If you can't make it better you can laugh at it. ~Erma Bombeck


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gypsies, Tramps, and Peace Thieves

Laying side by side in the wee hours of the morning, her in her hospital bed, me on my roll-away, Mother and I talked quietly about our life together.

“Were you ever sorry you adopted me, Mom?”

“Yes. If I thought I could pull it off, I’d have given you to the first gypsy troop I could find heading out of town.”

“It was when you found out about Bob*, wasn’t it.”

She laughed in that sweet, half-giggle way of hers and said, “Well, yes, that was one of the worst of them.”

“Them?” I replied in mock shock, knowing full well that during my teenage years I’d given her plenty of reasons to toss me in the nearest Dempsey Dumpster (or gypsy wagon) and run for her life. She was right about one thing, though: my first fully involved sexual relationship had nearly killed not only her soul, but also her spirit, and very nearly her body as well....

I met Bob a month or so after the beginning of our sophomore year. He was a new kid. I knew what it was like to be the new kid and never allowed another new kid to feel left out. We had science together and, since none of the “cool” guys would lower themselves to be lab partners with a new kid, I took the job on myself. It wasn’t long before we were a couple. When Spring break came, we couldn’t bear the thought of being apart for a whoooole weeeeeeeek, so we devised a plan for him to spend lots of time with my friend Sally’s boyfriend who just happened to live only a few blocks from me. Coincidentally, Sally* would be spending most of Spring break with me. Both of our mothers worked full time, so they loved the idea of us keeping each other company. They had no idea just how much company we were going to be keeping with the guys.

On Thursday of that week, after Mother left for work at 7:00 a.m., Sally and I went to work primping and preening. We shaved our underarms and legs, checked each other for unsightly blemishes, did each other’s hair and makeup. Around 10:00 a.m. two totally clueless boys arrived and were presented with what we were sure would be the best surprise of their lives.

The following week at school, the boys broke up with us. Devastated, Sally and I wrote notes back and forth trying to figure out what had gone wrong. We didn’t understand how they could be so cruel after we’d been soooo kind. Being at that “it’s none of your business, Mom!” stage of teenage pseudo-independence, I sulked and grouched around the house so much that mother was finally compelled to go on a scavenger hunt in my room to try and figure out what was wrong with me. She didn’t have to look long to find one of our notes wadded up in the trash.

As a 15-year-old, I was outraged at her invasion of my privacy. Now, as the mother of a teenage girl, my heart physically aches at the thought of her sitting there in shock and horror as she read the words that no little girl’s mommy ever wants to read. I can hardly bear to think of how she looked as she read, but I will never forget the look on her face when she drove up to where a friend and I were walking in the neighborhood and ordered me into the car. I saw the crumpled paper laying on the car seat and immediately knew that she knew.

She’d actually taken off work early to come home and take me shopping in a surprise effort to cheer me up a little, but I’d already left the house when she got there. By the time she had me in the car it was about 4:00 p.m., however, she’d already called our family doctor, obtained the name of a gynecologist friend of his, and had an appointment scheduled for me at 4:30. It had been over 4 weeks since Spring break and she didn’t want to waste one more minute before making sure that I wasn’t pregnant or diseased. Or both. When I protested she growled, “You want to be a woman, this is part of it. And don’t you DARE put up a fight. You will do whatever the doctor needs you to do. Is that clear?” It was. I knew that if she had to get my dad involved it mean another beating and I would do anything to avoid that. Thankfully, so would she.

Fortunately, I survived the humiliation of that first gynecological exam even though I was wishing for death the whole time. It would take a few days for any test results to come in, though, so we were sent home to wait. And wait. And wait. And the waiting was done in tense silence with the barest minimum of contact between us. A few days later she got word that everything was alright. That may have been true medically, but relationally things couldn’t have been more wrong. She no longer knew how to relate to me. I wasn’t a baby anymore, but I was still her baby. I also wasn’t a woman who could be counted as her equal with whom she could easily converse about womanly things. I was a testy, withdrawn, and thoroughly nasty-to-be-around teenager. Years later she’d told me that because there was no one she could talk to about it all, she had fallen into such a deep depression that she came very close to ending her own life.

I realized that I had tears on my cheeks when the soft beep-beep of the morphine machine shook me out of my reverie as it released the much needed pain medication it hoarded like liquid gold. I reached across the dark void between us, squeezed her hand and said, “I love you, Mom, and I’m so sorry I put you through so much hell.”

As she once again drifted off into peaceful oblivion, she whispered softly, “You were worth it. I’m glad there were no gypsies.”

Now, nearly 25 years later, I am comforted by the fact that eventually this very difficult, painful, gut-wrenching, maddening, yet somehow wonderful job of parenting an emotionally damaged and behaviorally challenging teenage girl will be worth it. And I, too, am very glad there are no gypsies in town. Today.

*Names changed


  1. Beautiful post.
    Nobody said this parenting thing would be easy. Honestly, if you were to get a field guide that told you how hard it was and all that could go wrong with it, I don't think you would believe it. (rhetorical you). I don't think any of us would think that was anything but fiction.


  2. Awesome story. I do for a fact know how a parent feels to read something like that from their child. It breaks the heart for sure. I am taking the stand with you for your girl, believing that in the end, it will be worth it all. Sometimes, it difficult to believe that God is still in control, but He really is. And to get His will in our lives, sometimes, He has to break us down, way down. But then He will gently lift us back up. As in the above post, Keep Believing. Love, Margie

  3. Damama, you made me cry in my coffee. Why after so many years hasn't someone come up with a better idea of getting throught the teen years? I knoe prayer and "this will come to pass".

  4. The mom/daughter relationship is a complicated one. I actuall was worried when I had daughters.

    Good luck with your daughter, some day things will be better. It is jsut hard to imagine that day sometimes!!

  5. I'm glad things are looking up some for you!

    Wow, you and your mom really did get in some heartfelt talks before her passing didn't you?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Things are pretty crazy right now. I'll try to get a new post up soon. I was hoping Jon would post about Mother's day, but he has been super busy as well.

  6. Beautiful post. I'm so glad that you and your mom had that time together. It is wonderful to know that in the end, your mom was glad that there were no gypsies to take you. You too will reach that point I am sure...may take a while.
    Did you know that "sophomore" means "wise fool"? Golly, I don't wnat to look back at those awful times. Blessings Damama, EJT

  7. That was very touching. I fear that will be me someday, and I only hope I can handle it in a way that will not alienate my child.

  8. Hey T
    Sending you more puffy hearts and hugs. You can never get enough of them. :)

  9. Great post. I love how honestly you share the stories of your life without expecting anything from your readers. and just honestly laying it all out there and letting others make sense of it all.

    I'm glad I had boys, lol! No I would love to have a girl but shhh don't tell anyone that...lol!

  10. Your stories mean so much to me and always just warm my heart. I am glad your mom did not find any gypsies and I know you are glad there are not any around now. Parenting is hard (like I have to tell YOU that) and while my kids are still too little for a lot of the heart ache you are facing, they bring me to tear sometimes too.

    Big hugs to you my friend. I hope things improve and soon. You are missed!

  11. Angie - thank you. I agree totally! LOL! I read Burgh Baby's post about failing the tests and laughted out loud because it is so true! They don't tell you NEARLY enough about how this game is supposed to be played!
    Margie - I'm glad I'm a believer in God's ability to maintain control because I'm sure NOT a believer in mine! LOL!
    Robin - I'm sorry I ruined your coffee, though some people actually like a little salt in it. ;o) You are right, somehow, all too often prayer and waiting for the passing just seems like such a lame substitute for MAKING it happen.... OOPS! My inner control freak is showing again! LOL!
    Dragonstar - OH, honey! YOurs is one of the notes that hit RIGHT at the time I needed it most last week. thank you for helping me keep going.
    UTMom - Yes, it is very hard to imagine. And then a moment of true normal pops up and waters that tiny seed of hope that just refuses to die.
    Burg Mom - thank you. I've been lurking a lot and your daily laugh fests have really helped me keep a smile. As I told Angie - I LOVED that post about losing the game because they keep changing the cotton pickin' rules! LOL! You are a genius! xoxo
    Brandi - I know you've got a lot on your plate right now, so thanks for taking time out to stop in. Yes, Mother and I had many, many, amazing talks during those long, painful nights. And I'm so grateful that God let us have those times. I wish that every mother and daughter could share such intimacy before it's too late.
    Elizabeth - You always teach me something. Wise fool is exactly what I was back then - minus the wise. ;o)

    I'm already glad the gypsies haven't shown up... unless maybe they'd be willing to offer a summer camp of some sort. LOL!
    Debbie - You don't have to worry about alienating your girls. Teenagedom will do that for you. But eventually you will get through it and find your balance again... I'm seeing small ... tiny... miniscule glimpses of it here already.
    Jules - You are so right! There could never be enough! Thanks for replenishing my supply.
    Brats Mom - I have thought about you so often lately. I hope you are hanging in there and have heard from your Hubby. I pray he is well, also.

    Thank you for the praise. As I always say: I figure God wouldn't have let me go through it all if I wasn't supposed to share so others could learn from my experiences. That includes being required to tell you that having boys does not make you immune to any of this crap! LOL! It's not better or worse with girls - just different. The teen years are kind of like the types of poop you get from eating broccoli vs. cabbage - In the end (or coming out of it??!!) they both stink to high heaven no matter how you tried to prepare 'em. LOL!

  12. AZMom - If every tear parents shed was caught on a daily basis, Arizona wouldn't be a desert anymore, and the Sahara would be 50' under water. Either that or we'd just use 'em to drown the little monsters! ;o)

    Things are improving. I'll be around to catch up with everyone soon.

  13. I've just ordered all my kids to stop growing. They can just go on being little bra- angels forever. ;)

  14. Damama, can I quote you on the cabbage/ brocoli poop analogy? I promise I will give you full credit. LOL

  15. No gypsies here in my town today either. Maybe tomorrow, but not today.

    Hang in there. ;)

  16. Lisa - Little bra-angels! LOVE IT! Don't we wish it was that easy.
    Robin - Quote away, honey. I'll love not stinking alone!
    Tammy - You hang in there, too, sweetheart. We ARE gonna get through this! xoxoxo

  17. Your experiences and your mother's handling of them will help you through the hard times with your daughter. Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.

  18. So happy to read a new post. As soon as you don't write anymore, we, your readers, deduce you 're confronting problems.
    I'm surprised by people's reactions, Damama. Just as if the first time they'll face the adolescence problems will be when their own children'll become teenagers themselves. Do they forget their own teenager years? Where they all angels? I wasn't always an angel myself, and I'm sure many of us weren't. I caused preoccupations to my mother, and she was at the middle, between me and my father. 20 years later I realize the worry, my stupidity. To be sure I won't forget it, maybe one of my children will act the same way. And the wheel'll turn again. The wisdom arrives with years. Children can't become teenagers and at the same time act as adults with the wisdom of a person in his forties. That's purely incompatible. The essential is that we, as parents, get enough wisdom to surpass, to whelm the situation.
    Just as drivers in a car that goes over the speed limit, some slow down , other drivers realize they go to fast in extremis, control the vehicle and avoid the accident, and the third category, drivers are "intoxicated" by speed, they don't realize, and assume consequences.
    Now look at that comment, Damama, I miss you! I had so many things to tell you! I can't stay indifferent to honesty. And this post was a deep lesson of honesty. I understand why you blog.

  19. LOL I like that and will remember that the next time I am sitting on my stairs crying because one of them did something to drive me insane. :0) Glad things are getting better!

  20. Heather - Thank you, and you are welcome.
    Catherine - You understand perfectly the main reason for this post. It is so easy for parents to get wrapped up in their children's problems that they forget that once upon a time they were the teenage problem! LOL! Thank you for taking the time to speak your mind. xoxoxo
    AZ - Don't let 'em get you down too much -- especially with your blogverse connections! I think you found out that around here, asking for help gets you much more than you thought you'd ever see. ;o)

  21. You made me smile..I get it. Mom used to tell me she was going to "give me back to the Indians".. She's almost 83 now..I take care of her, I guess it's like I adopted he back..aches,pains, mentally declining and all the rest that comes w/ it.
    I'm glad you found me so I found you :-)

  22. Oh, Damama, I'm so sorry you AND your mother had to go through so much pain. You know, your story helped me, though. Sometimes I feel so depressed about what my children have done and been through, and then I am angry with myself for letting this get to me so badly. It's good to know that this is a human, and realistic, response to all the craziness in my life (and my daughters').

  23. Oh goodness. I am so there!! I love my daughter but she is a pre-teen and I border on hugging/strangling her daily!

  24. That was sooo beautiful...it's nice to be reminded that we are not alone in this crazy world of parenting.


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