Late Night Phone Calls

I got quite a scare the other night. It was 9 pm, I had settled in for the night, reading a book. My phone rings, which is odd in itself because no one ever calls me, and no one calls me at 9 pm.

Getting a call at 9 pm for me is like the average person getting a call at 2 am–you immediately think the worst has happened.

I look at my phone, caller ID says “Mom Cell”. Now I’m torn. She never calls me directly from her cell; she’d never pay the long distance for that. Do I pick up? My immediate reaction is to let it go to voicemail. So I do.

As soon as I’ve decided that, I regret it. What if someone was in an accident? My brothers, my dad? That would be the only reason my mom would pay long distance for.

The voicemail icon pops up on my phone. I listen to it. At first it sounds like pocket dial, but that doesn’t seem right; she’s speaking directly into the phone. You can’t pocket dial someone and then speak directly into the phone. She’s saying something about “hey you–” and then is cut off. I listen to the voicemail twice to see if there was anything else.

It doesn’t take much for me to call her back. I’m now worried and curious. She picks up the phone and says a tentative “hello?” as if she doesn’t know who’s calling.

I forget that she doesn’t have my Skype number. She called me directly on my AT&T number, and I called her from Skype.

“Hey! Ma! You called me.”

“Oh! It’s you! Haha. I am at dinner with my friends and they wanted to see a photo of you so I pulled up your contact in my phone to show them your contact photo, but it called you somehow.”

“Oh. Okay.”

She goes on to tell me random things a mother would tell you about her life if she hasn’t heard from you in a while. I say ‘okay’ to everything and then we hang up. (The quickest way to end a conversation with a talkative person you don’t want to talk to is with one word replies).

I don’t think about the phone call until now. It occurs to me that I am just as terrified as any normal person would be at the thought of something happening to their family. This is good. I had assumed that I would be apathetic to their plight, because of all that’s happened.

Secondly, I dread talking to my mother, even as an adult. I thought it was something I would have grown out of by now, but I haven’t.

Thirdly, despite what she’s done, and all the negative things she’s said to us, she is somehow still proud of us–proud enough to tell her friends about her kids.

This is a new thing–empathizing with my mother to this degree. I think about her when she was my age and I think of her as just a person, rather than just my mother.

I think of her having some of the same self-doubts I have now, the same worries. Whether she’s made the right choices, whether she would be happier doing something else. I wonder about how she felt about my father, and how she could have fallen out of love with him. She must have loved him at one point, right? I wonder how she chose to stay married to a person she no longer loved.

I wonder whether she felt suffocated. In her marriage, in being a mother. She’s told us all, many times before, that she “never wanted any of this”. Our father never forgave her for that. He believes, like most people do, that you should never tell young children you don’t want them–even if it’s true.

What choice did she have, though? I don’t remember her having any friends when we were young. We didn’t have much money, so she couldn’t participate in many of the social things she could have done as a parent with two young children. So who else was she to voice her thoughts and feelings? She had a husband who reprimanded her for feeling suffocated, who never really emotionally supported her through anything.

My dad loves us. He loves the family life. It’s unfathomable to him that anyone could feel anything other than grateful for their children.

She must have felt so alone, in that situation. She must have felt like a monster. She lived in a society that was changing–following in America’s foot-prints: children are everything! Having a family and being the best mother you can be are the the most important things you will ever do!

I begin to see how her life must have been. She couldn’t talk to her sisters about how she felt. Most of them were mothers themselves, and while they weren’t all in happy marriages, they were all grateful for their children. One of them was even barred from seeing her children… so how would it seem to her, for my mom to go to her and complain about what burdens her children are?

When my mother was arrested for essentially being a bad mother (she got caught hitting my brother), her sisters came to be individually and said things like, “we always knew that she wasn’t a good mother. We were all so worried for you kids.”

That says very clearly to me that there is no way my mother could have went to her judgmental sisters for how she was feeling. They would have just painted her as a monster, and made her feel worse.

The thing is, it shouldn’t be that uncommon, to feel what my mother felt. It probably wasn’t that uncommon. Talking about it was frowned upon, though. Talking about anything related to motherhood in a negative light was frowned upon. Instead they were taught to “eat bitterness” because that’s what their mothers and their grandmothers did before them. They are taught to “learn their place”. In fact, if you complained about anything you had to do, even if you still did it, that was seen as a weakness of character and you must have been raised with a lack of morals.

I hope society has changed from that, now. I hope I can talk about why it sucks to have kids when I do have kids. I hope I won’t be judged for sharing my feelings. I hope I won’t feel like I have to just keep these things to myself because it’s “horrible” to talk about it.

Because it’s perfectly normal to love your kids, and not to love the work that comes with them. I love the hamster I had, but I didn’t enjoy cleaning out his cage. Who would enjoy scrubbing up hamster pee-mixed wood mush? I did it despite hating it because I loved Sir Roderick enough to want him to have a comfortable home.

If my mother had been allowed to speak her mind without feeling like an outcast, even to her husband, I believe she wouldn’t have taken it out on us. It seems like my brother and I were the only people she could really talk to; we were there all of the time, and we were too young to have any of the adult opinions that would have made her feel like a horrible person.

In the end, I feel bad for her. She has friends now, and she’s close to her sisters–but she doesn’t have us. That is pretty sad.

I hope one day I do grow out of not wanting to talk to her. I hope one day I would be emotionally intelligent enough to help repair what she broke.

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