Saturday, May 13, 2017


~Happy Mother's Day~ 

Mothers are complicated creatures. Some are mothers by choice, some not. Some are biological mothers. Others are mothers out of necessity. And they aren't perfect by any means. These are the messy, complicated mothers I like to write. Mothers who mean well, but have maybe lost their way, by choice or by accident.

One of my favorite moms is Karla, a new widow trying to care for her depressed daughter, Samantha, in The Color of Water.
Somewhere way down deep, I still love Karla. She’s my mom, but there’s no finding my way back to her.  At least, it doesn’t seem like it to me. For now, I follow her around, sometimes her shadow, other times more distant.  She’s not making me finish my junior year of high school.  There’s no way I could have. I guess she knows that cause she never even brought it up.
But this morning, instead of lying in bed until ten like we have been, Karla’s up packing what little we have into the trunk of her Civic.  She’s been worrying for weeks about money and rent and all, but I really wasn’t paying attention before today.  Just before five in the afternoon, we slid into the seats of her car and she started the engine.
“This will be good for us,” said Karla, staring straight ahead at our now former apartment.  She awakened a curiosity in me that hadn’t been there for awhile.
            “Where are we headed, Karla?” I asked. My voice came out soft from lack of use. She didn’t hear me or she didn’t answer anyway.         
“Good bye, Wilmington.  Beaufort, North Carolina, here we come,” Karla said.  She smiled her “I’m pretending I’m happy about this” smile.  She used it a lot where Dad was concerned.
            At least it’s on the water, I thought, slouching down in my seat as I settled back into sleep.  Cars bore me.  I would rather spend my time sailing with Dad.  Karla always accused us of growing gills and fins.
            “This will be good, right?” she said again. I guess she was trying to convince herself it was a good idea.  With a bittersweet smile, she kissed two fingers and touched them to the picture of me and Dad taped to the dash.  Blowing the blonde strands of hair out of her eyes, she backed the Honda out of the driveway and that was it - our lives changed again.

Others mothers are more difficult to love. They do what they think is best, but sometimes they're wrong because they're human. This is Loretta from Crawdad~

Once, she told me he was living under a rock somewhere. To a little kid like me, I figured that meant he must have magical powers to be able to do that. I looked under rocks in the creek behind our house all the time after that, but all I found were crawdads and snails. The crawdads would raise their little claws up to me like they were saying ‘hey’ if they weren’t too busy scuttling away into the muddy water.
Sometimes I’d catch one and keep it in a bucket or the bed of an old wagon. I’d put in rocks and water, make it like a real terrarium, a home for my crawdad daddy, but mama wouldn’t let me bring them in the house. The raccoons usually got them.
I remember when she found me crying over what was left one morning. I gathered up the little bits of shell the coons didn’t eat. Mama came out of the house with a load of laundry in a blue plastic basket propped up on her hip.
“What’s the matter with you?” she asked.
“My daddy’s gone,” I whimpered.
“You mean your crawdad?”
“My daddy,” I bawled. My seven year old heart was broken. I carefully pet the little fan-shaped crawdad tail in my palm with a fingertip.
“Your daddy ain’t no crawdad, Jamil. He’s just a plain ol’ sorry ass man,” said Mama. She plopped the laundry basket on the soggy Bermuda grass and started hanging up clothes on the line in our backyard.
“But you said he was a crawdad?” Mama snorted.
“I did? Well, I was just messing with you then.” She went on her merry way, hanging clothes like it was nothing. I don’t even think she knew how she just dropped a bomb in my heart. I let the little fan-shaped tail fall from my hand. It was worse than finding out Santa Claus wasn’t real. My daddy wasn’t any enchanted creature trapped in a crawdad body. He wasn’t even special.
Worse than that, he had arms and legs, but he never even come to see me. Didn’t want to hug me. I could understand a person not being able to visit you if they’d been turned into a crustacean, but he was flesh and blood human. Why didn’t he ever come to see me?

And some mothers fail us completely and others have to step in. Thank goodness for grandmothers. Corrine is raised by her grandmother in Hush Puppy~

Almost as soon as it closed, the screen door opened again and in walked a skinny woman with an anxious expression.
“Mama!” I shouted and bounded to the door; she was looking around like she didn’t know anyone. I was in her arms before I knew it.
“Oh, baby,” she called me, wrapping herself around me. “Happy Birthday.”
It didn’t matter how many times she had disappeared without saying goodbye; I caved like a kindergartener when she came back. It wasn’t until she had been around a few days that I would remember her faults. Memaw never forgot. She was probably somewhere silently cursing, but I didn’t care. I was just happy Mama remembered my birthday at all. Most years, she didn’t.
Mama swayed a little, her high heels wobbly on the uneven linoleum, but she leaned on me and I held her tight.
“You looking so fine, Corrine. You done grown up, girl.” She hadn’t seen me in probably a year and a half.
“You too, Mama.”
The music stopped and Uncle Terrance shouted over the chit-chat.
“Look what the cat drug in! It’s Shawna!”
Mama’s eyes lit up as she made a beeline into his arms. I thought I heard a woman’s voice whisper something about a two-dollar hooker. No doubt, Mama was flashy in skin-tight yellow leggings, giant hoop earrings with the gold paint flaking off, and her hair sculpted high on her head, but I thought she was beautiful. A beautiful disaster.

 Happy day to all the moms out there :)

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