Irene turned at the door and screamed so ferociously that bloody spittle flew from her mouth, chasing the words. “You’re a bitter old hag, and I hate you!” She slammed the door and threw herself on her bed, sobbing her heart out.
Her mother, Diane, sat serenely on the middle of the couch, leaving the cushions to either side of her undisturbed. She blinked in the direction of Irene’s room, but that was the only indication she gave of having witnessed the outburst.
After a moment, she uncrossed her ankles, rose from the sofa, and walked swiftly to her own room, where she lay on her back and crossed her arms over her chest. A single tear tracked a line through the layers of makeup coating her skin.
While Diane lay calmly in her bed, Irene’s rage grew and grew. Distressing thoughts began to intrude on her, and she couldn’t push them away this time, like she’d always been able to do before.
Thoughts of pain. Thoughts of vengeance. Thoughts of murder.
Eventually, each of the women fell asleep in their beds. The silence echoed through the house all night long until the morning, when it was broken by the alarm on Irene’s phone.
Irene dragged herself out of bed and to her bathroom where she regarded her swollen eyes with anguish. It would never do to show this face in public. She quickly texted her best friend that she wouldn’t be at school, and she went back to bed without waiting for a response.
The school would call her mother, true, but Diane probably wouldn’t answer her phone anyway. Irene knew that she was well under the limit of unexcused absences, and she also knew that she wouldn’t see her mother for at least three days. The older woman always hid after a fight of that magnitude.
Irene thought back to the words she couldn’t take back: I’m not worthless, you are. You would be nothing without me. You won’t even walk to the mailbox, so you can’t even send out checks to pay the bills. They tasted flavorful enough, but they could have used a bit more seasoning.
After all, what is the proper response when one’s own mother calls her only daughter, a straight-A student, a worthless imbecile with the wrong priorities, someone who will never amount to anything in life no matter how hard she tries? Irene felt that words a little stronger would have been quite in order.
“Leoma! Aren’t you ready yet?” Melody called upstairs. “The sale’s only on today, and who can argue with affordable? Hurry it up!”
A rhythmic thumping announced that Leoma was ready and heading for the staircase. Melody shook her head with impatience and jingled her keys in her hand as she stood at the front door. “About time,” she mumbled under her breath.
Leoma made her grand entrance for their exit, pausing at the foot of the stairs so anyone and everyone could appreciate the outfit she’d put together to impress the masses. But only Melody was there to see, and Melody didn’t care, so Leoma huffed and flounced out the front door and to the car.
Melody locked the front door and got in the driver’s seat to start the car.
“Mom, haven’t you had enough of these vices of yours? I mean, shopping is great and all, as long as it’s at a cool store, not these boring antique shops and estate sales.” Leoma crossed her arms and popped her gum, and turned to stare out the window.
“They’re not vices anymore, Leoma. I’m old enough now that they’re eccentricities, thank you very much. Buckle your seatbelt.” Melody put her hands at ten and two and steered them down the street.
“Cut it out, Mom. It’s not like you’re a cop.” Leoma rolled her eyes , but only because her face was pointed out the window where her mother couldn’t see.
“I’m the first law you’ll listen to until you’re eighteen, missy. Buckle it!” Melody ordered.
“Yeah? Lemme see yer badge, old lady!” Leoma giggled.
Melody elbowed her as she turned onto the highway. “I’ll badge you, now hush it!”
I can’t believe I let her talk me into this dress.
My mother has run my life all my life, and now she’s going to ruin my wedding day with this ugly ass dress.
I wanted white. I wanted to look virginal, for crying out loud. But no, “honey, white just doesn’t look right for a late summer wedding.” What does that even mean? Where does she find these obscure fashion rules that only pop up when I’m trying to make my own decisions?
And since when is June a late summer wedding anyway?
I can’t wait until Carl takes this job in Norway. Four thousand miles seems about right to get away from this woman.
I hope she doesn’t decide that’s she’s going to move with us. I don’t know what I would do then. I’d probably have to kill her.
At least we liked the same flavor cake.
My parents don’t get along.
Well, I’ll take that back, a bit. My biological parents get along tolerably well when they’re in each other’s actual, physical presence, at least, since a few years after they divorced. They’re quite civil with each other, and I’ve never heard my father speak ill of my mother. When we talk on the phone, he asks after her wellbeing, and listens to my answers. He even asks after my half-brothers, because they’re my family.
My mother is a different story. Once I was ‘old enough,’ however she defined that age (she never told me; I never asked), the words that she’d held back for so many years came tumbling out. Before then, her communications were limited to eye-rolls and sighs of disgust.
Now, it’s one thing for my best-friend-since-we-were-eleven and I to laugh bi-annually when I received my birthday and Christmas packages from my father; a quick summation of his gifting skills is secondhand, cheap, and/or quite odd. Not that secondhand is bad, necessarily, but when it comes to an address book or a calendar, it does subtract from the usefulness of the item in question. So. It’s one thing for us to do that, and we certainly do. My bestie awaits those packages as excitedly as I do.
But it’s another for my mother to tell me that my father, who always paid his child support the month it was due, if not generally the day it was due, who never struck me, who, as a creative artist, supports my own creative and artistic endeavors, is a sorry piece of shit. It’s worse than the pot calling the kettle black–I don’t know how many times she hit me, and she has often ridiculed my artistic ambitions.
The thing of it is, she’s proud of being that person. One of the (admittedly few) stories I’ve heard of when she and my father were married is about her shrewishness: once, my father simply stated boogers are salty. She promptly and furiously contradicted him: no they’re not! But when she tells this story, she can’t leave it at that; she has to boast that she’s so contradictory and argumentative that even an example like this is a source of pride to her.
My mother collects negativity and misfortune and hoards them, only to pass them out when she needs to one-up someone, anyone. She doesn’t feel the hurt of these things as everyone else does; they’re good things, to her, because she can use them as building blocks to raise herself up to martyrdom, above everyone else’s suffering.
She’s built up this cult of anger instead of personality, and my stepfather bears the brunt of it now. All four of her children have tried pointing this out to her, pointing out her pettiness and her belittlement of him, and all it’s done is make us notice more.
But sometimes, now, he gets angry back, and they will scream and fight and blister each other with insults until one of them gives up; not verbally, but physically leaving the room and locking the other out.
It’s uncomfortable, to say the least. And yes, tremendously awkward.
And I’m afraid it won’t end until one of them is institutionalized.
Tues Truthiness at TBP–from a few weeks ago
It’s been a long time since I participated in a Time Warp Tuesday, but I was just thinking I should go check to see what this month’s topic is, when posts started popping up in my inbox. It’s been a winding road for me to really get back into the swing of things around here, but since she started it, I’ve always loved, if not participating, reading everyone else’s take on each topic for Kathy’s brainchild.
And this week it’s ‘mothering.’
I did start out wondering just how many posts I’ve published that relate to the subject at hand. I know I’ve posted a few about my own mother, but it turns out not so many about my own mothering, of a child, at least, and that’s what I wanted to talk about.
So I found this.
What strikes me the most now about this post, aside from how much huger our little baby’s become, is how my own feelings have changed so much, in direct proportion to Abby’s verbosity.
It’s been a long time since I felt the need to articulate, even to myself, the feeling that I’m not a mother. Okay, a long time to me, but still, at least a couple of months.
All the feeding and bathing and dressing in the world never stopped me from feeling that way before, but a constant barrage of ‘Mom!’ has made all the difference. Mom, look, Mom, help, Mom, I want! It’s validation from the only person who can really make me mom.
Two days ago at the grocery store, we saw another mom and her baby at the deli counter. Side note: I suck at small talk, always. After a few sentences, other mom announced her tiny 15 month old’s birth weight and length, and asked Abby’s. I realize now it would have been entertaining to add ‘I wasn’t there’ after the ‘I don’t know,’ but just the ‘I don’t know’ stumped her enough to stop talking to me.
Looking back, I can say without a doubt that last year, I would have spent at least half an hour crying over that encounter. But really, to what end? Who cares about a birthweight? Who cares about some stranger in a grocery store? I did, but I don’t anymore.
A year ago, the three of us ran into an old high school friend of mine at the same grocery store (we only have the one), who remarked that she hadn’t known I was pregnant. I held it together long enough to respond that I’d never been pregnant (confusion galore!), but I was upset for days over that one. That wouldn’t bother me the same way now either.
I think the biggest change is that while the situation is almost exactly the same as it was a year ago, I feel a thousand times the mother I did then. Nothing can take away the number of times I’ve already heard ‘Mom, look!’ today. That’s what matters.