Joyful Mommy Jekyll–Part 6

Every summer he was home, my male parent, Warren, would wake us all up at 4:00 AM and tell us we had ten minutes to get into the car. Getting in a car to go on vacation with Warren was hell.

Sometimes, though, he was away on business, and mom would drive us. Then, it was a whole different story. Every time one of us kids would go “Oooo, what’s that? I want to go there!” Mommy Jekyll would stop the car and let us.

White and Black Face Fuscia Border

We visited Jesse James town, Silver Dollar City, you name it. Every tourist trap that dotted the side of the road, our mom let us stop at. This was back in the day, before any of these places were built up and all looked alike. People would take their time and chat with children and answer all our questions.

We saw a man wrestle an alligator, a snake pop balloons with its pointy fangs, and a talking minah bird that had its tongue split because the owner thought that would help it to talk.

Alligator Wrestling

We bought little toy monkeys made out of real fur, that got real bugs in it after the monkeys sat in the hot car for days. We went inside a real mine that had an old, blind donkey for hauling, and we all got real quartz crystals.

One time, we spread our picnic blanket by the side of the highway and started eating our lunch. Then, we heard a sound I’d never heard before.

“What’s that?” we all asked mom.

Eastern Diamond Rattlesnake Ready to Strike

“Pick up your things quickly and come back over this way.” she answered, as she bundled our picnic up into the blanket. After we had backed up, she explained that it was a rattlesnake that didn’t like us being there. (Then we wanted to go back and see it, of course!)

Another time, it was raining so hard that no one could see the front hood of the car. Mom pulled over by the side of the road. The rain turned into hail bigger than Paul’s goggling eyes.

Hail and Rain While Driving

The balls made big crashing sounds on the car windshield. Our mom turned around over the front seat and smilingly asked “Isn’t this exciting?”

What a mom.

Mommy Jekyll was adventurous at home, too. Often, after church on Sunday, she would let us steer her. We’d tell her “Turn left here”, or “Go straight and then turn right up there”, and so forth, until we all wound up somewhere none of us had been before. Then, she’d slowly wend our way back along a different route, poking along to see if there was anything interesting to see.

Because we lived close to the border of northern New Jersey, farm country then, a lot of times these Sunday detours would take us next to a roadside fruit stand. Then we’d have the extra treat of eating fresh strawberries, or a perfect watermelon.

Roadside Fruit Stand

Ah, THOSE were the good old days.

Macy Girl recently pointed out that this aspect of our mom which I so enjoyed and viewed as something she did for our benefit may not have been done with us in mind at all. For when she was younger and in better shape, mom would take off on an annual solo road trip and wander at will, taking great pleasure in this.

Lone Woman Road Trip

(It is interesting and, to a degree, disconcerting to me, that I take after Mommy Jekyll in her wanderlust and lack of concern over travelling sans partner.)

It wasn’t only during travel that Mommy Jekyll appeared. For some unknown reason, mom would occasionally awaken in a jolly mood–a mood which she was willing to share with just one of us.

Good Day Strawberries and Whipped Cream

Don’t ask me how we four children sensed this, but sense it we did. We would gather in the front foyer for a hurried, hushed conference:

“It’s one of mom’s good days–whose turn is it?”
“It’s mine!”
“No it isn’t! You just had her time before last!”
“Oh yeah…I think it’s Paul’s turn.”

We were cutthroat, vicious beasts to each other much of the time, but we were scrupulously fair to each other on these occasions. The winning child would subtly ease her or his way toward mom whilst the others surreptitiously faded into various quiet corners, leaving mom with only one child upon whom to rain her rare bounty. Off the two would go, shopping, exploring, to the the movies, or whatever they chose.

None of us were jealous, for our turns would come. The favored child of the day would return and regale us with the details of the treats and endearments they had experienced, and the vicarious pleasure would sustain us until then.

Every Dog Has Its Day

For Every Dog Has Its Day


Initial vacation paragraphs are a little inexact, as well as the 4:00 departure. I just wanted to give an overall impression. Those story parts alone may slightly vary from literal truth.

There were times of happiness in our household I didn’t include. We children did play together sometimes, and had fun sometimes. Mommy and Mr. Jekyll acted almost like normal parents sometimes. We even had family jokes. I’ll post about some of the good times someday.

There were evils I didn’t include. One I mentioned in a comment response: Mommy Hyde stopped buying me clothes at age 16. Another: My first term at college, Mommy Hyde packed up and gave away everything I owned. (Macy Girl’s things were kept for years.) Yet another: Shortly after she sat by my side while I was diagnosed diabetic, Mommy Hyde showed up at my college dorm bearing gifts: A grocery bag full of candies, sugar cereals, and cookies.

Part 6 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.
Last Part:
Epitaph for Mean

Epitaph For Mean

This is the last post of a series which begins here.
Life was mean to Bernadine.

Bernadine on Lake Michigan

Bernadine’s mom did not understand children, nor, I think, like them.

Bernadines Mom

When she left for work each day, she locked little Bernadine into a room with the maid.

Happily, the maid had a skeleton key. Bernie and she would head for the shore of Lake Michigan and spend contented days there, returning before my grandmother.

At the age of nine, Bernadine was given the maid’s duties: She had to come home from school, dust every surface–including over doorframes–and then start dinner. When Grandma came home, she would run one white-gloved finger over a doorframe chosen at random.

Bernadine’s father hit my grandmother while she was pregnant with Bernie. My grandmother divorced him immediately and would never speak of him again. Bernie was frustrated ever afterward that she could learn no more about her father.

I liked Grandma’s second husband because he allowed me to pick out “boys” toys (a fun toy car and boat instead of stupid toy high heels), but Bernie said about him once “He was a real bastard.” She wouldn’t answer any questions about that comment.

I got the feeling something had happened with my grandfather that Bernie couldn’t talk about–or not talk about to her daughter. This may have been at least partly why, when Bernie turned fourteen years old, she secretly applied for, and studied hard for, a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in a different state. When she won it, she moved away from house with no regrets.

Up through college, Bernadine had good and close girlfriends. She married a man she was crazy about.

Bernadine Marriage Photo

They seemed to be very happy, wed six years before having children.

Her old friendships dropped away, somehow.

And she, an only child, wound up with four children under the age of eight and a husband who was gone sunup to sundown, or months overseas.

She moved from a single-culture neighborhood where everyone shared the same values (and raised each other’s children) to a multi-culture one where everyone got along–but HER family’s culture was seen as different.

Yet on her first day, all her new neighbors did come to welcome her:

“What kind of mother DOES that?! We’re going to call the POLICE!”

While busy unpacking, Bernie had put her toddler in the shaded front yard wearing a safety harness. It was looped to a clothesline run, like a dog’s.

That’s what moms did in her old neighborhood.


Bernie’s husband was an expert in the bully’s trick of chip-chip-chipping away at every sensitive issue repeatedly until it reaches the point that the victim snaps–for no reason, to anyone not in the know.

Bernie grew defensive and paranoid and full of temper at him and the world. She became an expert chipper in her own right.

Warren also interrupted Bernie constantly, and jumped to correct her in front of family and guests.

This is accepted (or not noticed) by listeners more when men do it to women than the reverse. Over the years, Bernie became frustrated by her lack of voice.

She sought an audience and temporary society among strangers, striking up conversations while out shopping. With Bernadine so reluctant to give up the floor she so rarely had, these brief exchanges evolved over time to monologues. Until her eyesight went, and Bernie gave up pleasure-trips, one could locate her in stores by looking in corners for her trapped, glazed-eyed prey.

Poor Bernadine had lupus, and an undiagnosed parathyroid problem that made her bad temper worse. I also believe that in the worst years of her yelling, menopause was a major contributor.

So, basically, the woman was working against a stacked deck.

Does that entirely excuse the abuse she inflicted? No.


This past week, Bernie was admitted to the E/R due to high potassium levels–an indicator of kidney failure–and died less than 12 hours later.

She was very good at Scrabble. When I was a child, I enjoyed playing with her.
She taught me the basic back-stitch in embroidery. We made a little teddy bear.
She told me once a new dress didn’t look bad on me like I thought it did. She said “I think it looks nice.”
She was an excellent cook. She made cookies for us.

You would not do that for children you only hated. Would you?

I have always been an orphan. If I cry at some point, it will be because my life and Bernadine’s life intersected in such a sad way. I do feel love for her–because the anger is gone about this: That she didn’t move past her hurt child to take adequate care of the children she was hurting. I hope she is healed at long last.

Now I Lay Me Embroidery SectionIf I Should Die Before I Wake

Epitaph For Mean

Life was mean to Bernadine,
So she began to pout;
And when she grew,
Although she knew,
She should not take it out,

By doing unto others,
What had been done to her,
She didn’t care;
It wasn’t fair;
(So few things in life were).

To her own children, Bernadine,
Herself became the child;
She falsely blamed;
She often shamed;
She yelled like someone wild.

Her own four tried to kill her;
(They thought they would be freed);
And yet at times,
Despite her crimes,
She’d give you what you’d need:

You’d be surprised by kindness,
She’d shock you with a smile,
(It shouldn’t be:
We all agree:
That these were rare was vile.)

No point; no point in poems;
For no more Bernadine;
She had we four,
To love… Adore–
Instead, she chose the mean.
Mommy Jekyll and Babe
Part 7 of a 7-part series that was posted daily. Following this, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.

I think my mom’s yelling was caused by the ‘pause because it happened to me. Once I got a hormone patch, my yelling ended. My own was never constant, and it lasted only a couple of years, but the harm had already been done. If you find yourself post-40 and screaming: 1. check hormones; 2. take drugs.
Begin here:
Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 1
Or read ’em backwards:
Joyful Mommy Jekyll–Part 6

“Care For Some Crumbs?”

Two weeks back, on a Friday morning, I awakened to an email, posted by my brother on Facebook (which I don’t use except to post these posts) that my mom was in hospital. I learned later that day that she had actually gone in on MONDAY. My younger sister and I, who live at opposite ends of the country from her and my dad, talk with her on the weekends. Why would my older sister, who lives a half-hour away from them, not phone one or both of us the day she went in? I don’t want to think for even an instant it was because she didn’t want either of us flying out there just now:

Meg: Has Macy Girl called you yet?

Me : No…why,do you ask, my loving dimestore sister?

Meg: Because she called me yesterday to ask me if I wanted a setting of great-grandmother’s china, or a lamp. I told her I have no use for either, but that you really have a bad jones for lamps.

We both laughed. (One of my ideal jobs would be to rescue beautiful or interesting lamp bases which are horribly befouled by mismatched shades. I’d have my team of crack lampshade fabricators create the perfect shade for each base, and sell the resulting perfect lamps from my perfectly-named store: The Perfect Lamp.)

The Perfect Lamp

One Of My Perfect Lamps

Me : No, Macy Girl hasn’t called. So she and brother Paul have finished divvying up the folks’ goods between them?

(My elderly parents haven’t died: They’re moving from their house to a small Assisted Living apartment.)

Meg: Not just between THEM. This is what she said to me:

I took what I wanted, and Paul took what HE wanted, and (Paul’s wife) took what SHE wanted, and (my daughter) took what SHE wanted, and (my son and his wife) took what THEY wanted, and what was left over was the china and the lamp.”


Burnt Pizza Crusts

They Saved the Best For Last.


Sounds fair. After all, Meg and I, for good reasons, chose not to pay for flights and hotels to go pick through the loot (my mom is currently in isolation with an infection–there’d be no visiting). I’m sure that, had we done so, an equitable system would have been devised so that we got our turns somewhere among our siblings’ spouses, and their children, and their childrens’ spouses.


Red Me and Yellow Them

“But: How Are We Gonna Make It LOOK Fair?”               “I Can Still HEAR You, You Know!!”


Me : Well, Meg, it’s not like Mom would’ve felt any differently. Remember, she put even the dog ahead of me.

Meg: And who could blame her? I don’t remember you ever fetching a thing.

Me : That’s because you never scritched me between the ears.

Macy Girl and our brother are the co-executors of our parents’ will.

(My dimestore sister and I are the co-recipients of our parents’ won’t.)


Am I hearing something different than what you are hearing?

Is Macy Girl conscious of how she sounds? One hopes not. Does it come from the fact that she was raised by a family, and we were lowered by one?


I'm Brilliant

Hey! That’s pretty good! Did I just coin that, or has it already been done? Don’t want to google now and find out I’m not so clever after all…


Macy Girl acknowledges that she was (and is still) highly favored by our parents, but says it wasn’t her fault that this occurred. Meg and I agree. We hold Macy Girl responsible only for her behavior as an adult.

Macy Girl has expressed great resentment that she bears the brunt of helping our parents as they’ve aged. Meg and I feel that Macy Girl is an adult and makes her own choices.

Meg and I choose not to live near to, nor enable, our abusers. It is only due to our geographical distance that I have managed to establish a relationship with my mother.

Louis Sachar Holes

Even After Long Separation, the Parental Soil Remains Low-Yield and Weak


We would assist them as they age by providing information on how to obtain non-family members to assist them. (Meg’s career was helping seniors.)

If Megan and I WERE the type to weigh and measure rights to resentment, or entitlement… Well, let me just say this:

WHO has borne a greater burden from these folks: The favored, or the abused?


Cat B#tch Puh-leeze


This post was not intended as a statement of support that Meg and I have a right to our parents’ things just because they gave birth to us. If the post succeeded, you won’t have even thought about that 🙂

Macy Girl and Paul are actually the co-executors of our parents’ will and trust. Macy Girl was named first. When Meg and I gave our opinions that she wouldn’t follow our parents’ wishes to divvy things up evenly four ways, my father added Paul.

Per the will, all of the home contents are to be divided when they die by us taking turns and pointing to what we want. Now, there is no need for that.
Next post in this Mommy Hyde series: Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 1
First post in this Mommy Hyde series: Dinner For Seven

Dinner For Seven

My parents had three daughters. One was wanted, and has always been cherished:

Their Macy’s girl.

Guess It Was a Florida Macy’s.


We other two are their dime-store daughters.

Pecked From the Nest.


I am now close friends with my fellow dime-store outcast. Surprisingly, her own daughter has been accepted as a good friend of Macy-Girl’s daughter. The nonexistent sins of the mothers are not visited upon the daughters.

Lawrence Block and Ruth Rendell Wrote Versions, Too, But Using Either of Those Would Have Classed Up This Blog Too Much.

Not too long ago, the two cousins, who live on their own in different states, met up at Macy Girl’s house. She served dinner to the young women, as well as to her husband and his mom, and our own mother and father. Dinner for seven.

The next day, my mother and I are on the phone.

“And your sister did an amazing job. She managed to put on dinner for ALL of us!”

EVERYthing Macy-Girl Did Was Always Awesome.

My mother has never praised either of her dime-store daughters for a single one of our accomplishments as adults. Many are significantly more impressive than cooking a meal. I couldn’t stop myself:

“Wait just a minute, Mom. What is so ‘amazing’ about her making dinner?

“Well, she works, too!”

True. Macy Girl does work. Two grueling part-time days a week.

Though, To Hear HER Tell It, Her Two Part-Day Mole-Hills Require Full-Time Mountaineering Skills

“Well, Mom, I worked, too—only I worked full time. And I had lupus. And I chaired the PTA. And I prepared Sunday school lessons. And I STILL managed to cook.”

Here’s how the woman who wombed me and birthed me responds to my own amazing accomplishments:

“Oh, yeah? Who’d YOU ever cook for?”

What I Should Have Said.

I open my mouth but no sound emerges. Unsurprisingly, I left home at 17. I relocated on the far side of the fifty States. I’ve had therapy. Despite this, there are times this woman still manages to shock me into silence.

She decides to fill this by adding, sneeringly: “…besides your family!”

I Gave Her That Sweater Last Christmas. I Thought It Brought Out the Red In Her Eyes.

And as if I, also, find my family insignificant and my achievements worthless, I (yet again) find myself spitting into that glacial unmotherly wind, trying fruitlessly to convince the unconvince-able:

“I also prepared meals for more than my family, Mom. We DID throw parties in the early years of our marriage. Until my abusive spouse succeeded in socially isolating me.”

Ever-nurturing Mom responds.

“I don’t need to hear this!”


“Don’t tell me any more lies about your marvelous ex-husband.”

Yes.  The Real Work of One of My Real Sons.

“I am afraid of the dark. I am also afraid of my dad.” (Written In 1st Grade By One of My Sons About My Marvelous Ex.)

She ends the call.

Only later do I remember that, although my two-faced spouse always jumped to impress most visitors,

Hurriedly lifting up a sponge or broom just as folks drove up,

Striving to do all the cooking whenever my parents or in-laws visited,

My parents did still savor a couple of outstanding meals prepared by my own terribly-inadequate dime-store hands.

Don’t Pictures Like This Always Make You Want to Either Run and Cook It or Run and Eat It?

But I understand why Mom was still not impressed by my skills in comparison to Macy Girl’s.

Around my dining table would have been seated my parents, my spouse, my two children, and I. Dinner for six, not seven.

All this time, I’ve been only one dinner guest shy of gaining Mommy’s love.

Born of the Devil… Never Fully Alive… Controlled From Afar… Be Afwaid!!!!

Next post in this Mommy Hyde series: Care For Some Crumbs?
Addendum Re: Emotional Abuse and Neglect
“That emotional abuse is more damaging than sexual and physical abuse may seem surprising, although they tend to go together.” [Yeah, our mommy and daddy whacked us, too. Meggie got her jaw cracked. You needed to be quick in our house!]

“A definitive analysis of the 41 best studies into the impact of childhood adversity on the risk of psychosis…broke down the role of different kinds of maltreatment. Emotional abuse meant exposure to behaviour such as harshness and name-calling from parents. Emotional neglect meant lack of love and responsiveness…emotional abuse increased the risk of psychosis the most (by 3.4 times), physical abuse and emotional neglect did so by 2.9, sexual abuse and bullying by peers by 2.4.”

“Similar findings come from studies of less extreme emotional distress. In the definitive one…90% of those who suffered early maltreatment qualified for a mental illness. Emotional neglect under the age of two was a critical predictor.”

Guardian article link
Next post in this Mommy Hyde series: Care For Some Crumbs?

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