FAQ from Readers: What does it mean that you’ve never been a daughter?
My mother died when I was two. I have very few memories of her. What I know about her is that she worked two jobs. Her mother, who I called Mama, took care of me. We had a very close grandmother and granddaughter relationship. My mother and I did not. Despite having many women step in to raise me (with varying degress of commitment or know how), I never had a “mother-daughter” relationship with any of them. There was always this disconnect. This absence.
I remain in awe of mother-daughter relationship, their dynamics, the struggles, public displays of affection, the reference for each other, and so many other things I observe.
I have never thought, “I have to ask my mother about this or that. Or I need to get that recipe. Or my mama said this or that. I could never even play the DOZENS as I didn’t have a mother as an ante to get into the sparing match!
It wasn’t until I saw a photograph of Michelle Obama and her mother that it sruck me that I HAD NEVER BEEN A DAUGHTER! There were no photographs of me and my mother like theirs.
Mothers are the carriers of culture, our histories, our roots.
Pearl - An Excerpt from Missing Mama
It took me three long years before I called Aunt Pearl. She answered if she’d been expecting me. I stammered through the socially correct amount of chitchat before I launched into what had been a building presser cooker in my mind.
"What did I do that made you treat me so bad?" I asked her. I braced for a tirade.
"Nothing," she said
I felt flabbergasted. It took a minute for me to pull my mind together. “What do you mean nothing”?”
"You didn’t do anything",
"You were always yelling and whipping me. You punished me for things I never thought of doing. You never let me do anything fun or go anywhere. Youdidn’t let me go to the Beatles concert, even after you said I could!" By this point I was sobbing and wailing.
"Why are you crying?" aunt Pearl asked. "You were always crying".
"Because you hurt me! My feelings! My body! I didn’t think you liked me. Nobody loved me! I was so sad!"
She must have reached for a cigarette because she inhaled slowly then replied, “I didn’t want you to end up like my two children”. Bunny had reproduced again, divorced, and was still living at home. Bubba had lost a whole lot of weight, had become a hit with women, and had got caught up in a lifestyle as a petty criminal.
"But I wasn’t them! I’m nothing like them. I got good grades. I didn’t get pregnant. I didn’t bring any trouble home. I did whatever you told me to do. I asked for nothing".
"I had to make sure you didn’t", Aunt Pearl said flatly, "I didn’t want to be blamed if you turned out wrong. Like Bunny. Like Bubba. Like me. I wanted something better for you".
I had nothing else to say. I held on to the phone and cried out my miserable childhood. I’d spent at least ten years of my life in the care of this woman. I cried until my eyes sealed shut. My breathing sucked in more liquid than air.
"I have to blow my nose, I said. She remained on the phone after i blasted a wad of snot into a thin square of tissue.
Then she said, “I’m sorry”.
We sat in a shape shifting silence. I had a vision. I could see her. She was older without the vigorous bloom I saw through my child’s eyes. The toll of standing long hours: pressing, ironing, and hanging dress shirts, trousers, skirts, blouses, and linens at a dry cleaners, covered her youth like a burial shroud. She was tired. She no more fight. She was no longer a matching opponent for my thirst for vengeance. She was no longer worthy of any of my sharper, fierce, hot feelings. I was no loner mad or hurt. I needed no dictionary to tell me a word for what I now felt about her. Compassion. Tremendous compassion. The seed for growing a mothering heart had already been planted deep inside me. I understood what it meant to be a mother - too soon, without another choice, within the struggle for self, and confined by a legacy of un-mothered mothering. This I knew. I laid down my weapons before her.
"Do you drink?" she asked. "You said you’d never drink".
"I do occasionally. Sweet cheap wines. Nothing hard." I told her.
Later we met in a small neighborhood bar. She looked me up and down. I saw a flicker of approval as I stood to my fullest height, a young woman, in college, working and living independently and on my own terms as best as I could. We both tossed down a couple of shots of Courvoisier. The liquid, music and smokey dank atmosphere made my head feel bad. We sat together in a simpatico solidarity.
When the fog in my head rolled back and I knew I could drive safely home, I rose to leave. Neither of us was demonstratively affectionate. I slid a twenty-dollar bill next to her glass. There was nothing more to say. No more ifs, ands or buts. Just the last time I saw Pearl.
Excerpt from Chapter 6: Pearl (My Father’s Brother’s Wife)
All my life I’ve been sick and tired. Now I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Missing Mama: My Story of Loss, Sorrow and Healing
My first book is out and available for purchase! In writing Missing Mama: My Story of Loss, Sorrow and Healing, I learned that I have internalized grief and sorrow as intrinsically as I have internalized racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of oppression. I was on a healing journey. This is my story.
YO MAMA! is the child of all my life’s work.
The mamas do all the foundational work for every human being. As a Early Childhood and K-12 Special Education teacher for almost 30 years, I see the crisis in our communities as a crisis of mothers. Our mothers are out-sourced and under-resourced, yet they are doing the most important work of all. Mothers need to be healthy physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in order to raise healthy children.
This is why I started YO MAMA!
The YO MAMA ”Rocking (chair) Revolution has begun. Midnight Lullabies is coming to the Twin Cities. More information coming soon!
Thank you for visiting my website. Please tel you friends to visit me too. I’d love to hear from you. You can order Missing Mama: My Story of Loss, Sorrow and Healing directly from me.