Tuesday, October 6, 2009
My mother was a difficult woman, to say the least. She was extremely religious, started out a Catholic, but switched over to an organization that would be considered a cult by some Christians. I won’t name her religion of choice; I’m not out to make any enemies. I was the middle child, but in a sense I was also the oldest. My sister is only two years younger than I am, but my brother is eight years older, and he was drafted into the military when I was ten years old. Dad took a job in California. Mom promised we would move south to join him when the school year ended. But, she wrote my father a Dear John letter, telling him that she intended to stay put. Dad didn’t buy into her newfound belief system, and he was put out. After that, it was just Mom and us two girls living in Oregon.
We moved out of our three-story house on a tree-lined street and into a crappy apartment in a complex full of single mom’s with troubled kids and teens. I started looking after kids and through the years became the babysitting queen of the complex. At one point, (try to understand, this was in the late sixties), I earned about ninety dollars a week. That was a lot of dough for a kid. I spent my loot on clothes and shoes. But, I did manage to save enough to fly down to see my dad in California.
When I was sixteen, Mom decided to move by her family, way up north in Canada. Once we were settled, not only did my sister and I have our religious mother breathing down our teenaged necks, we had our Aunt and Uncle, (we lived on their property), and the entire congregation of that one horse town breathing down our necks. My sister was strong and not a people pleaser. She had no problem standing up to my mother and refusing to go to the many meetings we were required to attend weekly. I tried my best to make Mom happy. I thought that if I complied with the strictness, she would finally accept me. Mom loved me, but I just grated on her nerves because she claimed I was just like my father. I guess I am like him. Born that way. Hopeless from the get go.
In the tenth grade, or grade ten, to use the Canadian term, I was chosen to enroll in a special program. My English teacher determined that I was a gifted writer. (I had been writing since the age of seven, in my mind I was going to be the next Jane Austen.) I ran home to tell Mom and met with undeniably vehement disapproval. I had to fight in order to participate in the program. My mother allowed me to enter the program, but made me take all the bookkeeping and business machine courses, because I would surely end up working in an office, just like her. My aspirations to be a writer were at best at pipe dream.
Right up until her death, her voice played in my head every time I sat down to write. What would she think about what I had written? Would she disapprove? And then she passed suddenly, in her chair, in her sleep, her beloved Bible in her lap.
Losing Mom was devastating. I know it wasn’t as heart wrenching for me as it was for my sister, (they were tied to one another emotionally and in proximity much closer), but I had no idea just how strongly I would miss her presence in my life. We talked on the phone, a lot. She would come to visit and we would go out to lunch after sightseeing. (I still get a pang when I see a daughter and her mother out to lunch.) But, I was free! I could write whatever I wanted. I know--when you get right down to it I was always free to write whatever I wanted. But somewhere deep inside I never gave up on trying to please her and would edit myself constantly. I'll go so far as to say that I couldn’t really write honestly at all, until after she was gone.
Do you worry about what others, or that certain someone will think of your material, should you write what’s in your heart? Do voices sound off in your head if you approach certain subjects, or matters that might ruffle feathers? Or, are you a fearless author? If you are one of the brave ones, did you start out that way, or did you learn to throw caution to the wind? Just curious.
All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley