Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Mom and Sad Stories

My mother keeps insisting that I let her know what I want from her.  She wants to know what I want from her before she dies.  I think she's paranoid that her husband will leave nothing to me or my sister if my mom dies first.  I think she's right.  But I am happy to say I don't need anything tangible.  I have everything I need or want.  I don't need things to create memories. 

What I do want from her is some time and a more positive connection.  That is the thing she is very unwilling to give.  I want pictures and stories of my grandparents and their parents.  I want to know why in this world my grandmother was called Amy when her name was Evelyn.  I want to know where my grandparents are buried so I can leave some flowers for them.  I want to know about my great-great grandma who was Cherokee Indian. 

I called my mom today to tell her I wanted to drop off a mother's day gift this evening.  I told her I was thinking about her offer.  What I want is two afternoons a month.  I want two afternoons with pictures and stories.  I want us to work together to write the stories of our family and give those stories to everyone in the family for Christmas as a book - I know I can do it if she gives me a little bit of time.  In doing this, I hope to mend our relationship.

I told my mother the truth, but with a very cautious and non-accusatory tone: 
I don't remember anything positive from my childhood. 
She said, "Oh, that's so sad.  There were plenty of positive things."  I asked her to try to think of some.  It would make me so happy to hear them.  It really would.

I told her I recently heard her tell my kids that she used to rock and snuggle me in a rocking chair all the time.  I have zero memory of that.  I think she's thinking of someone else.

I told her I remembered her taking us to a little lake and then not letting us get in the water because she was sure there was poop in it.  Her response:  Well, there was poop in it!  Me:  Why did you take us there?

I remember my sister putting a frog in the open end of the top bar of our rusty swing set to see who would win the battle between wasp and frog.  My sister lost.  It turns out she was severely allergic to wasps, but was lucky not to die that day.

I told her I remember laying on the couch with chicken pox when I was five years old and intentionally rolling off to try to get some attention from her.  I remember laying there for an hour plotting it out.  She said she was right there with me the whole time, and my sister was on the other end with the mumps.  I beg to differ.  I told her I remember her spanking me for it.  If my sister was on the couch with me, I assure you she would be kicking me and I would have gotten plenty of attention from crying about it.  I have a distinct memory of us both getting mumps later that year.  I remember my sister getting over it, not before giving it to me.  I laid on the couch, which was moved to a different wall than the week of chicken pox.  My sister went to a birthday party and brought me back a candy bar.  I bit into it and thought I was going to die.  I am, to this day, terrified of nougat.  To this, my mother conceded - I think she doesn't really remember.

I told her I remember hiding in the bathroom with my sister while my parents argued right before they got divorced.  I remember glass broke but no details about what broke or how.  She told me the horrible story of that day.  It was actually worse than I remember.

I told her I have positive memories of my grandparents.  She immediately chimed in that my paternal grandma was a horrible person (not my experience) and proceeded to bad-mouth her in great detail until I asked her to stop.  She told me how lovely my paternal grandpa was.  I told her I know for a fact he was an angry drunk and he ruined my dad's life with his alcoholism.

After the conversation, I am sad to say I think my childhood may have actually been worse than I remember.  It's wrong, but I laugh when I write this.  I have learned to laugh.

My mother told me that my kids will only remember the bad things too.  I don't think so.  We celebrate the happy days and retell the stories constantly.  We have had bad moments, and I have been through plenty with my kids at my side.  I know they have seen many days where they struggled with me.  But a day rarely passes where we don't laugh out loud together or share a pleasant moment.  That's the difference.

So I'm thinking I can create a character based on my mother, named Nancy Negativo or maybe just nicknamed Negative Nancy, who cannot stop herself from telling her children the absolute worst stories when they ask for something nice.  She bad-mouths people on the way to their funerals instead of finding the tiny things in their lives to celebrate.  It's a work in progress.  Lucky for her, I have a backlog of stories to write.  Too many stories, not enough time.

I'm going to hold her to the afternoons, but will be surprised if she shows up to one a month.  I offered that my husband can sit with my stepdad who is ill - she said she didn't need help.  I guarantee that will be her excuse.  My husband is on standby. 

If I can get some pleasant stories out of her, I will try to post them here.  It may be a while....

1 comment:

  1. That must've been tough to write. And yes, some people only remember the bad stuff.