Pride was expensive. Mom worked hard, as a school secretary, while she finished her teaching degree. She cleaned rich people’s cottages through summer breaks. The song Harper Valley PTA was popular during that period of our childhood. My stomach was squeezed by anxiety every time I heard it on the radio.
We spent weekends and school breaks with our grandparents. Ostensibly, so our mother could have time to herself to think straight and study. We knew the truth. Our house was occupied by middle-aged drunks on those weekends. I can’t imagine she did a lot of studying, much less straight thinking. Kids would say stuff like, “Your mother’s screwin’ Kenny Johnson’s father.” I’d defend her good taste if not her integrity by responding, “She is not; he’s fat and ugly!” It was a humiliating position to be in. I wondered what the truth was that prompted the attacks on my mother’s virtue. I wanted to believe she wasn’t doing anything bad.
She was smart and beautiful, a threatening combination. There was nothing she couldn’t do. She believed in a fairytale. She chose the wrong prince. She gave up every dream she ever had when she begged refuge from her parents. She was indentured to them, wearing their generosity and reciprocal familial obligation like ballast around her neck. Her entire life was devoted to being a person she never intended to be.