Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fool's- but not a joke.

The beautiful blue skies of April 1, 1990 were such a delight, as it was perfect moving weather.  I finished up my 5:30 am to 2 pm waitressing shift at Cinnamon’s Restaurant, and headed to my Aunt Laura’s house to borrow the truck.  I had collected many items, stored at her house, to move into my third floor apartment in Greenfield that I would be sharing with Heather and Aimee Jo.  We were all GCC students, and yearning for our own place to call home, together.  62 Fort Square West was the place I called home for almost 2 years.

Dressed in my waitressing black and whites, I was tickled pink to finally have my own place, and no longer living with the secretary to the principal of my high school.   My rent would be comparable, and the proximity to the college would be a much closer distance than driving from Orange to Greenfield every day.

 I drove into my Aunt’s house, beaming about moving.  As I walked through the door, my Aunt’s face was solemn.  “I have something to tell you…” she said.

“Your mother is dead”.  Her words were not jumbled, nor did she cry, or tremble about her sister.  She waited for my reaction.

I laughed, as I was too keen to be tricked.  “Ha-ha! April Fools!”  I joked with her, waiting for the crack of a smile.  “Wouldn’t that be funny…?”  I still had not realized this situation was real.  My Aunt continued with the information.  “Tina, it is real…your mother killed herself…she OD’ed….”

I didn’t cry.  I didn’t know how to react.  There was a certain sense of relief, as well as anger.  Estelle Barbara Emery Bunker Valiton Bailey was dead, finally.  All of those times she tried to slit her wrists or drink and drug herself to death was culminated with her finally succeeding in taking her own life.    

For many years, my mother was a coward in my mind.  She had never fought hard enough, never loved someone other than herself enough, nor did she ever put the well being of her four children in the forefront of her heart and head.   I was relieved that my mother would no longer cause me hardship and heartbreak she had throughout my 19 years of life.     

My hatred of my mother became more intense throughout my 20’s, and I began the challenge of therapies- you name, I have tried it.  In my late twenties, I finally did some Reiki healing sessions with a homeopath, in which I released my abandonment issues.   It was important for me to resolve those intense feelings prior to fulfilling my own want of becoming a mother.

Becoming a mother provided me the most enlightening perspective, and has let me grow to have love for my mother again.  As a mother, I cannot fathom ever giving up my child/ren to another person to raise.  The bond I have with my children is unbreakable.   I can forgive, because I now realize life was too much too bear for her.   Through the intense love I have for my life, more specifically, my family, I can forgive.   I am grateful for the times she could not accept responsibility for me, as others stepped to the challenge to provide me with love and care I deserved.  It is through love that I can accept my mother’s mental illness.  It is through love, I can only hope that my mother found peace in her afterlife, as she deserves it as much as anyone, regardless of the choices she made.

Today is another brilliant, blue skied day.  I am filled with love, but not too keen on jokes.


Monday, March 12, 2012


Estelle, Stel, Stella, and Charlie.
These are the different names that I knew of for my biological mother. She was 18 years of age when she had me, a bastard child I was called in 1971. She was the eldest child to Lewis "Buddy" and Caroline, who also had children Alan, Laura and Paula, ages 17, 8 and 6 at the time of my birth.
I was born in January of 1971, in a snowstorm, in Lebanon, New Hampshire. My Uncle Alan still recalls getting stuck in the snow bank on the way to the hospital, a lone memory of the day of my birth.
Estelle was a high school drop out who found that making a living waiting tables could be financially rewarding as a teenager. She was working in Hanover, NH at a small restaurant, where she met my biological father, a Dartmouth student at the time. While she did give birth to me, I cannot recall her being my mommy in my younger years. I have been told that she did try to be a mother to me when I was a baby, but eventually, she gave up trying. Legal custody of me, Christina Marie Emery, was given to my grandparents, and she was gone.
My mother headed west, living with my uncle in Colorado and in California. She would phone me, and send me a gift here or there, which would be delivered by the UPS truck to our house in Tully, MA. I recall her asking if I had "figured out any of the puzzles?", referring to the shoebox of Haffenreffer beer caps with puzzles she collected and sent to her 4 year old daughter, as she thought her Dartmouth baby was smart enough conquer it. After all "Your father went to Dartmouth", she would say.
It was terribly confusing when my mother, in her early 20's, returned to the east coast, as she would visit me, and then leave me crying at a window with her catch of the day. She would come to visit me with a different man, some younger, some older, tucked tightly  beside him in the middle of the bench seat while he drove. She smelled of earthy Tabu cologne and cigarette smoke, and a faintness of alcohol. She was beautiful to me...her hair coiffed perfectly, teased up in the back, then smoothed over and held with Aqua Net. Her skin looked so soft, as her thick coat of makeup covered any blemishes, the mascara extended her eyelashes, and the dark eyeliner accented her big brown eyes. Her petite frame of 5'2" and a slim physique was appealing to most any man, as her sexual energy oozed effortlessly. Some of the men I knew, as we would visit the car salesman for a bit, or the cook at the restaurant, and that other guy who worked at the auto body shop. At times, she lived with her boyfriends, and other times, she had her own place. Regardless where she lived during my early childhood, there was never a room for me.
Most of our time together at her own 2 room apartment was spent watching television on a fuzzy black and white, coat hanger antennae TV set. There was nothing in the house for a 4 year old to do. Ryan's Hope started at 12:30, and the rest of the ABC Soap line up would carry us to 4 pm. The house was spotless and sparse, so the sitting and smoking time had begun. With a wine and ginger ale spritzer, along with a pack of KOOL 100's, and she was good to go.
At her East Main Street apartment in Orange, MA there were small units on both floors, and all entrance doors auto locked. I was sent out to play on the asphalt parking lot behind the building. This was new to me, as my home with my gram at least had grass, ant holes, and ferns, which worked perfectly for pretend salad. I was sweaty and bored, the parking lot had nothing to offer expect rainbows of oil on water in the divots of the parking spaces. I wanted inside of the cool, cinder blocked apartment. I tried to open the door, but,it was locked. "Mommy" I yelled with my tiny 4 year old voice "HELP, MOMMY!". My little fists banged and banged on the thick door. No one answered. I continued banging and yelling with persistence, until I felt defeated. She left me again, my inner voice said. I slumped on the metal grate landing, and cried alone until I feel asleep. A neighbor finally arrived, and helped me back in to find my mommy. She opened the door to the smoked filled room, she and her man visitor were listening to music and having beers. Quickly, I was scolded by my mother for not propping the door to let myself back in. I was scared, lonely and confused, and now being scolded by the person who left me out here alone. I wanted her to care about how upset I was, and how scared I was. I yearned for my mommy and wanted to go home, but wanted away from this apartment, that man and moreover, her. I wanted my Grammy, who had been mothering me for years, Caroline, Estelle's own mother.

Before long, Estelle had moved out out town, untethered to her child, her family, and unfortunately, herself. As before, she was gone.

I am not sure when I became aware that I was a "Ward of the State", but I knew that was the explanation I used on my financial aid application for the local community college. In layman's term- I was without parent or legal guardian, and the state of Massachusetts, Dept. of Social Services, had been supporting me since I was a young child. Often when others ask about my childhood and receive my unguarded Reader's Digest version of my tumultuous, scattered upbringing, they reply, almost speechless with "oh, that must have been hard."
First and foremost, some days were hard, but not all- most specifically, Mother's Day and Father's Day were the hardest. Depending on what age, my childhood Mother's Day project at school could be for my grandmother, my foster mother, my aunt, or the secretary of my high school. As for Father's Day, I had a foster father or a step father, but a male role model was near absent for most of my childhood. The hardest part of my childhood has been dealing with it as an adult. Therapy has helped me through the abandonment issues, the molestation, the physical abuse and the depression that accompanies it.
Now, as a mother to my own beautiful children, I continue to weed through the childhood of chaos, while my memories also reveal those who supported me along the way: my relatives, my teachers, my friends and my friend's parents. I walk proudly for who I am, unlike the wounded 20 year old I once was, it is with confidence that I share my life, the best and worst of it is who I am.
I look forward to the journey of retelling the plethora of stories, and sharing the confusion, the hurt, the love, and the calm...