Smile Pretty For Mommy
I am crying this morning. That is to say, I need to cry and and that the tears aren’t there.
When I was a child my mother used to try and comfort me by saying, “Smile pretty for Mommy.” I did and she rewarded me.
Now, I am a grown man and I am on the edge of tears because my Mom wants me to find a job. She wants me out of her apartment, is what I hear, and I have nowhere to go. She wants me to have a place to go that she can tell people about. I tell myself that I should have grown up years ago. I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed because my mom doesn’t know that I am on disability. She doesn’t know that that I haven’t been looking for a job. That all I have been doing is trying to get better.
We moved to Toronto from Montreal when I was fifteen years old. My sister and I had been at summer camp when my mom did the Herculean task of moving a seven bedroom, four bathroom, three story household into a three bedroom apartment. She did this without the help of my father, who had made the decision to move. She made some hard choices.
There was also the fact that while at camp that summer, I had gotten extremely ill. I went from the bus home from camp, into my parent’s car and from my parent’s car to the hospital emergency room. They admitted me and started an intravenous drip. I had an infection of my leg the size of two men’s fists. The doctors operated on my leg the next morning and that operation and a course of strong antibiotics saved my life and my leg.
I recuperated for the next two months and, so, entered my new school late. It was a private school. I was the new kid in a new school where the students had been together since grade one and this was grade nine. While the students were probably as warm and welcoming as most teenagers are, when I started school, I was still recovering from a life threatening illness. I always felt alien there and homelife did nothing to help transcend that.
My stuff, my things, my treasures, my life was missing.
Some of the hard decisions my mom had made involved my things. They were all gone. My comic books were all gone. My Hot Wheels tracks and cars, gone. I had left my baseball glove at home, because it was precious to me, and it was gone. My sister’s things made the transition, perhaps because she was a girl, but mine were just gone.
I am still not sure how that felt. I don’t know. People use the term violated. I don’t think that’s how I felt. I think I felt taken for granted. That somehow I would be okay no matter what so it was okay to do this to me. What was important was that I looked okay. I smiled pretty for mommy.
There is always a joker in the pile and in this case the joker was the fact that the apartment we moved to was physically isolated from the world. I mean that the actual building was a complex of three buildings on a separate campus a five minute walk away from the street. It was a luxury apartment, but for me it was a prison. I didn’t have people to talk with. I didn’t have friends. I had my mom.
I was ill and alone. I was spiritually, socially, emotionally and physically isolated from anyone but my mom, and sometimes my father and my sister, and that is how it remained for the next two months. I may have gotten better physically, but I don’t think I ever recovered otherwise.
For my mom, it’s about looking okay. It’s about being able to say to people that her son is working at something. That he is occupied at something. That the outside looks good. That, how I feel is inconsequential. Maybe she is right. Some days that is how I feel.
Then there are days like today when I sit at Starbucks and I am frozen even though the tears are there. I can smile pretty for mommy while I die inside.