Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Past

My reaction to today's unexpected encounter is baffling. I'd love to figure out why reminders of my past always seem to inspire doldrums.

She did look familiar to me, but I couldn't imagine why. Then she came over and introduced herself as an acquaintance from a summer camp during high school. She had been shy; I had been shy. Two such people rarely befriend. I was able to recall her sweet disposition even though I hadn't known her well.

The sadness that overcame me was not about her. It was about missing my old life. Back then I had a mother. I had a best friend, Sandy. I had a family, far from perfect but family nonetheless. I lived where I had grown up, where I knew a bunch of people and even had relatives. My family was not strong, not close, but it was better than the nothing I have now.

I had big dreams. The sky was the limit. I knew I could become whatever, whomever, I wanted. Within the safety net, real or imagined, of my family, friends, school and community, I was free to dream, to choose and to thrive.

Going away to college was a rude awakening. Real life, away from support people, hit hard. I cried over the phone, asking my mother to come and get me. Wisely, she didn't. I stuck it out.

Then I got a job in the city I live in now. It was even farther from home, but it's difficult to get a job in my field. Scared, I hung around with anyone who'd have me, almost. It was bearable because my mother still visited often enough. She came here when I got sick, or when my laundry was piled up beyond belief, or when things got tough, really tough, like when my boyfriend committed suicide.

She was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas and lived only eleven more months. To try to survive without her, I latched onto a new boyfriend, which proved to be a bad choice indeed. It's good that we eventually broke up.

I had friends, so I thought. But when my child entered the scene, those friends, all single and childless, fell by the wayside. This is a common phenomenon- single people don't unusually gravitate toward the "family-oriented."

At this point, I have no place to fit in. The parents I have met at my child's preschool, then elementary school, are all married, and they steer clear of single mothers.

Even so, most of the time I'm perfectly capable of playing whichever role is called for in our two-person drama: I'm usually the mother, sometimes the father, often the grandparent or the sibling. Once in a blue moon, my child actually attempts to take on an adult roll, when he can see that I'm totally spent. I guess there's no real reason for me to feel sorry for myself, since we're apparently functional. But, I see now why the memory jolt brings tears. People thrive better when surrounded by and supported by others. Hillary's right. It takes a village.


Sideways Chica said...

Three times I have come to leave a comment, and then find that I cannot find the right words.

But I do know this: If friends are the family we choose for ourselves, then I am sure that I could choose you.

Ciao bella Betty!

Betty said...

Thank you, Teri. I think I can see how a post like this downer would be hard to comment on, and that's why I try hard not to indulge in such self pity on my blog (most of the time). But friends like you read my blog anyway, and even post comments. That means a lot.

Sideways Chica said...

Dear Betty...I didn't take your post as self pity. It just hit a little close to home for me. Besides, even if it was self pity, sometimes this is a good thing. Helps us work things out a bit.

Take care and be well.


taikochan said...

Hey Betty,
School has been insane of late, so it has been a while since I've been by your blog. As usual, I am amazed at how beautiful it is. Especially this post, and the one before it. As Teri said, a little hard to know how to comment on -- You say it so well, nothing more seems to need to be said.

Priyamvada_K said...

Sad to read about your mother. Nobody can fill that void...:(

I do know what it feels to be a single mother - being "too single" for the marrieds, and "too family-oriented" for the singles. And feeling left out and sort of isolated in some ways.

But - we're versatile people, juggling a variety of roles. We can be moms, dads, goofy clowns, impromptu singers, gymnasts leaping over piles of kid toys, calmers of frayed tempers and occasional drama queens. Ha! No sissy single-role lives for us. We're the wildcard, that can be played anywhere.

So the next time you see a wild card in Uno, think of moms like us.
We're versatile, and unique!


garnet david said...

Betty- This kind of heartfelt openness is rare. Your attitudes and accomplishments are heroic. I know those are only words, but they are true.

I love Priya's comment. Someone else knows what you are going through.

Patry Francis said...

I was a single mom, too--living far away from family. Priya says it all. Sending good thoughts and wishes.

Angel said...


Just to add to what's already been so nicely put by PK~

You have each other you and your son and that's so much more than nothing will ever be.

to add to Teri's thought I used the:

"Family is a circle of friends who love you."

at my wedding when my family of The Boy Wonder & Myself grew a to include The Hubster.

Strange as it may be I sometimes almost miss the days when it was just the two of us and now look back and can see sooo many amazing times we had in spite of everything.

Sending you a reminder of the strenghth you already have.


Shankari said...

Hey Betty Sweetheart, i know this is a stupid cliche to say over the internet, but- I'm here for YOU, will always be.

We ALL need our nets (not merely internet!lol, but safety nets), some more than others. Those of us (and I count us both as one) who need the support/safety net less than others, seem to be challenged in actually seeking it. Don't know how to say to another, I need you NOW, *maybe just for a little while*. But its so important to know theres someone there, *if need be*. Force of habit leads us to believe we can do it all alone and this view at times gets reinforced when we seek out a solution which is worse than the problem- like your second boyfriend. Yet, we need to constantly keep trying, keep reaching out, keep whirling! :)

Love you and sending all the love your way!!!

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