The letters written here follow 11 years after my mother's death. Although a silent peace and forgiveness was reached just days before she died, I still have scars and emotions to deal with from my childhood. As a child, I wasn't allowed to speak to the pain of the abuses -- the pain and hurt, grief, degradation, lack of affirmation, the belief I wasn't worth anything. Had I spoken out, the wrath would have been multiplied. Layer upon layer the scars still run deep. As I write these letters, I hope to find a place of healing.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~~ Maya Angelou

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Did You Love Them Better?

Dear Mama,

I'm sure it never occurred to you.  Never saw the hurt or anguish in my eyes as I sat in the room with you.  Sunday after Sunday as you taught their little class.

Yes, I watched closely even though I too was only a child at the time.  At about age 11 or 12, you asked me to be your helper.  I saw how you treated them.  Differently.  So differently than you treated me.

And all the time I was wondering if you loved them better.  Loved them better than me.

Was it that you didn't expect the same things from them?  Or was it because you only had them on Sundays?  Or did they strike a different chord in your heart?

So baffling even now as I think back to that time. Somewhere long ago there were some photos of some of your classes, but searching has revealed nothing.  The image here is a reminder of your facial expression while teaching.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Update to Memoir in Progress

I have added another installment to my draft memoir under the tab "Memoir in Progress," if you would like to read and follow it.  Remember, it is a work in progress and therefore very rough indeed.  Entries are dated, so you'll find today's at the top of the page labeled "July 23, 2012 Entry."  Previous entries appear below in reverse chronological order.

For those of you who have written or are writing your memoir, I'd love to have your feedback.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Crumb Gatherer

"The Crumb Gatherer" is a short memoir piece I submitted to Jonna Ivin for inclusion in an anthology entitled Loving for Crumbs.  I'm pleased to announce that my work has been accepted! 

Loving for Crumbs is comprised of stories written by women about a time when they were willing to "love for crumbs."  Release of the anthology is expected mid-August in print and for Kindle.

"The Crumb Gatherer" is a look into my attempts as a child to persuade my mother to affirm that she truly loved me.

Jonna Ivin is the author of Will Love for Crumbs, a stunning memoir of her own struggle with loving and being loved.

Jonna, thank you for finding my story worthy of inclusion in Loving for Crumbs.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Unexpected Rides in the Night

Dear Mama,

You likely never realized the fright caused by those unexpected rides in the night.  Yes, you'd get upset about something, usually an argument with Daddy, and off we'd go.  You, Brad and me.

Out the door in a flurry of having the last word.  Shouts of never coming back and then backing quickly out of the drive!

I think we still had the 1949 Chevy then.  You didn't learn to drive until I was six, so our night-time drives must have been much later than that.  Brad came along when I was eight -- probably I was 10 when I remember this happening.

After you whipped out of the drive, you drove through the streets with no destination, or so it seemed to my child's mind.  I thought when we were in the car we were supposed to be going somewhere.

But not on these nights. 

I'd remember those words, "never coming back," and wonder if you meant that.  Then I'd wonder what Daddy was feeling.

Was he lonely already?  Did he think we weren't coming back, really, for sure?  I wondered those same things.  And I felt lonely and afraid.  Where would we be sleeping that night?  Where would we live if we didn't go back?

Maybe that's why I've never liked the dark or being alone in the evening.  I wonder.

After about an hour, measured in child time now remembered, you'd pull back in the drive.  Brad would be asleep, and you'd carry him inside while I followed wondering what it had all been about.

I know I was glad to be back home, glad to be with Daddy and my room, glad to be safe.  I'm guessing you never realized what working out your anguish cost your children.

For whatever reason we took those night rides, I'm so very sorry for you.  So sorry for us.

Continuing to try to understand and unravel, I am

Your daughter

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Jell-o Kid!

Dear Mama,

I wonder if you remember anything special about cherry Jello.  Probably you remember making it quite often.  After all, it was Brad's favorite!

You probably remember making it in a 9X13 Pyrex dish because Brad loved it so much you couldn't keep up with his appetite.  Never ever would it have been made in parfait glasses like this,

although it would definitely have been topped with whipped cream when served.  Brad's favorite way of eating it!

BUT do you remember an afternoon when the worst thing that could have happened to a mother happened to you?

Lovingly, I'm sure, you had prepared another of those "humongous" pans of cherry Jello.  And you had carefully placed it in the refrigerator to do that gelling thing it was so clever at doing.

I don't remember where you had gone after that, but little eyes were watching and big ears were listening.  As soon as they had all perceived that you were nowhere near the kitchen, Brad went to work.

Despite the fact that he was just passed three years old, Brad had somehow managed to learn how to reach up far enough to open the refrigerator door.  His eyes spied that pan of Jello, and he didn't realize that pulling at it wasn't possible for his little arms and body to manage that big dish of Jello.  And onto the floor it went!

As always, the minute you heard any kind of crashing sound you were right there to see what one of us had done to wreak havoc in your life. And there it was -- red Jello all over your recently mopped kitchen floor!

The first thing you did, another habitual behavior of yours, was to scream at the top of your lungs, "Brad, what have you done now?"  I thought it was pretty obvious but managed to keep my mouth shut.  For once anyway.

You grabbed Brad by the arm and yanked him out of your way, reached for the mop, ran a sink of sudsy water, and began mopping.

And mop you did!  You were flinging red Jello everywhere -- on the walls, the ceiling, the counters, the appliances -- and in those days, most everything in a kitchen was white.  Well, not in our kitchen on that particular day -- red and white was the theme of the day.

I did my best but pretty soon I let out a giggle and that giggle turned into full blown laughter.  At once, you turned and those flashing eyes of yours locked with mine.  I knew it instantly -- I was in TROUBLE!  No way out of it once you had zeroed in on the idea of someone causing trouble. 

I reached down and grabbed Brad by the hand, and I ran with him as fast as I could to my bedroom, closing the door.  I knew that wasn't the end of it.

And sure enough, as soon as you'd finished damage control in the kitchen, I could you coming down the hall.  You stopped first in your bedroom, and I thought to myself, "Uh-oh, that means she's getting Daddy's belt."  When you opened the door to my room, the evidence was clear that I had thought correctly.

You immediately yanked me up from the floor and laid into the backs of my legs with that belt.  I could feel the sting and was determined no matter how badly it hurt, I would not cry!  That always made you mad -- I didn't know why that was.  But this particular day I couldn't think what I'd done that was so wrong.  After all, what I saw before my eyes in the kitchen was a Lucille Ball moment -- extremely hilarious.  But the belt kept striking until I couldn't hold the tears back any longer.

When I started crying, you grabbed Brad by the arm.  He looked so frightened.  I don't know if you'd ever used the belt on him before or not, but I wasn't going to let you start.  I reached for him, and you jerked me out of the way.  I screamed at you, "He's just a little boy.  Don't hurt him, please!"  Something stopped you; I'll never know what.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

Before Daddy got home, you put away his belt, made more Jello, and had me tidy up my room.  While I was there, I changed from shorts into long pants so Daddy wouldn't see the welts on the backs of my legs.  I didn't want to have to explain and get in trouble again.  My best memory that day was that you didn't hit Brad with the belt.  You know, I've never liked Jello since.

Your daughter who's trying to understand,

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