OR Lessons from Mom
Growing up under Patsy’s (my mom) watch came with baggage. She isn’t the type of woman to say I love you, good job. I’m proud of you, or whatever you decide to do. I will support your decision. Except for sex, family love is as complicated as romantic love, both will drive the sanest person to the brink, even to crack open a bottle of Jack Daniels. Patsy is like this and because of all her manipulative ways I’d love to hate her, but I don’t and couldn’t. I love her with all my heart. Because of her, I am what I am, strong and fearless. She is what she is because she wasn’t given the options she gave me.
Under her watch, she pushed and pushed. When I was failing geometry in the 6th grade, she found me a tutor. When I insisted on moving to Sacramento after college to find a job and could not she came to my rescue and found me a job where she worked. I felt a failure coming home under her wings and taking a job she brokered, but three months later, I had found my own job and moved out. It turns out all I needed was a leg up.
Under her watch, she twisted truth and reality to suit her objectives and needs. She did what it took to fix the game or the numbers of bodies sitting around the dinner table at my Uncle Ted’s house on Christmas day. If she wanted, I gave. My objections bounced off her skin like flying arrows hitting a brick wall. In the name of family, she had the power of attorney to cut the deal without ever discussing the options with me . Over the years, I assumed she was mean. What I didn’t realize back then was she was teaching me to fly.
She yelled I jumped. I executed flawlessly in public, bowing and curtsying on cue. I was able to discuss books and music, play poker and canasta, set and clear the dining room table without her guests ever realizing I was in the same room. I knew how to make a roux before I could recite the alphabet back to front. In public, I was a model citizen, and in private, I was an angel with a spear. For all her brute force, stern hand, demanding personality, Patsy pushed strength, fearlessness, but mostly independence. She injected my thoughts, slipped it to me in my Kool-Aid, preached strength without ever opening her mouth. If I missed a point, she repeated the lesson—no different to Mr. Miyagi’s wax on-wax off technique—until it was woven into my genetic code.
I had a voice and that a woman has choices. Like me, Patsy watched her mother—Della—make her choices and take her chances. Patsy did too, but not at first. She had her own baggage, which Della inherited from Hinuevea—her Apache mother—, which is what Patsy gave to me, and I have given to my daughter. It’s our legacy. We’re beautifully flawed, but we’re also fierce and independent (notice I didn’t say fiercely independent). So strong are these two traits within me I take them for granted until I have to call on them for strength I never thought I had.
The lesson I am looking for today alongside my reserve strength, is the one on courage. I know it’s buried somewhere inside of me. I reminded myself this morning I will also need to draw on my fierce and independent self as I embark on the journey to publish. I confess more than a flurry of panic as I stand at the fork in the road. Doom and dreaded filled my senses for the length of the moment. I’ve spent the last three years writing and rewriting. I didn’t bother with the fine print, what comes after because I assumed it would come to me as I slept. I can be delusional sometimes.
The panic I exhaled when I reminded myself that I survived childbirth, motherhood—military boot camp is easier—broken hearts, death, self-doubt, my naked body in a full-length mirror, but mostly, I survived childhood under Patsy’s watch. I signed, and after almost surrendering my already eaten breakfast, I climbed back into my skin. Breathe in, breathe out, count backwards from ten, and then jump. I’ve nothing to lose I tell myself, nothing at all.
What gift from your mom, dad, aunt, or any family member, do you most treasure?