“If I’d known you’d end up like your mother, I never would have married you.”
Mom had once left Tara and I at her friend’s place for two goddamned days because she’d met a guy at the bar who must have fucked like a golden god–what other reason does a woman have for abandoning her daughters for 72 fucking hours in the same damned dirty trailer park she’d worked so hard to get the hell away from in the first fucking place?
Day three, Tara and I were hungry; Liz, Mom’s friend, was poor with kids of her own, and she couldn’t spare the extra food. I’d had enough of the bullshit; I wanted to go home. I was sixteen years old. While Liz was away at work, I took my little sister by the hand; we walked toward Birch Run, where my aunt and uncle lived. On foot, I was sure we’d make it within two and half hours. On her way home, Liz saw Tara and I on the road, and pulled over. I said, “We are not going home with you.” So, Liz took us to Birch Run. Uncle Kenny and Aunt Denise weren’t home, so I left them a note explaining that Mom was missing.
Even though Liz had told me the day before that she couldn’t afford the gas to take Tara and me home, she buckled then, because I fucking demanded to go home. I was fucking cunt about going home. So, Liz drove to Clio, a fifteen minute drive from Birch Run. Tara and I were home for thirty minutes before Aunt Denise showed up, worried about Mom. I was worried about my mother, too, but also pissed off that nobody thought it was a big deal that Tara and I had suffered bull fucking shit for three fucking days. When Mom came in, glowing from her Fuck Fest, she apologized in a breezy sort of way that stirred the bile in my stomach.
“Listen here, motherfucker. Ain’t nothing about me that’s like my mother.”
Except my stint with alcoholism, which at the time, was easily excusable. At least I wasn’t driving drunk and wrecking cars like Jeff was doing on the regular. To this day, it blows my mind that my ex-husband has never spent a night in jail, especially considering the number of times he’s rendered a vehicle crippled. I guess because he’s never involved other drivers…
Yes, I did drink, and heavily, the last two years of my marriage to Jeff. And yes, Nicole knew there was something wrong with me–her dad–her home life. But! I never got shit-faced in front her. I never passed out in the bathroom. I never pissed on her bedroom floor, thinking I was at the toilet. I never attended parent/teacher conferences drunk off my ass. I never hit her. I never swore at her. I never LEFT HER at a friend’s or relative’s so I could go get laid…
Except for the time I went to England…
I only left her home with her drunk dad on the weekend so I could go party with my friends at the bar. I only drank in secret upstairs in my office most weeknights after she went to bed. I only showed up to volunteer in her classroom, hungover. I only cried in my bedroom because I knew I was fucked up when I thought she wasn’t watching. She WAS watching.
I rationalized for a lot of years. I drew a hard line between my mother’s behavior and mine. It wasn’t until Nicole, at the age of thirteen, lost her shit on me. My brilliant girl, my BRAVE girl, she finally called me out, and that remains one of the best days of my life. Because she slapped me hard enough with her words to wake me the fuck up. I realized that I was closer to becoming my mother than I’d thought.
The one thing that has always separated me from my mother is will. Even at my darkest, I always had a level of will that kept me from totally giving up. I’ve always had will. Even before Nicole was born.
Sometimes I wonder how far down I might have traveled if I’d not had Nicole. Nicole saved me from myself and the life I was living at eighteen years old. But as proud as I am to be Nicole’s mother–as grateful as I am for her–I HAVE to believe in myself, if only a little bit. I HAVE to believe I’m good–that I’ve always had goodness and strength inside of me. Or else I wouldn’t have overcome my mother and those around me–I wouldn’t kept my daughter in the first place. And I wouldn’t have recognized I was doing wrong by her for those couple of years leading up to my divorce from her father.
It sounds lovely, really, to say, “My daughter saved my life.” But lately, I’ve been realizing more and more that that can be a lot to put on your child. It’s okay to say, “Yes, baby, at that time in my life, you changed my perspective on life; or your birth has given me many opportunities; or the day you were born, I realized true happiness–my real purpose.” But to depend on your child for every day validation is not healthy for your child–or for yourself.
That’s my mother–requiring validation.
I have worked hard to be the mother. Nicole and I are so fucking close. She comes to me when she needs guidance, and she receives guidance even when she doesn’t ask. She’s twenty now; she and I can be (and we ARE) best friends. We’ve earned it. Raising her, she and I were NOT friends. A parent cannot be driven by friendship. My mother was always driven by the need of friendship. Friendship comes later, after you’ve raised your children to be stellar, independent thinking human beings, capable of taking care of themselves.
I do harbor guilt for the years of closet alcoholism. If not for the drink, I could have been better to Nicole. But, like some of you beautiful Blood into Ink writers have said, it’s important to live in the now. Don’t waste the now.