Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Case Against My Mommy

Some of my earliest childhood memories include Mommy tortures. What mother sends her child into the yard to be eaten alive by ants, or forced to choke to death on lima beans, or provides electrocution items to play with, or ties her child to a tree? Let me explain...

The house we lived in, to the best of my recollection, had a gigantic oak tree in the front yard. The yard was mostly dirt with only small patches of grass. Mommy would give me a half of a Popsicle (the kind with two sticks) and make me eat it outside. On this particular day, I sat in the dirt eating my treat and having finished it, decided that the remaining wood made a great digging tool. I proceeded to unearth whatever might lie beneath the soil. Surely someone had left some treasure for me to discover. Now for whatever reason, those toddler eating critters could smell my flesh, now dripping with melted sugar water. They made their way into my coveralls and panties and began munching away on my legs and bum and tummy. Screaming, I pranced into the house doing the ant-bite dance.

Even though I managed to survive that ordeal, I did not lose my hunger for Popsicles. My mommy knew how much I loved them but utterly detested lima beans. Nothing would make me suffer through the torture of eating those dry, nasty, green, deplorable, marble-sized, disgusting things that someone, somewhere had the outrage to call "vegetables." I know vegetables well, and love everyone of them (ok, not okra or brussel srpouts, but that's a story for another day). Picture this, a beautiful spring day, the weather is perfect outside, and it's my lunch time. What better way to ruin a perfect morning than to place these..."things" in front of me, and then tell me that in order to get my Popsicle, I must eat each and everyone of those "things". I stared at them long and hard. They stared back. I choked down every last one of those...(say it with me)..."Things". And before I had the last one chewed, those THINGS came racing back out of my stomach and gagged me with such force they spewed all over my plate.
Mommy, in her desire to torture me, takes one look at those...THINGS and says. "Oh, Sweetheart, your tummy must be upset. I can't give you a Popsicle if you're not feeling well." Where is the justice, I ask you?

The next tragic event happened while I should have been napping. I hated naps...but not as much as lima beans. Every day after lunch Mommy put me on her bed to sleep, most days I have no recollection of falling asleep. But...on that fateful day I got electrocuted. From my vantage point I saw the most interesting slots in the wall about nine inches from the floor. They were just the right size for a bobby pin to fit into, and as destiny would have it, several of those probes sat on the night stand within easy reach. To test my theory that they would fit, I grabbed one, slid off the bed and poked that tormentor into the outlet. The demon inside grabbed my chubby fist, shook it, blackened it and the wall around socket before throwing me across the room (okay it wasn't all the way across the room, perhaps it didn't throw me at all...but hey, it's my story and that's how I chose to remember it.) Where was I? Oh, yes in the death grip of the monster in the wall. The beast then belched out flames and had the audacity to laugh at me. If Mommy saw me out of bed, I knew she would have probably inflicted more pain on my backside. The ants and lima beans had been enough torture, not to mention getting electrocuted. Nursing my burned hand I crawled back onto the bed and cried myself to sleep.

The next torture inflicted on me at Mommy's hands was ultimately the cat's fault.But I still blame Mommy. Our house, remember the big oak tree in the front, was situated close to the highway, which ran through the center of our tiny town. (Cows...a bazillion, family, including cousins, distant cousins, and a few even more distant cousins. Mommy was new to town, therefore new to the gene pool, hence I escaped the inbreeding. Again a story for another time.) Where was I again? Oh, yes...the oak tree and the cat. Our gray tabby had a severe case of wander-lust. No one could explain why it never stayed around? Perhaps because of its long pull tail, ears and whiskers. If the cat and I were in the same vicinity, I made it my mission to stalk it. I'd seen it do that plenty of times with innocent field mice. Mommy's punishment for following the cat was to tie me to the oak tree. Here I have to admit my memory is very fuzzy. I actually don't recall being tied to the tree, but I've heard Mommy tell the story enough times to get a vivid picture of exactly the kind of torture she inflicted on me. I imagined myself trussed up to the tree with my back against the trunk, screaming "Daddy, save me, save me." I'm surprised the ants didn't hear me and seize that opportunity to have me for breakfast. Alas, I was only set free to come inside to choke on lima beans and be electrocuted.

It wasn't until years later that I confronted my source of pain that I realized that the things my mother was doing were "for my good." The ants in my pants...purely an accident, and I don't remember Mommy covering me in calamine lotion. The lima beans...again another accident. She really did think I was sick. The electrocution...another accident. How was she supposed to know that a curious toddler would poke those bobby pins into an outlet. She discovered the blackened socket, my burned fingers and doctored me up with as much love as a mother would. And the trussing I received? She tied one end of the rope to the tree, the other end to my waist much like a leash. This was the only way she could get anything done without me under foot. The cat? Killed crossing the highway.

I guess my mommy loved me. She's been gone now for seven years. I miss hearing her tell me of how she rocked me as a baby, how she loved dressing me up and taking me places because I was such a pretty baby. (I have the picture to prove otherwise). That has to be love. I know my mommy loves me. Now when my children come to me and say..."Do you remember the time you hit me in the head with the brick? Or the time you left me at a gas station in California? Or the time you pushed me out the kitchen window? Or the time you...?" I smile...because it really was an accident. And if that child only knew how much I love him, he certainly wouldn't keep bringing it up.

So why am I bringing it up now? Because, Mom, I love you. It must have been hard to be 18 and so very far from your own mother. and then raise me in a town that didn't love you back. You were a great mom, and hope I've been just like you!


  1. Wonderful blog Betsy! I sure miss my other mommy too.

  2. Betsy-funny and moving at the same time--beautifully written! So I've heard the gas station story, but which one did you hit with a brick?

  3. It was my dear sweet son, Chris.

  4. Oh, the trials of motherhood - and being mothered! Thanks for a great blog, Betsy.

  5. I'm so glad I don't have any stories of you doing anything like that to me. :P Or do I? But mommy, I think you're awesome and just as good of a mom to me as grandma was to you. Thanks for taking care of me. I love you.

  6. Besy, i will never tire of you or your wonderful writing! Loves and misses you tons!!

  7. I've wanted to hit a couple of my kids with a brick (only occasionally). Those are fun stories--the kind of things as a mother you hope your children forget.

  8. Wonderful post, Betsy. Reminds me of my child hood as well. I wasn't tied to a tree or electrocuted but my mother did try to get me to eat lima beans. I hate those things too. I was draged by the dog when I was 7 but then I fed him lima beans under the table. HA...good way to get rid of them.
    Valerie Steimle