By Melodee K. Currier
If I read one more feel-good Mother’s Day story, I think I’m going to scream! Am I the only one who doesn’t have kind words to say about their mother?
I have never called my mother “mom.” The word “mom” to me conjures up images of someone who is caring, nurturing and emotionally available. My mother was none of those things.
She confessed to me before she died that when she found out she was pregnant with me she cried, not from joy, but because she did not want a child. She wanted to become a singer or actress and children did not fit into the picture. But when she told my father she was pregnant, he was so overjoyed she accepted it – or so she said.
When I was born she did something unusual. She named me Melodee after a former boyfriend, Mel. They dated while she was also dating my father. My father proposed first and Mel was so distraught he had to be hospitalized. I never questioned why she would not allow anyone to call me “Mel” — it took decades for me to figure it out.
My mother’s outer beauty was stunning. She had an enviable figure and jet black hair slicked back into a sophisticated chignon. Her sexy Joan Crawford shoes, furs and diamonds made her look like the celebrity she longed to be. The only things important to her were beauty and money, but when she died, sadly she had neither.
When I was a baby, we lived in Miami Beach just one block from the ocean. Even though she did not work, she hired nannies to take care of me. We also had a maid – like in the movie The Help. I loved these women who gave me the attention I was lacking from my mother.
Any security I felt as a young child was ripped from me when she left my father and we moved to Ohio. To add insult to injury, within a year she married a teacher who became physically and emotionally abusive to me. Besides beating me unmercifully with a belt, he would often send me to my room from the dinner table and then he, my mother and sister (his child) would go out. I would peer out of my bedroom window to see the three of them drive away.
She never allowed me to cook, sell Girl Scout cookies, babysit, or even hold my sister when she was a baby. She owned a knitting shop, but didn’t teach me how to knit. She didn’t even attend my high school graduation. College wasn’t an option for me as she thought I should be a secretary. She said if I knew how to type I would never have to worry about getting a job. So after I graduated from high school I was quickly whisked away from my fiancé to New York City to attend secretarial school.
Over the years, she became even more conniving and cruel. While my father lay dying in the hospital she brought her attorney/lover of sixteen years to his bedside to make her the beneficiary of his will. My parents had not been married for over twenty years and I was his only child, his rightful heir. After he died, she used her sizeable inheritance to go on 49 cruises around the world and to buy my sister (my stepfather’s daughter) a condo, cars and more while I struggled to raise my son as a single mother without child support.
Despite her cold-hearted treatment of me, I loved her unconditionally. When she had a foot operation I sent her flowers, but was startled to get a call from the florist saying she would not accept them saying “Send them back, I don’t know anyone by that name!” If I ever felt like a motherless child, it was then.
By the time she died in a hospice in Florida, she had lost a leg to diabetes and was on Medicaid. It was an unhappy ending for a woman whose values were based solely on beauty and money. While going through her personal things I came across her memoir which was entitled “Tears of Blood.” Not surprising, it’s the story of a woman, despite all her abundance, who saw the glass half empty.
The last straw came when my sister had the audacity to send me my mother’s cremation bill. After I returned it to her unpaid, she asked the congregation at her church to come up with the money. As soon as they donated the exact amount and the cremation bill was paid, she left that church. Mother would be impressed.
I’ve learned that sometimes it’s necessary to become your own parent, to give yourself the love and encouragement you never had. My journey has not been smooth, but it’s been rewarding.
Once I stopped believing my mother’s tapes that I was incompetent, I went to college and got my paralegal degree. That degree enabled me to solely manage the intellectual property of a large corporation. It was that stepping stone of confidence that I began writing personal essays for magazines and have gotten numerous articles published.
The emotional roadblocks created by my mother have been torn down, like the fall of the Berlin wall. The best is yet to come!
Thanks for your blunt honesty and congratulations on succeeding despite those extremely harsh early conditions.
Melodee, Well done. I was able to relate to your story although it wasn’t problems with my mother, but my father, but it is essentially the same story. I haven’t the courage you have though to put it into written words. Your comment about becoming your own parent resonated with me. You’re right, at some point one has to get out from under the weight of it all as best he/she can and move on. Thanks for your courage to share.
Ever the perfectionist your mother & mine. The up to date clothes, makeup, perfect body, hair, money & for those of us that just meet those standards – oh well. Mom has a fit that Dawn & I wear jeans, T shirts & Lalah wears shorts & tank tops. You have to dress up!!! 24/7. Thanks Melodee!!
I’m sure it opened wounds that had somewhat healed. We can’t do much about our past, but you’ve proven we can change our futures. Pull up the weeds and plant flowers. Bless you, cousin!
Thank you so much Kathleen!