October 24th, 2008

Recital

LJ Idol, Week 5

When we are young, our mothers are strong and invincible, untouched by the imperfections that are so apparent in others. They have the power to destroy monsters that lurk in the midnight shadows of our bedrooms, heal cuts and bruises with just a touch, and shelter us from the realities of life.

There comes a day when we all realize that our mothers are not the stoic statues we thought them to be; instead they become glass houses, fragile…breakable.

I remember the day my glass house was built.

It was a cool Saturday morning in April, and I was up early, helping to clean the house before extended family were to arrive for the first cookout of the season. I was dusting the living room while Mom emptied worn boxes she had retrieved from the attic. She sorted through pictures and papers from years gone by, an activity somewhat unfamiliar to me. My mom never discussed her past much. I had gathered little bits here and there over the years, but had only amassed a small pile of breadcrumbs. Truthfully, as a self absorbed seventeen-year-old I didn't think much about it. What I saw was a woman who loved and defended her children, served God to the best of her ability, and was faithful to a husband who tried to destroy her spirit at every opportunity. This last bit I never fully understood. I finally settled on the conclusion that she stayed married because God commanded it. She couldn't possibly love someone who treated her so badly, could she? Giving much thought to the person she was before she had become my mother didn't occur much, and I believe Mom wanted it that way.

"I wonder where he is now," she said suddenly, the words seeming to accidentally pass her lips.
I looked up from the coffee table I was assaulting with a threadbare dust rag, and noticed she was holding a wrinkled piece of paper. She stared at it as if it were a precious jewel, her eyes unblinking and she read the words over and over again.
"He who?" I finally asked.
"Andrew," she stated as if this answered my question.
"Mom, I don't know who that is."
"He's my son, remember?"
I stopped dusting, and looked up, confused.
"Bobby is your son."
"No, not him," she spoke as if I should know what she was talking about, "the son I had in Chicago."
"Mom, what are you talking about?"
"I never told you?" She finally tore her eyes away from the wrinkled paper and looked at me.
"No, you didn't."
"It was a long time ago," she looked away and folded the paper, placing it back in the box. "I had him when I was nineteen. That's why I moved to Chicago. There was a home there where I worked while I was pregnant…"
Her sentence trailed off as if she had said more than she meant too.
"Who's was it?" I pressed, not wanting the conversation to be at an end.
"It doesn't matter." She stood and went into the kitchen, clearly trying to cut off my questions.
"Do you want to find him?" I followed her, unrelenting in my pursuit of the truth.
"If he wants me, I’m not hard to find."
"Did you get to choose his parents?"
"Yes. His mom was a lawyer and his father was a surgeon."
"Did you ever get to see him?"
"Briley," she sounded weary of my curiosity, "it was a lont time ago...ok?'
She turned to her dishes, closing the door on this line of conversation.
She didn't look at me, and I returned to my dusting, my mind wandering to the brother I'll probably never know.

I still think about him sometimes. I wonder where he is, what he looks like, if he ever thinks about our mom. Mostly though I think about the woman I call Mom. Does she think about him every day? Does she miss him? Does she miss Andrew's father?

Since then I have learned more about my mother's past. As the years go by, the picture of Vickie Dawn becomes clearer in my mind. I respect the real Vickie more than the perfect, two dimensional woman I had thought her to be. In spite of the abuse, the loss, the drugs, the child she doesn't know, her glass house stands, glimmering and unbroken in the harsh light of day.
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