Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 1

“No, we have to wipe it off!”
“No way!”
“Yes. We’ve gotta. If she dies, Dad won’t keep all four of us!”

Black and White Face

This Isn’t Like My Usual Posts. Here Is the Only Picture.

We’ll wind up with our legal guardians! You know what THEY’RE like. You don’t wanna live with THEM, do you?”

The four of us kids are down-cellar, having second thoughts about the butter we’ve smeared on the top step leading down from the kitchen. We’ve spread it there in order to cause our mom to slip and break her neck.

I don’t know how old we all were–we are each two years apart–but somewhere young enough that we all assumed death would be the only possible outcome, and old enough that at least some of us knew what “legal guardians” meant.

When my sister’s Meg’s therapist told her that our emotional lives in that house were identical to those of the children living in the European death-camps, I had a visceral reaction of disgust–at her therapist, for his gross and inappropriate comment. I repeated it to my own therapist, who, to my great astonishment, agreed one-hundred percent.

None of we four children remember my mom, an upper-middle-class college graduate, ever reading to us. I taught myself to read.

She didn’t ever cuddle us, or hug us (with one exception). While she did, sometimes, kiss us goodnight on the cheek before we went up to bed, as far as any of us can recall she never once tucked us in to sleep, or talked to us about our day.

That doesn’t sound so bad.
 
Part 1 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.
 
Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 2
 

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Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 2


I was born ill, with a rash, and swollen face and eyelids. My eyes were a bit Asian to start with, so my mom figured me for “a Mongoloid baby!” as it was called then, or Downs syndrome. No such luck. Couldn’t rid herself of me that easily (for back then, upper-middle-class white-skinned women could, and sometimes magically did, rid themselves of such babies at the hospital).

Black and White Face

This Isn’t Like My Usual Posts. Here Is the Only Picture.

She was stuck with a sickly baby, and she never failed to resent it and me equally. Each time she talked about how I was sick as a child, the anger would rise in her all over again. How dare life saddle her with such unfairness?

I was allergic to all milks and formulas and all grains but rice. (Mom had chosen not to breastfeed me. Learned her lesson on that one, and breastfed my younger siblings!) Even after limiting my diet, I was still wheezy and rashy. That may be why they put me on toddler steroids. (Dumb question for any endocrinologists in the audience: Could that be why I’m so naturally buff today?)

I had my first trip to the E/R before the age of two, when I stopped breathing. Mom gave me mouth-to-mouth holding me with one hand while she dialed for the fire truck with the other. Our small town didn’t have an ambulance.

At my first celebrated birthday, age three, I couldn’t have a regular birthday cake. That would require regular wheat flour, eggs, baking powder (which has cornstarch)–all things I was deadly (literally) allergic to. So mom made me a cake-shaped mass by molding a cylinder out of Rice Krispie Treat goop.

According to her, I came into the room, took one look at that obviously-p#ss-poor substitute for a birthday cake, and angrily piped out (in my teeny toddler tones):

“Dat’s not a cake! And if dat’s not a cake, dis isn’t a birthday!”
and huffed out of the room.

My mom responded by deciding that she would never again throw me another birthday party. That sounds fair. One moment of toddler disappointment and tantrum repaid by a lifetime of parental spite.

My sisters and brother had parties at home, with mom-written invitations going out to their friends or classmates, but not I. I never questioned this, growing up. If you are raised as the lowest dog of the pack, you accept your place.
 
Not nice, but no death-camp, by any means.
 
Episode 2 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.
 
ADDENDUM

The first time I realized that my not ever having a birthday party was not normal, I was eighteen, in my second semester of college. The marvelous Maria and I were sitting around the campus lounge eating subs with a couple of friends and the topic of birthdays came up. “What a coincidence,” said I. “It happens to be mine today.” In the conversation that followed, it came out about no parties, and my friends reacted with tremendous surprise, followed by pity and embarrassment for me. I sat there, overwhelmed by shame at their pity, and the sudden realization that the way I’d been treated hadn’t been normal. I struggled to hide that I was trying not to cry.

Then, Maria spilled her entire 16-ounce ice-cold bright-red Hawaiian Punch right down the crotch of my white pants. (They had to be white.)

When I left the bathroom after abandoning all hope of rescuing the pants or my dignity–I looked like I had both incontinence and the most fluorescent bladder infection ever–I came back to the table to find a birthday candle poking out of my sub sandwich and my friends singing “Happy Birthday”. Now realizing that Maria had spilled her punch on purpose in order to get me away so that she could scout up that candle, and wanting to wring her beautiful brown neck for this, I instead had to stand there with a pasted-on smile of pleasure while the icy red punch of loving friendship continued to drip down the insides of my thighs.

THAT was my first-ever birthday party. (It is still the only one I have ever had, but, based on the experience, I think one birthday party was enough 🙂 )
 
Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 3
 

Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 3


When my dimestore sister Meg and I were…oh, I don’t know how old, but maybe 6 and 7–we began getting terrible, terrible leg pains at night. So terrible that we cried and cried, and couldn’t go to sleep.

The pain was so bad that I would bicycle my legs on the mattress to make friction against the sheets, because the heat that was generated would distract me just the slightest bit from the nightmarish pain, and any distraction, no matter how tiny, was worth it. But then my legs would begin to hurt too much to move them, and I’d have to stop, until they hurt too much not to move them, so I’d start up again.

This is what I remember:

My mom coming to the door of the room Meg and I shared, and giving each of us one tiny orange St. Joseph’s aspirin for children, with a small sip of water to wash it down after we chewed it. Then, my mom walking out the door, leaving us behind to cry.

That’s all she did. If she did more, or said a sympathetic word, I don’t remember it.

This is also what I remember:

My dad coming in sometimes to rub our legs, which made the pain lessen while he was rubbing. It came back as soon as he stopped, but oh, the bliss of having that relief while he rubbed them!

I would look on impatiently in envious agony while Meg had her turn. I imagine she would do the same while I had mine.

Once, mom asked our pediatrician what was causing the pain. He said “Growing pains. Don’t worry about it. They’ll grow out of it.”

It took some years, but we did.

My first son also suffered from “growing pains”. I, being a parent who loved him, did everything I could. My hands had such awful lupus arthritis at times when my boys were young, and sometimes it hurt me so much at the end of the day to massage his legs and knees…but of course, I did it.

Since I had suffered myself, I knew the techniques and places that I had learned as an adult worked on me–under and around the kneecaps, especially–and they worked on him, as well.

With his doctor’s okay, I also gave him an anti-inflammatory at a dose appropriate to his weight. If he’d had a particular bad night, I gave him another the next morning, and one on days before he was going to be highly active, to ward off that night’s pains.

Because I knew now that what he had merely a brush of, and what Meg and I had suffered from, was juvenile arthritis.

A few years back, I was at my mom’s house, and saw for the first time a photo of her as a little girl. She was a highly-attractive four-year-old, with an older girl’s self-presence, very artfully posed.

“Mom! You were so beautiful! You look like an actress!”
“I remember that day. I hated it. The doctor had just left, and they made me get out of bed for that picture.”

Black and White Face

This Isn’t Like My Usual Posts. Here Is the Only Picture.

What do you mean, ‘the doctor just left’? What was he there for?”
“For my treatments.”

“WHAT ‘treatments’?”
“He used to come to the house twice a week and give me my medicine for my legs. I had J.A.”

“MOM! You KNEW you had juvenile arthritis? You never said a thing when Meg and I were suffering when we were young!”

Dead silence from Mrs. Hyde.

Dear Mom: If you didn’t hate us both, someone outside the family might say you did a very good job of acting like you did.

(If Macy Girl had gotten leg cramps each night so bad they made her cry, would it have been the same?)
 
Episode 3 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.
 
Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 4
 

Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 4

Like our father, but not as often, Mommy Hyde slapped me across the mouth when she didn’t like what I said or how I said it, and did so into my teen years.

But when I was a very little girl, she also sometimes hit me with a belt on my bare rear end–sometimes, the buckle end. And sometimes, she hit me with her mother’s beautiful metal hairbrush–even the stiff boar bristle side. I can tell you that it hurts a lot and turns your bottom very pink.

Black and White Face

This Isn’t Like My Usual Posts. Here Is the Only Picture.

I used to pretend these hurt more than they did so that she wouldn’t swing harder. I thought that was smart.

I was afraid of the belt–not so much of the hairbrush–but given a choice (As if! Good one, Babe! 🙂 ), I would have taken any hits to the bottom from objects if it would have ended the hits to my mouth from my parents’ fore- and backhands.

One time, mom sent Meg flying across the kitchen: WHACK! into the corner of the counter with her head. I could tell that scared her. (I don’t think she was scared because she was worried for Meg–she was scared she’d be in trouble.) Another time, my brother Paul was too fast for her. He ducked, and her speeding hand connected with the wall behind him. She screamed out and started crying.

It was the first time I had ever seen her cry. I was shaken. But more than that, I was ecstatic! SHE had gotten hurt! SHE, instead of Paul! How great was THAT!! I had to fight to hide the happiness and not jump up cheering.

My male parent, Warren, came running to comfort her. Neither one gave any of us a glance, or felt any shame that Mommy Hyde had been swinging so hard at a small child that when she missed it caused serious hurt to her wrist.

It turned out her wrist was sprained, poor thing. She had to wear a brace.

No guilt over “What if it had instead been little Paul’s neck?”

***

Mommy Hyde added her own twist to rinsing the mouth out with soap. With the water running, she stoppered the pink bathroom sink and held my face down under the water while she rubbed the soap against my teeth, forcing me to breathe in soapy water through my mouth and nose.

I still remember how very scared I was. I thought I was going to drown. I inhaled a lot of soapy water, and came up coughing and crying when she finally let me up.

***

When my bedsheets became bloody from my nighttime scratching in my sleep due to my allergic eczema, she made me carry them down to the basement laundry tub in the mornings and hand-scrub them in cold water using Lava soap (rough with ground-up pumice stone) to get the blood out—thus guaranteeing increased irritation of the skin on my hands, thus guaranteeing worse nights of eczema and scratching to come. I often bled fresh blood even while I was scrubbing away.

Mom, this was truly sick, sick behavior. Do you know how this made me feel? Let me tell you. I felt sad, and very small and helpless, and hopeless.

While I was scrubbing, standing on a chair, my hands would hurt and sting from the sores where new blood was coming out, and I would be crying, because I was sad, but also because I was mad at myself for scratching in my sleep and not being able to stop.

What a terrible thing to do to a young child.
 
Part 4 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.
 
Hateful Mommmy Hyde–Part 5
 

Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 5

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.

Black and White Face Blue Border

This Isn’t Like My Usual Posts. Here Is the Only Picture.

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

 

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