Mama Did Her Best

Mama was so beautiful. She did her best.
So fitting that my mama stayed in the shadows a lot. Photo Source: Vexteo Media Group, LLC. Anna Leary.

Now, like I said before: I come from a long-line of untouched greatness, untapped potential, and unrecognized royalty. 


My mama may not have been book smart, but she had so many street smarts. She was insanely crafty. She was so resourceful. She had a shitty start to life and she pulled herself up in all kinds of really brilliant ways. Her birth parents didn’t want to keep her, so she lived with foster parents. The foster parents lived wanted to adopt her, but her birth parents wouldn’t allow for her adoption. They were just cruel. They didn’t want her, but didn’t want anyone else to have her permanently either. Can you even imagine that?

I need to stop and process the weight of this right here.

(Sidenote: I just noticed that I used past tense for my mom above but she’s still living. In my mind she’s just a shell of who she used to be, but we’ll get to that later. Self-medicating with alcohol takes its toll, y’all.)

I’m the baby of my mom’s three children and don’t remember her foster parents, Jimmie and Toad. All I know are the stories that Mama told me. Toad was a barber and Jimmie was a big lady who liked to cook. Jimmie would warm bricks on the stove and wrap them in foil and put them under the covers at the foot of the bed in the winter to keep Mama’s feet warm when she slept.

She once told me that her birth mother once tried to get her to drink bleach. That story always broke my heart and as a mother myself now, I quite literally can’t even imagine having that much hate and hurt in my heart to want to harm my own child that way. Mama knew that her mother was trying to kill her.

My mom and I have a really complicated story. It has so many layers, deep deep deep layers. It has a lot of years and hurt and pain and betrayal and role reversals. I’m not ready to dive so deep right now (remember, I’ve been avoiding therapy for these same reasons!), but I think I can see my mom more clearly now as I’m nearing 36 with two small children of my own.

She never felt as if she truly belonged. She lived her entire childhood in limbo. Her foster parents were wonderful, from what I’m told. But there just had to have been a still, small voice that told her that no one REALLY wanted her.

Mama then had three disastrously failed marriages. She has three daughters and we’re all our own sort of screwed up too. But, I think it can all come back to that single moment in time: when Little Mama wasn’t loved and held and accepted and truly fostered and protected.

My sisters and I have our own strained relationships amongst ourselves as we weren’t really raised with the most healthy relationship role models (if you’ve forgotten, please see above about Mama not having any love as a foundation as a child and then three disastrous marriages). I do know that we are raising our kids with a fierce kind of love and protection because even if we can’t adequately put words around it, we’re paying an homage to Little Mama and trying to heal the rip in time when that little girl in the 1940s was left standing alone, chased with a high heel shoe brandished as a weapon, enticed to drink a lethal dose of bleach, and quite literally left out in the cold with nowhere to go.

We can heal the past with our futures. This I know as truth.

We’ll come back to Mama later, I’m sure. She’s a fascinating lady and I want you to understand her and learn from her too.