The photograph of the little girl graduating from kindergarten is of my mother in 1935.  Who would guess a child with every academic and social advantage would blossom into rabid counter-culture fanatic?  I was 14 when Hugh the sailor/boat-builder died in January, and by April, she had married David the hedge-trimmer who worked at a local nursery and shared a house with two other migrant workers.  He had an eight-grade education and spent two months every year preparing Christmas trees in Michigan for sale in South Florida.  Since summer is a slow time at the flower shop, she took the month off to live in a tent while David trimmed trees.  The local forest rangers mention they had killed an aggressive bear after a child’s death.  David immediately distinguished himself by molesting me.

“I just wants to love you all!”

I didn’t tell my mother; I went to the foreman’s wife. He never did it again, although, my family is still talking about how I seduced the poor man or at least misunderstood his brushing up against me.  My sister overlooked similar indiscretions with behavioral guidance, “You could shout him down!” She thought he was nice to her.

Mother purchased 10,000 Christmas trees.  With a free labor workforce, how could she fail? Wouldn’t it be great to work for only two months out of the year?  His daughter, Beth, was waiting on return. She was a very nice girl.

We were nudged out of the house and Beth went to private school.  Charlotte was 15 when we were moved into David’s house and expected to pay the mortgage.  We panhandled, someone gave us a bag of tomatoes and we sat down and ate the whole bag. My brother volunteered for the Vietnam War.  Helen became pregnant by an older man with two children, she needed to pay Mom rent.  A real mother might have had him arrested for statutory rape.

Mom went to Michigan and Helen went hungry. I cleaned kennels at the animal shelter and bought her some groceries.  She had to save for the hospital bill. Helen moved to a motel room when the baby was a month old and the baby died two weeks later.

Things fracture. Everyone fractures.

My life is good now.  I’m pretty lucky and make a reasonable effort.  It works out.  My mother is having her hip replaced this month.  I wish she would hire someone to help her out for a couple months.  She can afford it, and I won’t be there.

I dreamed I was in a house that had a fire in the wall.  I thought someone would try and put it out.  When I realized no one had, I told everyone to get out and they did, but no one would call 911.  I held my mother and she fell asleep in my arms.  She was happy.

It’s mental illness month.  Why are children expected to care for the mentally ill?  My mother thought she was following God’s guidance.