My Mom on Mother’s Day

My mom as she could have been - an opera singer and my mom as reality - kids and married to a monsterMother’s Day has always been challenging for me. It’s supposed to be the day that you celebrate your awesome mom. Although I now know that historically that isn’t true, I feel better about Mother’s Day. But there is still an empty place in my heart for the person I am supposed to be celebrating.

What is tough for me is that I don’t know how to celebrate the person my mother was/is. It is not what most people would think warrants celebration. And so, like many family-oriented holidays, I am left confused and ill at ease. I don’t have a place.

And yes, I can celebrate with my friends, other families who are moms. But there is always an underlying sadness there. I think of the way things could have been. I know, I can’t go back in time and change anything. Even if I could go back in time, I still couldn’t change anything. The only person who could do that is my mom. And as she showed over and over, she was unable to do that.

My Mom

Let me start by writing that my mom is not a bad person. I genuinely believe that she didn’t want to be the abusive person that she was. I have not spoken to her in nine years. I realize that it has been exactly nine years this month.  My estrangement from her is a story for another time. This is the story of how I think she became that way.

The Early Years

My mother was born the third of three girls in 1946 (or thereabouts). Her father had so wished and prayed for a boy. When my mother was born, she was an instant disappointment. She tried to make it up to him, but she would always be just a girl. She would never meet his expectations. But she kept trying.

My mom as a child happiest on her bicycle in 1950'sI imagine my mother as a tomboy, trying to be the boy that her father always wanted. I remember one of the pictures of her as a little girl. She was wearing knickers, sitting astride a bicycle, with a page boy haircut. She was smiling at the camera.

Side note: I would also spend most of my life trying to make her proud of me. I don’t think she ever will be. Just as her father, I don’t think was ever proud of her. The cycle of dysfunction is alive and well. Er. WAS. At least for me. I fought to break that cycle while I was living within the family dynamic. Then I had to leave to save myself.

My Mom Becomes “Proper”

She went from that boyish little girl to a figure skater, a classically trained violinist, and opera singer. The latter is another picture of her, I recall. She and two other women, singing, wearing frilly dresses and white gloves. Quite the juxtaposition from that smiling tomboy on her bike. She looked happier on her bike.

My mom’s father forced her to feel torn between wanting to be who she wanted to be and making her father happy. She won a scholarship to Julliard. Yes, THE Julliard. But she never went. Her father would not allow her to attend. I believe he told her that “no daughter of his would go be some trollop in NYC.” As if Julliard would somehow make her a whore. INSERT BRAIN PIC with eyes rolling up to the ceiling

And soon, both of those things that she loved, playing violin and singing, would only serve as reminders that she was not where or doing what she wanted to. Eventually, she stopped playing, and then she stopped singing. I think that was the beginning of the end for her soul.

I believe that if my mother had grown up in a different time that she would have been happier. She was burdened by her intelligence, knowing that she was much more intelligent, much more capable than what society was willing to allow women to be at that time.

My Mom Meets the Devil

I am not saying that if my grandfather had supported my mom’s desire to attend Julliard, she would have been happier and would not have met my dad. Oh, wait. That is precisely what I am saying. But her father blamed her for that too. When my mother attended Ohio State, instead of Julliard, she met the devil. Or as is written on my birth certificate, my father.

Boy Stalks Girl

My father was a few years older than my mom, which I guess made him more desirable. Her father hated him from the first moment he laid eyes on him. For a good reason too. My father is not a good person. And my father could not win over her father no matter how hard he tried.

The more her father told her that he was trouble, the more it pushed them together. Unfortunately, it is a story that is told over and over again throughout the history of relationships. Girl meets boy. Boy stalks, girl. Girl’s father hates boy. Girl falls more in love with boy. Girl and boy get married. Girl is trapped forever, married to the narcissist who stalked her.

The Perfect Victim

What I really think my father saw in my mom was the perfect victim. She didn’t think highly of herself, both intellectually and physically. And so, when my father paid attention to her, made her feel special, gave her the acceptance and attention that she had craved from her father, she fell for it. My father saw my mom as someone easily manipulated. And she was, for years.

But then, after those few years of marital bliss (I suppose), my father’s true colors began to show through. His narcissism could not handle being married to someone more intelligent, so he convinced her to support him while he was in grad school. And she did just that. When he was done with grad school or in grad school, their first child was born.

That firstborn was the catalyst for my father to constrict my mother’s potential further. She would eventually become a shadow of herself. My father denied her going to grad school (it was never the right time). Just like her father had done, now it was her husband that was dashing her dreams and aspirations. 

Future Victims

My mom gave birth to future victims for him. My mom wasn’t strong enough to stand up for herself in an abusive relationship. And as the years went by and other children were born, she became less and less able to stand up to him for anyone’s sake. I would hate her for a long time that because I didn’t understand her story. Now, I know that she was a victim, even though she was also an enabler and an abuser.  

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