My mother had thick, wavy red hair like Rita Hayworth and deeply tanned legs that went up to her neck.
She was kicked off the courts of the Golden Gate Tennis Club in 1966 for wearing men’s shorts to play. (Too distracting to other players.) She bathed in Joy perfume and wore red lipstick to go to the super market explaining that we could too run into Frank Sinatra.
“You never know!” she’d smile, wiping a just licked pinky finger along her penciled eyebrow.
I don’t miss my mother.
Our record for not speaking at one point was 13 years. That long silence followed her crashing my first wedding at the chapel in Yosemite National Park. (She flew in. The pilot: a new boyfriend.)
At the reception she drank enough champagne to necessitate her being carried out of the Ahwahnee Hotel www.yosemitepark.com by two tuxedoed waiters.
I still remember her little feet slicing the air just above the floor like Peter Pan heading for Never-Neverland.
Her mistake was not staying seated. When she stood up, the floor tipped her over.Â Â My dad said sympathetically, “Jeez, whadya ‘spect? She was drinking like she had a hollow leg.”
The waiters deposited her on the curb outside.
Weddings; it’s whereÂ drunk happens.
All through my twenties she’d call me at work, crying, begging to know what she did to make me hate her so much.
I didn’t hate her.
The truth was I was afraid of contamination.
In my thirties I had a blessed revelation. If my mother were someone I worked with, or a next-door neighbor and I moved to another town, I’d never write or call.
I’d be relieved to get away from her.
As a child I existed in a household run by a mysterious woman holding her breath until I turned 18 and left. (My high school graduation present: red American Tourister luggage.)
Erasing my mother from my life was made a tad easier by the biological fact that my mother was not really my mother.Â In a weird way, being adopted gave me courage.
So much of my relationship with my mother is about what didn’t happen, what wasn’t said.Â To this day, I consume teen magazines like Seventeen, confident that I will learn something new in every issue, something my mother never bothered to mention, like how to use a tampon.
When my period started, I snuck into her bathroom, stole pads, safety-pinning them to my underpants. Surely she must have noticed her diminishingÂ sanitary napkinÂ supply and yet my own box never kindly materialized in my bathroom.
No, I just stole pads until I left home, got a job and had my own money.
My mother literally never told me anything.
Oh wait, she did coverÂ sex:
“Never let a boy touch you THERE or THERE!” tapping my breasts and my cooch. “NEVER!”
That’s why I have spent most of my life self-educating myself (notice how closely that rhymes with self-medicating) about normal everyday things.
How to drive a car. How to clean a bathroom. How to pack for a trip. How to save money. I’ve signed up for class after class trying to figure things out.
My motherÂ seemed to have been born adult, alone and icily determined to get hers. Her stories are so rare they seem like slide strips on a rainy day.
She told me once that her family was so poor that none of the kids had any toys. She and her cousin used to play nurse out back in a cherry orchard. The girls would put hankies on their heads for nurse’s caps and use empty matchboxes as hospital beds lined up in wards.
Their patients were grasshoppers, their legs torn off to keep them in bed. They pushed the sliding boxes up tight under the chins of each suddenly quadriplegic bug to keep them from escaping.
During her marriage to my dad her hair got redder and redder, the better to flirt with men who made more money than my dad, who offered better houses and futures than my dad who solved calculus equations to relax, made me cardboard Barbie furniture Â and led my brother’s Indian Guides group.
She met Husband Number Two — an engineer! – while playing tennis — in (what else?) shorts.
Rayne Wolfe’s dream is to write her first book Confessions of an Undutiful Daughter by the end of 2011. She completed her dream journey May of 2011 on 8WD after a year living her dream. You can find her at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook.