Mama, Who Were You?

Everything my mother told me about herself has turned out to be a lie! From her maiden name to where she was born to her relationships with the woman who raised her, all of it false. I am so saddened to know that I don’t know anything about the woman who gave me life.

She never wanted to talk about her past, and I can only assume it was painful. But, as a child, I was fascinated by the beautiful woman whom men turned to look at twice when she walked down the street. When I first heard the song, The Girl from Ipanema, I thought that they were singing about my mother.

When she returned to my sister and me after being away pursuing her dreams for nearly four years, I inundated her with questions about her past. It seems she just made up a past, including her heritage as part Cherokee Indian. She simply gave me false answers to get me to shut up.

What I know is that she was a hard worker, for she never missed a day going to work. She divorced my father after we were evicted from our apartment because my father used the money my mother worked for to buy alcohol rather than pay the rent. So, I know that she was courageous and smart enough not to remain in such an abusive relationship.

I know that she loved the country music sounds of Waylon Jennings, causing quite a furor in our black neighborhood accustomed to hearing Smokey Robinson or the Supremes. So, she did not care what other people thought of her, living her life according to her own tastes and desires.

But, she was fragile, and whatever occurred in her childhood left a hurt so deep that she could not survive in this world without drinking two or three pints of bourbon a day. She dranked alone, never inviting a friend or neighbor over to share a bottle. When neighbors came asking for a little “taste,” she would give me two dollars to give them to buy their own bottle.

She worked crossword puzzles by the boatload, in ink, and never missed a definition. She was smart, even with only an eighth grade education.  I share her love of puzzles, with a bedside table full of Variety puzzles from Penny Press. I think it is a way for me to feel close to her, for she never talked to my sister and me, unless we forced her to, and then she lied.

She lived in this world, but her mind and soul were someplace else, a dark place where only alcohol could assuage the pain and suffering.  I spend many days thinking of her, wondering if she would have been happier not becoming a mother, for she told me one time that she was never meant to be “domestic.”

Still, I believe that she loved us, in her own way. I think she was proud of me. I know even less about my father. So, there is an empty space in my soul, because I don’t know the two persons who were meant to love me the most in the world. Who were they and where did they come from?

It is so important for children to know the histories of their family. It creates in them a sense of continuity and belonging that we all need to be emotionally healthy. Never let a child guess if they are loved; make sure they know that they are loved every day. Talk to them, show an interest in their lives. It is such a gift.

Don’t become an enigma, a puzzle, or a stranger, leaving children to try to piece together your life after you are gone. And be truthful, for lies leave so much unnecessary hurt behind.

Written for the Stream of Consciousness Challenge from Linda G. Hill.

7 thoughts on “Mama, Who Were You?

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  1. You have a lot of insight and wisdom about your mother’s pain. I’m glad you can appreciate her strengths, too. And you have helped me to appreciate my family history which comes mostly from my father. My mother was often vague and made stuff up, too. Must have had some pain back there for her also.

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  2. Hugs. You aare right. Children need to know they are loved. They can forgive most everything else. They need to love and be loved by those they call Mother anf Father above all others. I believe it is an extension of the God/creation relationship within human existence. Peace to you.

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  3. Hugs! You did get an inheritance from your parents, an ability to move on despite your circumstances. Your mom self medicated but you, Regina, pushed through to raise your children and achieve your dreams. This scripture is for you: Psalm 27:10 “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.” The Lord has kept you close and kept you throughout your life. 🙂

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  4. Excellent post. I think your mom and my mom had similar childhoods. Different details, similar feelings. Sounds like you’ve done a lot of work about this

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