The New Now

I closed my laptop and asked my waitress, Lila, why she was clearly having a rough day. She started talking to me about her mom.

I almost dropped my glass of lemonade.


Lila’s mom rivals mine and I didn’t think that was possible—I mean, anything is possible, but a mother using a super nice daughter as whipping post, poison pen recipient, heart-punching material (not to mention literal face-slapping material)? For decades?

I thought that was just my mom.


When I was a kid, my mother ran off with a Greek boy-god 15 years her junior, left us little ones with our alcoholic, depressed, out-of-work dad. She sent postcards detailing her explorations of Greek isles as my dad made our school lunches while sipping his morning coffee-with-vodka.

When the Greek boy-god dumped my mother, she reclaimed her kids and added a bad boyfriend to her instant-family. I wasn’t the only one who objected to him, cue my sisters and extended family members. But after Bad Boyfriend threw a patio table over on me, almost knocking out my front teeth because I told him his bullying was not okay, I was the kid at home wrapping my bedroom’s doorknob with string tied to a chairback: alarm system, in case Bad Boyfriend tried to kill me in the middle of the night.

It was the ’70’s. I had no idea CPS existed. If I had? I would have bugged them. Repeatedly. I was that kind of precocious, SAVE THE KIDS! kid.

salt mounds

When I fled ‘home’ at 17, my mother never said: I’m sorry I’m allowing you to go off and marry a misogynist three times your age.

Or: I’m sorry my addiction to abuse has caused you to enter an abusive relationship of your own.

Or: I’m sorry for abandoning you kids for the Greek boy-god.

Or: I’m sorry.

Instead, I got: “Your leaving caused me to have a nervous breakdown and only he (i.e., Bad Boyfriend) helped me through it.”

These days? I practice gratitude: Mr. Wonderful; our amazing son; our home, mini-zoo; our FUN.

It’s hard to imagine I was ever anyone’s whipping post, much less my own mother’s. And yet…she continues to repeat the past.

That doesn’t mean she is successful.

I told Lila.


Lila didn’t agree, or disagree.

But confessed she gave her mother the shirt off her back because her mother unleashed the ME-A-BLACK-HOLE energy and said: I want your shirt. That shirt. Right there. The one you’re wearing.

Lila felt sad for her mother, who at that time was recovering from a stroke. So Lila washed the shirt in her mother’s washing machine. Dried, ironed it. Gave it to her mom-along with a bowl of chicken soup. Shortly after, Lila was b****-slapped again by: Guess who.


Lila doesn’t look like me at all, but we are sisters.

“I can’t imagine treating my son the way my mother treated me,” I told Lila, hoping I didn’t sound preachy. “Can’t imagine treating my 12-17-year-old self the way my mother treated me,” I added. “I think about that 12-17-year-old girl trying so hard to be an adult without knowing how to be an adult and I tell that girl: I’ve got your back.”

Lila looked doubtful, but nodded.

“I’m making progress, is what I’m saying,” I told her.

Lila cried a little as I handed her my therapist’s card. She moved to other tables and I cried a little behind my sunglasses as I packed up my laptop and drove to retrieve my son from his summer camp.

Cue happiness.


About PB Rippey

Writer, wife, mother, grateful. Fiction, memoir, poetry, kidlit (MG), member SCBWI.
This entry was posted in Faction, Me and Us, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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