Updated: Apr 21
I have a very difficult relationship with my mother. That’s really an understatement, but to say it with the right background, context, examples, and evidence, I’d have to write another book. The relationship between us has been difficult since I was in middle school. I have my theories on why that was the case, but they are just theories. Again, if I begin the history on that one, it would take too long. But my assessment on the why she was like that and the history of it, and how it affected me is what made me sad when I looked in the mirror this morning and I saw my mother’s face.
This experience has aged me. The corners of my mouth are now downturned when my face is at rest. My hair is thinning. I have had two pimples in last couple of months. I couldn’t tell you when was the last time I had pimples prior to that. I have found out how people begin to avoid the lady infected with the ‘divorce’ and ‘got cheated on’ virus. With so little real research on it, it seems women everywhere may feel it’s catching. Men don’t want to buck against their own kind, so they stay silent and distant as well.
For the first time in my adult life, I don’t have a man who affirms me and gives me the thing that we women deny exists when we have a man, but it does… that …. that…confident sense of self. The sense of being wanted and desired that really puts the cherry on your life. Deny it, yes, many are denying it as a reality. That’s fine, this article isn’t for them then. It’s for me, and for those to whom it applies. It feels great to be a part of a relationship. It created in me my superpower. The super strength I had to homeschool, cook, clean, decorate, party, entertain, and be the comedy relief for most who knew me. ‘Wonder Ree-Ree'
When I looked at my face this morning, I saw this pain that I knew I had seen before. It was the same look of pain that was on my mother’s face from the day I recognized her as my mother. Even when she was married to my father, that pain was on her face. I remember the games she played with me and my sister were preparation for what that pain caused her to believe was the inevitable- someone would kidnap, rape, and kill us. Yes, one of our favorite games we played with her was “The old lady down the street” game. In fact, it’s the only one I remember playing with her.
My sister and I would close both the bedroom and closet doors in such a way that they made a double door. It made our small room in our small house seem like the entry way to a grand mansion. We imagined ourselves fancy women living there. Mommy would knock on the doors and ask to be let in. Pretending to be a woman living down the street, she would offer us all kinds of treats, rewards, and great experiences in order to be granted entry. The object of the game was to resist letting “the stranger” in no matter what was offered. Yes, that’s the only memory I have of my mother playing with me.
I remember once as an adult I asked my mother why she thought I had trouble with being affectionate. I never understood that about myself. I love people with service and entertainment. Sitting and being still and quiet was difficult. My husband once said to me he would never help me clean up the house and he preferred if I never did any cleaning also. He just wanted me to sit down with him. I didn’t understand that. How would the house get cleaned then? Mommy told me, “You weren’t always that way.” She said, “When you were little, you were very affectionate. I pushed you away because I thought you might turn out gay.” What in the hell?
There was another time when I wanted to go out with a boy. She didn’t just say no, she said I was a whore. Good point to mention here - I had not had sex ever at that time. There was the time when I first started dating my husband. I think she was jealous. She kept trying to convince me that he would never like me, not for real. When I was 17 she told me that he seemed crazy. She said, “I don’t think he will kill you or anything, but he’ll hurt your real bad.” I must admit that in the past few years, I’ve thought of that comment and how prophetic it has been. But I also remind myself that her declaration came from a place of evil and not good.
When she couldn’t convince me that he’d hurt me, she went to his mother. She told her if she were his mother, she wouldn’t let her son date me. She said, “My daughter is crazy and only after money.” My mother in law told me later that she didn’t believe it. She said she knew something was wrong with any mother that would say something like that about her own child.
When I was 19 years old. My mother told me that I was delusional to believe that my husband would ever marry me. She said do you think his family will allow it “black as you is?” Those were her words black as you is. My mother continued to make hurtful and evil comments and ‘prophecies’ on my life and family. Over the years, as I tried to navigate this difficult and hurtful relationship, my husband would often tell me to let her go. Let her and her opinions of me wash over me. All that mattered was that he loved me. He told me, “Your mother just needs to get a man. She’s angry with you and jealous because I love you so much and she doesn’t have that.”
I finally let go in 2015 when my mother started spreading stories about my daughter and my husband. That’s when I let go. Not when she cursed me out in front of my children. Not when she insisted I allow her to buy me a van because she didn’t want to ride in my broken one. Not when she told my children to listen to her and not to me because she was my mother and in charge of me and therefore in charge of us all. I cooled on the relationship in defense of my husband and daughter. The two who eventually cooled, no - iced over, on me.
So now I am free from the oppression of my relationship with my mother. But, I also looked in the mirror today and I understood her pained face. The pain that probably caused her to do all those things, even though it was in error. I saw that my face had begun looking pained also. Being a woman is painful. Being a woman who has been hurt, raped, molested, violated, betrayed, lied on, abandoned is unbearable. Sometimes, our face has to harden. A hard face is the signal to all the men and women… 'buzz off, don’t hurt me, I’ve seen your kind before.’ This morning, I decided I needed to soften up. So what did I do?
I put my Noxema on and washed my face. I cleaned my room. I reached for my go to medicine…Sam Cooke — the good stuff, when he was with the Soul Stirrers. I let a little Otis Redding slip in there too. His voice conjured up vivid images of my Daddy. I remembered the men I could trust; Daddy, my sons- David, Andrew, and Nyles, II. I remembered that I only needed to trust one man though, Jesus. I decided I don’t have to look like my mother. Pain is not genetic. After a little self care, a bit of Sam and Otis double teaming my ears, a soft prayer, and clean sheets, I think I see Ree-Ree looking back at me now.