I stared into her eyes of lead. I would continue to stare until she blinked. She had been abusing me verbally for years. I would take it no longer; she was the one who was mentally unstable not I. As a child and teen I spent hours sobbing from her nastiness, the cruel streak that ran up and down her ruthless spine. I refused to call my mother “mom” I could barely call her by her first name, Joyce. It was a little better when our dad was alive but not by much; she hid it from him but we knew better.
People who met her thought she was charming and well-mannered. Peals of laughter wafted from her enraptured audience, that sat around her at the tennis club. Her friends would hang on to every word. I’m sure to the public she appeared charismatic. She introduced me to her friends without name, as if I were her maid. Maybe my extra twenty pounds didn’t fit her expectations of perfection or beauty. I had always felt ugly and ashamed of my body. As a child, I hated to shop with her, although she forced me to, never once thinking about why I didn’t want to go, not bothering to question me about it. Instead, she left magazines open on the oak, wood table in the kitchen with the New York Times open to the black and white pages of “Sleep-Away Camp For Overweight Girls.” Subtlety was not her strong suit.
She fully admitted that if she was in her twenties now she would have lived a different life. She would NOT have had children, she would have had a successful career, she would have lived in NYC and would have been an executive. She would have gone to the theater, eaten dinner out in small Parisian cafes, lit by candlelight, attend the ballet. She wasn’t the “motherly type” we all knew that. We think Dad even knew that but he humored her. Her nurturing skills did not exist, there was no evidence of her common sense skills either. She blurted out words and sentences, never thinking about how the other person would feel, never knowing the hurt feelings she could cause because she only thought about herself. “She didn’t mean to do it” she would say as her defense; she would vow that she would resolve that problem by trying to change. We rolled our eyes; this was her standard line; we all knew that it would never last. She might try for a day or two but then she would turn it around and become nasty, trying to make us feel bad for her lonely life. My little brother, Brian, took it the hardest. All I wanted to do was protect him, to take him out of this house and run away. I just needed a few more years to earn money and then I would take him with me and we would disappear. She could have the life she wanted then, we didn’t care. We just wanted to get away from her poison. We still hadn’t gotten over the loss of our father due to a massive heart attack many years ago.
Joyce was a troubled woman, an even more troubled child. Her own parents had been killed in an automobile accident when she was seven. She had been adopted quickly by a family who adored her yet she never got over her own anger. She never trusted another soul, because they could leave her too. As a mother she knew her children would leave her when they grew up, so why get attached to them? This was not the life she wanted anyway.