Friday, March 30, 2012

Mondays Child


Mondays child is fair of face,
Tuesdays child is full of grace,
Wednesdays child is full of woe,
Thursdays child has far to go,
Fridays child is loving and giving,
Saturdays child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
from Mother Goose!

My Dearest Shannon - Happy Birthday! You are Mondays child! And you my daughter – you were the child of my youth.

You were born the day after Easter, on Monday, March 30th, 1970 at 6:40 a.m. in Lynwood, California at St. Francis' Medical Center (hospital, then). You were 18 inches in length, 7 pounds and 3 ounces with hardly any hair whatsoever! Oh, but I was smitten!

There were difficulties with your birth and an emergency C-section brought you into the world.

The Sisters of St. Francis were a benevolent lot of ladies! They took care of the entire hospital bill that was incurred during your birth. I clearly see the hand of God gently guiding and directing even then.

One of the ‘older’ sister’s of the order was sent to assist me as I had determined I would breast feed you. Evidently I shocked them with that bit of news. It just seemed the most natural and economical thing to do. This dear, dear woman taught me to bind myself up with elastic bandages between feedings. (Really, I didn’t know it was going to be that painful at first!) With her help, your eagerness to nurse and much perseverance, we succeeded!

My daughter, I hope you know how much I love you. I hope I said it often enough. More importantly, I hope you felt that love.

I hope you know how proud I am of you. You've faced some insurmountable odds and come through. I think you're better for having experienced some of the hard times, too. It's given you grit and determination. I’ve witnessed you as you took the mantle and became the She-Bear to your own children.

You, my daughter, were the child of my youth. I was a child of 18 when you were born. I never knew a love as fierce and pure as the love of a mother for their first born child. Your birth awakened something so deep and so very primal in my heart and soul.

I remember wanting to protect you from all the evils of the world then finally having to concede that I could not.

Do you remember our days of 'single parenting' in the 1187 Palmer House apartments? The old Dickens adage of, "It was the best of times... it was the worst of times..." Oh Baby Girl... I did so many things wrong, but evidently I did a few things right - look at yourself!

Can you ever forgive me for the things I did wrong? The hurtful words I uttered? Allowing you to get into harms way - even on a church bus where a predator was looking for 'lost children' as his prey. I don't know if I can ever forgive myself for not knowing, for not being there. Had I had known… suffice it to say I'd be doing a life sentence in a women's facility.

There are and were so very many things I'm sorry for. Sorry that your birth father didn't make more of an effort to be in your life. How could I have thought he was the "one"?

"Child of love, in passion conceived, 
an innocent victim of love's debris" 

 I never was able to finish this poem... but I felt it its strength so deep within the core of me. I still do.

You were four when your dad and I separated and divorced. It was difficult for you, I'm sure. I was in the throes of depression and self loathing and all I wanted to do was sleep. I don't recall now who it was, probably one of the women I worked with, but she said to buy those frozen meals in a boiling bag so that I could fix a meal for you in short order. You probably burned out on those. I remember you telling me, “Mom? You’re a good can opener!

I didn't cook a lot during those early days of divorce, but I did feed you. You thought raisins, prunes and raw sunflower seeds were candy... we did most of our shopping at second hand stores and I would buy you blue jean coveralls and embroider your name on them along with bright designs and flowers. That was until I heard a strange man calling you by name. I remember the sheer panic of that moment. It was, however, a valuable lesson to me AND I never embroidered your name on anything again, in fact I removed your name from that pair of coveralls!

We shopped at a hippy run food co-op in addition to Kroger’s where I could use the food stamps, went to book stores and the library, played the autoharp in the courtyard and sang to the children there, who like us were all low-income families subsisting on government assistance. I did have a job; it was just beneath the poverty level, so we qualified for assistance. For a long time we didn't have a TV. I couldn't have afforded cable anyhow. I don't recall that we missed television in our lives.

We also didn’t have a phone because I couldn’t afford the deposit. Another single mom saved her change in a glass bottle and gave it to me to get a phone set up – I only had to pay her back when I could (thank you Deb Harsh, I will always remember your kindness!).

When I went to get the phone set up, I was told I couldn’t get one until I paid the old bill your Dad had not paid. I was shocked, and then I became incensed!!! I went home, got the divorce papers and returned to their office. I showed them in the legal documents where he was responsible for all the debts incurred during the marriage. The lady ‘assisting’ me was unrelenting. I asked for her supervisor and a man appeared, with her at his side. I again informed them of the decree, told them they were free to make a copy for their files and if I didn’t leave with a phone being set up today they would be hearing from my attorney in a discrimination law suit as they were discriminating against women, especially those who where were low income and single parents! It was the era of women’s rights and discrimination law suits. We got the phone the very next day! (What I didn’t have was a lawyer!)

We did have other friends who were single parents with kids. I got custody of the camping equipment for awhile and we went on camping trips with some of our women friends and their children. Your camping job was to ‘police’ the area for sticks to clear where the tent would go then we used the sticks to start the camp fire.

You were the most amazing test of trying to date and find male companionship! You weeded them out in short order! I loved you for that, and I can't begin to tell you how much.

One such time, there was a ‘gentleman caller’ (really… I can’t remember who it was) and you were sitting on the cement slab floor that was covered with the government contract flooring. You looked at this guy, in all of your five year old wisdom and said, “Do you think you’re going to be my new Dad or something?” Then you lifted your leg and farted! It was soooooooo loud! It must have reverberated through at least three of the complex units! I never saw the guy again! Yep, you culled the herd.

Do you remember the incident in first grade where you were coming down the steps and accidentally stepped on a toy car that a third grade boy was playing with (on the steps)? He got mad and shoved you. Then you shoved back. It broke out into a full fight and you held your ground. I was called to school for that. Your teacher emphatically and dramatically wanted me to chastise you for that incident. I refused. I told that teacher that it was my full expectation that if you were bullied you were to stand up for yourself and not be a doormat to anyone no matter their age or gender. Suffice it to say that your teacher and I had rather strained relations from that day on! I never advocated violence as a means to an end, but I did want you to be able to stand up for yourself. You certainly have done that, and more, my Roller Derby Queen!

The hardest decision I ever had to make was in August of 1977. I did see a lawyer then. I had been laid off of work and it was then my thyroid started ‘acting up’ for the second time. The doctor was sure it was cancer since it ‘came back’ and wanted me to have surgery post haste. I told him I couldn’t – I didn’t have insurance, was laid off and was a single mom who needed to make some kind of arrangements for your care. I was so frightened, Shannon! I didn’t know what to do or where to turn.

A week or so later, I was called back to work but it would be on second shift and I had to work for a while before I could have the medical insurance reinstated.

My mom was willing to take you for the duration of working the off shift (I would never have seen you! You were in second grade) and for the recovery period when I had surgery. I wanted to make sure it was legal since I was the custodial parent. According to the lawyer, we needed to draft a letter to your Father just to test the water to see if he was interested in having you for the period of one year.

Wonder of wonders – he was. He was remarried by that time and had one or two daughters. Even though I had told the lawyer I was willing to pay child support, he declined to add that to the letter and said not to worry about it unless your Dad brought it up. He didn’t – he couldn’t see the bigger picture, only what was immediate and that was getting out of paying child support – which he never did anyhow.

So, the weekend before school started I moved you and all your possessions to your Dad’s. What do you remember of that move, if anything? What you didn’t know is I cried all the way back to the apartment. My heart broke leaving you there… I was afraid I was dying of cancer and had no other options available.

Unfortunately, I think you do remember staying with your Dad and his “new” family. As you told it, I believe you were treated like “Cinderella” and not allowed to eat with the family or even be a part of the family unit.

I did have the second thyroid surgery and pathology proved it was benign, even though the doctor said by all appearances, it looked like ‘cancer’.

Then rather than your Dad keeping you for the entire year as the agreement stated, the day school was out he and my mother had planned that you would be taken there. You were no longer in his house. There was a measure of consolation in that.

We did go back to court so that I again could become the custodial parent. Those were tough years. I am sorry you had to experience them.

So on this, the natal day of your emergence into the world, what words of wisdom could I impart to you?

Psalm 139:13

The Message

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.

Praise Him, my child! Praise Him for your life, for being fearfully and wonderfully made! Praise Him for all the good times and yes, even for those times that have been bad. The bad times have developed your character and given you a depth of character that some women will never know.

I love you ‘as big as the sky’ my daughter, my own – happy birthday!

Your Mother,
Tamara

p.s. there’s a CARE package in the works!