Wednesday, June 17, 2009

At Home With My New Mama

Foster Mama was a straight-up hustler, but she was also a down-home, big-hearted person.

Life with her meant trips to the mall, home-made BBQ dinners, fast food, roadside carnivals, after-hours clubs, summer picnics, camaraderie and cat fights with my new foster sisters, rowdy dancing, drive-in movies, raunchy girl talk, loud laughter and an endless supply of mother wit.

She was the kind of person who had seen it all and done half of it.

She was the one who explained to me that my dad's bow-wow babes were really hookers. I naively protested my dad's innocence. "Hummph!" Foster Mama sniffed. "I saw him last week at a Coney Island with a woman I know is a ho."

Daddy would drive across town to visit me, and talk to Foster Mama at length about how I moved out because I was hard-headed and stubborn and didn't want to do chores.

Not true.

I did more chores at Foster Mama's in a week than I'd done at my dad's house in a year.

Despite her free-wheeling nature, when it came to running her house, Foster Mama had rules. There were dishes to be washed, floors to be mopped, tables to be dusted, beds to be made, dinners to be cooked.

Some of her rules related to hygiene. You were to take a bath or wash up at the sink every single morning without fail.

I honestly didn't know that's what normal people did. I washed my face and brushed my teeth twice a day, but the rest of my body got attention once a week. If that.

"Lord, that girl will take care of that face," I'd hear her remark to the other girls as I performed my nightly Noxzema ritual. Then she'd add that maybe I should wash my ass, too.

Thank God she took me in.

I was starved for order and for maternal affection.

From ages 12 to 16, I hadn't seen my own mother at all. Just before I entered 7th grade, Mommy tried one last time to win custody of us. During our annual summer visit, she took us to see a lawyer. When Daddy arrived, she presented him with court papers that said he couldn't take us back to Detroit.

He responded by bellowing, "Kids, get in the damned car!"

He got arrested for kidnapping ... but the charges were dropped when he proved that Michigan had jurisdiction over our custody case, and that everything my mom had tried to do through her local Pennsylvanian courts was null and void.

I had no more face-to-face contact with my mother until my junior year of high school.

With Foster Mama, suddenly, I had a mom again.

Someone to do my hair. Someone to buy me clothes. Someone to talk to about boys and sex and relationships, not that I had anything to talk about. I was the only virgin in the house, aside from the precocious three-year-old. So I mostly listened to the other girls' tales of love lost and sex had.

Foster Mama had been married once. Now her attitude was, "F*ck a damn husband! Unless he's somebody else's."

She'd never had children of her own, save for one miscarriage.

And she'd been in the foster-care business for over 10 years.

We were part business decision, part labor of love. For each child in her care, the state paid her $200-$300 per month.

So year in and year out, she took in the girls that nobody wanted and dealt with their emotional damage. She taught them how to cook and clean and care for their kids. And she helped set some of her "chirren" up with apartments, cars and furniture after they turned 18.

I loved Foster Mama, and I literally followed her from room to room like a baby chick.

She never once ridiculed me or tried to make me stop.

19 comments:

mr. nichols said...

I can see you have very strong recollections about Foster Mama. I love the fact that she told it like it was. I can see that in you.

Lion-ess said...

That's really cool! Do you still see her?

Nana said...

Yup, you need more people who care, in the foster system. I'm glad you fell on a good one, & ditto on 'do you still see her?'

Don't Be a Slut said...

Foster Mama passed away in 1997, about a year or so after Ingenue's murder. I spoke to her a few weeks before she died. More on that in a later post ...

Lion-ess said...

wow... sad to hear.
I guess we jump the gun asking you that question.

KWiz said...

My husband asked me to read your blog; I'm so glad I did. I've read many of your posts, and not only are you a great writer who "speaks" clearly and undistractingly (I haven't seen a typo yet - and I can spot 'em!), you are a compelling writer. In fact, although I didn't struggle the same way you did, I eventually had some of the same problems you are sharing here. I see myself in much of what you write (although I didn't have the same daddy issues you had).

Thank you for sharing your struggles. I know you are helping many by sharing your own your own experiences. I look forward to reading more.

Don't Be a Slut said...

Kwiz - welcome, welcome, welcome. I am genuinely moved when new people discover my blog and leave me amazingly affirmative comments. :)

Manchild said...

Hello Overcomer,

Got your message. You're welcome. I also left you a private message on MyBlogLog.

As confirmed by my message, I agree with my wife. You're a gifted writer. The world is waiting for you.

Manchild

Sharon Reynolds said...

I'm starting to come here, not to read someone's blog post, but to read the next chapter in her life story.

I really love it and was sincerely disappointed when it was over!

Think I'll be going into your archives. ;)

-Sharon

O.F.C.J. said...

What an intimate relationship. It's good that you could come out of it evenually gaining from the love and learning from the negatives too.

O.F.C.D.

manje said...

sorry that your foster mama passed away, but she taught you a great deal about life.
you should start writting your own book sista =)
it'll be a hit!.

Marty J. Christopher said...

I agree with manje! Have you thought about putting this all into a book? Foster Mama sounded like she cared for you a lot, and at a time when you needed it, too.

cebuano said...

I am Filipino and this poster mama is not common in Philippines. Hope you can enlighten me.

Paid2Travel said...

It is nice to hear the good stories about people that care, there are so many stories of people who dont.

Cerebrally_Orgasmic said...

Truly touching..she sounded like one heck of a woman..and so you..nice work sweetie...

Don't Be a Slut said...

To all the new folks visiting and commenting for the first time, welcome, welcome, welcome! And thanks for all the compliments and kind words.

@cebuano - "foster parents" is a term in the U.S. for families who provide a home for children whose parents are either unable or unwilling to take care of them. They often serve as temporary parents until the courts give custody of the children back to their biological parents, or they become foster parents initially, but end of adopting the children in their care permanently.

Gina Stepp said...

Definitely a book--which I can see as a movie too. We do need more good foster parents like her.

Cheron L. Hall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheron L. Hall said...

What an amazing story...as someone who worked in the "industry" strip clubs, etc...I've seen so much from one side of the coin, always wondering about the children of the women I came into contact with...thank you for telling your story...foster mama was a true blessing to your life...

great blog.

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