It was the Summer of 2005 and Cape Cod was as beautiful as ever with it’s intoxicating beaches full of golden flecked sands and tremendous waves. I watched as waves assaulted a woman by the shoreline. The older lady with the yellow bucket hat sitting in a white striped chair was smiling out at the ocean. I looked to the side of her face. What great laugh lines, I thought. I looked at this woman with white cool-offs that went just below her knees. She sat deep in her chair and her legs and feet planted cooly in the wet shore sand. Glistening rocks reflected the women’s pearl shimmer nail polish on her toes. I looked to her hands. Wisdomatic, I thought. Her nails matched her toenails. I admired a hue of lavender and thought about the new bedspread I bought to cover Moms bed for when she came to visit me for her annual fourth of July weeks vacation to Cape Cod. I saw the view of a mini size wave coming towards the shore. A childish smile came across the womans face as I viewed her from my fluorescent pink towel that had a cool blue sailboat floating off into an orange and pink hued sunset that was reflecting a washed out green palm tree branch. The wave came in and went just below her knee. So close, I thought. I looked to her pants again to see splattered ocean water making a darker pool of white on her white cool-offs.
“Hey Mom!”, yelled Andrew. “Hey babe, how was your swimming lessons?” I asked him as he was running full speed towards my towel and specks of sand began to fly at my leg. “Did you see me swim, Mom?!”, Andrew asked with a hoping smile. “Yes, babydoll, I did. Those waves have nothing on you honey.”, I said, as I grabbed his sandy towel, shook it free from all the sand and reached up to him to embrace him in his towel. “So, we have to go food shopping because nannys coming down tomorrow.”, I said. “But first ice cream Mom?”, Andrew asked with a cheesy smile on his face. I looked at him and raised my eyebrow, “Listen, good thing your cute kid. Yes, let’s go!”, I said.
Standing in the deli line at Stop & Shop, I looked at the nine people in front of me. Give me patience Lord, I prayed. I was going over the ten lists I had in my head while looking at the one list I had in my hand. Half paying attention to nothing, I looked at the strawberries from my spot in the deli line. Nice and plump. My eyes went to the blueberries making mental notes about the the traditional Fourth Of July cake. Cool Whip and this year will be a premade pound cake, I thought. Looking to the deli case, I scanned for Liverwurst. There it was. Mom loved Liverwurst. I tried it once and never had to buy a pound and a half , only one to get her through the week. I decided on honey ham. We would have our lunches on the deck of my home on Cape Cod and the Islands. Falmouth is across the ocean from Martha’s Vineyard. When one lives in a town for a good part of their life, one takes their town for granted. I was growing tired of Cape Cod. My soul longed for New Hampshire. I spent Summers in August running through the woods of the Dolly Copp Campground, exploring the brooks, playing with little creatures I would find as I would go off on my own. What freedom I had that one week in the woods every Summer. The adventures! The pure joy! The sheer delight of looking up to the Sun with my eyes closed and letting the heat warm my face. I would smile to the Sun when I was alone. As I sat next to the flowing brook I would touch the water and feel life flowing. I was free. I was so alive. I didnt think about the abuse that I knew I would have to go to when I went home with Mom. I was free in that week. When I would pass by the Old Man On The Mountain, I looked at him. I threw my heart to him and told him to hold it and I will take it back when I see him next Summer. The Dolly Copp Campground I went to as a child, my Dad always chose the best spot. I would awaken to unzip my tent and see The Old Man Of The Mountain greeting me to a new day full of possibilities. I would draw on these Summers in moments of needing to escape days when Moms abuse began to become heavier. I was eight and pleaded with God to please let me live in the White Mountains when I was all grown. Nature was my medicine as a child and as an adult, even more so.
I loved to be alone in nature from the time I was a baby, even when I got lost in the woods of Maine at the age of two. No one could find me, but when a Priest was called in after dark and prayed, I was found in a spot by my Dad that evey rescue crew had already footed. I was clean and smiling, I was told.
“Hi.”, I said to the young man behind the deli counter. “May I please have one pound of Liverwurst, one pound of Boars Head Honey Ham and one pound of Land O’ Lakes cheese.” I looked to the potato and macaroni salad. Tempted to make my workload easier, I decided not to. Homemade anything was better, I reasoned. Andrew tugged at my side, “Mom! Can I have a ball?!” he asked with so much excitement. His little finger pointed to a metal tall cage with a hundred balls of all colors. I fancied the peach swirl colored ball the size of a baby watermelon. “We’ll see how you are in the store.”, I said. “Okay he smiled.” Bakery hamburger and hot dog buns or the ones from the bread aisle, I thought, as I saw the young man putting the honey ham on the slicer. Bread aisle I decided.
Gathering the deli meats and deciding on the Pepperidge Farm rolls, I grabbed a box of Swiss Cake rolls and put those near the hotdogs. Looking into the carriage, I decided that the Swiss Cake roll box would get wet by the hotogs so I moved the cake rolls near the strawberries and blueberries.
Having food that Mom would eat was important to me. She was having more frequent periodic episodes with Anorexia. I could always tell. She would tell me she wasn’t really hungry or she forgot to eat. But when Mom was with me, she did eat. I enjoyed nurturing her, taking care of her, making sure she was content. Some people may think me to be crazy to love a woman who brought me into this world and tried taking that life that she brought into this world, several times. For me, Mom is God’s Daughter. I saw her as a sick woman, yes, but I always saw her as God’s Daughter first. If I cried when she hurt me, what was God going through in that moment? I was hurting, yes, but Mom was hurting too and if we both gave up on one another, where would that leave Jesus? Broken, all over again. Hurt and bleeding. His Death would have been in vain if I did not look upon my mother with Mercy. Because no matter what, God chose her to be my blessing. And yes, by the end of this series of blogs on my childhood, you will see why.
Putting the key into the golden doorknob, I opened the door to our three floor home. Joey and I bought the home when we were twenty four. Andrew was a year old and Ryan was tuning six. I put the too many carried bags at once on my kitchen island and hung my keys on the key hanger next to the white phone that was on the wall. Six voicemails, the phone flashed. Later I said to myself. Opening the slider, all my plants were on the deck sunbathing after I gave them a water bath that morning. Monstera deliciosa, Dracaena Massangeana, Anthurium Andraeanum and two others that I didn’t know but one looked like a Spider Plant. Mom loved plants and had the best green thumb I had ever seen. Grabbing them all I placed them in their due spots and went to the basement with Andrew as he put his swimming gear near the washer. I put a load of whites in and in fresh clothes, Andrew went to play outside with his new purple and white swirled ball.
The house was quite besides a fan that was blowing in the living room. I looked around. Clean. Orderly. Thank you Jesus. I walked up to the third floor to my bedroom, walked into the closet and grabbed a long peach colored casual Summer dress and slipped into it. I looked to my bed. The white bedding looked so inviting I thought. I was tired. Walking downstairs I opened the front door and stood there for a moment. The hot heat that was trapped between the storm door and the main door warmed my naked toes. I wiggled my toes on the cold tile trying to capture the heat. Thank you Jesus, I said to myself. I looked out the front door to my favorite tree. A huge Oak with the biggest green leaves. I opened the door and stepped out onto the top step. I looked to my annuals and made a mental note to water them after the sun went down in two hours. Mom, I thought. She will be here tomorrow. I began having flashbacks about how every Summer that she comes down, there was some sort of disorder during the month of July. The last Summer Mom would come down would be the Summer of 2005. She would never make her way back down to the oceans of Cape Cod, MA again.
“Baby Girl!! I’m here!!”, yelled Mom with two Dunkin Donuts medium iced coffees, made regular and donuts, as she came through the front door. “Hey Mom,”, I smiled. “How was the drive from Milford?”, I asked, as I took the iced coffees and placed them on tiles in the kitchen. We hugged each other and smiled. I saw Mom only once a year usually. Some years I would see her up to three times, but that was rare. She lived only an hour away. We spoke weekly on the phone. “The traffic was light until the Bourne Bridge.”, Mom said, looking exhausted. “Cape Cod in the Summer”, I said, smiling. “Why don’t we get your bags and bring them to your room.”, I asked. “Maybe later baby girl.”, Mom said. “Okay. Want to come out to the deck? Andrews out in the back playing.”, I said. We went out to the deck and sat in the deep chairs. Andrew who was six was digging something with his play truck near the corner lot of the yard. I looked to Mom. Beautiful, I thought. She never aged. She was 58 and was mistaken for a woman in her late thirties. She was always so well groomed. Her nails to her shoes. But she was a jean wearing loving girl who was a self proclaimed Flower Child from the sixties. I often caught her dancing by herself to Janis Joplin. Her favorite, Piece Of My Heart. She loved Janis. Moms long blonde hair and cunning smile hid a woman who just holding on until the next suicide attempt. She was beauty in madness. She was every mans desire and she knew it. I knew it. Summers on Cape Cod would have to entail us driving past the Falmouth Fire Department in my car and her hanging out the window as the Firemen were sitting out front in chairs. “Mom, please don’t this year.”, I pleaded with her as we left the Falmouth Library with books on whales and fishes for Andrews Summer Reading. “Oh honey, live a little.”, Mom said. I opened the door to my Pontiac GTO and put the seatbelt on Andrew as he placed his books next to him. It was a hot Summers Day. I opened the sun-top and rolled down all the windows. Summers on Cape Cod were beautiful but the humidity was oppressive at times. Key in the ignition I pulled out of the parking lot and made my way to Main Street. Dear God, please let the Firemen be inside, please, I said to myself. No, not on this day. The Firemen were outside in their chairs, sipping on something cool. Good Lord I thought. Can’t drive quick because it’s on Main Street. “Hello Boys!! I love you!!”, Mom yelled. They all laughed and waved at Mom. I wanted to be the coconut air freshener hanging from my cars vent that resembled Mom dancing to Joplin by herself as the sunset in my backyard. Laughter coming from the back seat broke my thought about being the coconut air freshener. “Nanny! Your crazy!!”, Andrew giggled. Mom looked back at her third grandchild. “Yeah honey, I am.”, she smiled. Looking forward and wanting to get home as quick as I could, I couldn’t. Main Street traffic in one of the biggest tourist areas in MA, Falmouth Cape Cod was unforgiving. We were coming up on the Police Department and I decided to take a nice long drive through the backroads to get home. Falmouth Heights beach was quite intoxicating that afternoon. Moms hair was blowing out the side of her window and I glanced at her as I turned to look to the right. Sunglasses on, white t-shirt and no earrings. The smell of the ocean air was consuming the car with thoughts of 4th of July on the beach. Falmouth, MA, the place I came to when I was nine. The place Dad and Mom would move to after their marriage almost ended. Moms last time to give Dad another chance. Mom lived through marital affairs. Cape Cod was to bring a new beginning after Dad found comfort in the arms of another woman in our last town. The affair would drive Mom to a state of raised arms and high walls and rightly so. The pain of an affair never leaves. It only gets easier, but it never leaves and a marriage cannot and will never go back to purity. What was Sacred turns into a shadowed happiness, a falsified reality. For some, it becomes their Vocation through God and that is the only thing that keeps them holding on at times. When love is gone – it is truly gone. Sure, love to love, you know, we are all called to that, and in marriage, you love because God calls you to. Smiles, hugs, happiness … yes, you have to live while your trying to heal. Mom was trying for the family. She wanted to divorce Dad many times and I am sure Dad had the same sentiments. In the end, they would divorce when I was thirteen. I was happier I said, and I believed I was. Fleetwood Mac, If anyone Falls, came on the radio. Turning it up, I stepped on the gas, we were coming up to the rocks where I could see there was many people fishing and Mom may just yell, even louder to them.
Starting up the grill to make dinner, I looked to the clock. Joey had been out of work for over an hour. No calls. I texted. No answer. Called work, “Hey Melissa, he left an hour ago.”, said his supervisor. These incidents were coming more and more. I opened the slider and walked into the kitchen to husk the corn. Looking at the plastic bag that looked like it was bursting from the seams, I exhaled as I picked up the corn. I grabbed a piece of corn by the bottom and began to peel the silky strands. Where is he, I thought. Please Jesus, no, I prayed silently. A tugging for weeks had been at my heart. A gentle knock from God. A knock that I didn’t want to answer. A knock I feared so much, more than anything to answer. A knock that had been there before. Please God, I just can’t, I ‘m so tired already. Joey and I had just celebrated thirteen years of marriage that March. Pushing the thoughts to the side, I composed myself as I heard Ryan walking down the stairs. “Hey Mom where’s Andrew?”, Ryan asked as he looked in the bags of dry food. Pulling out the freezer pops he put them in the freezer. “Hey honey, he’s outside playing.”, I said. I shuffled my hands through his hair. Haircuts, I made a mental note. “Okay Mom, I’m going to play with my friends.”, Ryan said. “Keep close honey.”, I responded. I heard the screen door open and then slowly close. I listened to the compression of the screen-door slowly close. What a genius idea to make a door like that. No noisey slam. One for that guy, I thought. Grabbing the silver pot and not remembering husking half the corn I inspected it well. Little pieces of silky threads were in between the kernels. Please God, let my marriage not end like my parents, please Jesus. I can’t do this, please, please. Let my marriage be as tight as these silky things in the corn. Grabbing a steak knife I tried to remove all the silky pieces with the tip of the knife and I couldn’t but in that moment I had to and I did. I cleaned every piece of corn perfectly. Victory. I put the corn, butter and sugar in the pan and turned the stove to number seven.
“Where’s Joey, Melissa?”, Mom asked. “He said he was running late, Mom. May I get you anything?”, I asked her trying to forget the raised eyebrow I just saw on her face. “No, I’m all set.”, I said. Please God no, was my silent prayer. I couldn’t hear another talk about how Dad cheated and how my fate will be that of every woman who has been hurt. Please make her go outside God. I looked to the pan. The condensation from the cold water was evaporating. “Melissa?”, Mom asked. I looked up to her with a smile. “When was he out of work?”, Mom asked. The pan with the corn was becoming hotter, the cold condensation was almost gone. “Almost two hours ago, Mom.”, I answered her without looking at her. She became quiet. I wished I had had a torch to stick to the outside of the pan to make it rapidly boil to drown out the sound of her sigh that I now have with with her raised eyebrow. Two for her, I thought. “Hey, Mom, will you get the burgers and hotdogs out of the fridge?”, I asked her. “Sure babygirl.”, mom said. Plates, forks, knives. Where is he? My soul knew. Hot tears came to the brim of my eyes. Late night calls, spent money, empty embraces and empty eyes. I don’t want to be me God. Why now God? When Moms down too, why? I was the wife who did everything for her husband, everything. I wasn’t going to end up like mom and dad, no. Never. And, besides, God called me to this Vocation and not that of being His Bride, because with all my heart, I know I would have been so Faithful to my Groom. He will be home soon, I said to myself.
The 4th of July would come and go. We had a great time as a family. Cookout and fireworks. A Hallmark family in a way. If people only knew, I thought. Turn me inside out, I thought. Will you stay? Will you run? Is it too much? I am broken. A falsified failure, I said to myself.
Friday afternoon. Mom was getting ready to go back home on Sunday. Her annual departing day. I had a good time that Summer. Not too much craziness with Mom. She was working and moving on with her life. She had a nice place and was involved with a local day home for adults where she had many friends and happiness. Joey was due home that afternoon after work so we could see his family before Mom went back home.
“Melissa, what is going on? Where is Joey?”, Mom asked. “Mom, he’ll be here soon, I’m sure.”, I said, pairing together socks. One sock had a hole in it. Usually I would throw holey socks away. Screw it. I put them together. She was right. She was right. God, shes’ right, right? Right God? Because how much more God? Right? My soul was accepting a reality that my heart would not touch. I wanted to be back at Saint Anthony’s Church when I was 17 and sitting in that front pew and tell God that I take it all back. I take it back about Him choosing for me. You made a mistake God, did You?
I broke down crying right in front of my mother. I was in so much pain inside. Breathing stopped in that moment. These cries that I had never experienced in my life, came out of me. My mother grabbed me and held me. She rocked me back and forth like I used to see her rock back and forth after a suicide attempt. I sank into her and I don’t know how long she held me for. I don’t know how much I cried. I needed her in that moment and she was my Mom in that moment, not my daughter. It was this out of body experience between the pain and truth about my marriage that I had in me and the woman that hurt me the most, was comforting me during the worst crisis of my life. I was so naked in that moment of everything. God stripped me naked of everything in front of the woman who stripped me naked of my everything as a child.
Mom fed the kids dinner and brought them to my mother-in-laws home. I stepped into the shower and faced the showerhead. I made the water cold to stop feeling the hot tears. Moving the knob to the blue C, I stood there, the water hitting me. Jet black Mascara pooling at the bottom of the shower. My eyes burned as I forced them to remain open. Give me pain God. Let this showerhead crash onto me. Let the walls fall in. Clenching my fist I punched the side of the shower wall. My knuckles red. Another hit. I didn’t care. He told me who would never cheat on me. He knew my childhood. No way. This guy who vowed to me a marriage. Kids, a life. I gave him everything and he knew it. Everyone knew it, including my friends who knew I laid out his clothes for him every evening after his shower, to starting up his truck so it would be warm and told me I was crazy. I am crazy God, huh? Yeah, I am one twisted and sick person who gives everyone everything and I am shit upon every time. You love me God?! One more hit. Crouched on the shower floor, the water was cold hitting me. I didn’t want to leave the shower. What happens when the water turns off, I thought.
“Babygirl, I’m back, are you okay?” Mom asked after knocking on the bathroom door, “The kids are set. I’ll make us some tea.”, Mom said. Clearing my throat, I told her okay.
I threw on leggings and a long tank, threw my hair up and put tinted cream on my swollen hand. The early evening air was cool as I made the way down to the sitting room. Mom was sitting with her legs under her and holding a mug of hot tea. “Come sit here honey.”, Mom said with kindness. Thank You Jesus. Thank You. I sat at the other end of the maroon sofa. We had nice things, so many things. As I looked around, we had a comfortable life. We worked real hard from a young age. Joey and I had that together. In the bedroom and out, life was good, never a reason for an affair and I worked damn hard to be sure of that, because I always said from a young age that if I ever married, – not me -not my marriage – no divorce – no affairs.
There goes that power couple, people would say. I wanted to yell, …. “Hey, you have it all wrong my friend! This smile here – that you see on my face – nah, that’s just me holding it together for the kids and him. Turn me inside out. See what I really look like!”I was the biggest deceiver of all. Fake smiles holding together a broken girl.
“Honey, listen, I am sorry for what is going on with you and Joey. He’s a good man honey and he loves the kids and you. Men will be men though.”, Mom said. I looked at the steam coming off her tea and had a flashback to the coconut air freshener swaying in the car near the AC earlier that week.
Here we go, I said. I just knew it. Here we go. I wanted the tea to be Bacardi and coke. I wanted to be sipping on a cold drink. I wanted to light a Marlboro Light and deeply inhale and then exhale all the circles that were going around in my head which I had picked up on and off since I was twelve. Mom would buy me my first carton of Marlboros when I was thirteen. I was on my bed reading a magazine and she walked in and threw the carton on my bed. “Thanks Mom.”, I said. I wanted to be anywhere but in that room.
“Honey, you are at thirteen years. I decided to divorce your father when I was at the thirteen year mark. He cheated on me too. A man will always be a man, and honey, it’s part of life.”, Mom said. Am I really here, I remember thinking to myself. Is this a generational curse, God, I asked Him in my interior.
“Mom, my marriage is not your marriage.”, I told her, looking into her eyes. I was about to lose it and scream at her. Gods gentle reminder with my fist still pulsating, made me remember that there is a better way to handle this than yelling. Get yourself together, Melissa, I demanded of myself. I was unraveling by the moment. I was done being strong. One more word and she’s out of here, back to her place, so help me God. I can’t do this. HOW MUCH MORE GOD? I looked to the Crucifix and dared God to try me because I was walking out on Him next. I was thirty years old. I remember driving over the Bourne Bridge, twenty nine years old. One day from thirty. My words to myself as I was watching the sunset as I drove over the bridge into Falmouth; Well God, I am leaving my twenties. The thirties will be the best decade, not doubt. I smiled and drove towards the ocean that early evening, knowing my thirties would be my best …..
… to be continued ….