While growing up, I believed that my mother cared deeply about me and my 5 siblings. I am the second oldest of 6 children. My older sister has paranoid schizophrenia, and has had that condition for as long as I can remember. My mother was never very patient with my older sister, and insisted on treating her as if nothing were abnormal about her behavior. My mother was silent when my father would discipline us for any reason. She would appear to come to our aid whenever my father went into one of his violent tirades; by starting very loud arguments with him in the middle of the night, so that we could “hear” her defending us. Many times, those arguments would turn into shouting matches, but I don’t ever recall my father hitting my mother.
My mother would not discipline us; she stood by and did nothing during all beatings and punishments. She was a “wait till your father comes home” parent. As soon as my father returned home from work each day, she would give (what we called) the report to my father. My father would then call the offending child into the kitchen to receive their punishment. This went on for most of my elementary school years (up until about the 5th grade). When I reached the 5th grade, I became the reporter of the family. I would run to the front door and greet my father when he got home. I would then tell him everything I could remember about the events of the day. My mother was not very happy about that turn of events, and eventually started doing things that made it clear that she wasn’t happy with me.
I used to throw temper tantrums whenever I didn’t get something I wanted (this was the behavior that caused the most disciplinary action for me). One morning, I threw one of my tantrums; instead of her usual “wait till your father comes home” routine, she picked up an extension cord and began beating me with it. I ran, and darted into the closet in my room; she followed me and continued wielding the extension cord. She could not see me, so she stopped and demanded that I come out of the closet. As I emerged, she began hitting me again. This time she accidently hit me in my right eye. I remember screaming bloody murder while my eye swelled shut. I remember my mother looking terrified, and dropping the extension cord. Luckily, I had closed my eye just in time to protect my eyeball, but I had a sizeable welt across my eyelid (I still have a small scar from that event). My mother called my father home from work, put a compress on my eye, and took me to the doctor after my father came come. After that incident, I wore large sunglasses in public until my eyelid healed.
My mother spent a lot of time watching TV. She would often encourage us to stay home and “keep her company” instead of going to school. Once I got older she encouraged us to stay home so that we could watch her favorite series “Dark Shadows.” She was a housewife during my childhood. She used to sew our clothes (I learned to sew by watching her). She also liked to garden, and decorate our house.
My mother found and read my diary when I was in the 6th grade. In it, I blamed my father for all the bad things that were happening in our house. I expressed hatred for him. She tried to explain all the reasons why I shouldn’t hate my father even though most of my feelings toward my father had been nurtured by her. She seemed to have a need to make me feel as though she was powerless to do anything about the way my father disciplined us.
I was at a house party, slow dancing with a boy for the first time when my period started. I knew something was wrong, so I went into the bathroom and discovered blood. I was terrified. I ran home and in a panic (because I thought I was bleeding to death). When I entered the house, my mother was on the phone; I told her about my gruesome discovery. She looked at me, and said “you’re a woman now.” She gave me sanitary napkins and tampons (there was no talk, no explanation, nothing). I found out what to do by asking the friend who had thrown the party how to use the items my mother had given me.
I had only had that one menstrual period when I became pregnant for the first time; I was 13. I had no idea how a woman became pregnant, so I ignored all the changes my body was going through. Around the seventh month of my pregnancy, I needed a physical exam, so that I could participate in sports at my school. My mother took me to the doctor for the exam. I went through an entire physical exam. After the physical, the doctor asked me if I had started my period. I said “yes, I had it already. I’m a woman now.” I remember my mother being in the room and saying nothing. The doctor looked confused, and asked me what I meant. I explained what I understood about having a period to signal being a woman. I told him that I had not had another one. The doctor then did an additional exam. He told my mother that my uterus was about “7 months size.” My mother seemed more shocked about the fact that I wasn’t a virgin. She didn’t talk to me on the way back home. We didn’t have any conversation until my father came home, and she told him that “his daughter was at least 7 months pregnant.” He gave me an emotional speech about his disappointment in me, and how my life was ruined because no man was ever going to want to be with me. They were very worried about people finding out I was pregnant. She and my father decided to send me to an unwed mother’s home in exchange for my baby (adoption). I remember feeling numb. I was overwhelmed, and completely shut down emotionally. My father never came to see me at the unwed mother’s home. My mother came to visit three times. Each time she came, she made it clear that my father chose not to come because he was disappointed and ashamed.
These are some of the memories I have of my mother during my childhood.