Through Any Given Door

1.79 Not MY Mother

girlfriends 1951

1951 • Sonora ~ My sister wore plaid skirts, silk neck scarves, and had a cashmere twinset for each day of the week, bought with her money from her job at the movie house. She jitterbugged with Pat, JoAnn, and Joyce, walked arm-in-arm with Cassie Jo, and gossiped with Shirley and Phyllis. From a distance, Betty, Lorna, and rest of the younger girls in their class looked up to Carleen and her gaggle of girlfriends. During the hot summers, she and all her friends drove to Strawberry or swam at the pool in Columbia, and sometimes she took me with her.

They were deep in conversation on their way home from school—their stride in unison, their arms linked, their shoulders touching—when Carleen looked up to see a woman wrapped in a head scarf and green coat careening towards them on the sidewalk. Carleen shifted her books to her other hip and steered her two friends across Washington, weaving between the traffic of autos and lumbering timber trucks.

“Isn’t that your mother?” Cassie Jo and Phyllis whispered.

First it was Mom smoking and drinking in the front yard, then it was her hanging out at the King of Clubs, then it was the gossip around town. And now this. Carleen was beginning to hate Mom.

Carleen 1951

“No,” Carleen said quietly, staring straight ahead, “that’s not my mother.”

She left her friends at the corner and charged to the store to find Dad.

“Dad! Do something about her!”

“Ignore it,” he told Carleen, “just ignore it. There’s nothing any of us can do about your mother, about her behavior, her drinking, about any of it. Nothing.” He turned away. “Enough. Go home.”

to be continued…

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. Susan Davidson Dalberg says:

    As I look back, I feel more shame now than I did at the time I avoided being seen with my mother. I always wondered if, before she died, she remembered the embarrassment she caused and regretted it. She was finally sober almost 5 years when she died; always wondered if she had any recollection of those years. I knew every bartender in town as they would call and ask if someone could come get her. Yet, I turned out so much better!!! Maybe it was her behavior that made me a better person.

  2. Larry Clemens says:

    This occurred after I left Sonora in June 1951 and I’ve no memory of any of this. Carleen never talked to me about it. I did not even know that Carleen worked at the movie theater. I don’t remember Mom drinking or smoking before I left home, though she may have done so. I know she became an alcoholic and heavy smoker after I left. When we’d visit mom after her divorce she was unhappy and dependent upon drugs and alcohol and was not pleasant to be around. I’ve had a lifelong dislike for any alcoholic drinks and smoking, similar to our dad.

  3. Jim Chatfield says:

    I know the feeling and the hurt, but you all came out stronger and I admire that.

  4. Carleen – another survivor (and thriver!) like you and Larry. Seems like adversity
    leaves wounds but also breeds strength and resourcefulness…….and often, compassion.

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