And, she is going to kill me for telling this MTM-inspired story.
When MTM’s parents divorced, split-up marriages were not typical. With children involved, lots more people suffered together, whether or not that was the best thing for the tykes. MTM’s Mom had five kids, and she was left to manage them on her own.
She pared down, signed up for what assistance she could, and moved the family into what is still a scary section of Milwaukee. A rickety rental house in the center of crime was all she could afford. The 1960′s manual for housewifery did not train her for supporting five children, leaving her with no choice but to go back to school. Between slaving at her jobs, attending classes and studying, she didn’t always have time to be a traditional Mom.
But, she tried.
Studying had to happen late at night, after the kids were all pretending to be asleep. She piled her books and herself on a dilapidated sofa and usually fell asleep teaching herself to teach others. For as long as she could hold her eyes open, she kept one eye on her coursework, and the other on the door, alert for various neighborhood crazies who might decide to break down through the flimsy wood to rob the nothing they had.
Had she known MY Mom back then, she could likely have loaned Joyce a gun to defend herself and her kids in case of assault or attack. Lacking a sophisticated weapon, she chose a meat tenderizer for company. You know that kitchen gadget, with its sleek handle sprouting into a square head of stainless steel punctuated with points around its faces. Perhaps she thought she could put a diamond-shaped hurting on anyone stupid enough to attack her family, or maybe she thought the sight of that meat tenderizer would melt a hard heart. Either way, she slept with that implement of butchery long enough to burn it into MTM’s burgeoning brain. He remembers seeing her sacked out on the sofa, surrounded by books and clutching her meat tenderizer. He thinks it was her bed buddy for years.
Thank you, Joyce, for being such a brilliant, vital example of womanhood to me. Happy Birthday.
Too Much is Just Enough: Strength in Adversity