Thursday, November 27, 2003

Things Your Mother Never Told You

Things Your Mother Never Told You
Rhonda Baker

My mom and dad stopped having sex in 1974, after my third sister was born. I remember vividly my mom storming from their room yelling "Stop it Darren - I don't like fucking you!' I didn't understand, but I knew it was serious. I was about 9. A few years later, I think I was 12 or 13, she started spending a lot of time with other women friends. One in particular was a big Amazon butch thing - drove a school bus, no less - a woman named Peggy Cooper. She insisted everyone call her Cooper. Only my mother was allowed to call her Peggy... and she only did it when she thought they were alone. She called my mom "Fletch", short for Fletcher, our last name. Cooper and my mom spent a LOT of time together. Cooper's small wimpy husband worked out of town sometimes, and my mom would stay the night over there. I was pretty innocent then, and didn't think anything of it other than a slumber party... I knew they drank wine, but that was as sophisticated as my ideas got.

One summer day my sisters and I were swimming in Cooper's pool with her daughters (Cooper herself called them rugrats) and we had already been yelled at by our moms for coming in and out of the house too many times... so when I had to pee I avoided the back door and getting yelled at and snuck in the front door. That song "Honesty" was playing on the radio... "And sometimes when we touch... the honesty's too much..." and I heard Cooper say to my mom, "that's just like us, isn't it, Fletch? Sometimes when we touch, the honesty's just a little too much." I didn't understand it, but I filed it away in my 'remember this for future examination' file in my brain. Cooper and my mom split up, and my mom, after grieving, took up with a woman named Valerie. Same thing, spending the night, etc. But nothing was ever as intense or as long lasting as Cooper.

Years later, when I came out of the closet and my mother practically disowned me (she *did* say that she could not approve of me choosing such a 'difficult lifestyle' for myself - hmmm, how would she know?) I remembered Cooper and the others. I never brought it up to her, I knew she would deny it. But whatever happened to her, whatever process she went through, changed her in many ways.

She and my dad stayed married until he died in '92. As soon as I moved out, in '85, mom moved my dad into my vacated bedroom, and they were housemates. They lived together quite well that way. I know my mom had lovers, male and I'm sure female, but my dad never did. I told him once, on a visit home, that he should get a girlfriend. "I love your mother," he said simply. My heart wept for him. He was a good man. My mom had just started to realize it the month before he died - due to complicated circumstances she was near-suicidal and he took care of her. He held her while she slept, they went for a walk holding hands, they said 'I love you,' to each other. While I am glad my mom was able to get close to him again and appreciate him before he suddenly died, I only wish it would have been sooner.

Anyway, I think about this life crisis my mom had - she got married at 19, was pregnant with me at the time, had two more children, and became desperate to discover who she was outside of marriage and motherhood. I am glad I did things the way I did, even if it is frustrating sometimes. I don't worry about who I am, I don't worry about what I think I've missed - I'd done just about everything I ever wanted to do when I met Randy... except be a mom. So here I am. I am happy. Perhaps when my children are 12 and 10 I will hit that wall again, but for now, I am right where I want to be.

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