As I grew, I tried to please her, but it was not possible to please an unhappy woman who resented her own children. And some more than others.
I surprised her one day.
I cleaned the entire house: Tub, showers, sinks, toilets, dusted (even below eye-level!), vaccuumed, washed floors…
A three-level four-bedroom house (plus dining, den, and finished basement). A lot of work for a pre-teen to do in a day. For anyone.
When she arrived home, my mom said nothing for hours. Until, finally: “You forgot to empty the trash in the downstairs bathroom.”
Being autistic, I didn’t learn from my experience. Years later, when mom went into the hospital for a week, I took over her duties thinking how pleased and surprised she would be. To my great pride, I performed like a pro.
I had never before cooked anything but macaroni and cheese, but I’d sat and watched her plenty of times. I simply did what I’d seen her do (autism ROCKS! 🙂 ). I was delighted that every meal turned out perfectly.
The fried chicken was crisp and delicious, the pork chops were well-cooked but tender and tasty, the spaghetti’s meatballs were firm and yummy (if we’d had Josh then, he may have deigned to eat one or two along with his pasta). The laundry got done, the kitchen got cleaned.
When I was taken by my father to visit my mom at the hospital, what a feather in my cap to hear him describe what I had been doing, and sound pleased about it.
My face was still in mid-beam when my eyes turned to my mom, expecting to see her smiling at me. Instead, I saw daggers being thrown. She was furious!
I remember being surprised not only by her fury, but also that I could tell so exactly what she was thinking, because it was a very big thought for someone my age to realize (I think I was thirteen years old at that point):
“How dare you make my husband happy in my absence!?”
My memory tells me that when mom came home from hospital, she barely spoke to me or looked at me for some time as a result of my invasion of her wifely territory. But it is possible that she treated me no differently than she ever had. I may simply have had a new awareness of the everyday treatment she gave to her dimestore daughters.
Mom was an expert at bait-and-switch (the illegal practice when a store advertises an appealing item they know they do not have, only to offer you a cheaper item when you arrive).
I got all excited when it was my turn to become a Girl Scout. You start by becoming a “Brownie”. Mom took me for the uniform and took me to my first meeting at the elementary school a mile away. The next week, I donned my uniform and ran downstairs. I couldn’t wait to see my friends and sing the Brownie song. But mom wouldn’t take me that day. Nor ever again.
All the other girls in school went through Scouting. They learned knot-tying, orienteering, emergency skills, and songs that they sang when I was around. I didn’t know those things. I felt…
Mom didn’t work outside the home, and had her own car. She took Macy Girl (my older sister) to Brownie and Scout meetings.
I learned from Meg recently (my younger sister) that mom twisted her through the same Brownie-no-Brownie bit.
Beyond actions and inactions, Mommy Hyde’s real forte was her mouth. She excelled at making belittling comments.
She had demeaning nicknames for each one of her children, using them herself, and encouraging us to use them against each other. (Is it any wonder the four of us did not grow up the closest of siblings?) She referred to me as “Skinny Belink, the Boneyard Dancer”, and a phrase that meant “slob”. Her nickname for Paul referred to feces. She accused me, and even Macy Girl (!) several times of being sluts, before I had even kissed a boy.
Macy Girl WAS totally a slut, though. (Kidding. Couldn’t resist.)
One of Mommy Hyde’s favorite expressions she used with me was “For someone who’s supposed to be so smart, you sure are dumb.”
When I was two years old, Mommy Hyde and my male parent were told they should send me to a gifted school. They declined. When I was in 3rd grade, it was recommended I be skipped a grade. They declined. I am sure they felt they could better nurture my God-given potential through their own home enrichment program–illustrated partly by these posts.
I was embarrassed once to discover in mom’s old papers a letter sent by one of my former Art teachers commending my talent and work, and recommending me for special Art instruction. I’m sure he was disappointed that I never said “Thank you” to him for his (unknown) kindness.
What I hated more than anything else Mommy Hyde did was the yelling. She yelled at us so much.
How much? One of my friends back then called me four or five times a day for a while. He said one day “Every single time I call, your parents are yelling.” “No way”, said I. So we kept track.
He was right. And since his calls were random, that meant they yelled all day, every day.
Sometimes when mom yelled at us, we weren’t following her rules, but often we were. Her yelling was so very terrible to me. I hated, hated, hated it.
Two decades later, I found myself doing it with my own then-spouse and children.
Part 5 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.
Joyful Mommy Jekyll–Part 6