The title of this post speaks for itself.
My memories of living with my mother in Florida span years, broken up by living elsewhere several times. I remember she was out a lot. With a lot of different men. They were all strangers, although I remember some of their names.
When I was five or six, I was sent by bus to Arizona, by myself. I was headed to the “Arizona Sunshine School” for a year. First grade. It was because of my asthma, I was told, but after the year was up, my grandmother picked me up. My mother was no longer married, and I no longer lived in New York.
On the bus ride out to Arizona, my only memory is of standing in the service area at one of the stops along the way and seeing all the men’s legs standing at the urinals. I couldn’t see above their knees, but the image of at least six or eight pairs of men’s legs in dark colored pants, and their pairs of shoes all pointing in the same direction, was oddly exciting to me. It’s strange that I was so young, so unsupervised, and so alone.
I remember few things about Arizona. It was lonely. I liked the outdoors. I wore my first pair of Levi’s and rode horses with western saddles. Cactus was really tall. The only memory I have of any other kids was once across the hall I could see one little girl putting on a “show” for the others, who were sitting at her feet. She was walking up stairs by circling round and round, pretending to climb “higher.” She was entertaining them. And I remember thinking, I wish I was able to do that, knowing somehow I couldn’t. Then I started drawing, and sent letters home, trying to entertain my family with my art. I laid offerings at their feet my whole life. Of all the stupid excuses for a child to lead their life, to please someone else.
The first time I ever heard my voice on a tape recorder was at my eighth birthday party. I had just moved into my mother’s new husband’s house in Washington, D.C.. I entered third grade in the middle of the year and didn’t really know anybody at my party.
Then my mother got divorced again and we moved back to Miami Beach, where I entered fourth grade. I was pulled out of fourth grade before school was over too. My mother decided to move back to New York. We drove north, like pioneers. The car was so crowded, my dog CoCo had to sleep on top of the suitcases in the back seat, next to me. The only thing I remembered about New York was the skyscrapers. My mother had been married to Harold Russek in those memories, but this time she moved to Riverdale.
I had asthma attacks all the way, and the only thing that would relieve them were ice-cold (glass) bottles of Coca Cola. (The cocaine must’ve helped me breathe.)
I finished fourth grade in a New York public school. The only girl I got to even learn the name of (which I forget) invited me to her apartment one day and we sat in her empty kitchen while she told me her plans of becoming a nun. From birth through fifth grade I had been trucking along, a perpetual stranger to everyone, year after year.
The only thing that belonged to her children that she kept — every time she moved — was their child support.
I realized in sixth grade how violent my mother was. Since there was nothing I could do to overpower her, I closed off my belief in her system.
We bombed Afghanistan, and at the same time threw food down to them. I had a parent that abused me, and then put dinner on the table.
My grandmother died in 1982. My mother went to Florida, gathered all the assets, returned and died six months later, disinheriting both her children.
The adulterating electrician I remembered killing my kitten when I was a toddler in baby teeth was dispatched by my mother to call me after she died, to call me a whore. (He actually called me a working girl and I didn’t even know it was something bad. I thought it meant secretary, or something like that.)
Her bony hand reached even further from the grave. For months after her death, I kept hearing the name Lucretia Borgia, which of course made me feel somehow responsible for her death (being the poetry-of-life kind of person I was).
So I went to the library and read a little about Lucretia Borgia , and when I read that she was very likely falsely accused, I felt better.
Apparently the electrician called my brother too. My brother called me afterwards and said…..did you hear?….referring to our mother’s death.
That was it. No tears. Neither of us.
The tenderness I see in the families of my friends is like some exotic fruit, the taste of which I’ll never know.
Everybody, to this day, will lay their griefs (‘grievances,’ I think she meant to say) about my mother upon me.
Even griefs that occurred before I was born.
She was like a violent force of nature that never abated.
The mortuary asked what I wanted printed in the obituary.
I said, ‘she is in our prayers.’
I wouldn’t have expected my half-sister to say anything that would paint her as “religious.” I guess it was a response chosen for its quickness and convenience.-