Chapter 3 Mustard Baths

In my next session with Dr. Lemon, he addressed that I had said very little about my mother. I didn't realize that so I proceeded to tell him about my mother's background. My mothers’ parents came from the area of Bari in Italy. I was able to visit there later in my life. The town was called Alberobello, beautiful trees in English. Her father Dominic was 15 years older than her mother Anna. He literally picked my grandmother like a flower from a garden. Of the two daughters of the Galiani family, my grandmother was the prettiest. Dominic Copertino opened a bar and the family lived upstairs. My mother was first born like me and named Vita Antonia. For some unknown reason, they later changed her name to Antonette. They were not affectionate to their children or each other. My grandfather told my mother she should become a nun because she was not pretty enough to attract a husband. I guess you repeat some version of what you grew up with. My mother was cold, introverted and detached. I have no memories of her ever hugging or kissing any of us. My brother Joe said she would tie him up in the basement and hit him with a garden hose. She told him her life would be much better if he had not been born. She would work all day in the Gold Star Pants factory and come home after my father had left for the night shift at Capitol Records. It is a mystery to me how they found time to conceive four children. I neither have good or bad memories of my mother from when I was a child. I have read that a mother’s role is that of a mirror, reflecting who the daughter is. Her strengths, talents, fears, and her hopes for the future. As a result of not having a maternal mirror, I grew up feeling unseen and misunderstood. I suffered from low self-esteem and a high degree of self-doubt. I learned housekeeping skills from my father. He was the one who taught me how to fold laundry, make a bed with hospital corners and cook. He was the one that helped me with homework when I was in elementary school. He was the one that handled all my medical emergencies. Maybe that is another reason why I never developed a bond with my mother. Later in life I had to place my mother in a nursing home. I picked what I thought was the best one in the area, The Jewish Home. I had worked there when I was in high school. I knew it was clean, the food was good and they took good care of their patients. My mother was very angry at me for placing her there. However, she could not take care of herself or her apartment. She was becoming a hoarder and keeping old newspapers and junk mail in trash bags. She was also a compulsive shopper and ordering daily from QVC. Her sister Jane was in the same facility so that made it a little more agreeable. I was living in Florida at the time, so I got her a cell phone. When I brought her the cell phone, she said, “Why are you so nice to me?” I replied:” Because you’re my mother.” I also gave her a journal called: “Mom, Tell Me Your Story, a guided journal”. I thought that would be a nice thing for me to have after she died. After she passed, I took the little book back to Florida with me. She didn’t have entries under many of the sections, but there was one entry that clearly explained our lack of a bond. Under the heading,” Starting A Family: How did you feel when you found out you were going to be a mom?” She wrote " When I realized I was pregnant, I jumped up and down the hallway steps multiple times, and took mustard baths every day to end it. But it didn’t work”.

Love the heart that hurts you,

but never hurt the heart that loves you.

- Vipin Sharma


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