My first memories of my mother where when I was three years old. I remember my dad asking me if I wanted to see my mom and I said no. I’m not sure if I said no for myself or if I knew that was what he wanted me to say. She was remarried to a man named Wayne, an older, half-deaf man who smoked cigarette after cigarette, and when he wasn’t smoking he sounded like he was going to cough up a lung. I hadn’t seen my mom in at least a year. She was pregnant with her second child, though I didn’t really know what this meant. My mother and her new husband had moved to St. Louis, and I was supposed to visit her for a full weekend. This was the first time I was away from my father for any amount of time in my whole life. He would take me everywhere. He was in the process of building a house from scratch, and I was his little helper who would lose his tools for him and build things out of 2×4 blocks he would cut. My parents got divorced when I was six months old, and my mom disappeared for a long time. I learned to live without her, and honestly I didn’t know that I was missing anything out of my life.
One weekend, my mother came to visit in her little blue hatchback car. She took me up to St. Louis. She was large in the belly region, but I didn’t know that meant that I had a little sister growing inside of her. We listened to Fleetwood Mac on the way to her new house. She smoked about a pack of cigarettes on the interstate up to St. Louis, which was about two hours away. When we got to her place she introduced me to Wayne. The only things I remember about him where that he was really strict and wanted me to pick up my clothes and toys off of the floor, and he set bedtime at 8pm. My dad often worked during the night so I was used to staying up later.
This weekend was just about the most fun I had ever had with my mother. She took me to eat ice cream and we walked around the arch. She took me to the zoo for the first time, and the science center. I remember being very afraid of the giant animatronic T-Rex. I remember that they had a computer there, which I had never seen before. My mother was a genius with computers at the time. She had set up all of the computers in the office in which she worked.
After this wonderful day in the city with my mother that I hadn’t seen in a long time, she told me that I was going to have a little sister. At the time, I didn’t even know what that meant. I didn’t know how babies were made, nor did I really care. I never thought that my dad would remarry and have another child, and I definitely didn’t expect my mother to.
When my little sister finally came, it almost seemed like my mother finally had an excuse to try to see me. She was pretty much clean, she still smoked heavily but she didn’t really do drugs anymore. But, she did have an addiction that was eating away at her. Alcoholism is a terrible disease, one that is almost impossible to beat completely. What started with a beer at dinner turned into beers after dinner which eventually evolved into vodka in her sweet tea when she woke up in the morning. Wayne left her, but only got partial custody of Sarah. Sarahs time was divided evenly between her mother and father, and she was always at our mothers house on Friday nights, so that was the night that I was supposed to go over there to. It was important to my mom and her parents that my sister and I always had each other.
I am genuinely lucky that I didn’t have to go over there as much as Sarah. I lead a normal life through the week, but Friday nights were always unpredictable. After school my mom would pick me up from my grandmas house so she wouldn’t have to see my dad. She would often have a can of beer on her that she would sip on while she was driving back to her apartment. Sarah and I were told to go play in our room while mom made us dinner. If she had a boyfriend over, we were told to go play outside until she called us in. After dinner, we would usually watch some TV or a movie together, or Sarah and I would play by ourselves in our room. Sometimes Mom would have friends over, and she would make us go in our room and lock the doors. They would play loud music and laugh and cuss. Once, my mom forgot to feed us dinner so I left the room to ask her for something to eat. I remember that there were two black guys playing dominos in the corner of the room, and another black guy had my mom on his lap. She didn’t look like herself. She was sweating and slurring her speech. I saw that there was a substance on the dinner table that I didn’t recognize. I later found out it was crack cocaine. One of the guys said something along the lines of “hey little girl!” and I ran as fast as I could back to the bedroom and locked the door. After she would be up all night drinking and partying, she would sleep well into the next day. Her alarm would go off every nine minutes from ten in the morning until the afternoon. Some days, she wouldn’t wake up at all. When I was ready to leave I would call my dad and he would pick me up.
I started making the best of the situation. When my mom was sleeping, I was the authority figure in the household. I would be in charge of the adventures my little sister and I would have. She was three at the time, and I was six. My mom had moved back to Cape Girardeau, and she lived in the middle of town. There were a lot of apartments around her, and on Saturday mornings my sister and I would explore the town. We knew when to get back to the apartment so that our mom didn’t catch us. We would hide and play pretend, never realizing the true danger we were in. We are really lucky that we never got abducted or worse.
Eventually my mother got her third DWI. She was sent away for a long time. My family didn’t even tell me right away. They didn’t think I could handle it. They thought they could shelter me from the reality that my mother went to prison and I’m not going to see her for years to come.
I was angry. I became depressed in fourth grade. I felt like I was years older than my peers, and that none of them knew what I was going through. I started wearing black and writing poetry. I stopped doing my homework.
I started going to my grandparents house on Friday nights just to see Sarah. Things were different there. we had a 10 pm bed time no matter how old we were or whether or not we were doing anything more fun than sleeping. Our mother wrote us letters almost weekly from prison, though she never said where she was. In fact, she would actively lie and say she was visiting an aunt or something. This hurt me worse than anything. I rarely wrote back. Lookig back, i felt sorry for her. She was clean for real for the first time in years. She was in a prison that was five hours away for four years of my life. Almost as soon as she left, I had my first period. Then, I started growing breasts. It was awful going shopping for pads and bras with my father. He would often just give me some money and tell me to buy the things for myself, but I had no idea what to get. That would have been a great time to have a mother figure in my life, but there was none. In those four years, I slipped into a deep depression that left me a shell of who I once was. When she finally was released when I was thirteen years old, I was a “goth kid” I wore all black all of the time, and I listened to metal. I was on my way to losing my virginity with my first boyfriend. Suddenly, there was my mom wanting to be back in my life like nothing happened. She didn’t seem to fathom that I was older. She still treated me like a nine year old. I began to resent her, and I refused to go over to her house anymore.
Since then, my relationship with my mother is still shaky. Sometimes she can be really insightful, but most of the time I can tell that she just isn’t all there. I remember the perfect day we had together, just the two of us, and I wonder what happened to that woman. I’m not sure I will ever have a healthy mother-daughter relationship with my mom. I just know that when I have a kid of my own someday, I will never abandon them. I will never do what she did to me.
So happy mothers day to all of my mothers. My grandmothers’ Susan and Esther, my aunts Gayla and Sandie, and all of my friends mothers that have taken me in as their own and have shown me love over the years. And finally, happy mothers day to Roberta. No card could ever express how I feel.