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Saturday, June 17, 2006 

Because a girl needs a mother

We hid behind the sofa when they were screaming at each other. We had these plastic guns, and we’d aim them at them. Whenever they shouted too loud, made us scared, we’d pretend that we’d shot them and they weren’t there anymore. We’d pretend that they just disappeared. That we were the only ones there, and that we were going to look after ourselves.

They were always screaming, always at each other’s throats. I once measured the time that there was calm, between fights. We got to thirty four minutes. There was just always something. She accused him of taking something of hers, said that he had to have moved it because it wasn’t where she’d left it and she hadn’t touched it. He got pissed off when he came home at eight o clock and found that she hadn’t made dinner for anyone and there were three whiny, hungry children. It was marriage, but it lacked happiness or harmony.

They got married initially because she got pregnant with my brother. They stayed married because she had me and my sister. They got divorced when she realised that she wanted to be single again, had enough of marriage and children, and wanted to move back to the states. So Dad got custody, mom got her life back, and we got a reasonably happy life. Cue end credits here.

Except not quite. She visited the second year after she left. She brought back weird fish and encouraged us to eat the eyes; she gave us presents, and took us to China town to eat noodles and sorbet. We got jewellery and giggled when she showed us photos of her boyfriend, and then later shyly spoke to him on the phone. My brother taunted me for liking her boyfriend too much when I spoke to him, made me feel guilty, told me I should just go and live with them and make his life happier. I ran crying to my room and refused to talk to him when he next called her up.

It was eight years before her next visit. I was fifteen and embarrassed by this short, loud woman who tried to charm my friends. I sat awkwardly through “The Talk” that I’d already had about eight years earlier with my dad, and listened when she told me about the evangelical Christian semi-cult that she had got involved in. We heard tales of her various boyfriends and of her friend who’s children all go to Harvard, Yale, or are in the Olympics. We got an over-sized “I love NY” t-shirt, and more arguments between her and dad. She tried to poison us with stories of how much of a bastard our father is, and generally rubbed my grandfather up the wrong way.

And she phoned up. My sister picks up, “Can I speak to Harriet?” This is an anomaly; in the past ten years I have not known her to be interested in speaking to me over my sister even once. I understand completely that I’m totally hung up and believe that she loves my sister more than me. But really, it hasn’t ever happened before, except maybe on my birthday.

She’s coming over. She needed the dates of when exactly I’ll actually be at home this summer (a measly period of three weeks) so she can decide when to book her flight. I’ve known for a week now, and I haven’t discussed it with anyone. I didn’t even mention it on the phone to my brother. I don’t know what to say. I’m pleased that she’s coming, but there’s so much other shit that we have to deal with when she does. And I’m the only one who’s pleased. Everyone else just doesn’t want her here. Which makes things awkward. I can’t argue her case because what else can I say other than, “she’s my mother”? Apparently that just isn’t good enough a reason for her to visit.

I’m not even sure how much I want her to be here. I don’t want my dad to turn into that argumentative asshole he becomes. I don’t want to be faced with just how many flaws she really does have, but aren’t as noticeable down the phone. And I don’t want to confront my own insecurities, all the old hang ups that make me special in that horribly messed up way.

But a girl needs a mother. I don’t need her to do the mothering anymore. I don’t need her to stand in front of me and protect me from the world. I don’t need her to make my meals or comfort me when I’m scared. I’m past that. But I need to make peace. I need to know that for her flaws, and for mine, we love each other enough to be okay. Before I can fully accept myself, I need to accept the woman that made me this way, and I need to accept her without hating her for it.

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Sometimes "need" can be the worst four letter word of all.


You're right - a girl needs a monther. I've been without that since I was 13 and today, nearly 30 years later I could give my right arm to have that even in a grown up age.

So many things are missing when you don't have that special person to learn from, and even though I've seen those who have big issues with their parents after they've grown up, they have no clue what's it's like not to have any of it at all.

If you hate her, there's still a connection. If she was indifferent to you all together, it would be a whole different matter.

There should be a license to become a parent however, because some people are just too selfish to have children.

A girl needs a right arm.

greywulf: hell yeah, need is by far the worst.

Christa: thanks, and a licence is a wonderful idea... except that if they'd had to apply for one then I definitely wouldn't have been born. Which, I feel, would be a loss.

And Colonel: While, of course, you are right- a right arm is extremely important, it isn't a right arm that I'm lacking. Though, really I'm not lacking a mother either, just one that I actually see.


Hatty - I think a lot of us wouldn't exist today if that license would be reality...lol
There's a lot of dysfunctional families out there.

I relate to this post a bit too much for comfort, it's weird that I can love her when she's on the other side of the atlantic on the phone, but when she's here I'm like an open wound, everything I've hidden so well is exposed.

I just stumbled across this post, so I don't know how it went yet... Will read through your future posts and archives, based on this though, I really like your blog!
Thanks for the link, will add you to mine as well.

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  • An albatross can fly for thousands of miles without getting tired. I've always thought that love is similar to flying, therefore we should aspire to be like the albatross.

    I don't know if I can do that. So far I haven't been so lucky. But one day I'll test my wings with someone, and flying won't be so hard after all. Or so painful.
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