"Not as much as I hate you."
Mom and I are in the garage of my childhood home. We are warily circling each other, faces flush with equal parts rage and fear as we edge around a pile of light colored clothing delicately marinating in a puddle of black motor oil. She's white knuckling a snow shovel, gripping it like a professional baseball player. I'm clutching a big chunk of firewood, adrenaline rocketing through my being along with terror at my challenge to the authority of motherhood.
I remember that. Still. Clear as crystal. The events that lead up to the garage stand-off are a bit clouded. The legions of battles with Mom throughout my life have, with a few notable exceptions, coalesced into a single protracted fight with variations on the same theme. I hate you. I hate this house. You're grounded. Bitch. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I was 17. I'd moved out of Mom's house and into an apartment building in Provo. I had proudly purchased my first car (16 year old girl buying a car on her own. Swindled!), a part-time job, and baby, that was my ticket to freedom. I was gone.
Of course, one still has to wash one's clothes. Laundromat? That's a hellish task people in big cities are forced to do. Why lug laundry and pinch pennies when mom had a perfectly functioning (would just as soon electrocute you as dry your clothes) dryer at home where free detergent (and food!) could be had in the bargain.
So I'd returned home to wash my clothes. The freshly laundered colors were nestled warmly in my laundry basket. The whites were tumbling in the dryer. What happened? I don't know. I made Mom mad. What did I do? I can't remember. Probably made some wise-ass remark that, in her sensitive state over her perceived failures at motherhood, affected her like a swift frying pan to the head instead of the subtle jab it was meant to be.
What I do remember clearly is her footsteps banging angrily down the stairs. I tried to ignore her, act cool, unaffected.. continued reading my book. I ain't afraid of you. I have my own apartment now. Whatdya gonna do, ground me? The dryer squealed open, more furious footsteps. The basement door leading into the garage was nearly yanked off it's hinges with a sticky WHUMP! Instantly I was on my feet, hurtling down the stairs. But it was too late.
There she stood, challenging me with wild eyes, panting heavily after tossing my whites into the big puddle of motor oil that regularly leaked from her car onto the smooth cement floor. All of the injustices of my childhood bitch slapped me in that moment and I grabbed the first thing that seemed threatening. Firewood.
"I am going to kill you. That's how bad I hate you." I hissed like a leaky tire.
She grasped a nearby snow shovel, defensively at first, but slowly maneuvering into a baseball player stance. And we circled each other, whispering words of hatred.
She was thrown headlong into motherhood.. or rather, motherhood was thrown headlong into her in the form of a pot smoking, beer guzzling, ladies loved him, rebel I know as Dad. Did she love him? I think so. Would she have married him had she not been pregnant? Probably not. But they managed cohabitation for nearly a decade.. A son, a daughter, two more sons and thousand of fights later they called it quits. And she was left alone, at an age younger than mine now, with four hungry mouths to feed.
Child support? That came in the form of the house payment. So while our mortage was paid, we had nothing else. And the house tied to the mortage was falling apart.. door by door, window by window.
Yet with the strategic placement of plants, lamps and candles, she always managed to transform a shabby room into a cozy haven.. She pumped so much cheer into the holidays that I believed in Santa Claus until the seventh grade and even then she nearly beat the shit out of a neighbor kid who took it upon himself to dispel me of my Santa Clausian illusions. She can cook a meal from nothing.... McGuyver style.. You look in a fridge, see an egg, a hunk of hard cheese, some tomato sauce and old hamburger. She sees a meal... and a tasty one at that. She rides motorcycles. Does your mom ride a motorcycle? I thought not. She likes rap music. And church hymns. Like me, her best friend is her dog. Before she got her college degree she held down every job under the sun to make ends meet. She gets it. You know, it. She gets it. If your reminiscence on your childhood in any way embroider her perceived failures as a mother, she cries. While she certainly lost control on numerous occasions she did the best she could with three boys who spent more time in jail than the library. Ironically, it was the daughter that she argued with the most. Although she stoically stood behind her boys throughout their various collisions with the law she remains riddled with guilt for many things in the past which were not in her control. She spends much of her time these days trying to make amends instead of just living her life.
Her children are grown-ups now and despite what some of them would have her believe, she no longer owes them. It is her time now.