They always have said that the most important parts of your life are your mothers, but she was never much a part of my life to begin with. There was a day in July where I was four and three quarters years old, swaying back and forth in the old black tire swing that hung from the droopy willow in my old back yard. She would cuss at me and call me inside saying, "You son of a bitch! Get your ass inside! It's dinner, now wash up and eat!"
That was her way of doing everything, blunt and prompt, and with great sailor-like fury; granted I didn't know what any of the curses were or their meanings were at the time but to hear them come from a stout woman such as herself was threat enough. Her eyes were always slanted and focused on something, I wondered if she was concentrating really hard or just never stopped being angry, however, contrary to my earlier comment she did have her very off days where she was the nicest person alive.
There was a day of the same year in October, the night before Halloween, this is my fondest memory of the woman that spawned me.
She was sitting in this God awful couch that reeked of marijuana and was stained with smoke, the colour was already bothersome enough. It was this ugly green, not like grass, no; far from grass, more of this split-pea soup green that reminded me of vomit. But enough on that horrid couch... My mother was sitting there petting the cat, Sasha, this big mancoon that purred slightly and looked at me with its blind eyes. And as I approached it leapt from my mother's lap and ran in the direction of the kitchen. My mother eyed me down and laughed a little, "Come over here you little shit," she'd say.
And with that I went over and sad beside her and asked her, "What are we doing for Halloween this year?"
With that she gave me a great big smirk, and pulled me over onto her lap. She poked my nose affectionately and stared at the ceiling, deep in thought. "Well, I think that we're going to dress up as scary monsters and chase away the mean people, specifically drunk teenagers with no self respect."
I looked at her confusedly, not quite sure what she was talking about, but I smiled nonetheless.
"Here, let me show you something," she said to me as she hoisted me from her lap onto the dirty carpeted floors.
She took my hand and guided me along a short way to the stairwell into the basement, then cautiously led me down the dark, steep, narrow staircase. I placed two feet on each step as a precaution for my short legs not catching and falling more than they should. When we reached the bottom, she put her arm up and pulled a string and magically the lights flickered alive and everything was visible. It was something of great mystique to me, I was never allowed into the basement so this was something of a treat to me. However, it struck me odd, the basement stank of gas and methane, it smelled almost toxic. There were visible fumes of sorts floating about the lights and dancing around.
She looked at me and made a gesture out at everything, "Listen, Joseph, we never really connected, you and I, for whatever reason I'll never be quite sure. But I love ya kiddo. No matter how often I call you a little shit or a son of a bitch, or my bastard. You're my progeny, you are the sum of my worth and your father's worth. I'm not really ever there for you, and when I am I'm not very receptive to you... Just wanted to say."
All of this came as a shock to me, and in later years from stories I would come to learn that is among one of the most profound things that my mother had ever said. But I hugged her, my arms reaching around her waist, my head buried in her abdomen and I cried tears of happiness as my little body shuddered from excitement, "I love you too mom." I sobbed through my tears.
It was right after my hug that my mother too cried, for whatever reason I was clearly unsure of as my four year old mind could not comprehend. But she too cried, and I looked up at her face as tears fell down her cheeks in little droplets. I asked, "Mommy, what's wrong?"
But it was as if the moment had been ruined, as she shook her head and said, "Nothing, don't worry about it. Why don't you go upstairs and play with your toys?"
And just like that I was pushed up a few steps as my mother walked off in a different direction, the idea of me being in the basement with her was immediately shot down as I obliged.
It was three and a half weeks later, two days before my birthday when I was in nursery school that I came home to a burnt ruin of a building, firemen and police and EMT's running about wildly. My father approached me and with two words I knew the premise of what'd happened, "She's gone."
It would be a year and a half later that I would learn about meth labs, drug-cooking and other profane activities when my father got drunk and began to regret... This was my mother; a drug abusing, meth-cooking bitch who took a whole three minutes of her life to tell me she loved me and prove it. Today, those are still the best three minutes of my life, and for the record; I love my mom.