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.
Infinities of love,