Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Mother: Pt. 1

To date, this is the only picture I have of my mother and I.
Christmas, 1987

Over the last three years I have put an incalculable amount of time into bettering myself. Not to sound smug or anything, I just used to be kind of a shitbag, and over the last few years I have tried very very hard to become a better person. To become more responsible, less emotional, more calm and centered, less volatile, to be a better mom, to be a better friend, to mend wounded relationships and let poisoned relationships go. It hasn't been easy. To really, truly change it requires a level of self awareness that's just plain fucking uncomfortable sometimes. It requires you to look at yourself right in the eye, and right smack at the worst parts of yourself. I learned a lot. It wasn't all pretty.
One of the things I wanted to understand, was myself as a mother. I wanted to take a hard look at how I had so far handled my precious turn at motherhood, and better understand why I had made the mistakes I had made, and why I was so afraid of everything I was so afraid of. One thing this journey of introspection and soul searching kept bringing me back to was my mom. I feel like that word should be capitalized or in bold, or come with some sound bite of ominous and emotional music to really express what that word does to me inside. Thinking or saying the word "Mom" in regards to my own mother always feels heavier than it should. Maybe that's why for the last 10 years I have referred to her as Anita more often than Mom. It distances her, and everything thinking about her brings back for me.

I don't know very much about my mother, really, and what I do know has been pieced together from bits of information I gathered from my father, my sisters, sometimes my own mother, and the few memories I have of her from my childhood. It's odd to me that she has lived within a 20 minute drive my whole life, and I feel like I don't know the first thing about her.
I know her name is Anita, and she is the oldest of four children. I know her father was abusive in such unspeakable ways that just thinking about what he did to her makes me cringe. I may not like my mother, or have much of a relationship with her, but I would bust that son of a bitch's skull in her honor if I ever got the chance. I know my mother was born in Idaho, and lived in the same small town her entire life. I know she met my father in Alaska, supposedly running away from an abusive pimp in Seattle, because Alaska was one place he was legally barred from going. I don't know why, or if the guy was really her pimp, I don't even know his name. Like I said, I learned about her in bits in pieces from mostly biased sources. I know my mother got pregnant with my older sister before my parents were married, and that was part of the reason, if not the only reason they got married. They had a little ceremony in her home town in Idaho after picking up my half brother from his mom in South Carolina. My mom was 3 or 4 months pregnant, and she isn't smiling in any of her wedding pictures.
If I could write my mother's life for her, she would have been born to someone else. Someone kind and loving who would have protected her, not started killing her the day she turned 5 years old. She would have had a gentle and loving husband, who stroked her pale face at night and extinguished the red flame of her wild hair with his palm against his chest as she fell asleep. He would have told her everything was going to be ok, and she never would have been anybody's mother.
By Anita's own admission, she never really wanted children. At least after she had my two sisters she definitely didn't want more. I was a "surprise" and from the time I was born, to her I was a betrayal. My father was mean to her. They partied too hard, drank too much and fought all the time. To her, it wasn't any better than being back home with her father. When I was born, my father caught me with his bare hands. According to Anita, I preferred him over her forever after that.
Like I said, I don't remember much about her, and it's hard to understand still to this day, how she could have dismissed me at such a young age, because all I can remember from my first memory until I was 18 years old, was wanting her to love me. She was thin, soft and pretty. She had brilliant auburn hair and blue-green eyes, and she always smelled like vanilla, breath mints and the slightest hint of smoke. She had a big smile, and long long legs. She had soft hands, and the few times I remember her touching me, it was always soothing. She was my mother. And all I wanted was to be her daughter.
But bad marriages lead to bad parenting, and neither of my parents had any kind of good example for how to protect and shield their children from their poison. I became biased. I learned to prefer my father because he never refused me. I found more in common with him than with her, and to my mother this was confirmation of what she had always suspected. I would grow up to be just like him. Her abuser, her worst enemy. I was just a kid who wanted someone to notice me.
When I was 6 (I think) my mom finally left. I remember the day so clearly, I can still smell the meatloaf she made. She made bell peppers stuffed with meatloaf, she didn't leave a note. She left while I was napping in my room and my dad was asleep on the couch. She said goodbye to my sisters, hopped the fence and walked away. Did someone pick her up? Did she look at me before she left? Did she touch my cheek, or smell my hair, or whisper some goodbye? Did she think about me? What did she put her stuff in? I heard it was a trash bag, but that could be wrong. There is so much I still don't know. I just remember waking up and the house was hot. Dinner was ready, I could smell it from my room, but she was gone. I knew that before I even started looking for her. There was something too final, too quiet, too empty about the house. She was gone.
If I remember right, she didn't show up again for a year. But she never told me where she'd gone.

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