When forced to witness the reminiscent review of a pleasant upbringing, I often find myself swimming in a sea of envy. I have no ill will towards those lucky enough to have a firm foundation in life; I simply wish I had more of a foundation myself. I sit, trying to write about my childhood, and I’m continually left with the same handful of memories. Pieces of a puzzle I’ll never put together. An unfinished picture, forever missing the best parts.
A reminder to be thankful for the memories I have.
Memories of my Mother
I’m sure if I sat down and started putting all the pieces down on paper, I’d come across way more than I was aware of. But today, I will start with what I know. Then and now. Good and bad.
One of my fondest memories is of me sitting on the floor of our living room, admiring the delicate ceramic tea set before me – a gift from my Mom. I remember her watching over me. Shining with pride, in response to my joy. I was five. A lot happened after that; a move, a divorce, and loads of distance and anger.
I don’t remember when and I don’t remember how, but somewhere along the way, I misplaced my joy. The beautiful gift of love, left behind in an old box – pushed aside with useless and unwanted things. Discarded with the trash.
I must’ve been six going on seven when my Mom and I moved in with my Grandma Dot. She lived in a farmhouse in Republic, Ohio. It was 1980. I’ve always remembered standing in the kitchen of my Grandmother’s quaint little farmhouse, listening to the radio. My family bustling around as we prepared for the day. It was the morning after, that day in the kitchen, the morning after John Lennon was murdered. I didn’t understand but I knew – I could feel the pain, there was no escaping it. My family was grieving – the world was grieving. John Lennon was dead.
There was a moment in my life, before moving to Grandma’s, or was it the reason for doing so? I’m not sure. The first time my Mom abandoned me, was when she left to join the military. That’s how I felt. I was six when my parents divorced. My Dad didn’t want me, and my Mom took off to find herself. That’s how I felt. It hurt, but that’s not why I’m here.
I’m here because I remember being called out of class – I must have been in first grade. Someone popped their head through the door and whispered to my teacher. As they left, my teacher called my name; informing me my Mom had arrived to pick me up. I’m not sure, but I think this was a surprise. I remember being happy, (I feel it now) but I’m not sure of the details. What I do remember is how excited I was to see my Mom, and her reason for pulling me out of class.
She was so adorable. Twenty-six at the time. Young and spunky. She couldn’t help but giggle, as if she’d gotten away with murder. I asked what we were doing, to which she replied – ‘I told them I had to take you to get proper pants, because those have holes in them.’ She covered her face and giggled a bit more. I don’t know if I was curious or confused – I was six. But then she said, ‘the truth is, I just wanted to spend the day with you, let’s go!’
I don’t know what happened next, but somewhere my memories are screaming – best day ever!
Let me just start by stating that my Mom makes The BEST fried chicken. I haven’t eaten chicken in over two years, and I will PROUDLY scream it from the rooftops. I’m certain it’s a family recipe – they all are. This woman can make magic with flour, garlic salt, and pepper. Her fried chicken surpasses the Colonel’s Original Recipe!
I’m just sayin’ – it’s the BOMB!
If I’m being honest, I was addicted to the skin. The perfectly seasoned goodness of fried fat – is it fat? Might as well be? I would eat half a chicken breast, sharing it with my Mom, and then load up on the skin – mine and everyone else’s.
And I wonder how I gained weight… Again, not why I’m here.
I’m here because my Mom used to be frugal – the queen of daytrips on a budget. She would cut up watermelon and fry a whole chicken. Bagging it all up, and packing it away in a cooler, along with drinks, sides, and necessities. When we spent the day at the beach, we wanted for nothing. She had us covered.
My fondest memories are of times spent seaside, with my butt planted in the sand – chicken in hand. Chasing the seagulls and loving life.
In 1994, we picked up everything we owned, formed a caravan, and relocated to Vegas. There were seven of us, a bunch of twenty-somethings determined to find a future out West. We stuffed ourselves in an upstairs Vegas condo near Nellis Air Force Base. A disaster waiting to happen – ten people crammed in a box, vacant of privacy and solitude.
It only took a month. I had made the best of it (I always do). I was working full-time and making friends. I never imagined it would all go up in smoke (or maybe I did). An evening of cards and drinks, the beginning of a trend. Sarcasm and antagonism being dealt left and right. Me sitting in my silence and soberness. Drowning – desperate to escape.
I don’t know when the breaking point was, or why, but I will never forget throwing the pennies. Coins, anger, and vicious words flying everywhere. Me desperate to make it stop – nine against one – it’s too much. I found a space, and I bolted. I grabbed the phone on the wall and slipped onto the balcony where I called my Mom. My rescuer. My safety net. I can feel her panic as I type this. I’m overwhelmed by the inability to breathe. I’m holding the phone, trying to explain, begging to be rescued. At least that’s what my Mom heard.
I have no idea what happened after that. We talked, I calmed down, and we said our goodbyes. Then she called back. I wasn’t expecting a callback – what has she done? It’s so obvious, I should have seen it coming. ‘I’ve booked a non-refundable ticket. I’ll be there in the morning. We’ll leave immediately and start driving back to Florida. Have your car packed.’
Mom to the rescue. At the time, I was a bit annoyed, but never would have gone against her. I was grateful, but felt she jumped the gun. I was nearly 21.
The truth is, my Mom and I have never had a stable relationship. I went above and beyond to pretend and make people believe we did, but it was all a ruse. Don’t get me wrong, we had our moments, and we always had each other’s back. We just have a dark history that muddies the waters of the past and present. Something we are both working on in this season of life.
Releasing all that has gone unsaid, while moving forward and embracing love. I sat down to talk about my Mom’s struggles, her poor health, and how much I grieve her choices in life, but God took me elsewhere. This is me remembering what I can, good or bad. This is me embracing the beauty of understanding, my Mom did the very best she could, and I love her all the more, for it.