Wanda’s Story: Part 1/3

For Mother’s Day, after my children were born, I use to write a letter in honor of my Mom which included showing appreciation for all of the mother’s of inspiration I knew. These were other Mom’s that either mothered me in some way or Mom’s that displayed some character toward me or my children that left my heart feeling full. This year, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to share my Mom’s story.

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My Dad joked that he was going to be a priest before he met my Mom. She grew up in Kentucky on a tobacco field. One of 6 children, they looked forward going to church where they would get a treat; a fresh apple or orange. She only went to school to the 3rd grade because she had to stay home and look after her younger siblings. She would later go back to school to get a GED in her early 30’s. She wanted her kids to value education and felt like if she didn’t have her diploma, she would be a hypocrite.

My Mom left Kentucky at 16 years old and headed to Chicago alone because her step father was “bothering her.” She worked as a waitress, was married and gave birth to my sister at 18 years old. She was walking home from work on day when she saw her husband’s car outside of a local watering hole. She confronted him with a woman on his lap. He told her, “You better stop or I’ll go get my gun in the car.” She replied, “You may need it.” Needless to say, they divorced and my sister was 2 1/2 years old when my Dad met my Mom.

When my Dad proposed, she didn’t say yes right away because she was scared. She told my Dad that her first husband said he loved her too but was abusive. My Dad wore the engagement ring around his neck until she said yes. My Dad loved her so much, he had her first marriage annulled- direct from the Vatican, written in Latin. My Dad not only proudly took on the role of father for my sister, but they had another child who is 10 years older than me.

People commented to her about how “old” she was when she was pregnant with me. I suppose, compared to carrying her first two children, she was “older.” If you consider 30 to be old…or too old to have children. (I had my first child a week shy of 30.) My parents use to tell me I was their “Love Child” because they were so in love when they had me. Imagine their faces when I grew older and questioned them about the lyrics to the song “Love Child” by Diana Ross.

I recall my Mom briefly working in a photography studio. I’d run in and smell the processing chemicals, see the proofs at her desk and works in progress where she was touching photos up by hand. She always had her camera in hand taking photos of not only me, but my friends.

She was a baker that couldn’t be compared with. She was a gardener who delighted in roses and tulips. She had an open door policy for my friends and was often the one hosting the cast parties after shows. She would go to dance competition after competition and then come home and run lines with me and never complain.

She told me a lot of stories about things she did in hopes that I would learn from her mistakes instead of making my own. She never hit me or yelled at me. We never reached the stage of “teenage drama” that you’d see on the Lifetime Channel. Maybe it’s because she was sick when I was 15 and she died when I was 17? Did we just skip that stage or did we have bigger things to focus on like- breast cancer, treatment, dying?

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