I don’t know when my father came up with my name – before or after my birth. It has been an albatross for many years but, I’m sure the burden has been no heavier for me than for anyone else that has been given an unusual name. He told me that he wanted me to be unique and I have certainly lived up to it. My mother hated the name because she never knew how to spell it. During my school years, If she had to write a note to the teacher, I would have to stand next to her and spell difficult words for her – including my name. I still have several letters that my mom wrote me when I was in the military, and there are at least three different spellings of my name heading the pages. None of them correct.
Although my fancy name wasn’t to her liking, my mother was a lover of fancy things. Fancy clothes, fancy homes, fancy places. You would never catch her settling for anything less than the best. She would strut her stuff up and down the street in her high heel pumps, with that infamous switch of hers, in the best clothes her money could buy. To my knowledge, my mother never owned or wore a pair of jeans or sneakers in her adult life. She would even ‘dress up’ around the house. She had a pair of pumps in every color for every occasion. Mom loved her pumps and I would often catch her gazing at them adoringly…aaah, to be a pump. She would wash them inside, outside and top to bottom every weekend with cleaning fluid and align them neatly in her closet. Every Sunday, I had a headache from the smell permeating throughout the house.
And, if the occasion called for casual, you better believe she had on the most expensive capris she could find on Fifth Avenue. I used to have a picture of the two of us that was taken at the zoo when I was about twelve years old. I was proudly wearing my top and shorts outfit that I had sewn on my own, and my mother was wearing a purple knit pantsuit with matching purple pumps. How on earth my stepfather ever got her to go to the zoo in the first place, I don’t know. My mother was deathly afraid of animals because of an incident that happened when she was child. She kept hitting a dog in his testicles with a stick, until he eventually bit her. My mother never went near a dog – or any other animal – again, in her life, after that. I also heard a story that her aunt was strangled to death by a snake but, I never bothered to verify the validity of that story. However, if my mother was going to go to the zoo, she was going to look darn good while she was there.
Mom made sure that we were always the first on our block with the new ‘this’ or ‘that’. She took pride in her ‘possessions’. One thing I can say for my mother is that she did keep a very clean home. It was as if she expected ‘Home and Garden’ to show up at our door for a photoshoot, at any given moment. Our home was always immaculate. Everything had its place and it absolutely had to stay where she placed it. No one entered without first removing their shoes. Coasters on the tables were a must. You would incur her wrath if you dared to set a glass on any piece of furniture without first placing it on a coaster. This wasn’t so unusual. However, if any of these rules were broken, my mother would transform from the ‘Happy Hostess’ to something akin of ‘The Hulk’.
She always had a penchant for crushed velvet furniture. I remember the first set of furniture being white crushed velvet as well as her very last set. But, naturally, she had it covered in plastic. That wasn’t out of the norm back in those days but, mom was even protective of the plastic! She did not want fingerprints on it. So, she would carefully eye visitors to make sure their fingers didn’t press too deeply onto the surface. When I was about five or six years old, one of my first household duties was to wipe down all of the furniture after guests left.
It’s amazing the things my mother could somehow seem to have the funds to purchase on a salesgirls’ salary. I think I must have been approximately two or three years old when mom bought her brand new console TV. She was very proud of it and neighbors would come by to gaze with amazement as they did with all of her new purchases. One day, I got my hands on a sticker and decided to affix it to the side of the TV. You would have thought I bashed the screen in with a sledgehammer. I can hear the screams ringing in my head to this day. My mother hit the side of my head and I, in turn, went into the side of the TV. She then proceeded to give me the beating of my life. It wouldn’t be my last. It was a lesson I guess she felt she had to teach me to stay away from her things, and from that moment on, I was scared to touch any new item that was ever brought into the house. It may seem hard to believe that I remember that incident at such a young age. but, for years that day would come back to me as clear as if it had just occurred, anytime I went near anything that belonged to her.
When I saw the movie ‘Mommie Dearest’ if I didn’t know that was Faye Dunaway up on the screen I would have sworn it was my mother. There are so many scenes that could have been ripped straight from my childhood. I was never strapped to my bed (literally, anyway) However, I was awakened in the middle of the night on many an occasion to clean rooms and household items that were already sparkling clean. This in itself was frightening considering I took particular care not to mar these items in any way for fear of an even worse fate. Once, she did in fact, wake me up in the middle of the night, throw a can of Ajax at me and tell me to clean the bathroom. When I saw that scene in the movie, I started to cry. It was all too real. I don’t know what waking me up to clean accomplished – but, I think it always happened after an argument with my step-dad.
The exact year my stepfather, Ronald entered my life is unclear. I believe I was about four years old. I don’t have much of a recollection of my biological father at this time because after my mothers new man moved in, I was forbidden to ever see my father again. He was not allowed in our home and I was not allowed to go visit him. (There was an exception one Christmas with disastrous results). I was not even allowed to mention his name around my mothers new man. In fact, he would get irate if he even saw my last name on any schoolwork, and years later, would have me legally change it. This was cause for a lot of my childhood angst because I had been daddy’s little girl.
Although Ronald was the reason for me to lose contact with my father for many years, I did not resent him, because in the beginning, he was very, very good to me. He, too, was a hardworking man. But, unlike my father, the ‘street guy’, Ronald would come straight home from work to spend time with his new family – us. He was a blue-collar guy and family was very important to him. He was also ten years younger than my mother. The age difference meant nothing to him. However, from time to time, my mother would tell him that she knew he would eventually leave for another woman. Little did any of us know at the time that many years later, the woman who would come between them would be my sister.
I have received many responses to the chapters, thus far. However, may I request that you please reply in the comment section of the blog – as opposed to on Twitter, Facebook or emails – so, that all responses will be together. Your comment may be helpful to others who come across this post. You can comment anonymously. Thank you and many blessings.