I Don’t Have Amnesia, But Who Am I Really?
(A Mother’s Day Tribute to Hazel Moon) by Nancy Kehr
Children get a lot of things from their mothers!
One of my daughters became proficient at putting her little hand on her hip and cocking her little head to the side whenever she became indignant. She was only two-and-a-half.
Hmmm….I wonder where she got that?
After retrieving another of my five children from the nursery at church, the attendant motioned for me to come inside.
“Look!” she chuckled.
There was my toddler, standing over a loudly crying child. With her little pointer finger extended and waggling slightly just in front of her mouth, she chided the child with a soft, “No-no-no-no-no-no-no.”
That sounded familiar. That’s one of the ways I corrected her.
This past weekend, my dental assistant school covered the section on infection control. One of the points made was that babies are born without bacteria in their mouths. The populations of germs are actually passed along to the child from their mother or primary caregiver. Oh how we love those little babies! Kissey, kissey!
Mothers impart many things, both good and bad.
Recently I dreamed about a grandmother I never knew. She was my bio-mother’s mother. Evidentially, she was the victim of a “backwoods” abortion and her life just leaked away as she bled inwardly. She died when my bio-mom was just thirteen. How very sad.
Worse yet, my bio-mother’s father made her step into the shoes of her mother and act life a wife to him. It sickens me to think of it, and I have to speculate at all the things I do not know about the woman who bore me, or about her own mother.
To this day, I don’t really know much about any of my relatives – on either my mother’s or father’s side. All I have are disjointed stories of sadness.
Memories of my own biological mother are a blur. She taught me to hem curtains when I was six. I loved playing dress-up in her high-heels with the peep-toe. She taught me to keep things tidy. I do remember traveling by bus to downtown Oakland to shop, because she always got all dressed up for that.
Hugs, hymns, kid’s poems, encouragement, songs, and stories read out loud were in abundance in my first few years of life. Then things went sour. My biological mother began to suffer from some sort of Kinectic disorder, as the doctors finally deemed it, and it took its toll on all of us!
Round and round and round we’d go. Where we’d wake up, none of us did know! Buried hurts mess with one’s mind. Recently, I sat down to write and was able to log sixteen different places in which I had lived before I was fourteen. Who was I? Did I belong anywhere…to anyone?
From an early age when siblings and I were not staying with strangers, or strange relatives, I’d pretty much wake up without a parent in the house. Well, my mother was there, but she was generally in bed, thrashing around, rolling from side to side plagued by muscle spasms that wouldn’t allow her much peace. Her moaning still haunts me.
Bare fridge and cupboards were not uncommon. Things were always broken, and the laundry had to be done several blocks away at a Laundromat. Of course, that was left to me as well. I collected and turned in old bottles to get money to do the wash.
We had no sheets or blankets for our beds, so we slept with old coats. New shoes were rare and wore out rapidly as walking to school nearly three miles uphill and back down ground away at them. After the soles wore out, we were expected to find cardboard, step on it, draw around our feet, make cut-outs and shove them into the shoe to help protect our feet.
I know I don’t have amnesia, but childhood memories are very dim – some non-existent. Between the ages of seven and thirteen, my main memory of my bio-mom was of her incapacitation, with much of her life lived in a basic shut-down mode from the meds that rendered her muscles still.
She wasn’t generally coherent enough to actually take care of children, therefore it was up to me to see that 2 younger siblings and a baby were fed and watched over. I made sure they made it to school, but, I often wasn’t able to attend because the baby had no one to watch him. It really hurt, because I loved, loved, loved school. My bio-father worked two jobs, so he was rarely around to help.
The day arrived when my bio-father picked up much of the household stuff and left, taking the rest of the kids with him. I came home from school to find them gone. Eventually, my sister ran away from him and started on her own road to hell.
Without income or a place to stay, my bio-mother had some heart-rending decisions to make. She needed care and I needed to be in school.
It wasn’t the first time I had to call a motel “home,” and we stayed in one until money ran out. That was when she approached a friend about taking me in.
I can’t even begin to imagine the anguish, heartache and disappointment that ensued. All but a few small possessions gone, along with her other children and husband, she now had to face this.
So, one mother out of the picture for me, and another stepped in.
Without family or friends, trying to redefine myself and my place was arduous, at best. Someone else’s home – again. While I was not overtly trying to be difficult, I am certain that my early teenage reactions and behavior were problematic. Sadness cut at my core, but I didn’t want anyone to know. I’d go into the closet and cry into the dirty laundry until nothing more would come out.
An aunt once told me that we were lucky that anyone wanted us! I didn’t want to be “lucky” any more and fought fiercely to maintain independence. I’m still a little quirky in that regard.
Slowly settling over me, a new image of what a mother should be, helped to change my gloomy self-image. To this day, I am glad she never gave up on me.
Yes, I have a biological mother, but SHE is my mother. I take after her in so many ways, it’s hard to count. She taught me sharing God’s love with others, feeding the poor, about giving and tough love. She taught me about The One who made us all for a purpose. She didn’t compromise and always gave it to me straight!
Once when SHE took me shopping for a formal event, the clerk remarked how much we looked alike. We really don’t, but I’m sure it was our mannerisms more than anything else. Later, when I married, the photographer positioned us facing each other while SHE “fixed” my veil. He said he could tell I was her daughter. We just laughed.
It took me a long time to feel worthy of her love. I never felt right about calling her MOTHER. After all, SHE had her own children and she was THEIR mother.
Because of HER, I eventually found my own identity. Her’s was wrapped up in Almighty God, and when I received God’s approval, my heart became convinced of who I am. Healing flowed, and I was able to turn around a lifetime of identity-theft. Now I make the investment in others that SHE made for me.
Hazel Moon…you are MY Mother and I love you! Thank you for NEVER giving up!
Your Daughter, Nancy