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You weren’t much of a mother. But still, I could have used you, you know. That sounds bad, when I say it like that, but that’s exactly what I think.
When I was seventeen, I had sex for the first time. The only advice I had heard from my friends, was that it was amazing, pleasurable, and worth it. That sometimes, you had to give something up because it was cool and sociably expectable. I could have used you then, when I needed to know if sex would be fun, and happy, and romantic like they say in all the movies and novels. I wasn’t quite sure if I was ready, but I had nobody to convince myself otherwise other then myself, and she wasn’t good enough. She was never good enough. All the same, I ended up taking my homecoming dress off and throwing it down on the dirty matt of a car as I squatted naked on a cold leather seat. When I got home, I cried for two straight hours.
My father fell in love with another woman. She has a nice round face, the kind where you place your finger on, and it sinks in like your poking a tub of butter. Her eyes are a boring brown, but when she smiles, they sparkle like a sweet chocolate dip and your heart could melt at the innocent expression on her face. Even though I fell in love with her too, I could have used you, when I was gaining a new mother, and realizing that I had forever lost another.
I was in Prom court. I wore a long, skin-tight, velvet dress to that coronation. It was supposed to gleam blue, but instead it dipped to a sweet green in the lighting. I felt like a princess. Hundreds of kids screaming, and me in the center of it all with my soft smile and teasing eyes. I looked all around for the face I knew wouldn’t be there, but eventually gave up when I saw my father’s eyes swelling with tears and pride. His camera was glued to his hands, and when he saw me looking, he quickly thrust it to his eyes and snapped a picture, grinning sweetly in contentment. I could have used you when I won the crown, and when the happiness came pouring from the empty hole that never seemed to close.
As I packed for college our picture fell out. The only picture I had of you, and ironically, it was a little version of myself crying, clutching desperately to your legs, as you smiled straight into the camera. I looked around at my empty room. There was a plain bed (my frilly purple covers slipped in my suitcase) and some pictures of friends I would never see again balancing on my walls. I was thinking of putting that picture there. It seemed to be the right fit. In the end, I ripped your smile off the page, and taped my sobbing picture against the cold wall surrounded by faces that I would eventually forget.
I met the man of my dreams early on in college. Handsome, with dark features, and bright eyes. He had globs of curly ringlets on his head, and every night as I lay beside him, I would slip one onto my finger and pretend it was a diamond. He was intelligent, funny and athletic. I was beautiful, witty, and content; a perfect match. We lasted until my junior year of college, when he said he was planning to transfer. I remember that I fell on my knees, and begged him to stay. I told him I would do whatever I needed too, just so we could stay together. I could have used you when he walked away, and his head never turned to look back. I could have used you when I dropped down beside my tub and thought steadily about suicide. I could have used you when every sentence I thought had the word abandonment inside of it.
After I graduated I became a teacher. I loved working with younger kids, and they became my haven. For five years, I lived in a safe place where no one could leave and I could never get hurt. Unfortunately, life has a knack of changing, and one day one of my favorite children disappeared. Her name was Melinda, and she had a vibrant personality, with a sweet disposition. I remember walking in a large jacket and fishing boots because of the rain that pelted against the search party, and I also remember someone shouting that they found her. Her clothes were strewed every which way, and her naked body lay lifeless on the grass. I remember crying so hard, that moans escaped from my lips, and I felt warm arms lift me up.
I woke up inside my living room, blankets upon blankets draped over me, and my father huddled on the armchair sleeping. All was quite, all was dark, and I couldn’t help but think
“What if you had covered me in blankets, and what if you had been sleeping in my arm chair?”
Then I realized that you would never do any of things. I realized that if I had been Melinda, you would never have worn long fishing boots to go find me in the pouring rain.
My wedding was fairly small. The church was old and lanky, and had the feel of a rustic log cabin. Thick, dark brick covered the exterior with yellow panels of wood as the seats. It was quite dreary to look at, but my stepmother promised a beautiful cabin feel to it, on one compromise. I was not allowed to see it until the day of.
That morning I woke up and the sun stood still. The light etched on the fold of my comforter, and on the white satin of my wedding dress. It created shadows of pale, sweet light, and as I stared at my dress I felt something that I had not felt since they day you left. And that was peace.
My stepmother had out done herself. As our wedding was in October, the theme was autumn. In the middle of the ceiling a chandelier sat atop and gleamed a dim light, as a solid maroon ribbon was tied in a bow and then stretched its limbs across every corner of the church. New benches had been brought in to match the dark color of the brick, and orange and yellow swirled cushions sat atop the long rows. Deep red leaves were scattered along the floor, and red berries and yellow wheat were taped to every inch of wall space and sat in large orange vases. The biggest and brightest orange pumpkins and squash lay in every corner and the most beautiful runway lay through the middle. The runway was a satin orange-red, with simple gold lacing on the edges, and pale yellow ivory design straight down to the alter. As I walked on that runway, in my cream wedding dress, I looked at my fathers face, my stepmothers face, and lastly my soon-to-be-husbands face.
When I got to that alter, I took my fiancé’s hand, and I never looked into that audience after. I never looked in that audience for you.
And now mother, after missing the life of your child’s, I will tell you about mine. I have a nine-year-old daughter named Kara who is the spitting image of her grandmother. She’s spunky and bossy, but when she’s in a good cuddly mood, she will sit down and have the most sweet and intelligent conversation. There are times, of course, that I wish I could run away and escape every responsibility that I now own, but in this decision, you were there for me.
Mother, I could have used you for every second in my life. I could have used you when I felt alone, or abandoned, or when I just wanted to talk; but every time I needed you, you were never there to be used. The other day, as I realized my daughter was growing up, I wanted to write this letter to thank you. Thank you mother, for leaving me, because when I look at my daughter I know the only person who could have taught me to be a mother to the one I call my own, was you.
A Mother who is forever committed,
A daughter to a mother who wasn’t.