Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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The Snow Shovel, The Firewood, The Mom And Her Daughter

I hate you."
"Not as much as I hate you."
Mom and I are in the garage of my childhood home. We are warily circling each other, faces flush with equal parts rage and fear as we edge around a pile of light colored clothing delicately marinating in a puddle of black motor oil. She's white knuckling a snow shovel, gripping it like a professional baseball player. I'm clutching a big chunk of firewood, adrenaline rocketing through my being along with terror at my challenge to the authority of motherhood.

I remember that. Still. Clear as crystal. The events that lead up to the garage stand-off are a bit clouded. The legions of battles with Mom throughout my life have, with a few notable exceptions, coalesced into a single protracted fight with variations on the same theme. I hate you. I hate this house. You're grounded. Bitch. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I was 17. I'd moved out of Mom's house and into an apartment building in Provo. I had proudly purchased my first car (16 year old girl buying a car on her own. Swindled!), a part-time job, and baby, that was my ticket to freedom. I was gone.

Of course, one still has to wash one's clothes. Laundromat? That's a hellish task people in big cities are forced to do. Why lug laundry and pinch pennies when mom had a perfectly functioning (would just as soon electrocute you as dry your clothes) dryer at home where free detergent (and food!) could be had in the bargain.

So I'd returned home to wash my clothes. The freshly laundered colors were nestled warmly in my laundry basket. The whites were tumbling in the dryer. What happened? I don't know. I made Mom mad. What did I do? I can't remember. Probably made some wise-ass remark that, in her sensitive state over her perceived failures at motherhood, affected her like a swift frying pan to the head instead of the subtle jab it was meant to be.

What I do remember clearly is her footsteps banging angrily down the stairs. I tried to ignore her, act cool, unaffected.. continued reading my book. I ain't afraid of you. I have my own apartment now. Whatdya gonna do, ground me? The dryer squealed open, more furious footsteps. The basement door leading into the garage was nearly yanked off it's hinges with a sticky WHUMP! Instantly I was on my feet, hurtling down the stairs. But it was too late.

There she stood, challenging me with wild eyes, panting heavily after tossing my whites into the big puddle of motor oil that regularly leaked from her car onto the smooth cement floor. All of the injustices of my childhood bitch slapped me in that moment and I grabbed the first thing that seemed threatening. Firewood.
"I am going to kill you. That's how bad I hate you." I hissed like a leaky tire.
She grasped a nearby snow shovel, defensively at first, but slowly maneuvering into a baseball player stance. And we circled each other, whispering words of hatred.

She was thrown headlong into motherhood.. or rather, motherhood was thrown headlong into her in the form of a pot smoking, beer guzzling, ladies loved him, rebel I know as Dad. Did she love him? I think so. Would she have married him had she not been pregnant? Probably not. But they managed cohabitation for nearly a decade.. A son, a daughter, two more sons and thousand of fights later they called it quits. And she was left alone, at an age younger than mine now, with four hungry mouths to feed.

Child support? That came in the form of the house payment. So while our mortage was paid, we had nothing else. And the house tied to the mortage was falling apart.. door by door, window by window.

Yet with the strategic placement of plants, lamps and candles, she always managed to transform a shabby room into a cozy haven.. She pumped so much cheer into the holidays that I believed in Santa Claus until the seventh grade and even then she nearly beat the shit out of a neighbor kid who took it upon himself to dispel me of my Santa Clausian illusions. She can cook a meal from nothing.... McGuyver style.. You look in a fridge, see an egg, a hunk of hard cheese, some tomato sauce and old hamburger. She sees a meal... and a tasty one at that. She rides motorcycles. Does your mom ride a motorcycle? I thought not. She likes rap music. And church hymns. Like me, her best friend is her dog. Before she got her college degree she held down every job under the sun to make ends meet. She gets it. You know, it. She gets it. If your reminiscence on your childhood in any way embroider her perceived failures as a mother, she cries. While she certainly lost control on numerous occasions she did the best she could with three boys who spent more time in jail than the library. Ironically, it was the daughter that she argued with the most. Although she stoically stood behind her boys throughout their various collisions with the law she remains riddled with guilt for many things in the past which were not in her control. She spends much of her time these days trying to make amends instead of just living her life.

Her children are grown-ups now and despite what some of them would have her believe, she no longer owes them. It is her time now.

Reader Comments (20)

i like your hair dark!
and i like it wavy
May 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlc
When my mom calls, I get the stories of how everyone else in the family is treating her like crap. I'm the one she projects that anger upon. My siblings seem to always do everything right in my mother's eyes, and yet they are all she rants about when she calls. And then I get to call them and make sure they invite her over for something that next weekend or make sure they go over and fix that imaginary broken door knob. Just so she can fuss over the kids or make you sit and have tea with her.

I'm spending the next 3 weeks at her house helping with my brother and doing whatever she wants me to do. I'm also stopping at Costco on the way to her house to pick up a few gallons of alcohol and a case of wine, as the entire family traveling home to celebrate my parent’s 50th anniversary over Memorial Weekend. I know I may sound like a lush but when you are forced to spend time with a group of people that do not communicate you need all the help you can get to find a pleasant thought. My only hope is that I hold the thought in my brain long enough to have something nice come out of my mouth.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Mommy's on here!! Hope you day was full of luxury and rest!!
May 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAME
monica, I would call you but I know how you hate to listen to me blubber about, so I will tell you here. YOU are the only one who gets me. No one else. What it's all about and what it is. You. I don't even have to explain anything to you because you are already there. I can't even explain how much you mean to me and how proud I am of the person you have become. I do so regret the things we went through while you were growing up, I try not to think of it much because it makes my heart ache so bad I can hardly stand it so I put it out of my head, or try to anyway. If anything at all came out of all that, it made you a more independent, strong woman (weird that you are a woman, and not a girl) but that's not even anything I can remotely take credit for. You are amazing and I love you dearly and my heart aches a little whenever I think of you. I want to never remember the heartache of the past but it is what it is. That was then, this is today and look at you now. Thank you for writing this, BAWLING per usual, and yes it's the ugly cry.
May 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMama
Monica, glad your back, it's been lonely while you've been gone!
May 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjoyce
Yes, happy Mother's Day to all the mothers... Toughest job on the planet..
May 14, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
Mama and Monica you made me cry...happy but very ugly tears...

I can relate. I am an only child and my mother got remarried after the sperm donor left us. I did everything in my power to get my mom to divorce my stepfather - a man that actually adopted, loved and wanted me. Man we used to fight when I would force her between me and my step dad. I don't know how she didn't throw me out - I was a real bitch. Then magically one day I grew up, over night it seemed, and my mom became an inspiration to me rather than the person that 'ruined my life' on a daily basis.

Here's to all of the mothers on this blog - you are the salt of the earth and framework for what your children will become - especially your daughters. We come around eventually. Love to all the mom's!
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
man. great post. i have nothing else to add. thanks for that.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkasey
One reason why I still hesitate to have a baby is I don´t want to be hated the way I hated both of my parents when I was growing up. All that terror we inflicted on each totally scares me I might have to go through that again with my own beloved child.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commentertanja
Thanks for writing and thanks for being so honest! Enjoy your writing so much!
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkaren h
Welcome back!
Excellent piece!
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
Welcome back. Thank god. I was going mad with nothing to kill the endless work hours.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFOX
I didn't even call my mom yesterday. Just don't have that sort of relationship.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
and you have become the kinda of woman who can look back and see the truth. word.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterghost
wow - why is it that the daughters are the ones who bear the brunt of the mom's anger/fear/guilt, and then are the ones who end up being the most dependable?
I wrote to my mom yesterday (actually gave her my blog address for the first time) and it's only as an adult that I can appreciate all the things I hated as a bitchy pre-teen. She ever threatened me with a shovel, though - but I know she wanted to!

Glad you're back!
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
Great post!
Welcome back!
I remember dancing with your Mama at the NS :-)
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
Out of my corner once again....

I didn't have the best life as a child growing up. My mom was in and out of relationship most of the time. Dragging us from home to home and from man to man...wanting us to call them dad. Yet, I think I still had a pretty good childhood...despite what my siblings think. We didn't have much growing up...just like you Monica. We lived in so many houses that looked like a dump on the outside, but on the inside...she made it into a castle fit for a princess. I will tell you this, despite all of my mother's faults, all of her lies, her screaming, all the arguements....we had love. I was never spoiled with material things but I was spoiled with love. When I would fall, she would run to me and pick me up, wipe off my tears and say everything is going to be alright mama'a here. She gave her children everything including the world. I just wish I could give her part of that back. She absolutly did her best and I know that without a doubt.

The question is....Do all of you know that your mother really did try her best?

Peace Out!
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSM
Although I appreciate your sentiment SM and think your post was lovely, I don't think all moms try their best. I know a lot of shit mothers (not including mine) whose children flourished despite their mothers crap behavior. Some people just shouldn't have kids.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
You mysterious brunette vixen! Simply lovely. The post and the picture. It's nice to gain perspective, look back and also move forward.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSloopy
My mother was what, in those days, we called a "housewife". I don't think it was what she wanted. When my sister and I were little, she sometimes got angry and depressed for no apparent reason. She slept a lot. She got angry and threw things. We tiptoed around her most of the time. It wasn't until I was about 6 that I really, really understood how much she loved me. I remember lying in bed in the middle of the night, feeling sort of rotten--stomach flu. I ran to the bathroom to throw up but didn't quite make it, and barfed on the gold shag carpet in the hallway. I felt absolute despair: how would I clean it up so my mom wouldn't get mad? Naturally, I woke my mom up but what she said was "I'll get that tomorrow". She sat in the bathroom with me most of the night, rubbing my back and keeping me company while I puked. Then she sat next to my bed until I fell back asleep. My dad was the hero in those days because he took us for ice cream and played catch with us in the yard. And yeah, pops is the greatest. But whenever I am sick or upset, I phone my mother, who also really 'gets it' and knows just how to make me feel better.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPurr Meow
Purr Meow, your story, along with Monica's brought tears to my eyes.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma

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