My Mother... Myself?

My mother was born in Valle de Guadalupe, Jalisco, Mexico, in the mid nineteen fourties. It was a very small town where less than one thousand people resided and everyone knew everyone else's business. She was the youngest of Seven children... five sisters, two brothers. Her father was a very handsome man over twenty years her mother's senior and worked as a catle rancher. Pretty much everyone in thisvillage was Catholic and well.. there were a lot of big familes around... by the time she was seven she was an aunt... in fact, I think it was even earlier than that...

I, on the other hand, was born in Sacramento, California, USA to a mother who worked in a cannery and a father who worked in the National Guard. I was the last of six children... only three of which lived to see their teens.

Though her family was considered "the cream" as she puts it, they didn't always have a lot of money, and if that wasn't enough reason foir other children to tease her.... her sister was.

My mother went to the local public school, where the boys and girls were taught seperately and everyone was trotted off to Catechism regularly. For a few years of my mother's education though... her teacher was also her sister. Now imagine for a second how awkward it would be if your mother or father was your teacher. Now up that a few degrees because it's not your parent, but an actual sibling. The same person you get into fights with and follow around the house being the disciplinarian of your peer group and unavoidable. My mother wasn't very well liked by her classmates (I guess some things are genetic...) and having her sister as their teacher just made things worse. Of course, having the other kids chasing after her and beating her up wasn't her only problem... Since they were related and my Tia (Spanish for Aunt) Lupe didn't want to get in trouble with anyone's parents... she often used my mother as an example to the others. Topping things off, she was so affraid of being accused of playing favorites twosard her sister, she rarely chastised the other students for the way they treated my mother. More than once my mom came home from school late because the other girls had beaten her up or stole her things and thrown them over a fence.

When my mother was in her late teens, she was considered quite a catch. (Or in modern slang, she was a honey. ;-) ) She had a handsome boyfriend and had taken over as schoolteacher. (Remember, this was a small town in Mexico in the sixties... the schools weren't as modern as most places are now...) Things looked very promising for her untill she was offered a job in Mexico City...

Now, up to that point, my mother was never unsupervised with any of her boyfriends, but her boyfriend at the time sugested they meet for dinner while she was in the City to see about the job. She agreed and that was where things changed forever...

My mom told me about this when I was in junior high... I wasa in Girl Scouts and had read a scenario in my guidebook about a girl being date rped. I said something about it to Mom and she told me she wanted to talk.

I could tell she was serious.

Apparently, my mother had met her boyfriend for dinner at a very nice restaraunt near the hotel where he was staying. Sometime during dinner her memory fades out and the next thing she can remember is waking up the next morning in a strange bed.... naked, her clothes ripped on the floor, and in a lot of pain. She saw blood on the sheets and reaized with horror that she had been raped. Her boyfriend carried a gun with him (why I have no idea...) and she was so hysterical in her realization that she took it and begged him to kill her because she couldn't bring herself to do it.

Needless to say, he didn't cooperate...

You ever hear the phrase "kicking someone when they're down"? Well... Biology and Fate kicked the crap out of my mother...

My mother, eighteen, a schoolteacher, in the "cream" of her town's society, not only had to deal with being raped...

...but becoming a mother.

Again, remember that this was a tiny, Catholic town in the middle of country in Mexico. Young girls did not get pregnant out of wedlock. Raped or not, it didn't make a difference. It was the girl's fault no matter what happened. People can be shitty, and my mother was drowning in the stuff at this point.

At the age of nineteen, my mother gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Alejandrina. Gina for short. The day she was born (my mother gave birth at home) a couple of her old friends came by with a few small gifts for the baby, diapers and clothes and such. My mother cried very hard because she knew that they'd never think of her the same way again... her life was forever changed and there was no way she could ever erase it.

My mother eventually moved to Guadalajara, a large city in the same state to live with her sister Chya and her brother in law Miguel. She worked as a waitress in an outdoor cafe to support her daughter and has said many times that if it hadn't been for Gina, she never would have made it. She had someone that relied on her for everything and she had to be strong for her. (Sidenote--- About ten years ago, on a trip to visit some relatives, we went to this cafe, and my mother's former boss was stil there. Tgey talked for a long while and though I don't speak Spanish, I didn't need a translator to know that she was thanking him for being not only an employer, but a friend as well.. I nearly cried buckets when I saw her tearfully hug him goodbye.)

My mother ended up marrying a childhood friend in order to keep her daughter from being labeled a bastard. They never lived together because he was always off working someplace else... she spent most of her time living with his family until it was decided she should make a trip to the States to visit her cousins in Sacramento, and opssibly see her "husband" for a few days while he was working in Los Angeles. With a heavy heart and not quite knowing what to expect, my mother left Gina with my Mama Polina (my maternal grandmother.. Apolonia, Polina for short) and headed up north to Sacramento, and unbeknownst to anyone else.. her new life.

(This is where some stuff starts running together and the details are realy fuzzy... )

She stayed at her Cousin Connie's house, acting as a sort of nanny for Connie's children. One night though, after spending a day at her Tio Juan's house (I can't remember her Tia's name right now...)she was in the kitchen cooking dinner when Connie and her husband Phil (a "gringo"!) came to have dinner before taking her back home. As Fate would have it, Phil brought along his friend John. (My mom's cousins had pretty much been hoping, from what I understand, that John and my mother's cousin Lucille or "Lulu" as she's known, would marry.) My father saw my mother in the kitchen fiddling around with the various pots and pans on the stove and that one look was all it took. ("Just one look, and I fell so hard.." Soorry.. in case you can't tell.. I have a tendency to quote stuff...) He asked Phil who it was and he explained. My father started spending more time around and it soon became clear that he only had eyes for my mother.

After many rejections, my father finally persuaded my mother to go out with him. Of course, "going out" generally meant seeing a movie with Phil and Connie, they were never alone. On their first date, they saw "My Fair Lady" one of my personal favorites. After dating for about two months, but knowing each other for two years (my dad knew what he wanted and was smart enough to be persistant... I try to emulate this quality in him,) my mother broke the news that she was returning to Mexico for good. She was heartsick over being away from Gina so much and couldn't bear being away from her. Not long before she was supposed to leave, he came to her and proposed. She told him that if he was serious, he knew where she would be.

(My mother had sometime in those two years gone to her husband and told him she wanted a divorce. He wasn't too keen on the idea and told her to come back a few days later for the papers... she smeled something fishy and returned the next day... right before he was going to leave for Alaska! He grudgingly granted her the divorce... again, I'm really not too clear on the situation.)

My mother packed her bags and was days from geting on a bus to return home when my father paid her another visit. She told him that she was still leaving and he couldn't stop her from getting on the bus. He then showed her something very unexpected. Four plane tickets. Three round trip, one one way.

"The round trip tickets are for you, me, and my mother. We're going to your mother's, getting your daughter, and then we're getting married. My mother's coming with us to watch Gina."

At roughly twenty two years old, my mother found herself living in the States for good, reunited with her daughter, and newlywed to a man seven years older that her family dissaproved of soley because he was white. "One of your own people not good enough for you?" my Tio Louis would accuse her. Nevermind that my father didn't prejudge her for what had happened to her. Nevermind that he loved her very much. This caused a rift between my mother and her brother that even today has lingering traces.

My mother finally mastered English and lived a very happy life with her "new" family. My Paternal grandmother adored her and they spent much time cooking together and going shopping. Gina, of course, was the apple of her new Grandmother's eye. She was doted on by everyone and from what I've been told, was a very sweet and loving girl who laughed and played and brought smiles to all around her.

When Gina was possibly five or six years old, something happenned that should never happen to a child, but happens all too often. Some neighbors had a son in his early twenties who molested my sister Gina. He touched her in places she knew were wrong but told her that if she ever told anyone he'd kill her. Eventually though, she broke down and told my mother what had happened.

My mother, seething with pain, anger, hate, and complete sadness, rushed to report it to the authorities. Finding them incredibly uncooperative, she managed to get the man to admit to it while she had a tape recorder running out of sight. With this bit of damning evidence, the man was put in jail.

Not long after this, my cousin Martha (Lupe's daughter) came from Mexico to live with my mom. It was a bit strange having her niece (who was in her teens) iving with her, but my mother, who by this time had been pregnant twice more (one ending in a still birth) also had an infant son to care for. One day, my cousin called my mother saying she didn't want to ride home with the people she usually carpooled with. Could my mother meet her at such and such a spot? (I think it was a bus stop but again, I'm not too clear.) My mother agreed, and while she was crossing the street, leading Gina by the hand while carrying Robbie in her other arm, a drunk driver (rider) on a motorcyclist hit my sister Gina. She died almost instantly. (To this day, though I know it's not her fault, I hold a lot of hostility twoards my cousin. Because she was unwilling to ride home the usual way, I was forever robbed of an older sister. A little girl who had been through so much and brightened so many lives, gone... all because my cousin didn't want to ride home with some neighbors.)

My parents had two more children, a girl they named Alice, and a boy they named John. When my brother was maybe one or two.. they learned that Robbie (the older boy) had Leukemia. It was yet another blow to my mother, who by now was acustomed to sadness. At the tender age of eleven, My older brother, Robert Andrew, lost his battle and said to my mother as he took his last breaths, "I see George, Mommy. I see George, and we're going to play again... As soon as I reach the light, I'll be with George, Mommy..." (George was a friend of his from the children's hospital that had died not long before.)

Less than a year later, I was born. My mother was in labor with me for over twenty four hours and finally, delivered me bright and early August eighteenth, nineteen hundred and seventy seven, via Cesarean. I was born Jsaundiced or something so I spent a larger than average time in the nursery... limmiting my physical contact with my mom during thoise critical hours immediately following birth. In recent years, both my mother and I have seen reports on TV detailing how C-babies often suffer emotional problems resulting from the lack of bonding... I think they may be right...

Things were pretty steady untill I was about six or seven. My dad started spending his summers in San Louis Obispo working on one of the Military bases there. It was strange not having him around all the time but every few weeks we'd head down there in our big green Chevy van and stay with him in the little white and turquoise trailer he called home while he was there. There were five of us all living in one room, I had to share a bed with my sister, and I had to shower (something I *still* am none too crazy about. I'll probably always be a bath person....) but on the whole.. looking back, I don't remember it as a bad experience. To me, it was a new adventure. Besides, at the time, I really wanted to grow up to be in the Military myself... that, or be a farmer or carpenter.. I even went through a phase of wanting to be an Elictrician. The playground there had a mini obstacle course and I loved it. I used to run through those tires on the ground, each leg leaping up high as I raced through them, my knees getting higher and higher, I loved every second...

But I digress...

When I was about seven or eight, it became decided we were going to move to Paso Robles so my father could take a new job at the base there that would pay better. We even looked at a certain house that we all fell in love with. To this day I remember so many little details of that house. The ceiling fan in the room that would go to my brother, because it was decorated to look like sports equippment, the big yard with the wooden rail fence that was perfect for jumping and tumbling and all sorts of great outdoor play, but mainly that there was a copy of Play Girl magazine on the end table next to a leather recliner in the living room. (No, I didn't look.)

My father saw his doctor not long after and we were served the devastating news that my father had a rare form of Cancer. Needless to say, we didn't move. My father spent lots of time in and out of hospitals and by the time I was in third grade, was staying at home on an IV and drinking lots of Ensure. On September first, nineteen hundred and eighty-six, as my mother, my brother (who was thirteen at the time), and Manuel (a family friend)helped lower my father from his wheelchair into his bed, he looked at my brother, told him "You're the man of the family now. Above all I want you to love your family, your God, and your country." Then he turned to my mother, said "I love you", and took his final breath. It was two weeks after my ninth birthday.

September fifth, my mother, who by noew had burried three children, her father, a sister, a tia, plus her husband's parents and grandmother, watched as her husband of over twenty years was lowered into the cold unforgiving ground... she was no stranger to hardship.. but even she knew that the hardest was yet to come.

My mother was now working at Blue Diamond Almonds as a "pan girl", meaning that she picked through pans of almonds as they passed on a conveyer belt and picked out twigs, bark, and other non almond type goodies. She had to wear a pale blue smock to work and that pale blue became the only color she was seen in aside from the black she adopted the day of my father's passing. (She continued wearing black for over seven years.) Though she was quite smart, she wasn't considered properly educated since she hadn't completed high school. (Though she'd completed comprable subjects at her school in Mexico.) Another drawback was that though she spoke perfect English and had only the slightest tinge of an accent left, she wasn't completely literate in English. She'd learned it mainly through watching TV and talking to people, and never "properly" learned it. This would prove very hard for her to get any sort of job that would let her show off her smarts... I suppose that's one of the reasons my education was always so important to her.

To be honest, I don't really remember much about my fourth grade year.. I think probably because the pain of losing my father was still so fresh in my mind everything else was irrelevant.

By fifth grade, however, there was a set pattern. Bright and early, my mother would drop me off a babysitter's, then drop my brother at his all boys high school, then my sister at her all girls high school, and then finally arrive at work. My sister would catch the bus to her afterschool job at a grocery store after school and my brother would either catch the bus or ride his bike to the babysitters and walk thee thre blocks home with me. Around this time was when I started fighting with my mother.

See, my brother was fourteen years old and wanted to spend time with his friends, not babysitting his little sister. To him, I was a bother and a nuiscance and in order to have the freedom he wanted, would lock me in my room for hours on end so he could ride his bike with his friend Ulysses. My "bedroom" was an add-on off the kitchen that had a lock on the outside of the door. That was also where the light was. I spent many hours locked in a dark room with no food or bathroom. (I eventually started hoarding food and climing the fence to use my neighbor's bathroom...) I blamed my mother for "letting him get away with it" since she didn't punish him for it.

Mom really started getting on my back about school. She wasn't blind to the huge amount of untouched homework sheets that were strewn all over my room. I suppose that the abuse I was suffering from my brother, coupled with the depression I started suffering from when my father died, I suppose I was catapulted into that teenage rebelious phase earlier than most. I swore like a sailor, started talking back *bigtime*, and started threatening to run away. From then on... things only got worse.

Since mom had to work so hard and so much just in order to put food on the table, I rarely ever saw her. When I did see her, we usually got into a yelling fight. Sometimes, she "spanked" me. Of course, to me it wasn't spanking, it was "hitting", because that was what it felt like. By eighth grade, things were near impossible. I'd taken to dressing "weird" and Mom wouldn't let it go unnoticed. I'd be ready to head out the door for Scouts wearing a pair of pink and blsack wildly printed ribbed leggings, a white ribbed tank top over a white ribbed tank top, a pink and white striped shirt, my hair in wild foofy pigtails, plus one black Reebok Hitop and one pink one. (Yes, this was an actual outfit of mine and yes I wore it to scout meetings.) I started spending as much time away from home as I could just to get away from her. The "spanking" still happened and I haed it. To be completely honest, there were times I hated my mother for doing it.

Now, I suppose somewhere along the line, something inside me just snapped. I decided one day shortly after graduating eighth grade that I wasn't going to continue living in fear of my mother. She'd thrown a knife at my foot, barely missing, and had on more than one occasion, held my hand inches above a hot stove burner, threatening to push it down. She'd read my diary and wasn't too secretive about it. We were having yet another fight one day when she pushed me out oof the way and tried to open my bottom dresser drawer. While that might not seem like a big deal, I used that drawer to hold al the things that I held deal and more importantly, held private. To me, this was the ultimate invasion of privacy. The second I saw her grab the handles to pull, I snapped. I'm not proud of what happened next, but I often think maybe it had to be done.

I hit my mother.

Not just an ordinary hit, either... I knocked her out cold.

I was maybe five feet tall and weighed about one hundred and fifteen pounds. Not exactly your champion prizefighter... but I guess it was all the years of pent up rage at her "spanking" finally unlocked... the "spanking" stopped imediately.

My mother and I, who really had never been close, grew farther and farther apart. My freshman year.. I started wearing more of the stuff she approved of. You'd think this would have helped but, ironically... it led to the start of a conflict that exists to this day. See... my mother was still dressing in black for my father and I suppose out of habit... bought an awful lot of black clothing for me. She also (and man does she regret this now...) bought me a bottle of black nailpolish on a whim around Halloween because it was on sale for twenty five cents. well.. when I started wearing all this black and painting my nails black, she became convinvced that I was headed for trouble. Here I was, wearing the stuff *she* bought me, and she had a problem with it.. still happenning today...

Since my mother had injured her back the year before and was now constantly home on Disability, it's very hard to tell her story without tellung my own. Especially since by now we were the only ones in the house. (My sister was living with her now ex husband, then boyfriend, my brother was in the Army.) Since about this time I started spending nearly every minute in my room or away from home. It wasn't untill I was seventeen and out of high school that anything drastic changed.

I started dating.

His name was Shawn and he played guitar and sang and wrote his own music and I thought he was perfect. (My mom seemd pretty neutral on him, but later told me she hadn't trusted him.) She told me to be careful and always pleaded that I not do anything stupid. Well.. for the most part, I listened to her.. One time, I was too shocked to think straight... and that would lead to an event that forever changed my relationship with my mother, though she'll never know about it.

We'd been dating two weeks when he brought me to his house late at night with no one there. He led me to the couch and pinned me down. I panicked and threw him off of me, asking him to take me home. I was pretty panicked.. I mean, he was the first "real boyfriend" I'd ever had and I was pretty unexperienced.

A week and a half later, on the way home from a friend's high school graduation, I was in a really bad car wreck. I remember lying on the gurney when she got there, with her stroking my hair, matted with dried blood, and telling me I looked fine, that my makeup was still in tact (she says I was in shock but I honestly think it was the opoosite...) and I can clearly see how pale her face went when she saw the back of my left shoulder.. or rather... the *absence* of the back of my left shoulder. A few days later.. Shawn once again pinned me down. History repeated itself....

My mother was no longer the only one in my family who'd been raped.

Since I was so messed up myself, I never told her, in fact, I stayed with him because I thought I wouldn't be able to do better.... he repeated his actions twice more during the time we were together. There's nothing I'd rather do more than tell my mother about it.. cry into her shoulder and have her rock me like a baby, holding me tight as I let the tears fall... but I know in my heart that I'll never be able to... to be truthful, I think it would hurt her too much to know.

In the past few years, actually... not much has changed. For the most part, my mom feels more like an overly nosy roommate than a mother. We pretty much left each other alone for a while... untill two things happened that gummed up the works bigtime.

One was named Leo.

I'd come home after a week long stay in Southern Califirnia to find my mother spending a lot of time with a man over ten years her senior. It became slowly evident that he was more than just her friend. For the first time since my father, my mother was in love.

The other thing... I'll call Theo (I *really* don't want to use his real name...)

Theo was a friend I'd made online. He was twenty seven, really funny, and I saw him as an older brother type figure. After a couple months of chatting online, we started hanging out. Shortly after we started hanging out... we started "seeing" each other. I'd never planned on it to happen that way.. but well.. you can't always controll those things, you know?

So I was spending lots of time with Theo and mom was spending lots of time with Leo. I couldn't tell her I was involved with Theo because it would have only feuled the fires burning at home. She didn't like Theo. Not at all. Mainly, because he had an illegitimate son.

I told her constantly that we were "just friends" and I'm not really sure she believed me. We started havinghuge fights over my staying out till all hours with him (on one occasion, I got home around six thirty AM...) and I was feeling hurt, neglected, and unwanted because she was spending so much time with Leo. Finally, one day she essentially told me that if I didn't like having Leo around, I could always leave the house. I broke into tears and freaked. I had no job, no money, and nowhere to run to.

Fortunately, this actually led to a long talk where we straightened things out. Finally, after over three months, my mother took Leo and I both aside and introduced us. I eventually broke up with Theo because he started getting jealous and possessive, and I guess things with my mom are back to "normal".

Today, I look at my mom and Leo sitting on the couch, watching TV and holding hands and sometimes, I want to cry I'm so happy for her. My mom gave up so much of herself over the years, be it her home to marry my father, her pride to have Gina out of wedlock, her social life to support us, or her sanity to deal with me... and she's finally starting to recover those things... over thirty years since she bacame a mother for the first time... she's living her life for herself.

Bless you, Mom... though I know you'l never read this, I love you, in spite of the hard times, in spite of the fights, I love you with all my heart and I hope one day I can be as strong as you.