For some reason, there is this notion that girls do not get along with their moms. I don’t understand it. Not that I haven’t tried, because I have. I simply cannot wrap my head around it. It also doesn’t help that I get along with mine on most days.
But then, as if the universe was sending me a direct message, this one girl sent me a text as I was bingeing on a Netflix series that I felt was trying too hard to be original. See, a story needs not be complicated, or about something you have never seen before, to capture the attention of the audience. It simply needs, and trust me on this, to be a GOOD STORY. ‘Trinkets’ was not common, but I also felt it was not as good as Netflix wanted it to be. Or maybe it is my palate that has become choosy.
It revolves around three girls [like every typical movie with girls…ever] but these girls happen to be kleptomaniacs. Well…in the end we find out one of them was going to Kleptomaniacs Anonymous meetings just for show…but that’s not important right now. Where I am going, with this tale of three girls who steal as therapy for their Hollywood lives, is somewhere in episode six or seven, where one of the girls is complaining about her mother (who posts everything on social media) to the other two, then stops suddenly and looks at the second girl and apologizes. This second girl lost her mother in an accident a few years back and is still dealing with that in her own way [the klepto-way]. But it didn’t hit me what had happened in the scene till the second one says “Don’t mind me. Daughters hate their moms. I know that.” Then my phone lit up.
“Can you write my story without using names?” it reads.
“Sure I can” I text back. “But why don’t you want to pick a name? You get to pick anything YOU want, you know?”
“I don’t want to hide behind an identity that isn’t mine. I embrace reality. My reality”
Now for just a second, I had a personal meeting. An existential crisis for MIRAWU. Have I been creating fake lives for the people whose stories I have told? Was letting them hide behind colors and flowers and cities wrong of me? Did I deny them their “reality”? Did I take away their ability to embrace it? To embrace themselves? But then I thought…what the heck. No one has complained, right? And until I post something here that makes someone say “That MIRAWU blog these days has grown a head”… I’m good.
Her mom enlisted in the army at 20 years old. She always wanted to serve. She was lieutenant on her way to captain when she got pregnant. “It was someone superior. That’s what she always said. Never a name. Even his rank was never mentioned. She only ever said that he was her superior and he ruined her life,” she texts.
She was forced to take a leave of absence, which meant she missed the required exams to advance to become a Captain. On top of this, another problem lay in wait for her at home. “Sometimes I think my mom got in the army to escape my grandma.” The grandma, as she describes, is something from a fairy tale. The evil step mother in Snow White, Cruella de Vil, the evil step mother in Cinderella, the forgotten fairy in Sleeping Beauty, all rolled in one. She is something resembling what Biko called a “Hurricane” in one of his Men and Marriage posts.
The mom had to drop out of the army since there was no one to take care of her baby. She had no siblings and all existing family members had been estranged due to her mother. She had no one and she knew it. Accepted it. Hated it. She loathed her mother for being who she was and she detested her new daughter for steering her life to where it was. She had anger so loud that a hundred thunderstorms could not drown it out.
“I don’t remember much of my childhood. But I recall one incident,” the daughter texts. “I think it was my birthday (which I had to find out by fishing my birth certificate from a back drawer that she had stuffed it into). I asked for a photo. A childish thing really. A simple wish. To remember the day I celebrated being born. I wanted a photo taken of my mother and me, possibly with me sitting on her lap, if it was not asking too much”
She wanted this photo for school. Her classmates kept bringing photographs of how amazing their birthday parties were, with smiling faces and tables strewn with treats that seemed to rain from heaven. She wanted a photo of her own to show, albeit without the endless treats and beautiful birthday clothes. But also, she says, she wanted the photo of herself. To remember the innocent times. When it was just the two of them. Instead, she was thrown across the room.
“Yeah, she just picked me up and threw me aside, literally. It’s the only thing I remember from my childhood. I remember my arm and knee hurt like hell.”
“So you paid an arm and a leg for asking for the photograph?”
She doesn’t get it. I thought it was really funny. And before all you Judgy Cathys start with me, remember that tragedy plus time equals humor. That’s what I was going for here.
“I discovered alcohol at 16. I was young and it made me numb to the things she would say to me as soon as I got home.”
“What would she say?” I ask.
“Wueh. Where to start. She would say I ruined her life. That I was the reason her path turned left. She would blame me for everything that went wrong. If she was cooking and she put a little more salt that intended, it turned out to be my fault. I destroyed everything in her eyes.”
“Was she violent?”
“Was she never? I always think I remember that birthday photo thing because it was when it actually started. There is nothing in the physical abuse handbook that that woman has not done to me.”
I am left in a somber mood. I don’t know what to say. How to even say it. how do you phrase a sentence to make tthis girl feel better about her situation? What kind of text will fix her?
“Don’t pity me,” she texts again. “I know what my situation sounds like. I have lived it. but it is my life, and I came to terms with it long ago. But I am going to get out of it. I will leave this hell hole and never look back.”
“Have you ever tried talking to someone about this?”
“No. im talking to you” this statement leaves a burden on my shoulders that I am not sure I can carry alone. I feel weighed down. What if I say the wrong thing? Something that pushes her over the cliff. What is the right thing to say? “But I’m not telling you this to make you obligated to tell my story. Do what you will. I’m just glad I got through the first step of talking about it”
“Do you hate your mother?”
She reads the texts and goes offline. I sit there, looking at my phone, trying to finish the last episode of Trinkets without thinking of her.
“Hate is such a strong emotion. I don’t think I hate her. But I don’t like her either. She has made my life miserable. But she also managed to give me the strength to work hard enough to get out. So now I have this scholarship, that is taking me out of the country next month. I haven’t told her yet. Maybe I will. Also, maybe one day, she will come home and find her punching bag Thousands of kilometers away. Let’s see what she’ll do then.
[We’re still looking for people wiling to share their AA stories. Send an email on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got one]