I have not heard back from my mother since sending her that last letter. I wasn’t really expecting to, but now I can’t even be entirely sure that she got my letter. I look back at our attempts at reconnecting and try not to get stuck in regret. I can’t help trying wondering how much intentional sabotaging I did though. I knew if my mother was back in my life, I would either have to tell my father or keep it a secret from him. I found both of these options unacceptable at the time. I didn’t yet have the courage for the first option and the second one just seemed so wrong. What message would that be sending my children? What burden would I be placing on them by asking them to keep such a secret? So my third option it seemed, was to prove my mother unworthy of this reunion. The option presented itself when she wrote to me about her latest boyfriend. How could she? I had asked her. How could she focus on romance when her daughter was finally back in her life after so many years? Why wasn’t she calling me more, initiating getting together, bending over backwards to make sure we spent time together- that she spend time getting to know me? Didn’t she get it that it would take a Hercules effort on her part to get to me to face my father on the fact that we were reuniting? She would need to burst forth in my life with such force and confidence as to leave me no choice but to tell my father. She was not even coming close to that effort. It had seemed to as a child that she had slipped away quietly, and now she living quietly, separately, on the peripheral of my adult life. So I pointed a finger at what I decided were her faults, both then and now: her damn passivity and her romance obsession.
But so much time had passed and my last letter was kind, apologetic, forgiving of her absence. It’s too late for us now. I knew that, even as I had mailed the letter. Her silence was expected. I let her go again.
I am three and a half years old, standing in the doorway of our upstairs apartment, my sister Amy beside me and our mother clutching the door knob. The three of us are wearing our winter jackets. Our father is making beef stew in the kitchen. I had been sitting on the counter top earlier, putting the potatoes that he chopped into the pan.
He begins asking our mother questions in an angry tone. He wants to know where we are going and why he hasn’t been invited along. I remember thinking why would he want to come if he’s making the stew? My mother answers that we are just going to the store. But then we don’t go.
There is yelling. Later I wake up to more yelling that I hear from the bedroom I share with Amy. Amy gets up and leaves our bedroom and for a moment the noise stops. Then she comes back to bed, telling me that Mommy has promised to sleep with her.
But our mother is not in Amy’s bed when I wake up in the morning. In fact, she is not home at all.