I see things that my mother does that reminds me of when I was a kid. She hums and sings to herself, but she makes up words to songs that often don’t even fit. I remember when I was a kid and she always had a radio on in the morning in the kitchen. She would sing along to the music, making up words that fit to her. It used to make me crazy. I would tell her “those aren’t the words.” and she would tell me they were for her. Lately, she has been singing “ho, ho, ho, where do I go…” to the tune of Up on the Housetop. Every time the words are a little different.
Growing up wasn’t always easy. We were poor. We lived in what folks would call today, the projects. Back then it was an area of town no one wanted to admit living. It was called Hebble Homes, and if memory serves me correctly, they were converted World War II barracks. We lived in a three room apartment with only one bedroom. When we first moved there, we had a coal stove, and the coal was delivered when it was needed. Some years later, it was replaced by a fuel oil stove, but we never had central heat or air. I shared the bedroom with my parents until my mother decided I was too old for that, and they then bought a hide a bed sofa and slept in the living room, giving me a room of my own. They used the hall closet for their clothes, and there was a chest of drawers in the bathroom. To this day, I have trouble sitting straight on a toilet, because I always had to sit sideways growing up because there was the chest just opposite the toilet. I grew up with only a shower, so even now I prefer a shower to a bath.
It wasn’t until I was in graduate school and going through therapy to help me learn how to do therapy that i realized that the treatments I had received at the hands of my parents really had nothing to do with me, but was more about the way they were raised. My father used to get angry, and he would explode and I would get whipped with a belt. I remember cowering in a corner and him hitting anyplace he could reach until my mother would finally say, “Lloyd, that’s enough.” I don’t remember when it started, but I remember being a young teen when it ended. I got angy one time and stood up to him, saying “if that is what makes you happy, then go ahead and beat me.” He never hit me again. I found out when I was 16 years old that my father had been abused as a child. My grandfather was a Holiness minister who worked in the coal mines to support his family (dad was one of 17 children), and he was very strict. I remember a story of my dad and one of his brothers playing near the coal mine where they weren’t supposed to be. Dad fell and broke his leg. His brother went home, got a wagon and pulled my dad around for three days before telling anyone his leg was broken, they were so fearful of feeling their father’s wrath. It seems that my grandfaher used to strap the boys wrists together and hang them over the top of the edge of a door, and then whip them. When he was hitting me, he was pretty much dissociating and reacting to his father.
Mom was very strict also, especially about things being clean. I remember once that she hid a piece of dust under the leg of a platform rocker we had in the living room. When she came home to inspect my vacuuming, she moved the chair, found the piece of dust, and I was severely punished. I was 12 years old.
Anyway, I think helping mom, letting her know I am there for her for anything she needs, makes me feel cleansed of all my childhood resentments. It will also give me a new perspective on some of the parental situations I see in my work. I wonder how that will change.