored, there was always something to read, to paint, to draw, or even to just lip sync to.

I cooked all of our meals from scratch since it was cheaper than going out to eat, often perusing cookbooks all week long to find exactly what they would like.  We would go on long bike rides by the river; me pulling them in their cart, them sitting with their little helmets clanking together eating apples and singing little songs I had taught them.  Their dad was hardly ever around, preferring to spend his time playing music with his friends and eventually having an affair with a 17 year-old girl who worked for him.

Eventually, their dad left us on December 31, 2004; we moved on and they were adopted three years later by a man who loved him like they were his own.  My life changed in a very dramatic way as well; I was no longer a stay-at-home mom who could spend every waking moment indulging myself with my children, playing games and savoring every precious moment.  I had been left in an incredibly harsh way by a man I thought was supposed to be there; I had been crippled by emotions, humiliated, and panicked.

My reaction was to go to work full-time and to go to school to obtain a college degree; additionally, the often times well-covered symptoms of my bipolar manic depression disorder, borderline personality disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder all started to shine through.  It was a dramatic time for all of us, and it was not long before I moved out of the house, leaving my girls with their new father; I would not have done so if he was not a loving, caring, and stable man.  He was the best parent for them at the time.

We got back together a few times, trying to work things out, but we were just too different; but we always loved the girls no matter how little we had in common.  The girls came first with both of us; they did very well in school, were given almost everything they wanted, and knew they were loved.

Finally, when my oldest was a senior in high school and the youngest was a junior, my then husband and I decided it was time to end the marriage.  The news was devastating to the girls; he was their dad for all intents and purposes, and they loved him.  The oldest had been having a lot of problems communicating with him at the time, boyfriend problems; nobody was good enough for her. But, the youngest was moving with him to the new house he purchased.

Everything seemed to be working out mostly smoothly, as we remained friendly; we never had any animosity, we just were not in love and did not have much in common.  He was happy for me when I started to date a man I fell in love with, only wanting to see me happy, and life went on.

The girls were a different story.  My new boyfriend was incredibly generous to them for many years; collectively, we spent a great deal of money on them.  We paid for my oldest daughter’s cell phone bill for 5 years after she turned 18; we bought her a car when she had her first child, not to mention so many other things we paid for.  The youngest cost us less money, but we still paid for things; we paid the deductible on her insurance when she had to have surgery one year, and we bought her a washer and dryer when she bought a new house.

So, what went wrong?

This past year, my boyfriend and I went through an incredibly difficult time where we have spent some time apart because he could not deal with my mental health issues and things I have done in the past, namely the attempted suicide and the depression.  So, he sent me away to spend some time with my children and family for a while; he also stopped filtering such an abundance of money to the girls.  My allegiance to him has not faltered, I saw his point and we have been working through everything.

However, my children took a stand against him as well as me.  I had been depressed at my situation in general; I was not taking things very well but was doing the best I could.  I was staying at my oldest daughter’s house; by then she had a baby boy who was about to turn one and was pregnant with a girl, they would be the same distance apart as her and her sister.

I was thrilled to be with my grandson, not so much at first, but he grew on me; I loved getting up with him every morning.  I wasn’t at her house long before she started to depend on me; her husband would go to school every day of the week and I would babysit for them.

My boyfriend still sent me money every month to take care of my bills as well as to pay for my groceries and anything else I may need so I would not be a burden on my children, he just wasn’t paying for anything extra.  I just could not get out of my funk because I wanted to go home and be with him.  However, I did the best I could, playing with my grandson, hanging out with my daughters, wanting to enjoy their company.

One day, though, we went to Starbucks for a mother-daughter-daughter talk; I wanted to talk to them and just lay everything on the table about how I felt.  I knew my mom had told them some things about me; my family can be terribly gossipy.  Telling them how much I loved them, tears filling my eyes, I sat there across the table looking at their stoic faces; I had no idea what to do.

“Mom, we don’t think it is fair that you burdened us with your issues growing up,” one of them said, I have no idea which one.  My head was spinning by then as I realized what they were talking about.

“Yeah, mom,” said the other, “you were a terrible mom.  You were crazy and we should not have had to know you had a mental illness.”

I sat there at that table thinking how I wished one of those times I had tried to commit suicide that I had been successful.  I just did not know which time, though; before or after I had them.  I love them with all my heart, I truly do; they are beautiful, intelligent, and sometimes charming girls; but I didn’t raise them to be so hurtful and mean.

They have not talked to me in months; I heard from their father that they want a need a real mom in their life, not somebody who gets depressed and is sad.  Wow.  I don’t know what to say to that other than the fact that I have been there for them through so much.

If I don’t make it through this, I just want somebody to tell them how much I loved them and that I thought the world of them.  That is all I can say, time for me to close the door again.  Time to be flat.