By Jessica Olivos
Until one day I heard it. I heard the song. I heard the beautiful orchestra in the beginning then her voice bringing me to life. I felt relieved and hurt at the same time. At first I told myself this song is beautiful, till I realized I knew that song! It just all happened so fast. All these images popping into my head, it was like a flipbook. I was in my high school English class listening to my mp3 player, trying to tune out all the loud voices. I wasn’t even aware of the fact that I had that song, so I left it on repeat and tried to do my assignment. I didn’t even do my assignment that day; instead I got out a blank piece of paper and started to write down the lyrics. The class was rowdy and some of the people in class kept on trying to talk to me but I just ignored them. I was in shock; I had no idea that song had such an impact on me. My eyes got watery and I wanted to hold it in, but I couldn’t. That song broke me; I felt four again. My English teacher sat next to me and asked what was wrong. He took me outside and said I could take a breather. Even though I felt a little bit better, I took his offer. It was cold, the air smelled fresh since it was raining earlier. I walked around not knowing where I was headed. I didn’t know how to feel: sad, angry or even happy at the thought that my mother once deeply cared about me. Believe me I felt all three. I always had a slight memory of when I was four, but “Linger,” by The Cranberries, just painted a clear image of everything.
It’s my mom standing in the kitchen just cooking and crying. I was playing with my dolls in my room having the time of my life because I had a Barbie dream house that was as tall as me. That was almost every little girl’s dream. My two older brothers were playing outside; they were always running around driving my mom crazy. While I was playing, my mom was cooking in the kitchen and listening to the Cranberries. I could smell the soup, the smell of garlic lingering all over the house. I couldn’t wait to eat the garlic soup. It always tasted so good, my auntie’s famous recipe. I could also hear her beautiful voice as she was singing along to the words, till I heard her voice crack. I thought to myself that I was going to go make a joke about her singing. It sounded like a duck ran over by a car. I started to walk out of my room and stopped under the doorway when I saw her face down on the cutting board. She wiped her nose and that’s when I realized she was crying. My mom was crying, the person who always held me when I needed her. The one who would tickle me, the one who would tell me there was no such thing as the boogieman, was crying. I had never seen her cry before. It was all new to me. She had stopped cooking but she was still singing and crying. I went to hug her.
“It’s okay. Go back to your room. The food is almost done,” she said.
I just wanted to hug her, just like she always hugged me. But she didn’t even let me do that. I didn’t know why she was crying but now I know. It was around the time my father died. I guess it wasn’t only the thought of her losing the man she loved but the thought of having to raise three kids all on her own. That was the day The Cranberries first got stuck in my head, the day I saw my mother cry. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the day my mother decided to stop being a ‘real mother’. The day I started to feel alone.
I was still her princess; however after that I wasn’t raised in a safe or stable environment. As the years passed matters got worse. When my mother started doing drugs more than usual and staying out late. She would come home early the next morning and fall asleep. I was supposed to be up and ready for school, but missed school constantly. As she slept, I would watch Telletubbies while eating my cereal. I use to love staring at her while she slept. I’m sure to others she looked like Cruella de Vil, but not to me. She looked peaceful and absolutely stunning. Because of all the missed days, I was held back a year.
In all 6 years of elementary, I attended 5 different schools. This was when I started to feel self-conscious and like I didn’t belong. Everyone would look at me like a weirdo. Then again I had short hair like a boy, clothes that were a little too big, and even mismatching socks. In third-grade, one freckled-face girl, with red curly hair and blue eyes, finally spoke to me. I remember her because she was my first ‘friend’, but in reality her mom worked in the front office and told her she had to. She let everyone know that she was forced to talk to me. The kids started whispering and looking at me. There was an incident when I farted and everyone looked around.
“It’s the weird girl, and it smells!” a boy said.
Nobody wanted to sit next to me or even talk to me. Not even the girl who was forced to be my friend. Every time I went to school, I became nervous. I’d bite the sleeve of my sweater and keep quiet.
My biggest fear in life was that I was going to be left alone. Luckily, my brother and I were always together. He looked after me and always made sure I was safe no matter what. He was there for me when my mother wasn’t. He was even there when I didn’t want his help. I liked to call him Booger because he has a mole on his nose that looks like a booger. He’s about two years older than me, and three years younger than my oldest brother. When my mom went to work or to party, we were left alone; Booger made sure I was with him. He was there when we were riding our bikes, breaking into hospitals to skate, or running away from the cops because we were trespassing.
Once I broke a car window that belonged to mom’s new boyfriend. My brother pissed me off by locking me out and teasing me, so I threw a huge rock and the window shattered. When my brother saw the look on my face and how scared I was, he opened the door of this ugly blue van.
“Yeah you better run! If I see you again im’a kick your ass!” My brother yelled at some imaginary person.
Why? Didn’t take me long to realize he was covering for me. I had lost count on what number boyfriend my mom was on, but she finally came down and saw the broken glass and was hysterical.
“It was a bunch of kids that ran by here. I tried to get them but I didn’t want to leave mamas alone,” my brother said looking right at her.
She looked worried and confused; she looks at me then back at him. I’m her spoiled brat, so if I cry she’ll believe everything. I start to sob and tell her how scary it was. As I’m crying, I manage to look at my brother and he winks at me. I smile at him and try not to blow my cover.
I was nine years old when I was taken away from my mother and not to long after my brothers were also removed from her custody. My God Mother took all three of us in, but things were not exactly better living with her. She had five kids of her own and she had rules. Rules were different to my brothers and I. We did not have a curfew, we went out whenever we wanted and we never really went straight home after school. My oldest brother was the first one to take off which led me and my brother booger, the one I was closest to. He promised he would always stay with me, that I would not be left alone. Until one day I was showering and I hear him going at it with my godmother again. “You’re not even my mom so leave me alone, mind your own business,” my brother is yelling at her.
Shut up get the fuck out of my face I hate you,” my brother sobs as he yells.
I start to cry and cover my ears. My God mother tells him she’s done with him, he’s ungrateful. He’s crying now and hitting the wall. He knocks on the bathroom door.
“Mamas I’m sorry I have to leave,” he tells me.
I get up from the shower floor, a little too fast and I get dizzy, but I manage to get out of the steamy shower and get my towel. I open the door and he’s crying.
“I can’t do this anymore. I can’t stay with these people. I didn’t want to leave you but I just can’t”, he’s crying so much as he speaks that I barely understand him.
When he walks away, I go back into the shower. I make the water go hotter. I step into the shower, fall onto my knees and replay everything that just happened in my head… not to long after I break down. I start to cry because my world just got torn apart.
After that, I didn’t try anymore to make friends at school. I was talking back to my teachers and I went through this rocker phase. I would wear black nail polish and all sorts of black bracelets. Marilyn Manson was my go-to artist because I could get lost in his music. I also cut my wrist around that time but that didn’t last very long. I quickly figured why add more pain when I was already in pain.
Just because I didn’t talk, didn’t mean I wouldn’t stand up for myself. I would give attitude to anyone who even looked at me funny. I would tell them to stop staring and get the fuck out of my face. There was this one guy who made a smart remark about my mom and I slapped him across the face. He asked what was my problem if I didn’t even like my mom. He’s lucky I didn’t knock his teeth out; I was just being nice by simply slapping him. Just because my mom caused so much damage and pain didn’t mean I didn’t love her. I do love her. I was tired of walking around mad. I wanted to be better, but I still had a deep feeling of being alone.
I finally started writing poems about how I felt. My English teacher in high school had us write in a journal everyday. He said he wouldn’t read it unless we wanted him to. I didn’t let him read anything! It was too personal and embarrassing. But when I heard The Cranberries song in class, I started to let him read my journal. Yes, that same teacher who always helped me out. I think I got along with him because he reminded me of Booger. He always gave me my space in class and didn’t look at me like I was crazy. He made me feel comfortable. When he finally read my journal and saw all my poems, he was astonished. He told me how much potential I had as a writer and understood all the pain I felt.
The song gave me confidence to do better in school, and motivated me to become a writer. I would put it on my playlist and listen every morning; I would wake up with a smile on my face singing along to the words with my terrible voice. I would walk the halls at school feeling brought to life, feeling like nothing and no one could stop me. It reminded me that I wasn’t alone.
I mostly wrote about how terrified I was of becoming like my mother. Scared of doing drugs, scared of sleeping around. I was scared of being a disappointment, not to others, but to myself. It’s not that I hated my mother, but I just didn’t want to be anything like her. I wanted to be proud of myself, but I had nobody to look up to. I was always surrounded by heartache. My poetry allowed me to open up. When I would read it back, I would just end up crying. I felt like I was reading something written by someone else and I felt sorry for them. It was hard to believe it was actually me who felt so broken. Reading the truth about me convinced me to change. I didn’t want to feel sorry for myself. I wanted to be proud. I continued to write and I made sure I was making the right choices in school. Things like making sure I didn’t go around and sleep with random guys or smoke bud. It was quite tempting, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I made my own choices, and I chose not to do anything that I would regret later in life.
Just like it was my mother’s choice to give up, it is my choice to do the exact opposite. I was just four when my dad died of a brain aneurysm. I faced so much and yet I’m accomplishing so much because I don’t want to give up like my mother. I know it sounds as if I hate her, but I don’t. I probably should hate her, but as the song says, “You got me wrapped around your finger.” Despite everything, I love her and I don’t blame her. She didn’t provide me with the best childhood, but she did give me what means the world to me. She gave me the little boy I call my son. The little boy that makes me smile every day. My mom got pregnant and just like before, she wasn’t stable enough to keep her son. However, she signed her rights to him over to me. I had miscarried twice before, so getting him made me absolutely happy.
My mother and I were pregnant around the same time in 2011, but I didn’t find out about my mother’s pregnancy until after I miscarried. I was just 19 years old, but I was going to take responsibility for my actions. My boyfriend stepped up within seconds and said he would be there for me no matter what. I fell in love with my unborn child so quick, and when I lost it I was devastated. Therefore, I was so freaking angry when my mother told me she was pregnant. Our kids would have been the same age. I resented her for it. How could someone so unhealthy and someone who had lost custody of all her other kids be pregnant? I didn’t understand how my unhealthy and unsuitable mother was given the chance to have a child when mine had been taken from me. It’s sad to say but I hated her for it. In time I was happy and excited but it took me some time to be okay with the fact that she was going to have a child.
The night before her c-section I asked her if I should be prepared, if there would be drugs in her system. I wanted to know if I should be prepared to take a child home. I also told my boyfriend that we might end up with a little boy. I told him either he was in or out because that little boy would be my number one priority.
“I wouldn’t expect anything else from you,” he told me.
She didn’t test for anything the next day. Everything went well and she was going to be allowed the keep the baby. I figured I would end up with the baby in a several years, but didn’t expect it as soon as it happened. I was at work when I got the call that changed it all.
“Jessica I am calling regarding Jacob. We will be removing him from your mother’s care and you once told me under any circumstances you would take him in,” the social worker asked and paused waiting for me to answer.
“Yes of course,” I told her trying not to cry.
“Okay. He is being removed as soon as we arrive to her home Mrs…” before she could even finish I told her I would pick him up right away. She said that’s fine.
I called my husband and had him pick up Jacob since I was at work. It wasn’t planned, but that day I became a mom. A few months later I got pregnant again, and lost it again. I came to the conclusion that the reason I kept losing my babies was because I was meant to be my baby brother’s mother. I was meant to be Jacob’s mom.
“I had him for you,” is what my mother started to say.
I wasn’t mad at that, and I agreed. If I had to choose, I wouldn’t change anything because Jacob was now my life. It wasn’t easy. I was working and going to school. but I managed to do that and take care of Jake.
I always have these random moments when Jake is playing with his cars and I think to myself, that is my son. My world. I stare at him and my eyes start to get watery. They get watery and I get stuck in that very moment. It’s as if time stops, just like when I first heard the song ‘Linger’. Staring at him puts me in awh. I feel happy and heartbroken at the same time. Happy because that beautiful creature is mine. Heart broken because I see that beautiful boy and I ask myself how in the world my mother would let him slip through her fingers. How could she lose him too? I really thought things would be different this time with him. I figured she would do better for him. No one was surprise when she lost him but me. I was shocked because I was a fool, “You know I’m such a fool for you. You got me wrapped around your finger”, Dolores O’Riordan said it best. My mother always had me wrapped around her finger so I saw no faults. I no longer resent her, I’m absolutely grateful for giving me such a beautiful gift. I will put linger by the cranberries on full blast and allow my son to hear me sing and let him have nothing but happy memories of me. I’ll sing while he continues to play with his cars and wait till that one day he starts to sing with me. We will dance, sing and we will laugh at the fact that we are not very good singers; but we will sing our heart out anyways.