Buying Mom

When I was little my dad gave me a job working at his health food store. I think I was 11 when I started working. Basically, my job was to weigh and bag bulk dry goods, things like apricots, almonds and sunflower seeds. It was tedious, boring work but I was 11. Nobody gave a shit that I was bored except for me. All the boredom came to a halt on payday, though, when I was handed a check which was then cashed, immediately, from the till.


I was a child of divorce. I do not remember caring, particularly, that my parents were divorced but I remember wondering just where in the hell my mother had gone and why. She disappeared and then I started getting letters from her about her new job in Richmond working for a doctor, blah, blah, blah. No goodbye? No visits? I was, to say the least, a little bit confused. (I now know she was committed to a mental institution.)
After a while she reappeared, living with my father’s cousin a few blocks away and almost, literally, in my Grandfather’s back yard. She called one day and told me that she had bought me a kite but had crashed it into a tree. She told me that I could go and look at the kite if I stood in my Grandfather’s back yard. I did go and stand there and I remember looking, across a small tidal marsh, into the yard of the house where my mother was living with my father’s cousin and thinking: She lives there? Right there? Why doesn’t she ever come to see me?

By the time I was 11 and working at the health food store weighing dried goods and daydreaming my skinny ass off, Mom was back in town and working at the Navy yard by day, cocktail waitressing by night and seeing me again. I spent, I think, Wednesdays and Saturdays with her. I still didn’t know which end was up, though, and so every payday I would take my cash earnings and go to another store in the mall where the health food store was and spend all of my money buying gifts for my mother.
Mostly I bought her gift boxes with cream and soap and scent and one, very large bottle of Strawberry Lotion. She loved the lotion but I’m not sure she could possibly have ever used all of it. There must have been gallons of the stuff stashed throughout her apartment. I thought that I could show her my faith, my fealty and my love by purchasing this stuff for her. It was the one time in my life I ever tried to buy someone’s love and I failed miserably. Love cannot be bought. I think I knew that, even then, as a young and confused child but I still held out hope that my mother would eventually realize that I was important. I hoped that somehow these gifts of lotion would make her look at me, see me as special. Maybe even consider me more important than the next guy. But she didn’t. I was always less-than in her eyes, though somehow I came out intact anyway.
It’s funny how people react so differently to circumstances. Some kids would have been utterly ruined by being marginalized by their mothers, and I did stay fucked up for several years but eventually I got cocky. I may not look like Sophia Loren (mom does) but I’m not exactly butt ugly either. I’m smart and competent and … shock of all shocks … fairly happy with my life. Content. Now.
There probably should be some major message here, in the close of this post but I’m not sure there is one unless it’s that I don’t often think about my mother. I rarely feel the need to call or visit with her. I also don’t feel any animosity toward her. It’s just a lack of feeling altogether that defines our relations. So I learned from her. I learned that you can’t buy love; pretty is as pretty does; to treat my own children like the very important, beautiful, smart people they are and to let them know that they are loved; that I have to let go of hurt or drown in it, kind of like that ocean of Strawberry lotion I bought for my mom.

About Bettina Colonna Essert

Illuminated Magdalene High Priestess and facilitator of empowerment and healing circles for girls and women, including a monthly Red Tent Temple. BA in English, minor in anthropology. Waldorf homeschool mom. Reiki master, cranial sacral therapist, herbalist, menstruvist, feminist, epicurian.
This entry was posted in children, decency, family, health and well-being, parenting, personal. Bookmark the permalink.

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