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The last memory I have of my mother was on the fourth of July. Three days before my sixth birthday, my dad, her and I had gone to lunch at Joe’s Lunch Box, the second nicest restaurant in town. I didn’t like it there. Joe, the owner of the restaurant, liked to give my mother and me tight hugs when my father wasn’t around. Mama just giggled when he did this and smacked his arm, saying. “ Stop it, Joseph.”
Sometimes Joe would stop by our house when Daddy was working but he never stayed long. He and my mama would disappear into her room and I would go into mine and shut the door. But the walls were thin and I would hear the bed creaking and groans and giggles. I would just curl up on my bed and sing to stop hearing al the noises. After a while, they would re-emerge, mama in her soft pink robe and Joe buttoning up his shirt. Then they would go outside and Joe and mama would kiss a few times. He would leave and mama would light a cigarette. And each time when I would sit next to her on the porch she would look at e and say, “Dammit Ruthy, I love your father but he works too darn much. What’s a girl like me to do?”
She looked deep into my blue eyes like they held all she wanted. As if I knew the answer to all her problems.
The May before that eventful Fourth of July Joe came over. After all the noises he came out of mama’s room and came into mine. I was laying on my bed singing when he came in and closed the door. I stared at him and kept singing. Joe sat on my bed and stroked my hair. “That’s a real pretty song Ruthy. And you’re pretty too. Just like your mama.”
He tucked a lock of my golden blonde hair behind my ear and kissed my forehead. He kissed my nose and then his breathing got real heavy and it smelled like whiskey. Slowly he kissed my lips. I didn’t like it. His cheeks were rough and scratched me. He pushed me down and was laying on top of me when the door burst open and my mama stood there, her dark blue eyes smoldering. “ You get away from her, Joseph Finnely!”
Joe sat up and I lay there, frozen. Mama came over and picked me up. “No sir, I wont have you doing to Ruthy what my uncle Tom did to me. It screwed me up and I made a huge mistake my marrying a man I didn’t love and having a child I didn’t want but will d--- sure protect. You will not touch my daughter and if you do I will have you locked up. Got it?”
Joe left me alone after that but that day as my mother sat smoking her cigarette I didn’t join her, As I looked at her from behind the screen door, she turned and looked at me. We stared at each other until she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Sorry Ruthy but that’s how it is. No other way to tell it.”
I glared at her for a second before turning my back on her. From then on I stayed in my room whenever we were alone in the house. I was only five years old at the time.
The morning of July 4th, 1998 started normal enough for me. I woke up and Daddy dressed me in the new dress and shoes and stockings mama had bought me at the big fancy store on main street. We went to brunch at Joe’s before coming home. Mama was having a big party and while she cooked and cleaned, Daddy was barbequing. I was playing, running around in the sprinklers when mama came out. She looked funny because she was holding her belly and her eyes were real big. Softly she said, “Ruthy go to your room.”
I started to whine but she said, “Dammit Ruth Ann get to your room now!”
Her voice was so angry that I ran past her into the house. I slowed to a walk and heard my dad say, “You don’t have to talk to her that way, Lizzie..”
“Adam,” she interrupted, “I’m pregnant.”
I stayed in my room as the yelling got louder. When I first went in I left the door open. Even though I couldn’t hear anything. Then mama passed and slammed it. And after that I didn’t need to leave it open to hear what they were saying.
I knew what was happening. There was a baby in mama’s tummy but it wasn’t daddy’s. Joe was daddy and my daddy didn’t like it. He really didn’t like it. He called mama words I had never heard him say before. Sometimes they would be loud and other times I couldn’t hear a thing. They talked about me, the baby, daddy, and finally mama. A little while after I was sent to my room I heard mama yell something and slam a door. Then I saw Mrs. Owens, the old lady next door who gave me candy, leave in tears. I felt sorry for her. I changed out of my wet bathing suit and into my favorite pajamas, pink with unicorns that daddy gave me for Christmas. As the day got darker and my belly started rumbling I wanted to go and get something to eat but I was afraid of mama and even daddy. So I sat there and pretended my dolls were eating a lot of ice-cream and cake and pumpkin pie. It was almost dark when suddenly my door crashed open and my daddy flew in. he grabbed me and sat me on my bed.
“Now Ruthy, “ he said, “I want you to change into your yellow dress and stockings and your good shoes. Mama’s going to stay here and we’re going to visit grandma Pearl. You like her so get your bag and put some underwear in it.”
Suddenly mama came in,
“What the h--- do you think you’re doing?” she asked, outraged. Daddy had gotten out my suitcase and was filling it with my clothes. I was sitting in the middle of the room, watching my daddy. I froze when my mama came in but daddy didn’t. he just kept packing and responded, “We’re leaving. Just Ruthy and I. and I’m filing for divorce. I don’t care what my mother says or anyone for that matter. I wont spend another minute, let alone the rest of my life, with a woman who I’ll never be able to trust.”
He zipped up my suitcase and with an air of finality, took my hand and tried o go around mama, who was blocking the door. She as screeching and ranting. “How dare you take my daughter anywhere?? She belongs to me. I carried her for nine months! She is mine and I wont. Have. You. Taking. Her.”
She grabbed my arm and pulled me in the opposite direction. My father turned to my mother and yelled, “You didn’t even want her, Lizzie! You are such a hypocrite! At least with me she’ll have a loving father and maybe a decent proper mother who doesn’t sleep with any man she meets!”
Mama looked as if daddy had hit her, he pulled me out of her grasp and went into the hallway. Daddy quickly pulled me a we walked. Then as we reached the end of the hall my little pony lamp flew at us and nearly hit me. It shattered and a shard scratched me across my face. As I put my hand to my cheek my dad and mother locked eye. They were both frozen when I pulled my hand back and saw blood covering it. Then everything sped up. My mama smiled devilishly as she hurled anything she could get her hands on at us. My dad just pulled me through the house, dodging the items that my mother threw at us. Just as we reached the front steps my mother collapsed at my father’s feet.
“Please Adam? I need you. Take the girl and dump her with your mother. Then we can leave this town and when this baby’s born we can leave it with Joe. Then it’ll just be the tow of us and we can live however we want. Please Adam?”
Mama’s pale face made her blue eyes pop. As she looked at my father, her lips quivered. But daddy’s face had a look of disgust on it. “ You’re a horrible vile mother who doesn’t deserve to be happy.”
We walked off and I looked back at mama. Her face was blank until she saw me looking at her. Then her face contorted in anger.
“Get the h--- out of here, you bas----!” she yelled, “and take your stupid brat with you. Do you hear me? I hate you! don’t you ever show your face here or I’ll have Joe blow you to bits!”
As she stood there yelling and crying, my dad and I got in the car. As we drove say, my mother threw the little garden gnome she had gotten at a yard sale. It hit my window, the glass shattered and cut my hands and arms. When I last saw her, she was standing there in front of my house crying and I watched her until we turned the corner and I couldn’t see her anymore. I never set foot in that house again and I never saw my mother after that.