Let’s be quite clear about this – the gene pool probably needs a good dose of chlorine. That’s mine, not yours – I’m sure yours is a mine of inherited intellect and unalloyed attractiveness.
This introspection generally arises around the time of your Hallmark commercially celebrated days, which, in this case, happens to be Mother’s Day. And so once more I ponder the great mystery and accident of birthright.
Interestingly – to probably no-one but me – a visit to a psychic last year revealed the somewhat startling news that my ‘old soul’ had been in such a hurry to get going again in corporeal form, that it rushed headlong into the first occupied uterus it could find. Apparently I was completely off-piste and should have aimed for someone infinitely more, oh I don’t know, maternal? This theory speaks volumes about my struggles with patience along with decades of ill-judged relationships.
My earliest memories of bio-mum consist of watching her sit at a Queen Anne dressing table carefully penciling a beauty spot just above the corner of her top lip (kissable) and next to her eye (provocative). The ozone layer was still intact, despite industrial quantities of Taft Superhold anchoring the neighborhood bee-hives, and no-one questioned the cosmetic application of a couple of melanocytic nevus. I guess now she’d have just gone for some discreet facial piercings.
Early photos reveal a well-kept child. Immaculately turned out with long, brushed and shiny hair. I looked like a doll. There are very few photos taken of the two of us. One I salvaged shows a young woman with a vague disconnected look; she holds my infant body away from herself, she is uncomfortable.
The summer I was six she disappeared. She had run off with the next door neighbor, a charismatic German who left behind a wife and son.
Photos from beyond this period reveal a seriously unkempt child. My father, clearly unable to cope, left me and my younger brother to the incompetent ministrations of an elderly grandfather and chain-smoking grandmother, prone to violent grand mal epileptic seizures. My hair was wild and knotted; I looked like a Troll doll.
I hated Mother’s day when I was at school. It was, I grant you, a particularly insensitive era where divorced families were definitely not the norm and the effect on children was largely ignored. The annual Mother’s day stall was particularly torturous. Each class would file into a room manned by zealous parent committee volunteers. The children, clutching a coin purse of loose change, would mill about choosing ugly wall plaques with dried flowers, decoupage soaps and tie-dyed scarves.
How thrilled will mummy be when she unwraps this knitted dolly toilet roll cover?
Inevitably my teacher would catch me hovering uncertainly at the door, remember aloud that I didn’t have a mother and send me back to wait at my desk until the class returned. If only my sarcasm gland had been at maximum operating capacity back then.
Eventually my father remarried and the tantalizing prospect of a nurturing mother figure dangled before me. Alas, like all the very best fairy tales, what we had here was another stepmother cliché. While ‘evil’ seems a bit cruel – actually, come to think of it, cruel is better - she was grade A Grimm material.
Some 40 years on I became reacquainted with bio-mum through the dogged investigatory work of the mad Serbian, who was anxious to prove a point about some psychological issues he attributed to my lack of mothering. He was no psychologist.
Despite some reservations I was at a point in my life where questions of familial medical history were being asked and I was curious to learn how the ravages of time had treated her. I was extremely interested in the genetic deck of cards, which ones had I been dealt and who did I credit?
Bio Mum looks good for her age. She has great skin and bright, sparkling blue eyes. She was genuinely aggrieved when a young man at the local supermarket suggested she enlist the help of a grandchild to carry her shopping – The cheek! He thinks I’m a grandmother! She is a grandmother – hell, I could be a grandmother – I’m guessing she traded on a long held faith in her youthful appeal for longer than it was viable.
I don’t look like her really. My skin is pretty good and I have blue eyes, but unlike hers, mine are myopic in the extreme – I’ve worn glasses pretty much my entire life while Bio mum only succumbed to reading glasses a year ago.
I have invested several years now in trying to make some sense of our estrangement. She doesn’t comprehend my struggle. She has lived with justification and denial for so long that it’s easier to perpetuate the myth of our relationship than to accept the reality. I can only unpack the truth so far before she changes her story, so the biographical goal posts are always shifting.
Bio mum had, complicit with der stiefvater , chosen to omit from her personal history the previous marriage and children. This was awkward when I resurfaced and she was forced to recount the sorry tale to a wide coterie of friends. Her version was florid, tragic and ultimately redemptive – the crowds went wild. She was bombarded with congratulatory gift cards, flowers and balloons – It’s a Girl! It’s a Boy! It’s a fairy tale ending!
IT’S REALLY MESSED UP!
I met a few of her friends, but they make me uncomfortable – they talk about a woman I don’t know.
Bio mum is rampantly right wing, homophobic and racist. She’s a climate denier and has no issue with recreational hunting. Our views it seems on most things are diametrically opposed.
I should take solace in the good stuff, the mutual love of reading, theatre, classical music and travel. We both cope by believing life is a series of amusing anecdotes, even when finding the funny bit proves tough.
These days we see each other infrequently, always at her home and often in the company of my youngest daughter and her sister, my aunt. It is clear we both require some form of conversational shield, something to prevent the superficial from attaining some depth.
I want to feel about her the way my daughters feel about me but I can’t. There’s no contrition, no acceptance or understanding of the train wreck she left behind. She tells herself it all ended happily ever after for us.
But it didn’t.