She was the youngest of an Italian family with 5 other siblings. My guess is that she was spoiled rotten and expected that to last for the rest of her life. But who am I kidding?
I can’t even begin to understand what her core unhappiness was about.
There are conversations you have in life that you will always remember.
This particular day we were sitting on the front steps of our Henry Street home. My mother was getting ready for work- she was always getting ready for work- it was her asylum, no pun intended. I was no more than 6 or 7 and had been moved around to different homes while she sorted out life with my brother.
She would set her hair every single day, the same routine over and over. Her long Pall Mall cigarette would be lit, dangling out of her mouth and she would take a clump of hair in her left hand, wrap it around her right forefinger and thumb, to make a curl, and then hold the curl in place with her left hand. She would then take her right hand, pick up the bobby pin, pry it open with her teeth, and wedge it underneath and on top of the curl.
Two bobby pins per curl. Over and over and over while a conversation followed.
This conversation had to do with why no one wanted to adopt me, or in her words, “take me.” But she wasn’t really talking to me, she never did. She always looked away. She was really talking, explaining, justifying to herself all the reasons she “had to keep me”.
Things like, “I might as well take you back,” “I didn’t like the one woman who wanted you,” ‘I’ll try and make it work,” “No one understands how hard this is,” “Frankie’s different, it’s easier with a boy,”. Yeh. What she meant was that it was easier if you liked the child you gave birth to.
I learned to always listen and not react. Any reaction would have been taken as a “hostile move,” and that famous backhander would wing its way to my face again.
When the movie “Mommie Dearest” came out and the scandal of Joan Crawford as an abusive and ego maniacal mother made headlines, my mother, who (get ready for the irony of ironies here) first prided herself on the fact that people thought she looked like Joan Crawford, and was outraged that a daughter would dare print anything bad about her mother.