Saturday, January 24, 2009

Phantom Memories

On Friday night I stopped by here to see if the writing assignment for the week had been posted.I was looking forward to a new assignment. I saw the new assignment and spent today trying to decide what to write about. I saw the words as Phantom or Haunted.
I couldn't decide if I should write about the year I lived in a haunted house or about how after 25 years I am still haunted by memories of an old boyfriend. Imagine my surprise when tonight, I saw that the word was only Phantom. It changed my perspective on what would be appropriate.

My childhood is divided into two parts. My brother and I refer to these as BW and AF. These mean Before Work and After Work. How our lives were before my mom went to work and what they were like after she went to work.
I remember having my mom home all the time. I was able to walk home from school to have my lunch. Mom always had it ready and waiting for me. It was such a special part of the day to have lunch with my mom. I couldn't do recess at school but I didn't care.
I remember helping mom with the household chores.I was too young to have any chores that were all my own but mom was patient and let me help her.She never tried to hurry me along.
I remember dusting the venetian blinds. Mom would dust the high ones and I would dust the lower ones. I remember mom sweeping and I would hold the dust pan for her. To this day dusting and sweeping are my two favorites household chores.
I remember hanging laundry outside to dry in the soft summer breeze. I probably got more clean laundry on the ground that what actually made the line but mom never complained.
I remember helping mom with the baking. We made bread and cookies and cakes. Oh not all of that every week but some of it each week. Mom always had some baked good to give to anyone in the neighborhood who had a need. I remember at Christmastime, our dining room table was expanded. All 6 leaves were put in, it must have been 12 feet long. The table became lined with all sorts of holiday treats. And of course mom had her little helper by her side.
I remember on Saturdays we would hurry through any chores that needed to be done. I don't know who was more excited that day, mom or me. When everything was finished we would sit down at the piano. Mom would bring out the song books and begin to play.She knew all the words and would sing. I pretended to know the words so I could sing too. We would spend hours at the piano. We would sing, "Little Brown Jug", Bicycle Built for Two", "Oh Susannah", "Camptown Races", and many more songs. I still have the old music books.
I have great memories of that time in my life. My brother has few and they are vague. He is five years younger than me. My mom went to work as I started the sixth grade, my brother was entering the first grade.
No longer could I go home for the much cherished lunches. It became my job to plan and cook the evening meal. I had never cooked anything all on my own before but I learned quickly.
We started going to the Laundromat on weekends to wash our clothes. Mom was too tired to try and do them in the evening. It was no longer fun to help with laundry.
My home which had once been so clean became what is known today as a "garbage house". I don't think the garbage had been carried out the last six years we lived in that house. I know we had a dog but I don't remember taking him for a walk or putting him out. I had a cat but I don't remember cleaning a cat box. I don't remember dusting or sweeping or even doing dishes.
Now the changes didn't become apparent over night, because I think mom tried to hold it together, but it got to be too much for her. It took me a long time to realize what happened to my childhood. I didn't get it figured out until I was an adult. My mom had a very demanding job. She was a case worker for AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children).She was not a social worker but most of her clients treated her like one. She gave so much of herself at work that she had nothing left to give us at home. My idyllic childhood changed with the onset of AW.
My brother and I share the same AW memories but he has only phantom memories of BW. He was just too young. He tells me that my memories of BW can't be all that accurate. I disagree. I like my BW memories.
Maybe my memories aren't accurate. I don't care. Maybe they are phantom like. But you know what? I would rather have phantom like memories of BW than no memories of that special time with my mom.


  1. In my case, being an old lady, my life is divided into Before the War and After the War. It seems your is almost the same!

  2. I agree with is better to have those before work memories and to share them with your brother because in sharing, they become more real and a precious legacy of your mothers love.

  3. it's good you could at least experience BW before. it is seriously hard to juggle being mom and career-woman. i don't know how people do it..

  4. i wonder how your mom remembers it.. and why it was that she took on such a demanding position with two small children at home... oh i have so many questions about all of this... i really enjoyed the whole write tho... really....

  5. I thought maybe I should explain a little bit about my mom. She didn't have a choice but to go to work when my brother started school. She started out as a clerk typist, as they were called back then, and worked her way up to case worker.
    Back then there wasn't a name for what was wrong with mom but I recognize it as being seriously depressed. Of course there weren't any meds then either.
    My mom has been gone from us since 1991. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish for another hour with her. I sometimes still catch myself reaching for the phone to call her. I take comfort in knowing that when my time comes I will be able to spend eternity with her.
    Thanks for all of your comments.

  6. Mother loss is something that lives with us forever, I think. Not a day goes by that I don't wish for more time with mine and she passed on more than two decades ago. I'm glad to have read your story. It's touching and memorable!