How lucky am I to have my blog due on Mother’s Day? On the one hand, I am because I have three amazing daughters, and three step-daughters I’d be proud to call my own. On the other, the day always brings a twinge of sadness because I never had a mother to relate to. I see my friends—most of us qualify for senior discounts—who care for their aged mothers, sad because they are aging. I see their compassion, their love, and wonder what it feels like. I can’t remember a time during my mother’s life that I wasn’t trying to avoid her. She was not a happy woman. She definitely did not want a second child. It took many years of therapy to recognize that it didn’t matter who I was, she simply did not want another baby.
Fortunately for me, I had two grandmothers, my Aunt Dorothy, and my father, when he returned from the war, to care about me. My father was around for roughly six years. Those little crumbs of affection saved me.
Because we moved so many times throughout my childhood, I clung to my year older brother, and books. Books were my great escape and my mother apparently approved. Not much else I did found approval from her.
I see women hugging their mothers, caring for them, and vice versa. I have no idea what it feels like to love a mother. Gads. Even into my 50s I cringed if she got too close, fearing she would strike me.
My brother and I were separated at the ages of 11 and 12, books were all I had left. I devoured them. I placed myself in the homes of the fictional characters, loving and hating them as appropriate. Eventually I began creating characters of my own.
At the age of 16, I participated in a work/school program in Miami. School started at 7 and finished at noon. From one o’clock I worked at an insurance agency, then took two or three buses home because in my senior year my mother moved out of my school district. (Miami Edison Senior High). My mother took my paycheck; I kept enough for bus fare and lunches. Breakfast was either leftover pizza or tomato soup.
One Saturday, I slept late. My mother came into my bedroom carrying a broom and used it to poke me awake. “Clean this pig-sty,” was my wake-up call. I got up. She shoved the broom at me, calling me a slut, her favorite name for me.
Something came over me. I must have reached the end of my tether. I jerked the broom from her hand and raised it like a bat, threatening her. “Don’t you ever call me that again, you witch!” I shouted.
She backed away. I saw the fear in her eyes.
“How dare you talk to your mother like that,” she said.
Tears burned my eyes. “How dare you call me names? If you ever touch me again, I’ll kill you.”
She backed out of the room. I sat on my bed and studied the mess in my room, clothes all over the floor, and on the rocking chair I had rescued from the neighbor’s trash, which I had painted white and stenciled with gold butterflies. I hugged myself and rocked for a few minutes, dressed, and left the house to visit a school friend.
She never hit me or called me names again.
I left home at age 18 and never looked back. I spent 30 years living on the opposite side of the country, even abroad, just so I wouldn’t have to deal with her.
I had reached my 40s before I began taking my writing seriously. One of the first stories I wrote was a pretty badly masked incident involving my own childhood. My mother asked to see it. I dreaded her reaction when she figured out I was writing about her. When she finished reading it, she shook her head and said, “How could any mother behave like that?” She never recognized herself.
Is it all in the way we look at it? Is Nancy Friday correct, when she writes in Mothers and Daughters that all mothers love their daughters, but not all daughters love their mothers?
Now, I write. My mother passed away twenty years ago and I still can’t reconcile the joy of being my daughters’ mother, and the sadness of being my mother’s daughter. My husband says I am still trying, because a common thread runs through my writing—mother/daughter relationships.
Veronica Helen Hart is the author of six published books with two in the works. In Elena-the Girl with the Piano one can find smatterings of the damaged mother-daughter relationship she experienced. There are some parenting conflicts as well in The Reluctant Daughters, too, but no dreadful accounts of child abuse. Her Champagne books, a series beginning with The Prince of Keegan Bay¸ are tongue-in-cheek accounts of an adventurous crew of senior citizens with no baggage to spoil their fun.