My Mother, My Brother and Me: A Memoir

I’d like to thank Pat Tyrer of the USA for her moving memoir ‘My Mother, My Brother and Me’. This is actually the first memoir I’ve published on this site, so I’m thrilled that Pat decided to share it with us.

Pat Tyrer is a writer and lover of literature who hikes Palo Duro Canyon and loves Texas bird watching when the sun is up, and stargazing when it’s not. When not reading or writing, she can be found in the canyon with her dog Emma and any number of her five children and seven grandchildren. Her creative work has appeared in Readers’ DigestQuiet Mountain, Front Porch Review, and Plum Tree Tavern and includes two books of poetry, Creative Hearts and Western Spaces, Western Places.



My Mother, My Brother and Me

My brother and I spent our early years raised by a single mother who was desperate to keep us from harm and did so by telling us mildly horrible stories. We lived blocks from the ravine near the Missouri River and to keep us away, mom told us that the ravine was where the police thought the child killer of Donna Sue Davis (a famous unsolved child murder) hung out and so we were to stay out of the ravine. Of course, this only encouraged us to venture further and more often into the ravine, at times wandering nearly to the river. To keep us away from the train tracks, mom told us that her great uncle was killed by a train and the police brought his body home in a peach basket. He was in fact found alongside the tracks, but the police suspected he’d been murdered and placed there to hide the crime. No peach basket was involved.

My brother and I thus became quite good at telling stories ourselves, often entertaining people with the true stories of our childhood which at times verged on the ridiculous. We were happy as children even though we were aware of our poverty and of our mother’s struggles to maintain a stable home. One time talking to one of my many cousins, I commented that I had a happy childhood to which she immediately expressed strong disagreement. Her denial upset me so much that I called my brother, yelling into the phone, “did we have a happy childhood?” He said, “Yup, as far as I remember,” and that was good enough for me, although I’m still holding a grudge against my cousin and her disparaging remark. I can be small-minded like that.

My mother was born in December 1929 and the ramifications of growing up through the depression years would be with her for her entire life. Her family was divided into two groups with several years intervening between the first five children and the last three. The older group composed of four girls and a boy, and the later arrival of two girls and a boy. At one time, my grandmother was caring for four daughters, aged 2, 4, 5, 6, and a baby son, too quickly followed by another son and two more daughters. I’m pretty sure grandma suffered a nervous breakdown after the birth of my mother, the eighth child, but there’s no proof of that. Four years separated the first group from the second, and according to the eldest daughter the arrival of the final three was the beginning of the family’s financial demise. While they were living in South Sioux City, on the Nebraska side of the Missouri, they were doing well. They even owned the house they were living in. Sometime around the last birth, grandpa sold the house— “the worst mistake he ever made” according to my eldest aunt—and moved the family across the river to Iowa. I’m not sure how long the downhill slide took, but family legend has it that it was a financial rollercoaster from then on, less feast and more famine.


Mum Life Stories: Micro-Fiction, Vol 1

By the time my mother was a toddler, my grandmother had been temporarily institutionalized, my grandfather had become a confirmed alcoholic, the family was barely surviving financially, and my two eldest aunts had already quit school at 14 and 15 to find jobs. Named Juanita in a family of Norwegian and English immigrants, the onslaught of troubles began early. Mother believed that grandpa had named her after a Mexican cook who worked for him and with whom he was quite taken. Few in Sioux City knew how to spell her name, and she was often listed as Wanita, the Native American spelling. Growing up in Siouxland, surrounded by the seven tribes of the Sioux nation, it seemed a logical assumption. Eventually she quit using her first name completely, going by Jean for most of her adult life. Ironically, the name Wanita, often spelled as Waneta or even the Spanish form, Juanita, is an old English name for girls meaning “God is gracious.” 1 According to Social Security Agency records, the name reached its peak during the years 1920-1929 in 1058th position. Whether mother was named after a Mexican cook or whether her own mother named her, choosing an old English name is uncertain.

One of the qualities my mother excelled at was telling stories, so I’m guessing the origin of her name might have been just one more in a long list of captivating tales. At one time mother told me that grandpa owned a large lake as well as the surrounding area which he lost in the crash of 1929. I remember swimming at Crystal Lake once or twice when we were young and supposed that to be the lake that grandpa had owned. The lake had a
metal slide about twenty feet into the water; the sand at the bottom of the slide was worn down into a rather good-sized hole. On my one and only attempt to conquer the slide, I slid into the hole and for a few moments believed my life to be at an end. Eventually, no more than two or three seconds, I got a foothold on a higher ledge thrusting myself out of the water and into a shallower space, albeit acutely aware of the possibility of death for the first time. I told the story of the lake and the land to my aunt who said, “Poppycock! He never owned a thing except the house in South Sioux, and he sold that.” And that, dear reader, was that.

Even though she had older sisters who might have cared for her, on the day she was born, mother was farmed out to her mother’s brother and his wife, her aunt and uncle. She remained with them for her first two years. I’m not sure she ever forgave her sisters for not keeping her at home, but by Black Tuesday, the family was already suffering financial hardship and keeping her at home in the care of her teenaged sisters would have undoubtedly been the wrong decision. Sending her to live with relatives was in all likelihood a harsh but necessary one. Mother claimed to have been told that grandma suffered from tuberculosis and had to be institutionalized for her and everyone else’s health. I’m not sure that’s the whole truth of it. Knowing the high instances of overwhelming anxiety that runs through my mother’s family, I suspect she was hospitalized for mental health issues, perhaps even postpartum depression after the birth of her eighth child. This would never have been revealed in 1929. In the years since, I’ve come to understand the wide swatch of anxiety disorders that affects my family.

Relatives have all handled their anxiety in different ways; several are alcoholics; many take prescribed medications; there are a few
addicts in the group, and some just suffer. During an annual physical recently, my doctor asked about family history, questioning whether there were any issues of alcoholism or drug use. I told her that listing family members without issues would be a shorter list. At that time, we lived in a little yellow house at the top of a very steep hill. The yard backed up against a huge unclimbable cliff that not even my brother, who could scamper up the tallest hill, would attempt. One night just after getting into bed, me in my own room, and my brother with mother, there was a pounding on the outside walls going all around the house. I was terrified. Whoever was racing around the house, pounding on the walls continued for only a few
minutes before he or she disappeared—not nearly long enough to be caught or even sighted by the police. At first mother believed it to be a prank, but after several nights over several months, we all took it more seriously, even the police, who at one point stationed an officer in the coat
closet in an attempt to catch the person in the act. I imagine this would be a case of stalking today and a much more detailed investigation would be undertaken, but at the time, it seemed an annoying, if terrifying prank, and the perp was never caught. Shortly after this episode we moved
once again.

The little yellow house was also the place where we got our first dog—long before the wall-knocking prankster appeared. The dog was a large yellow lab who just seemed to show up in the backyard one day and since we had a backyard, mother agreed we could keep him. He wasn’t much more than a puppy at the time he arrived, and since he slept under the house, he required little more than food, water, and occasional petting. All was well until the day we went to play with him and he couldn’t get out from under the house. We coaxed and coaxed, but he simply had gotten too big too to escape the small opening of the den he’d created. Never one to leave solutions to others, mother got her shovel and began the arduous work of digging a tunnel out of the hard-packed earth to allow the dog escape. I don’t recall him being around much after that. I don’t even remember his name, but it would be a long time before we got another dog.

Around 1962 my mother remarried. Her new husband was a Fuller Brush man or an insurance agent, or a magic-potion seller—frankly, I have no idea what he did. He wore a suit and tie, carried a briefcase, drove a company car, and moved us two-hundred miles south to Ankeny, Iowa, a town of fewer than 25,000 souls which had no movie theaters, no swimming pool, and no one we knew. We’d moved in the summer, leaving everything familiar behind including dozens of aunts and uncles and cousins with whom we’d grown up. We were miserable, but thankfully, our misery didn’t last long. Within days of our arrival, our new neighbors who were the same ages of my brother and I introduced us to others in the neighborhood.

Mother’s wedded bliss, however, was not to last. The new husband, who had no children of his own, turned out to be uncomfortably petty and childish himself, staking out food in the refrigerator as “his,” and having a fit if my brother or I touched it. He had no patience with children and we had no love for him. Not realizing that her children were her heart and soul, he made no effort to abide us and so within the year, he was a forgotten piece of our history. And he was truly forgotten. Mother never referred to him nor acknowledged she was once married to him. Years later I mentioned to my husband that mother had been married three times. He was astounded that this information had never surfaced. There were several interesting bits of information my mother never spoke about and that second husband was one of many of them.

Once settled in Ankeny, mom went to work for a general practitioner who was a Doctor of Osteopathy. In his employ mother became known as competent and proficient. For the first time in her life she was an acknowledged professional. She was active in nursing and at one time
served as president of her organization. Although we went to Sioux City as often as we could, our relationships with family became less intimate and more formalized with weddings, funerals, and yearly family reunions.

No sooner had mother divorced than she began dating. My brother and I reveled in the irony of these events as mother had been single throughout our entire childhood, never dating, never introducing us to a man she might be interested in, never having any close male friends. In fact, because of her divorce from our father who she claimed was oversexed with various unacknowledged offspring spread across the country, we assumed she hated men. None of these so-called progenies ever showed up on our doorstep, so this may have been another of mother’s small exaggerations, further exaggerated. The move to Ankeny seemed to erase that assumption as mother prepared to go out on Saturday evenings with the “girls.”

What seemed like the passage of only a few months since the divorce, mom introduced us to a local man whose family had been in Ankeny since the founding of the town. Nearly everyone in town who had lived there for more than twenty years was related in some way. It was also the only place I’ve ever lived where I didn’t have to spell my new last name or explain how to pronounce it. Within the year, they were married and shortly thereafter, my brother and I were adopted. In their wedding photo, they look happy; my brother looks delighted (he was young) and I look condemned. I became a member of a large clan of people I didn’t know, with a family legacy I didn’t understand. Everyone was kind, including new grandparents who I don’t think ever took to any of us, but concealed it well.

By the time I began high school I was pretty much disgruntled with everything. I’d lost my birth father and my grandma through death, my school, my extended family, and my name. I didn’t think life could ever be worse, but of course, I was wrong as growing older has shown. Unfortunately, only in hindsight do I realize that this was probably the easiest time of my life. For once we had enough money, a secure home, a stable environment, and two parents who were both concerned about our welfare. We weren’t the Brady Bunch or the Huxtables, but we got along okay. It turned out that my adopted dad, who quickly became “dad,” was honest, ethical, and responsible. He rarely interfered with mother’s disciplinary methods, but he stood up for us when it counted.

Physically I take after my birth father’s family who leaned to the chubby side,
and as a child, I was always directed to the “plus” side of the department store. To counteract my physique, mother chose clothes in muted colors. I was the complete physical opposite of my mother who was thin, small-boned, olive-skinned, and brunette. I was chubby, blonde, and blue-
eyed and in love with pastel clothing of which I owned none. For that first Christmas that we were officially a family, my new dad bought me a fluffy, pink bathrobe with silk edging. It was the most beautifully pastel garment I’d ever owned and right there I decided he could probably stay. He’s gotten better ever since or perhaps I’ve gotten more accepting—nah, he’s gotten better. Finally, mother had made the perfect choice. She was happy and secure and so were we.

1 http://www.thinkbabynames.com/meaning/0/Wanita


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MOMS MADE FOR MORE: A Mum Life Success Story

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This month’s Mum Life Success Story embraces all that I hope for, for my readers here at Mum Life Stories. Independence, perseverance, courage, identity, and a can-do attitude toward chasing her dreams. She’s on a mission to not only see her own dreams and desires fulfilled but to help others do the same and to find their true selves amongst all the noise this world throws at them. 

A true inspiration, April Sky is a single mum, business woman, life coach and entrepreneur. How she got to where she is today can only be attributed to her own determination not to give up, not to allow her circumstances or the obstacles that inevitably come, to prevent her from being all that she can be.

I could go on with the introduction but I think I will just let her do that herself. Afterall who can tell you more about someone than that someone themselves?

“Hi, friends! My name is April Sky and I’ve been a divorced full-time single boy mom for the past three years to my wild-ass, beautifully creative,  five-year-old son. Together, we live on our own in Montana (United States). Both businesses that I’ve built/run and supported us with financially, were started after he was born, making our journey quite the freaking ride.”

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links help me keep this blog running, thank you.




Becoming Mum

Before April was a mother she was quite satisfied in her job as a teacher. She was married and certain that she was supposed to be a stay-at-home mum.

“So, I had my son, loved him fiercely, but felt an extreme pull to somehow financially contribute, which then birthed my second baby, photography. Two years later, that business exploded into a profitable wedding photography venture that not only gave me my independence, but it gave me a voice, something that had been squashed out of me since I was little. I knew in my soul that the identity I had lived and the life I had built around me was not okay or healthy and most importantly, not what I wanted to raise my child around. 

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When Jaemon was not even two, I signed up for, trained, and ran my first half marathon. It was in training that I realized I was in a very unhealthy marriage and was not being true to who I was deep down. I was a lost mom who had never ever had the opportunity to be her true self. I wasn’t really even sure who that was, I just knew it wasn’t who I was at that moment. So, after an internal battle for the ages and essentially no emotional support, I left. Hello single mom life.”

Troubled Beginnings

Many of us can probably relate to the fact that who we become as adults and how we feel about who we are is shaped by our childhood and the influences and experiences we go through. Some experiences are good and help us learn how to cope with the world and some damage us and tear holes in our identity that take many years to repair. April had an experience in her childhood that did just that.

“The shaping of who I am and why I lived a life of lost identity until the age of 27 started when I was five-years-old, when in a moment I lost the trust of a family member and of men really altogether. With this story comes tears, guilt, trauma, lasting damage, grief and several rounds of counseling (my current counselor is my jam). It was at five that I lost my voice and quieted that fire I knew even then was inside of me. I recall sitting on my bedroom floor, lighting candles and asking God or the universe to please make me ‘normal’ and like everyone else. At age five.

My wandering soul was old then and although it was beautifully different, outside circumstance told it not to be. It’s because of this that I am now louder than my circumstances. It’s because of this that I left my child’s father because I damn-well wasn’t going to watch my son’s old soul be shamed out of him as well. Celebrate your differences because they are gifts that were given to you for a reason.”





Finding her voice

After a difficult separation and a series of other traumatic events, April and her son found themselves called to a totally new city, completely on their own.

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“That is where the second business was created, ‘Moms Made for More’. If you cannot find what you need, you create it and that’s just what I did nearly two years ago. What started as a Facebook group for moms to feel safe and interact, snowballed into a full-time business of teaching moms that they can be both a stand-out parent AND a badass dream achiever, simultaneously and it starts with finding their voice.

With dreams comes heartbreak, grief, pain (both physical and mental), loss, and failure. But, you know what sets those that reach their dreams from those that don’t? The will to keep going. I used to, and still catch myself occasionally, living in a limited belief that because I’m a single mom with little to no help emotionally or financially, that it’s harder for me and it’s why I haven’t x,y, or z-ed yet. It’s not because of my situation. It’s because I’m still falling back into that limiting belief occasionally that because I have developmental/past trauma or because my child struggles with sensory issues or because I live dollar to dollar or because so few around me think like I do, that I’m not getting farther faster. In reality, it’s because of these things that I am absolutely fit and ready to do what I’ve been called to do which is to serve moms by being who I am and by using my very loud voice.” 

Balance

I always ask my Mum Life Success Story Mums how they find balance, between family, work, dream chasing and community. April didn’t hold back on being authentic about her struggle.

“Simple answer. I don’t, but what I do find is myself, over and over again. I’ve put in so much emotionally and financially into truly TRULY peeling back the layers and discovering who I am at my core so that, although I’m constantly evolving and growing (as we all can if we give ourselves space to), I know who home-base April is and it’s from there that I find my “balance.” It’s from there that I know what lifts me/weighs me and from there that I’ve learned how to structure my days and my weeks and my year for success as I run two profitable businesses and raise an incredible little boy on my own.

I’m also a planner whore and have my goals with actionable steps plastered all over my walls, haha. Benefit of being single. I believe with my entire being that a dream without a plan stays just that, a dream. So, I feel it, I think it, I speak it into existence, and then I plan it, step-by-step. Solid recipe for turning your dreams into reality. But again, that’s what works for me. Figure out WHO you are and you’ll know what works for you, too.” 


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Future Goals

By now I think you’ve gotten the picture that April is a planner and a visionary, so it should be no surprise that her goals for the next fews years are extraordinary. Of course my question about what she sees herself doing in 5 years was met with great enthusiasm. 

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“Oh my goodness, so I’m a 3 on the Enneagram (run and take the paid version if you have yet to) and so I LOVE getting questioned on my five-year plans. In five years, my ultimate goal is to do less, but achieve more (thank you Kate Northrup). However, if we’re getting specific, allow me to word vomit. I’m a firm believer that when you write your dream as if it is happening/has happened versus the possibility of it happening, the universe loves you more for it.

So with that said, I will be serving millions of moms through several platforms, I will be the host of a podcast (that’s coming at you this year), I will be the author of two published and impactful novels, I will be the author of a single-mom E book that helps get you through the first year as a single mother, I will be on the Ed Mylett Show (huge huge fan), I will be speaking heavily all over the world, and most importantly, I will be an exceptional mother and partner to the man my son and I have yet to meet.” 

April’s Advice

Feeling inspired? Wondering how you could become someone who motivates women to go on that journey of self discovery? April’s advice is:

“If you too would love to be a stay-at-home, full-time working entrepreneur mother who uses her voice to help others, it starts with you. The best gift I could have ever given myself and my child is the space and the time that I devoted to identifying who I am at my core and how I best care for myself to reach my highest potential. It takes trial and error, it takes falling on your ass, and it takes heartbreak, but holy sh#%, once you are on the “other side” looking back at your former lost self, you will smile and keep going. We are forever students of life, but if you want to say “F the Norm” with me and write your own story, it starts with identifying who you are, truly, so that your voice can get you to your highest potential, whatever that may be. 

For extra motivation or to find help getting started on your own personal journey toward self-discovery, you can visit April’s website at www.momsmadeformore.com

To see April’s awesome photography, you can visit her Photography website at www.aprilskyphotography.com

…and why not join April’s community Facebook group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/momsmadeformore/

 

Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog, if you’d like to read more Mum Life Success Stories, click HERE and if you’d like to be featured as one of our success stories, simply email us at mumlifestories@gmail.com or visit our T & C’s page for more info.

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‘Domesticating Mom’ with guest blogger Almondie Shampine

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Some of you may remember a Mum Life Story I posted back in October about a mum named Almondie Shampine. Almondie told us of her experience of being a working mum and how her perceptions and goals changed after her health took a turn for the worst. Now a stay at home mum, author, blogger and a book publisher she has graciously decided to share with us once again.

This touching, thought-provoking article describes the evolution of a Mother from a teen mum to a mum of teens and how her desperate cry for freedom was extinguished by the love of her children.

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you.

Photo by Katie Emslie on Unsplash


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‘The Institute’ by Stephen King (Buy it now)


Domesticating Mom

11/5/19

I’m 37 today.

(Funny, aside of me visualizing a little dance, swaying my arms in front of me and behind me, while singing ‘It’s my birthday. It’s my birthday.’)

I hated my birthday for a good three or more decades. I’m sure many can relate. The birthday goes downhill the moment one’s mind gets caught up on it being ‘a special day’, and the expectations are quick to follow. One minor disappointment thus leads to frenzied overcompensation to make it ‘the best birthday ever’. It becomes an emotional roller coaster, as what goes up must inevitably come down, and special occasions are full of those ups and downs.

I became a teen parent, pregnant in my 18th year of life. Instead of sending out my wedding invitations, which had been the original plan, I was making phone calls to share the news of my pregnancy with the shamed side note that there wouldn’t be a wedding, as my then-fiance had walked, taking all my dreams of my desired and aspired-for future with him and changing the entire course of my life.

A whole life ahead of me, a life I’d barely just begun, and I was to be a Mom, first and foremost, for the rest of my life, and a single Mom, at that. Three years away from being able to have a legal cocktail, yet responsible for raising and supporting a tiny human all on my own. I could no longer fit in with people my age due to being a Mom. When they were partying downstairs or next door to me, I would outwardly complain that their music was too loud, their swearing too much, or that the stench of their pot-smoking was making its way into my apartment, while feelings of loneliness and betrayal ate away at me on the inside, because they’d been my friends, and not a single one of them made that 13-step trek up the stairs or took the three steps next door to my apartment to see how I was doing – not throughout my pregnancy or thereafter. They’d stopped inviting me, stopped asking me to drive them places, stopped even asking if we could talk or if I could give them advice on something they were going through. It was as though I just stopped existing.

I began frequenting places where I could find other Moms, such as parks, and tried making friends with coworkers that had kids, but they looked at me like I was too young and would treat me like the ‘typical teenager’ that I couldn’t be, wasn’t allowed to be, and would never be able to be. Many times I made the mistake of thinking that interested males were making the choice of wanting to be with me, while accepting I had a child. I assumed that meant they knew that I was looking for commitment, so it would devastate me when, after the fact, they’d tell me they weren’t ready for a family, or didn’t want to be a family guy. It confounded me to no end. Until I watched movies like American Pie and all-the-rage young adult movies at that time that talked about MILFS, single moms being perceived as ‘being more experienced’, and the idea that single moms or older or more mature women were great for casual affairs, but nothing more than that. This led to many years of false hopes.





Time was my enemy. It was torture. Being so young, it seemed to pass intolerably slow. It was only thoughts of the future that kept me dragging myself out of bed most days on so little sleep. At first, it was just waiting for me to be old enough for people to start respecting me and taking me seriously. I creeped through my 19th year; my 20th year passed even more slowly. My 21st birthday was celebrated with my Mom, because I’d lost all my friends. For a short time, between my 21st and 22nd year, I believed I’d found the person I’d spend my life with, and the years prior faded away as having all been worth it during that time. …Until he disclosed that he didn’t want to be a family guy after it was disclosed to him that I was carrying his child. 0 for 2. 2 children conceived from 2 different guys that weren’t ready to be a father by the time I was 22. I could kiss any future, healthy prospective relationship goodbye; nor could I ever hope to be respected for anything other than being that single Mom with two kids from two different fathers.

My 22nd birthday was spent pregnant and alone, just like my 19th. My 23rd spent trying to get back on my feet after having lost everything due to childcare being more than I could make with a full-time job. My 24th was spent battling for my life. Single Mom, poor, living in the worst (cheapest) side of the city, not having any friends or any family that would even notice my absence for quite some time, made me a really easy target for predators. That was the year I began counting down the days. Every exhausted night before bed, I would put an x on the calendar marking the end of another day. I began celebrating the end of every week, the end of every month, the end of every year. It showed me forward movement. The passage of time.

Every birthday, I hated, because all it meant to me was just the beginning of a new year, where I’d have to fight through another 364 days to get to the end of it. I’d count down the years of my children being grown. 15 more years. 12 more years. 10 more years. All I could feel was time just looming ahead. So much time. Too much time. Every year I was crushed with the overwhelming anxiety that I would not be able to make it through another year. I’d barely made it through the last, how would I possibly make it through another? I felt terribly alone. Terribly lonely.

My heart had been made to love. I was a lover. A nurturer. A helper. I wanted a family. A full family. A true family. I wanted a partner to share my life with. I wanted the forever. I wanted marriage. I wanted the growing-old with someone. I needed deep connections. Needed someone I could call my best friend. I felt like a neglected flower – once so full of bloom and vibrancy, wilting and withering away to decay.

I waited for people my age to catch up to me. I watched them form partnerships, get married, and begin families of their own. I looked forward to cookouts, our kids getting together, family-oriented celebrations and parties, but still, I didn’t belong. My kids didn’t belong. I was never invited, nor would anyone else show when I threw cookouts of my own. My kids were much older than their kids. Those parents were married living married life. The last thing they wanted was a young single mother, a bachelorette, walking around to remind their men of the single life. I would try to make friends with my children’s friend’s parents, but my youth and my being unmarried maintained me as being the oddball out.


Cover Art

‘Mangoes & Monkey bread’ by Emily Joop (Buy it now)


Every future hope that would keep me waking to the present and keep me tackling each and every day would never come to pass, where I’d grasp on to another future hope, all relative to the passage of time, to my children getting older with me inevitably getting older alongside them. Me holding onto the optimistic view of it being a good thing I started my family young because I’d still be fairly young when they were grown, was crucial towards my continued hopes that one day … One day things would be different.

One day I’d be able to go on those road trips. One day I’d be able to experience that youth I missed out on. One day I’d be able to go bar-hopping, or go dancing, or be able to have a fancy date. One day I’d know what it’s like to go to a spa, or to a hairdresser, and I’d know what it’s like to spoil myself, pamper my body, get all dressed up and go out on the town. One day I’d be able to attract a decent man without him being turned off by me having children, and I’d be able to have friends and go out to eat and be a human being, a person, a woman, and not just a Mom. I’d be able to cherish romance and walk around naked again and spend an entire day luxuriating in physical pleasantries and allowing myself to feel love, both the giving and the receiving of it, uninhibited. I’d finally be able to live my dreams fully, and commit myself to them 100 percent, instead of so frequently having to put them on the backburner. I’d finally be able to have the life I was supposed to have, the life I was meant to have.

All these years I thought I was raising and grooming my children to get them to the point of being adults. I thought I was getting them through all the developmental milestones of being full grown. I thought I was training them to survive independently, self-sufficiently from me. As a mom, it was my number one job to support them, provide them safety and security, guide them through their growing years, teach them how to overcome those obstacles in life – first, to carry them, second, to be their step-ladder, and third, to be their spotter as they made their way over those hurdles all on their own. It was my sacrifice to them. 18 years of putting their needs, wants, dreams, desires, over my own while my life remained dormant. On pause. Waiting. Waiting for the time when I could start living again.

37 years old. I’m celebrating the passage of those 18 birthdays that I waited for for so long. I’m looking back. Shaking my head in wonder. Realizing that I’d gotten it all wrong all along. Like a wild feral cat that only lives for their own survival, their own comfort, their own needs and desires, I was captured in a crate just by the beating of my kids’ hearts, imprisoned within a home that always had to have heat, and food, and a place to sleep. No matter how much I mewled and scratched at the door to escape, they would distract my attention away by wanting to play with me or forcing me to curl up with them. They never left me unsupervised, and would always call me back if I strayed too far.

They forced me to take care of myself. Made me get up when all I wanted to do was sleep. Made me eat when all I wanted to do was starve. Made me fight to live for everyday I felt like dying, and even saved my life when I actually was dying. They urged me to swim when I was drowning and made me weather every storm. First, they taught me to climb mountains, and then they made me move them. They showed me that no obstacle is too high and that dead-end roads are only an illusion -there’s no end of the road, only a road not yet built. They showed me that the only thing truly impossible in my life was the ability to give up. They were scrupulous and rigid. Demanding and inflexible. They’d conditioned me by rewarding me with happiness when I was on my best behaviors, and simply ignoring me when I was not. Not once did they give up hope. Not once did they lose faith. No matter how much I resisted.

With patience and unrelenting vigor, they kept at it, day after day, week after week, year after year, for 18 years. And then on this birthday, they gave me my most-desired gift. They opened the door and they offered me my freedom. “You deserve it, Mom. Go have fun. It’s your special day. Do whatever you want.” I stood at the door, looking out, listening for that call of the wild that had been so strong and enticing for so many years; it sounded so differently than it did before. Cold. Dark. Mournful. Lonely. Miserable.

That’s when I knew. All along, my children had been grooming me for 18 years. Taming me. Domesticating me. I never would have survived out there in the wild. My heart too big. I was never cut out to be a hunter or to prey on other things. Nor was I ever capable of running with a pack. I wasn’t a follower, but neither did I have what it took to lead. I would have been the hunted of the hunter, the preyed upon of the predator, the hider of the seeker. Instead, my children provided me safety and security, warmth and belonging, nurture and affection, and a forever family, giving me my best chance to become my best self. All while letting me believe that I was raising them and providing them the tools they needed to survive without me, it was they all along providing me the skills I needed to survive without them.

Almondie

You can visit Almondie’s website at www.freebirdexpresspublishing.com or follow her blog at www.freebirdexpresspublishing.blogspot.com

If your on Quora, you’ll find her profile here https://www.quora.com/profile/Almondie-Shampine

And you’ll find her books for sale on Amazon HERE (Available in both paperback and e-book).

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