I have been going through old photo albums that I had collected from my mom's house months ago. They have sat in piles on my long wooden bench by my front door. They are just waiting for me to open them to reveal stories that are familiar and stories I haven't a clue about. Initially when I brought them home I scanned through them in a hasty way. I knew if I committed to sitting down and really looking at the photos I would be there for a very long time. All of Thanksgiving went by as well as Christmas and I didn't even move them out of the way. I didn't have a good place for them as the closet that has other family albums in it was cluttered and disorganized. It is a closet that I would like to get into but it really needs a good clean out which is a project for after the holidays, not during.
The holidays have past and I have no more excuses. Bringing one album out at a time to the table I begin the slow task of dismantling them. I am going to take out all the photos from these albums because they all are on magnetic pages. What an awful invention those magnetic page albums are! The photos stick like they have been glued onto the pages. When I take them off it has to be done slowly and carefully or else the photo can tear. Then there is the yellowing to the photos and sometimes ridges from the page that keep the photos in place is permanently imprinted on them. They come off the pages curled and I place them in piles of familiar faces or unknowns. The unknowns I will throw away the others to be sorted by month and year. I figure I will have to place a heavy book or two on them to remove the curl.
At first I systematically place them without really digesting the images. It isn't till I notice that pages go by where I am not in any of these photos that I start to wonder why. I thumb back through the piles I have made figuring that I have just overlooked myself but no, I am not in any. I look through the pages ahead to see if I show up. No. I realize that this is when my mom is dating my future new stepfather to be, R. The years of 1973 through 1974 is the album I am working on and these are their times dating together. It brought back a lot of memories that even though I did remember, somehow seeing the photos reminds of when I was left alone as a young teenager while my mom and he dated. It is the time I was left not for an evening, or a day but left for days as in two to seven days that troubled me most.
My mom far left, R. with the beret and my love the far right at the helm
(before we knew each other)
(before we knew each other)
Seeing page after page of what they were doing left me wondering if they knew what I was doing? Did it matter that a 15 year old was left alone at home for all their times together? What kind of parenting is that? More than a few of these dates were when they would go sailing down the coast of California and one was of when they were out of state. I am floored! There were day trips as well but I was not included. I can understand not wanting the teen daughter to tag along but really, if you are going to leave town you should think about what to do with her. I would. It was during their dating my Nana was not with us but had gone to visit her sister in the south. I am sure she was not aware of the fact that I was left unattended. Maybe it is good that I don't have clear memories of how I handled taking care of myself but I guess I did the best I knew how. In fact I am sure that I was delighted that she had left me alone! That doesn't mean it was the best solution though. I was a mature young teen but more because I did have to take care of myself. We did have a dear couple who lived downstairs from our apartment who I am sure kept a bit of an eye on me. Yet I was getting myself to and from school which was an easy walk to home. Did I cook? I wasn't much of a cook except for desserts so what did I eat? Whatever I could find I guess.
I don't know what my mom must have said to R. while they dated. It wouldn't surprise me if she didn't tell him that I was alone. I won't let myself be hurt or angry towards him. I feel angry with my mom for not being a better parent to me. That she would just leave me to go have a good time. But what if something had happened? There were no cell phones then and I sure don't remember her leaving me information of where she was at if I had needed to contact her.
I am a grown woman who shouldn't react in a childish way by holding onto the resentment of what she did. Yet I do feel that I am entitled to mourn the loss of a normal childhood. I do remember situations I was put in that no 15 year old should have happen. I also know I could have gone really wild which I didn't. I did have some bit of judgement when it came to the wrongs I could have done. I had my horse and a life at the stables where I could be safe and busy. Thank God for my horse.
R. and myself at the helm
We moved to a new town in the Fall which was a much better community than where the "Hell Hole" was. Out of an apartment into a townhouse all paid for by R. That same year I started being asked to go sailing, meeting their friends at the Yacht Club and meeting his grown children. They got married in September of 1974 and we moved to his townhouse in yet another town. I went to a total of three high schools in three years. I had a hard time keeping friends due to all the moving. I came to think that having a solid friendship like when I was in grade school would never happen. I also didn't let it happen. All these peers at the various high schools had been friends for so long and came from normal backgrounds it appeared to me, what did I have? What if someone asked about my life? At school I was a warm and engaging friend but outside of school it was just my horse till I started dating my love. It was not like anyone called to go hangout or go to a movie. I made it clear I had a boyfriend who was older and we didn't do the high school dances or sport activities.
So where does this go in my heart? How do I keep pulling these photos out, seeing my mom and R. with smiles on their faces, with people I did not know, going to places I would not see? On one hand I feel that it is wonderful for my mom to have met the man of her dreams at long last. That someone did sweep her off her feet. Who wined and dined her. It sounds romantic. A happy ever after story for her. On the other hand I feel sad about those years of not having my mom around to be a mother to me. Every girl should have a mother who shares the values of being a woman, who listens to them when they are sad, who cares about what they do whether it is good or bad. I know my mom was there but she was in a survival mode. I know this to be true. That is another story.....