(RETOOLED FROM A MOTHER’S DAY POST ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY THE AUTHOR IN 2013)
Do you know what I’ve discovered since getting vaccinated and watching our country begin to open up for travel? We did it just in time for Mother’s Day! As a mother, I now have the opportunity to see my precious children and 1 ½ grandchildren (one here and one on the way—hallelujah!). What could be sweeter than that? TO MY 12-YEAR-OLD GRANDSON: These Mema lips and hugs are coming for you. I know that there is nothing worse for a pre-teen boy than to be smothered in kisses and have your cheeks pinched by your grandmother (except for maybe accidentally letting loose a fart in front of a person you have a crush on). Well, you better run for cover Little Dude because I plan to cover your little mocha-chocolate face with indelible ruby red lipstick kisses that I haven’t been able to terrorize you with for more than a year and a half. Fair warning, Sweet Boy! Ha!
To be honest, I haven’t always appreciated the concept of celebrating Mother’s Day, because I never had a mother who loved me. My mother has been dead for over forty years, and I honestly can’t say if she were alive today that I’d run right out of the pandemic to go and see her. Let’s be honest here: Mother’s Day celebrations are extremely problematic for children whose mothers caused them physical harm or mental torment.
My mother was probably a paranoid-schizophrenic long before I was born, but she kept it well hidden from her friends and relatives until the chaotic hormones of menopause and two out-of-wedlock pregnancies produced offspring who demanded to have a mother, and it drove her psychosis into the light of day. Can I clue you in on a given? Children are very self-centered—if you bring them to this Earth, then you better take the time to properly parent them. They don’t give a shit what is going on in your life. If you’re their mother, then you better damn well show up and do your job and being crazy is no excuse to those little barbarians: “Feed me, change me, hold me, love me, discipline me—goddamnit—or I’m going down to the nearest children’s ne’er-do-well office and fill out an application to become the worst thief, drug-addict, pole-dancing ho, gangsta, terrorist, self-centered brat that ever lived. Forewarned is forearmed, Mommy Dearest.”—Signed: Your Kid
There is an old adage that women end up emulating their mothers which scared the bejesus out of my sister Pee-wee and me. We were always looking over our shoulders to see if the crazies were going to catch up with us from our mother. We’re both in our seventies now and we’ve managed not to go insane yet (knock on wood), but we did so by tip-toeing gingerly past the graveyard of Mother’s Days lost and putting each other through a sanity check once or twice a year.
My sister and I would take each other’s mental temperature with questions about scenarios that once plagued our mother’s daily existence:
“Are you talking to the wall, yet?” (No, only to myself, but I try not to answer me or to talk back to myself more than once a day!)
“Are you sewing extraneous pockets inside your sweaters and coats and stuffing them with stolen Saltine crackers, sugar packets, salt and pepper shakers, and anything not nailed down at the lunch counter of the Woolworths Five and Dime to prepare for Armageddon?” (No, but I must confess that I take home the little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion from fancy hotels. Does that count?)
“Do you make up conspiracy theories about the Russians trying to take control of your mind through radio waves?” (No, although I must admit that I am starting to consider adopting a Russian conspiracy regarding the Republican party having their brains sucked out by Putin given the events of the past four years.)
“Do you fantasize about killing your children in order to protect them from the ‘Russians’ and white people in general”? (No, but I might consider setting up a GoFundMe page to raise $55M per grandchild to hitch a ride on the first spaceship to colonize the moon if it means they get to escape systemic racism and police brutality on Earth. Does that mean I’m crazy?)
Yep, my mother was nuttier than a fruit cake. But you know what? I’ve recently had a grownup revelation about my mama as I’ve blossomed into old age and my children have chartered their own paths in life. I am cautiously making peace with the memory of my batshit-crazy mother and coming to the adult realization that she did the best she could—given her circumstances.
Mama died in her sleep on an Easter morning in 1980, and I’m just beginning to see her through the prism of a life destroyed by systemic racism, constant sexual abuse by her preacher father, divorce and poverty. As I interviewed people from her past to chronicle my mother’s all-consuming insanity for my memoirs, I learned of a woman who was not too different from me in her aspirations, dreams, and talents. The difference between my mother’s insanity and my sanity—in her lack of mothering and my success in mothering—is that I had all the breaks she could never catch.
I found the true love of a very good man (Mama was summarily abandoned by my father and left to perish in poverty with two babies). I got a great college education (Mama was never allowed to go past high school and spent much of her life as a maid or a minimum-wage cook rather than an opera singer which was her dream.) I have traveled the world, lived abroad, and financially prospered (Mama never escaped the inner city of Cleveland nor did she ever leave the United States—dying in a rickety, roach and rat infested one-bedroom apartment).
Am I sane today in spite of my mother because I escaped ignorance and want? Did I “get over” in life because I didn’t have to succumb to an American apartheid system as my mother did in her youth? Were my babies safe from my potential descent into madness because I had hope for tomorrow and didn’t have to worry about my children’s next meal? Only God knows. But one thing is for sure: I no longer judge my mother for the pain I endured as a child. Besides, it has made me who I am and given me a riotous sense of humor. In spite of everything my mother did or did not do, I have come to understand and forgive the woman who gave me life.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MAMA!
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES ABOUT MOTHERHOOD
“Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met.” ― Marguerite Duras
“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did—that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that—a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.” ― Debra Ginsberg
Eleanor Tomczyk is an author and a satirist who is an award-winning voice-over performer. In 2011, she created the blog, “How the Hell Did I End Up Here” which features mostly satirical posts that have thousands of readers around the world—although she was recently banned in Pakistan (for real!). Tomczyk’s three books were featured in a recent book festival: “Monsters’ Throwdown,” “Fleeing Oz,” and “The Fetus Chronicles—Podcasts to my Miseducated Self.” Currently in her 70s and living life like it is freakin’ golden, she is a consummate storyteller and much sought-after motivational speaker. If you don’t believe me, just ask her!
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