Friday, October 15, 2021

THE BAD & THE UGLY ARE OVER

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Thank you for joining me on this exploration of memory. I have proven to myself that I can write about Mother and remember her without becoming depressed/angry/anxious.

I no longer hear that voice in my head, criticizing everything I do. She's been dead many years. It's taken me a long time to get here.

I'm not saying I'll never bring up Mother again. Some of the things she said were stupid enough to be funny.

Almost 20 years ago, it occurred to me that she was probably depressed, but as a child of the '30s, she never would have recognized it or talked about it. Other than when she issued commands, she was rather inarticulate. Six children was too many. I don't know if she could have handled fewer children better; it might have helped. My brother was the oldest. He was 17 when I was born. She was 38. I can't imagine I was a wanted child. I don't know if any of us were wanted children. She probably believed it was her lot in life to have kids and do laundry and cook for everyone.

She seldom mentioned her own mother and only spoke of her father occasionally. He died when she was a teen. The one story I remember her telling about her mother was a tale of Mother in high school, allowing herself to be called by her first name alone, rather than her first name and middle name as her mother wanted. She said that when her mother found out, "She took me home and beat the shit out of me."

I wonder if her early life consisted of such chaos and abuse that it drove her to try to control every aspect of our lives. If I was cold, she told me, You can't possibly be cold!

I already told you about how she lost things frequently yet became incensed if I lost something. She also said I had no friends. The one who didn't have friends was Mother.

She was fat, but obsessed with our weight.

When I was 15, she started working part time in a children's clothing store. She often said she didn't understand parents who asked their kids if they liked certain clothes. Kids don't know what they like! she exclaimed. So that was the belief behind the strange things I had to wear. I was wearing what she liked, which had nothing to do with what regular kids wore.

But there was good in Mother, too. We always had plenty to eat. She cooked and baked. 

She complained that when she was a child, everything was given to her older sister, who got to take all sorts of lessons. Mother said that everything should be equal. I don't know if my brother and oldest sister took piano lessons, but the rest of us did. Three of us took them for many years. I didn't want to be in the school band, but my older sisters all had instruments and marched with the band and played in concerts. 

Mother was generous. She often baked for people who were bereaved or in need of something good to eat. When X and I lived in Manhattan, Kansas, she and my dad went to Fort Riley regularly to shop. She asked what I'd like and would drop off some groceries. She provided many clothes and toys for our son.

After my father died, she was heartbroken. I don't think it ever became easier for her. Mother visited us at times. She also called me regularly, crying, to complain about someone in X's family who would not leave her alone and had a talent for bringing up upsetting things that Mother didn't want to talk about. If I had told the person to stop, it would have made the situation worse, and X was of no help. It was frustrating that I couldn't do anything to help her.

When she was in the hospital before she died, I couldn't go to see her. We'd had 36 inches of snow. The airports were closed. Driving from Maryland to Kansas was an impossibility. Even getting to the funeral a few days later was difficult. Flights were delayed because of bad weather. When we finally landed, we had to drive through thick fog to reach our destination. It was the same when we returned. 

A lot of people attended. We cried as the eulogist called to memory the happy, funny times we had mentioned to her. No one talked about the bad.

It was a rough life with Mother in many ways. Although she didn't want me to get a college education, she and my dad were thrilled when I got an Associate's Degree. Mother would have been happy when I finished my BA and became a newspaper reporter. She would have read everything I wrote.

She was devoted to her grandchildren and often had the grandkids in her city in and out of her house.

In some ways, I think she lived a hard life. Mother lived by the standards of womanhood in her youth. She didn't change.

I did.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug 

48 comments:

  1. My mother was a child of the depression, too, but had a far happier life, for which I am grateful.

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    1. I wish I knew what my mother's childhood was like. I do know her father had a good job during the depression.

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  2. These posts were painful to read, but I am glad you changed!

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  3. Hold onto the good, forgive the bad. I think that's how we get through. My own mother could be a conundrum. There were times when I didn't know if I should choke her or hug her. I used to try to get my mom to talk to someone, but she refused. To that generation, help was weakness...and we all suffered a bit for it.

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    1. My mom would never have spoken to anyone because she didn't think anything was wrong.

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  4. Women of her generation led terribly narrow and thwarted lives, from my point of view. They say that if you want to understand what makes a feminist, don't look at her life -- look at her mother's.

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  5. Good to know your mother had some good traits, to balance the bad ones. Hopefully, this memoir is cathartic for you. ♥ Writing about my mother was, but I had to do it in the third person to keep a little emotional distance.

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    1. It helps me to know I've reached the point of talking/writing about her without it getting to me.

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  6. For a long time my mother was the person I aspired to become. Then she turned to alcohol and became the person I would do a LOT to never become.
    It took me a very long time to put the ugliness away. The memories are still there, but I can see the other side too. Mostly.
    I am so glad that you were able to develop as your own person, despite your mother's influence. It can't have been easy.

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    1. Oh, EC, that must have been so difficult for you. It took me a long time to become my own person, but I'm grateful I've made it.

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  7. Try not to be too hard on your mother. It's hard I know, but it sounds like she was a product of her upbringing. Sorry that writing about her causes you to be anxious and depressed. I imagine it's good to let it out though. There were good things about her like her cooking and baking and loving her grandchildren. So there was that.

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    1. Writing about her no longer causes depression or anxiety for me. I'm past it.

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  8. So many people are shaped and often damaged by whatever transpired in their life, especially their early development, and of coarse the Era they were from. I think many Women had extremely hard lives, my Paternal Grandmother was a very Hardened Woman, mixed race and poorly educated, lived on the Rez her whole life and was married off at about 13 to a much older Man, she had numerous children and they became scattered, not all raised together. My Dad never spoke of his Childhood and I know it had to of been a difficult one, thankfully he was a tough yet gentle Spirit who was a wonderful Parent even tho' I'm sure he never saw what competent parenting even looked like. I'm glad you have some fond memories to offset the difficult memories. My Mom had serious Mental Health Issues but in spite of that, I felt she was always trying to be the very best Parent she could considering the challenges she faced. I appreciated that both Parents rose far above their circumstances and hardships.

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    1. That must have been rough. I'm glad you know they tried.

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  9. Thanks for sharing all this. I’m at a loss for words. Hope it’s helped to give you some clarity, and peace.

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    1. It has, and I hope that reading it wasn't too hard on you. I know there were difficulties with the dowager duchess.

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  10. What I liked about these post while your mother had her issues and nutty things to drive you nuts, you are still able to find some goods things and memories too. And even posting helps to get it out further and clear the webs.

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    1. It does clear away the cobwebs in my mind. Thanks, Mads.

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  11. Tough woman.
    I feel for you, and I feel for her, the hard life she must have had, and carried with her to her own children.
    I'm glad you can tell your stories because that's one way we all learn that we aren't that different.
    I didn't have a mother like yours, but my mother did, and I think she worked very hard to stop the cycle.

    xoxo

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    1. That's the thing. You have to want to stop the cycle. I stopped it with my daughter.

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  12. I am quite sure my own mother had no standards at all.

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  13. I know that my mother loved me and my siblings. She wanted us to have the advantages that she, a woman born in 1928, didn't have, It was just the way she went about it that was the problem. She also carried the mores of her times with her as she went through life. We kids were horrified when we realised, after our Dad got Alzheimer's, that mother was a racist. She'd never have made a racist comment in front of Dad when he was well enough to take her to tell her what he thought about racists.

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    1. Mother was a racist, too. It surfaced at times and lessened as she grew older.

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  14. That's the secret. She never chenged. I did.
    Same for me with my mother. :)

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    1. Yes. I know you're different from your mother, too.

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  15. My mother was abusive, to all of us, but she was also a good mother, like you said about yours. My brother only focuses on the bad and I try to remember the good. More for my mental health than anything.

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Joey. All people are a mix of good and bad. We have to accept that both exist and avoid being stuck in the mud of the bad.

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  16. In spite of your mother it seems to me that you did all right. Well done you for surviving and eventfully flourishing as your own person.

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    1. It took a long time for me to get past the past.

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  17. Nice to learn more about you and from whence you came.
    Take care, JJ.
    Love.

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  18. Your mother help make you the person you are

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    1. Definitely. She inspired me to be different from her.

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  19. Older times were very hard. It is good that you are trying to understand her and her circumstance rather than just blaming her for the wrongs of your childhood. When we are children we can never understand the hardships of our parents. It is also good to hear that you decided to learn from her and take a different approach to life rather than continuing in the vicious cycle.

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    1. Womanhood was rough. We aren't past it completely, but it's much better than it was for her.

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  20. My Mum always said we just hope that our kids turn out a bit less dysfunctional than we did. Your mother likely did the best she could with what she had. It sounds like she softened a bit over time which is the best we can hope for considering the alternative.

    (((HUGS)))

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    1. When my son was a kid and he complained about me, I told him I was a better parent than my mother was and I hoped he'd be a better parent than I was.

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  21. As an only child, I dreamed of having six children some day. But that wish included two full time nannies for help. Your mother had almost more than she could handle.
    P.S. I didn't get my wish and was enormously happy to have my two.

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    1. My mother should have had more help with the house and the kids. It probably would have been life changing for all of us.

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  22. Heirlooms are not the only things that get handed down from generation to generation, are they? I'm so glad you were strong enough to rise above the things your mom did, to work to create a better life and a better role model for your own kids.

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    1. I treated my daughter very differently from the way I was treated.

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