Wednesday, June 08, 2005

At First...

I love that I was born during the era that I was brought into. I was born in Spokane Washington in 1962. Spokane is a beautiful city. It is small enough to be manageable, but large enough to have all of the amenities.
The 60's was a great time to be a child, the world was a safer place, children could play in the park, walk to school alone and stop at the corner store without the fear that children and parents face today. The world was modern enough to be convenient, but not too hurried.

It's funny, I don't ever remember being a child. I remember being younger and shorter, but not seeing the world through a child's eyes. I have always felt like an adult. I think that is largely because as an only child, I usually interacted with adults.
From my earliest memories, I recall my parents as being happy together, and our family as being solid. My Father was a cement finisher, I had thought that it must be so cool to build something that will be around for generations and I wanted to be a cement finisher too... My father was quite a bit older than the father's of my friends, he was nearly 40 when I was born, previously he had been a confirmed bachelor.
My Mom stayed home to raise me. She had moved to the US from Italy with her family as a child. Her family was huge, loud and very close knit. Holidays were crowded with people and food, seldom was the house quiet, and I loved that. She brought life into the home. When she wanted to speak, but didn't want me to hear what she was saying, she spoke Italian. I remember being determined to learn to speak Italian so I could understand all of those adult conversations. I thought it was very special that I was one generation away from Italy.
It came as a complete shock to me when my parents divorced, they protected me very well from any problems they were having. I was barely 5 when she moved out and my Dad and I began life on our own.
Within a day or two of my Mom leaving, I remember my Dad sitting at a desk, drinking a beer and studing some papers, he was stressed and I was on his last nerve. I missed my Mom terribly. I began to cry in frustration because I wanted to be with her so badly. I am certain this was painful for my Dad, raising a small daughter on his own and I am not wanting to be with him, but I wanted my Mommy. I knew other kids whose parents were divorced and the kids always lived with the Mom, I didn't understand. I was dogging my Dad with questions about why I had to live with him... He ignored them, trying to hold his temper, and I kept on. Not able to take the badgering from a determined child any more, not having the patience to explain the circumstances, he spat out at me "She IS NOT your Mother! I hired her to take care of you".
It stung like a sharp slap in the face. It instantly sobered me.
Saying that your entire life felt like a lie, at the age of 5 seems laughable, but it really was my entire life, my previously happy life.
I wasn't even Italian anymore.
After several hours, things had calmed and this man, now 45 and this 5 year old girl, had a very adult conversation about life. I learned that my natural Mom (I intensly dislike the term "real" when referring to parents, all mothers are real) and my Dad were married and he loved my Mom very much... The way the story was told to me was that he had come home from work to a note that said she was gone and that I was next door being cared for by a neighbor. I was two weeks old. Why he chose to raise me as opposed to giving me up for adoption is a mystery. He told me as gently as possible that my Mom was a loving and kind person, that she wanted desperately to be a good mother, but feared that she would fall short... With great pain, she made a huge sacrifice in hopes of giving me a good life. No, he had no idea where she had gone.
The woman I'd known as my Mother was named Lucille and she was hired through a classified ad, as a house-keeper and nanny in exchange for room and board.... They eventually fell in love and married, it seemed like the natural thing to do.
My Dad had no way of knowing that he had given me the gift of a lifetime in that conversation... He could have been bitter or mean when explaining this to me, but he was not. He had the wisdom to not taint my view of my Mother so as to preserve the possibility of a future relationship with her. I have always been grateful for that, for later I did meet my Mother and am eternally blessed to have that relationship.
With the stubbornness that children sometimes possess and with a child's sense of rightness, I again did something that I am sure caused pain to the wonderful, kind woman I had previously thought of as my Mother. While she and I remained very close until her death (another post), I never again called her Mom... Somewhere out there I already had a Mother and I would reserve that title for her.
My Father did a wonderful job of explaining difficult things to me, he reassured me that he loved me, Lucy loved me and so did my Mother... But children often blame themselves for things their parents do, so as a child I often thought I must have been a very bad or very ugly baby to cause my own Mother to leave, for years I thought I had somehow driven her away.
I had buried the seed from which low self esteem would later blossom.
More later...

posted by addict @ 6:08 PM |

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