On Father’s Day

Mom mom mom mom mom.

Mom.

An interesting thing happened to me yesterday. My roommate offered me fries. Hot, fresh, greasy, McDonald’s fries, and I refused. I was already in bed. The sun was still up. “But you love fries,” he said. “I don’t want them,” I said.

Some days it is like this. She creeps in oddly, in the crook of my elbow, and I am stuck, holding her there for the imminent future.

My mom.

When I was young I called her mamma. Something she later became nostalgic about, particularly when my brother and sister cried for her with “mommy.” Mommy was whiney, too needy. Mamma implied something else. A more genuine interest, maybe. Respect.

I’ve almost always had a genuine interest in my mother. For as long as I can remember, I have puzzled over her, tried to solve her.

I broke into her childhood suitcase, filled to the brim with letters I tried to read. I dove into her bed when she was awake, often falling asleep to the scents in the sheets. Something so soothing there. Cigarette smoke and Opium. Cedar.

My mother is an alcoholic. What I thought was a snarky quirk, something cute like hipster cat t-shirts–wine in her coffee cups in the afternoon–has turned into something vicious and gray. Like a splayed bunny in the road.

Mom mom mom. She made me unsure of her love, unsure of myself. She left me alone, she shut me out, she didn’t answer my questions. I sought her. She sought away.
I became a cheerleader because she was a cheerleader. I struggled with math because she had always struggled with math. I started writing because she was a writer. Writing to me in a journal before I was born. Rounded cursive words that she lost after my early birth.

Some woman I will never know, my mother. Someone who evaded me for years, who I in turn avoid now. Some woman who called me names and made me doubt the whole world. Made me sure it would devour me whole, spit me out, leave me with her. And what could she offer me, then?

I love my mother. I despise my mother. I do not miss my mother. I rarely think of telling her good news in my life, of any news of my life, or of inviting her to my home. When I was in college I fantasized about lunches with my mother, weekends with my mother. The two of us, as it had never been before. She evaded me still. She insulted me still.

I grew up. I stopped competing with my mother. I know and catch and try to correct the gestures I stole from her, the poor posture I copied from her, the grimaces I make like a mirror to her. I cut my hair. I keep off the weight. I tell myself, I’m doing what I want. Not because she didn’t do these things. Because she told me these things would hurt me. That I would break reaching for them, lose myself asking for them, as she had.

I am not broken. My skin bends and burns. It threatens to reshape, to leave me. It tries to break as it was so skillfully trained to do. I stand up straight, even though my mother taught me to curl around. I find my voice, even though my mother told me to shut up. I talk, and laugh, and succeed. Her anger is not my anger.

She wants me to come home to her now. To reclaim her. To miss her, as she misses me. She wants me to proclaim my success as hers. Me as a result of her. She wants me to bring the good things of my life to her. Like an offering, a sacrifice. Something to appease the Gods. I ignore her texts and block her on social media. Her rantings, so similar to my life lessons. So unnecessary. So unneeded. So uninformed. My feminist guy does a kind thing, but it reminds me of her. How she would steal my agency, silence my voice, prevent me from meeting myself. I know he is not like her. He has a different motivation, a different outcome. Seeks a different me. A me. I only cry for a minute. That feeling of falling rising in my chest. A sunken place. A moment of distress. Historical trauma.

She didn’t give me the words for things, the things I would find. I’m finding what I knew all along: I’m fine.

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