Of all the stories I will write, this one, centered around my birth, will perhaps be the most difficult.
Difficult because to tell my story, I will likely and sadly, be putting my mother in a position to again be judged by people who do not know her story. Telling no more of her story than what is needed to tell mine, I will say that as a young mother of a newborn baby, she waded through a decade when judgment of her as an unmarried mother, created turmoil and captured the unwanted attention of some in our community; some who filled their free time sitting and gossiping over party-line telephones instead of standing and whispering over backyard fences; making pariahs of those they considered cheap and not worth their time, unless that time was spent engaging in acts which actually cheapened them in their sad attempt to feel superior by disparaging others. I will not honor them by naming them, but we knew them.
In life, my mother chose to walk with her head held high. She walked above the trash that was strewn at her feet. She admitted to her mistakes and asked forgiveness from the only one who mattered, her Lord and Savior. Her solid belief in God allowed her to be able to walk between the stones hurled her way by those, I supposed who thought themselves without sin.
That early pain of which I had been subjected, had been precipitated by promises my father made and broke to two women; one of whom my birth so infuriated that she attempted to and almost succeeded in removing me from her life, permanently. Although I never told anyone of her attack, the fact that I didn’t, only served to embolden her hatred of me.
The other never learned of this attempt on my life even until the day she died, however, the one who desired my demise, feared my exposure of her until the day she died.
My conception and birth had been whispered about, snickered about, made sport of and blatantly discussed at times in front of me. I was the recipient of unearned pain caused gleefully, it seemed to me, by some uncaring and unfeeling adults. It was from them I learned that I was a pitiful little girl, that I was an unwanted pox upon their community and they also taught me that I was a Bastard; a word I didn’t understand but sensed in their tone that I should be ashamed at being one. Contrary to what might have been a normal reaction to their hateful taunting, I’m grateful, for they unwittingly taught me the meaning of: ”Do unto others as YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU”. Oh and they also taught me to be inclusive, without meaning to.
My father had made it a ritual every Friday night to visit my mother and me. I was unapologetically a daddy’s girl and I anticipated those visits with open joy even though my mother who at this point, (I was five), no longer did. I can’t be sure how often but he certainly used many of those visits to not only provide some financial support and a bag of treats for me but to also plead his case for another opportunity to be allowed back into Mother’s life. When she had finally made it clear that he would not be allowed back into her life and that his visits would only be tolerated for the sake of his and my relationship, both the visits and the financial support begin to wane.
My purpose here is not to lay blame on the bed of my parents, because everyone makes mistakes and once acknowledged should be offered the opportunity to move on without the constant reminders and recrimination of which my Mother was subjected. Though I am a product of their mistake, I AM NOT a mistake! However, I am here to take issue with how my birth was handled by my father and one of those two women, a mistake of which I cannot forget.
I didn’t understand why my father no longer came to visit me as he had most of those five years of my life but even so, all was not lost. He attended the same community church as my family which meant I would see him on Sundays!
My father attended church with some regularity because he held a position of prominence within the church. Dad owned several businesses one being a small Resale business which presented itself well in a community lacking any type of nearby general store or market, therefore he benefited from making a few extra dollars selling to a ready-made crowd, after church; ingenuity.
Even though I had suffered disappointments because of my father’s diminished visits, I had yet to feel the sting of rejection but when I did, it happened in a most public and painful way.
It happened one Sunday afternoon after church services. All the little children from my Sunday School class ran outside en masse and gathered around Dad’s truck, jockeying to be first in line to spend their nickels. This would have been the first time since he’d discontinued his visits to me that I dared to approach his truck. I had been prevented from doing so on previous Sundays by my older sister. This time however, I had run ahead of her because she had been delayed by helping someone inside the church.
By the time I had reached the front of the line, there were only teenagers and adults standing behind me who were also waiting their turn to purchase treats. I stood there expectantly waiting for the same hug Dad had given the other little girls prior to exchanging their nickels for treats but no hug came to me. With disappointment ripping through my little soul, I tried holding back tears. Failing miserably, I then tried to manage what I came to know later as rejection, by asking softly for a bag of M&Ms, my favorite candy. But instead of Dad reaching into his truck and coming out with that beloved brown bag of colorful chocolate morsels, which would have gone great lengths toward healing my sore heart, he instead stared down at me from his several inches over six-foot height and demanded the nickel from me that I didn’t have. It never occurred to me that my Dad would exact payment from me for a nickel bag of candy but then I never supposed he would withhold a hug from me either.
My humiliation was complete as he, too loudly, told me to run along, to come back only if I had the price of the M&Ms and to never expect something for nothing. I had heard nothing funny in what he said but apparently, everyone waiting behind me had been let in on a joke. A joke at my expense. What really broke my heart was hearing Dad’s familiar laughter mingling with everyone else’s. I couldn’t have felt more shame. Although, I really loved M&Ms, all I had really wanted was the hug that Dad no longer brought to me on Friday nights.
Being only five, I couldn’t decide if the lingering pain I felt came from not getting those M&Ms, not getting the hug or maybe it was because he had shooed me away without giving me either. I do remember thinking as I walked away, that one day when I grow up, I will have all the M&M’s I can eat and won’t have to ask him for any of them. I could not have known then that over 40 years later and 1800 miles away I would be employed by a division of Mar’s International; the very company that created and produces trillions of colorful little tidbits called M&Ms…boxes of them offered as a benefit of employment sat on a display rack just inches from my desk and I never had to pay for a single bag or ask anyone for them. By the time I left that Company, the only things that I missed from my childhood and had not reconciled with missing, were hugs from my father…
The chickens are crowing Papa.
…to be continued.