Lying in my bed (5, maybe 6 years old), I hear the television turn off and my parents start to prepare for bed. With my bedroom door open and next to the only bathroom in the house, I know Mom and Dad will look in on me, so I position myself in the ‘angelic sleeping child’ pose. A feeling of excitement, giddiness – it was going to be one of those heart-warming moments from the Quaker Oatmeal commercials for my parents, with me secretly acting to make them feel proud and happy. I roll over on my side, facing the door, with a little half-smile on my lips as if I were dreaming good things. I lie as still as I can (it’s so hard to lie still!) and wait for them to discover me. I feel the presence of someone in the room, hear whispering, (this is my moment!) and then quiet. Long moments of quiet. Had they left? They hadn’t said anything…had they noticed? My eyes flutter open only to find them leaning over me – ready to catch me in my little trick. “Ha!” was my mom’s caustic response. “It was that smile that gave you away. You can’t fool me, girl!”
I’m dancing in my bedroom, maybe 11 years old. I look in the mirror and wish I could wear make-up – the popular girls at school wear blush and eye shadow sometimes, but I’m forbidden to do so. I walk down the hall to the kitchen where mom is cooking dinner. I hover in the doorway – I’m not really allowed in while she’s working – and ask her, “Mom, do you think I’m pretty?” She turns to me, several mixing bowls precariously balanced in one hand. “I think you’re the vainest child I’ve ever seen.” I can’t say anything or move for a moment, and then that horrible spiky feeling settles into my stomach. I run back to my room and don’t come out again until I’m called.
I drive home for a weekend visit because I can’t bear to be in the same small town as him – to know he’s 10 minutes away from me and doesn’t care about me at all. I had no idea it was coming – I went to his house for dinner only to find myself hunched on the side porch crying and hearing him say he doesn’t want to see me anymore. Then he just left me there, crying, until I pulled myself together enough to leave. Exhausted, nerves frayed, I walk in the door of my childhood home and greet my parents. “You look awful,” mom says. “What’s wrong with you?” I think I just had my heart broken, I say, my voice cracking as I realize that this a laughably dramatic thing to say but true all the same. “Well, you should have known better,” she says.
Happy Fucking Mother’s Day.