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Folding Shoes April 27, 2018

Posted by voolavex in birthday, mother, serial monster, funeral, life baggage, loss, dead, death certificate, guilt, My Mother, Social Issues.
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Today is my late mother’s birthday.  Had she lived, she would have been 95.  And had she lived I wonder what would have happened. I wonder about it too often, I think.

When I was a girl of tweenage – 11ish I’d say I went to Ballroom Dancing School in Salem, Massachusetts.  The teacher, Harriet James, was a kind of crone ‘too old to be teaching much of anything’ and she was bitter because she was teaching dancing school in Salem, Massachusetts. Dreams do not always come true.   She had a sort of Boston Brahmin/British accent, dyed hair, and a clicker.  (Used to be sold to kids at Halloween as well as in dime stores.  I have one-…thought I would “train” kittens and I knew better – cats come trained.  But I digress).  As we stumbled and counted in time to the music and we tried to learn the upper crust skills for the cotillion or debutante ball none of us would ever go to, she clicked at errors in waltzes, box-steps, cha-chas and the record would abruptly stop and we would start over again.  And boy, could she work that clicker with malice aforethought.  The sound still haunts me. I hate to think what she would do with a Flicker Spinner today. It was a class for boys and girls.  Mostly girls.  This culminated in fancy dress “Ball” we all wanted to attend and of course to win the 1st prize or just be the best.  Something like that.

I was a very thin child and wore glasses and in my own mind, no beauty. Clothes usually never fit right but the real problem was shoes.  I had feet like snakes.  Long and thin and in order to actually wear shoes, they had to be ordered from St. Louis.  From the shoe factory direct and so no Thom McAn’s for my AAAA/AAAAA feet.  (How I longed for cute, chubby feet with little cute toes).  And, we are talking “good” shoes –  au courant ballet flats for wearing with full length, tulle ball gowns.  Black or red or white (red was best) or, dare I say – gold or silver.  As I recall, my good shoes came a long way from St. Louis but color-wise they still had a long, long way to go in the metallics.  I had to endure jokes about glass slippers and sox and of course, I had no clue about my single mother’s money situation.  I just wanted “good shoes”, for the Ball.  And I knew how to whine.  And whine I did while my wonderful mother searched high and low for some sort of “good shoes” for me to wear to Miss Jame’s’s Ball.

I went to the lessons weekly and actually got the hang of the various dances but the thrill was gone.  Shoes were my only concern.  The dress was purchased.  Filene’s Basement.  And one fine day my mother came into the house with a shopping bag from a department store and announced she had found the shoes.  In gold, in my size and she presented the shoes to me with a smile and a sigh of relief as I tuned up and started to pitch a running fit.  “These are FOLDING SHOES”. ” They FOLD.  I don’t want shoes that fold”. I will not wear them and don’t get shoes that FOLD.”  A full-fledged tantrum and she was about to cry. “Just try them on”, she pleaded.  I screamed “No” and sobbed. And they sat on the table in their tacky plastic case, gold and FOLDED.  Night fell, I pouted and we went to bed.  By morning we had both gathered our arguments like Philadelphia lawyers and the “shoes” were once again on the table. “No,” said I. “I just won’t go”. And went to my room. And waited. And then as only mothers can  – she said, calmly through the door she would take them back and left them on the table. And went down the stairs and out the door.  What could I do now; ungrateful, spoiled snake footed bitch that I was?  I attacked the plastic case, unfolded the shoes and put them on. And they did fit.  And they did sparkle and they would work perfectly.  And because my mother was beautiful and perfect and wonderful,  I went to the Ball and my shoes never got mentioned.   But they were the first in a long series of folding shoes I wore until I watch a real teenager and the memory still makes me laugh.

Now, of course, comes the irony of ironies, she didn’t live to see that rebranded folding shoes are now “amazing” and “cool” and “all that”.  She would never see them all over the Internet (she wouldn’t see that either).  She would never gasp, as I do, at the prices asked for what used to come, folded, in a tacky plastic case for $2,99 at Jordan’s.   Choices unlimited, all colors and made mostly of pleather and vinyl and sometimes even leather and always “imported” from the Mystery Land of Folding Shoes. Who would have ever thought?

So for -, Happy Birthday Momma.  You left far too soon. But I see you in my dreams. and in memories of the damn folding shoes.

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My Mother’s Birthday April 26, 1923 -1978 April 26, 2017

Posted by voolavex in birthday, mother, serial monster, funeral, life baggage, loss, dead, death certificate, despicable, Domestic Violence, guilt, Mann & Mann, marriage, murder, My Mother, serial monster, Social Issues.
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Back in the days when domestic disputes were shameful and unreported, my mother was the dead body in a domestic murder.

In a small blue-collar town in Massachusetts. On January 24, 1978.  It was a long time ago and it was a moment ago.  It was the tragic finale to many phone calls and plane ticket reservations and telephone commiseration for a mother who simply couldn’t.  She fought back, she screamed, she saw a doctor, she drank, but she could not leave with my two much younger siblings, or the pony or the house or the lingering affection she carried for a man who was a serial monster.  Bigamist, philanderer, narcissist, sociopath and murderer.  One sib says many calls of service were made to the local police – their hands tied by 1977/1978 concepts and legalities.  Another sib tells of death threats  made to them on the night of my mother death.  I did not know anything about this part.  I only knew my mother wrote and cried and simply said “he” had a girlfriend and she was confused and didn’t know what to do.  At 54 she was probably menopausal. Not much to go on.  She didn’t want to move out with the children or leave the pets and the laundry list of excuses women have conjured for time immemorial.  I was in Los Angeles and not welcome in her house. (Actually on February 10, 1958 I was no longer welcome in her life.  At 12, I thought it was because he really loved her.)  I blame myself for not listening harder and asking more questions.  And I had no idea that physical violence was part of the picture.  Neither of my siblings (19+ and 15) called me to ask for help. My mother had pride that went before all else.  Including her funeral.

Her death certificate from that time reads  COD: undetermined.  A residual fear stops me from requesting a new one.  She will still be dead.

She was only 54. Today is her 95th birthday. May I say she was beautiful and gentle and kind? May I say by the time I arrived at her house, anything of sentimental value that had belonged to her was gone?  That her grieving husband knew I knew and it was not pleasant?  That I swallowed my rage, stepped back and stayed for the children ( I am my mother’s daughter)? That I drank and sobbed and that the tables overflowed with funeral meats and that 200+ attended her funeral in Boston? That mourners continued;  people I never knew, arrived in tears? That it was the same funeral home by her high school best friend’s parents? Mann & Mann. That I had played as small child in their huge house upstairs? That my family went back as close friends of the Manns? That the grieving husband read a sickening tribute?. And that my own father wept with me in stunned sorrow?

In 1978,  it was simply another domestic dispute. Perhaps still in the local police records – on paper in a box; with so many others of the time.  

There was no investigation.  I knew of no interviews with siblings. That police never asked me anything.  My grandmother thought it was a heart attack.  She had just lost her only child.  Was it mine to reveal?  Information continued to seep through and very long after  I found out the history of the man she had married in 1958.  From his children; who loved my mother.  I should have wondered more about the words of my dear step-brother who walked in, in 1978,  crying, and said to me, sotto voce, “what did he do to her?”

 I have always known it was murder.  I have always known he patiently waited.  I knew she did not wash down 40 or 50 pills with vodka.  She didn’t ever take Darvon and that’s what they found. I know he sat beside her and watched. I have no idea how he managed to make it happen.  He died five years later; alone  in a rented apartment in Lawrence; the other woman long gone.  He was soup when they found him.  Dead five days of a heart attack in a fall from the up high liquor shelf. One he needed a step stool to reach.  In a closed apartment on a sweltering summer day.

 

He was short and bald and had good teeth.

I could kill him again and again for his crime but she would not have wanted that.  And dead never ends. They would have been married twenty years on that February 10th.

She has been gone 39 years. Since the day my  broken heart and endless anger met all at once.  And no one of us leftover has ever been able to move on.  We try to unpack that valise, only to realize that some things travel with you forever,  in your life luggage.

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