Mother’s Day: Just Two Tardy Gay Winos and an Unfortunate Little Person

I love mothers. Who doesn’t? I even love my own mother–which is way too much like marginal Marvel superhero Iceman saying he loves convection ovens.

My poor mom. What a psycho she was.

It was about a year ago today that I found out that my mom had died of breast cancer five years before.

Yes, that’s how close were were. For a year-and-a-half she knew she was dying (her cancer spread to her lungs)–and still she didn’t call me.

The last time I saw my mom, I was … gosh, twenty years old. So that was in … um … a year that math would reveal to me if I could stand doing math.

My mom was intense, complex, ridiculously intelligent, and highly musical. She was also very pretty: when I was ten, Playboy magazine’s director of photography saw her walking on a college campus, and on the spot offered her a check if she’d agree to be a Playboy centerfold. Unbeknownst to my mom (and thanks to my dad’s unbelievable lameness at hiding stuff), I was a regular major ogler of Playboy. So she definitely saved me a mini-massive coronary by declining the photographer’s offer.

Can you imagine? I’d probably still have a twitch in one of my eyes. And night terrors.

Anyway, I just heard a guy in the Peet’s coffee shop I’m in say that Mother’s Day is this weekend. Which would explain all the Mother’s Day balloons I saw in the grocery store this morning.

So I wanted to say this: If you had a good mother, then … well, then you’ve surely had other burdens to bear, because this is God’s world, and nobody rides for free. Still, good mothers are a real blessing. I guess. I dunno. Seems likely.

What I know for sure is that Mother’s Day can be ever so slightly emotionally difficult for those whose moms have (or had) less in common with June Cleaver than, say, Freddy Kruger. If you, gentle reader, happen to yourself be such a person, allow me, if you will, to proffer this dinky bit of advice: milk, for all they are worth, every story you have about what a terrible mom you had. People love to hear stories about other people’s awful moms. Use yours! They’re not doing you any good just stuck there in your past, are they? That’s because they need to get out in the world, where they can make other people feel sorry for you and want to buy you things.

Having a terrible mother is like being one of the Grimm brothers. Your mind is constantly filled with all kinds of twisted, dark morbidities—but what stories you have! Just look at Mother Goose! Talk about scary. Here’s one of her jolly little ditties:

ROBIN AND RICHARD

Robin and Richard were two pretty men,

They lay in bed till the clock struck ten;

Then up starts Robin and looks at the sky,

“Oh, brother Richard, the sun’s very high!

You go before, with the bottle and bag,

And I will come after on little Jack Nag.”

Actually, that’s not scary at all. It seems to be about two tardy gay winos—whose primary form of transportation is a little person.

Wrong, certainly. Medieval midgets had it tough enough, without having to be ridden places. But mostly this poem is just confusing.

Anyway, we’ve wandered off topic. The point is that bad mothers make for good stories. Now, don’t feel bad if, in the Bad Mom department, you didn’t hit the mother load lode, like I did. I had a terrible birth mother—and then had a stepmother so mean and crazy that … well, for one, she used to lock almost all the food in the house in a trunk she kept under her bed.

True story!

See? During those days, I thought I was either going to have to kill my stepmother, or kill myself. But somebody was gonna die. That much was obvious.

And whaddaya know? Turns out it wasn’t me!

Yet.

We all go eventually, of course.

But you knew that.

So what were we talking about again?

Oh, right. Sorry.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Man, even I know how lame that was.

That’s it. I’m buying one of those balloons.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Debbie

    That poem was …. Hey we could do a combined effort to write a poem about psycho bearers of children. Everybody write one line each.

    Her hair was red and eyes so blue,

    Faster than farting she could crush you…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      but since most people can’t fart on cue

      she was mostly just scary like Peppy Le’ Pew.

      • Debbie

        Awesome!!!

        Wild hair, wild eyes,

        dresses so bright,

        the smell of liquor was always there

        wine for breakfast…she didn’t care…

        a painted doll,

        yet underneath was hidden

        a troll.

  • http://www.Blogger.com/rants&Raves moreyn kamenir

    Thank you for sharing and making me feel like with every story I tell I’m now people will think that I’m looking for presents….lmao

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Well, the important thing is to make OTHER PEOPLE feel like with every story you tell you’re looking for presents. Don’t be shy about it, either. I like to keep a little list with me of things I want, which I hand to people right before I say, “So, did I ever tell you about the time my mother abandoned me when I was ten?” Trust me. That’s how I got half the stuff in my kitchen.

  • Sheri

    her words were careless even cruel

    she slept around as a general rule

    we have learned from her mistakes

    but let a teenage granddaughter’s skirt be up a teeny bit too high

    and you will note she is told she looks like a slut

    funny thing is that “slut” has never even held hands with a guy

    Makes us crazy, makes us wonder why…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Um. Is this a … Mother Loose rhythm?

  • Michael Rowe

    Again, blown away. Looking forward to someday telling my own stories with the same courage you’ve shown here. Beautiful.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thanks, Mr. R!

  • A’isha

    My first mom was a monster allowing her children to be abused, ignoring us, disbelieving us, leaving us on our own from early ages. And those were her good qualities. But I loved her in all her narcissism. Her final 5 years of life I even took care of her which allowed for some healing on both our parts. In her old age she actually did learn a few tricks (admitting you screwed up and getting therapy will do that!) But 5 years of her being human didn’t make up for 30 years of abuse, neglect, manipulation, and selfishness. It helped, don’t get me wrong. It allowed me to move on and realize how much I really needed a mom.

    After she died, God blessed me in the hugest way possible, giving me a new mom which was just what I needed. I met her as she was starting counseling at the church I had grown up in and was considering going back. I went in and told her how totally fucked up I was, that I was gay, and that I was an ex-addict. I said this is my last shot at getting better and if she wasn’t up to it to be honest up front. I saw her as a counselor, more spiritual since I was also seeing a PhD who I quit after a year or so. Then my soon-to-be mom admitted she couldn’t be my only counselor. I needed help from someone more qualified. (I told you I was fucked up!) For 3 years she drove me 2 hours each way to see an excellent counselor. In that time she transitioned to my mom. Her husband eventually became my dad when I realized men weren’t all scum. And they both became grandparents to my children who have no living bio-grandparents.

    This Mother’s Day, it is her I think of, not the woman who gave birth to me. It is her who I want around when I feel sick. It’s her I call when I’m losing my head raising twins alone. She’s been my mom for 5 years, and I’m blessed.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Whoa. This is seriously powerful stuff, A’isha. PLEASE kiss and thank your true mom for me.

  • Dave Bowling

    I am almost speechless … I look forward to each of your posts and this one is a duezie. I know I have my own stories of a dysfunctional (but loving family) … but yours takes the cake. And the way you have chosen to tell this is truly amazing … I have to go back and read it for a third time. I know I must have missed a few nuances. But for now, thanks for your honesty and ability to express the things that are in your head.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      thank you so much for this, dave. I really appreciate it.

  • Rebecca

    John, I feel your Mother’s Day (or, as I used to call it, “Monster’s Day) pain, because my mother was a real piece of work, too. I also found out belatedly that she had died, and I admit to a great deal of relief upon hearing the news. At least she couldn’t turn up periodically in my life like a bad penny anymore. I found it cathartic (and ironic) to donate money to a shelter for abused kids on Mother’s Day and her birthday. She would have really hated that.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      epic.

  • MuchLucky777

    The woman who gave birth to me admitted years later that she’d lost her hearing swilling quinine trying to abort me. She then found it impossible not to sexualize our relationship when I was weeks old. This caused her to feel unable to cast stones at my bio-dad when he decided to tap my ass when I was one and a half. At three I committed suicide because I couldn’t see any way out.

    I remember screaming at her (a futile effort as she was deaf and asleep) ‘Why didn’t you protect me? Why didn’t you take care of ME?’

    Next thing I know, I’m at the hospital.

    I wasn’t sure if I was more upset that I’d failed to die, that nobody seemed to see it as a suicide, or that the doctors just handed me back to my tormentors – no questions asked.

    I’ve had folks tell me ‘No way you can remember that far back.’ I ask them if extreme physical/emotional/sexual trauma could cause heightened awareness, only the professionals have answered ‘Yes’.

    I’m happy, healthy, and better screwed together than most. Decades of therapy. And now I’ve even found a partner. Everybody keeps telling me: ‘You two should adopt, you’re great parents.’

    I agree. If you learn more from bad examples than from good ones, then I am gonna be the best father in the world. And my partner will be the best Dad.

    John,

    I’m reading your penguin book. Mind if I give feedback once I’m done? I’m Jewish and a big believer in Hashem. So my experience of your book is gonna be different than some.

    I have to say, so far it has been quite entertaining. And any book about faith that does that gets a lot of love from me.

  • http://amandajustice.blogspot.com Amanda

    Awesome, well-paced, and I hope to someday be able to write about my ex (God love him — someone needs to) with the same well-adjusted humor you display here.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thank you, Amanda. This means a lot to me. You always have the kindest/smartest things to say.

  • http://www.susancrouch.com Clay

    John,

    Laughing through the tears! Read the posts about your mother leaving – wow. Just wow. I’m really looking forward to Father’s Day.

    Do you have any idea how healing this is for all of us? Thank you.

    It did recall to mind an A. A. Milne ( the Winnie the Pooh guy) poem.

    Disobedience

    James James

    Morrison Morrison

    Weatherby George Dupree

    Took great

    Care of his Mother,

    Though he was only three.

    James James Said to his Mother,

    “Mother,” he said, said he;

    “You must never go down

    to the end of the town,

    if you don’t go down with me.”

    James James

    Morrison’s Mother

    Put on a golden gown.

    James James Morrison’s Mother

    Drove to the end of the town.

    James James Morrison’s Mother

    Said to herself, said she:

    “I can get right down

    to the end of the town

    and be back in time for tea.”

    King John

    Put up a notice,

    “LOST or STOLEN or STRAYED!

    JAMES JAMES MORRISON’S MOTHER

    SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN MISLAID.

    LAST SEEN

    WANDERING VAGUELY:

    QUITE OF HER OWN ACCORD,

    SHE TRIED TO GET DOWN

    TO THE END OF THE TOWN -

    FORTY SHILLINGS REWARD!”

    James James

    Morrison Morrison

    (Commonly known as Jim)

    Told his

    Other relations

    Not to go blaming him.

    James James

    Said to his Mother,

    “Mother,” he said, said he:

    “You must never go down to the end of the town

    without consulting me.”

    James James

    Morrison’s mother

    Hasn’t been heard of since.

    King John said he was sorry,

    So did the Queen and Prince.

    King John

    (Somebody told me)

    Said to a man he knew:

    If people go down to the end of the town, well,

    what can anyone do?

  • Mindy

    Bwaahahaa! I needed a laugh. Human beings are the most treacherous danger to other human beings. And other human beings are the greatest gift. Thanks for being the latter. My sweet mom had her issues, but she was a good mom. Still is. :)

  • Lori

    John-

    Thank you for writing about those of us who won’t be tributing wonderful moms tomorrow. I wish I could post this on my Facebook without people I know having huge issues.

    Secondly, my DH turns into a monster on MD because he gets sick and tired of the sermons that seemingly castigate the male of the species into unloving and ungrateful beasts.

    I just can’t wait for the Hallmark Holiday to be over.

    PS-Father’s Day pretty much sucks in his view. Men get the sermonic rant that they aren’t enough!

    L

  • http://21st-century-mom.com 21stcenturyMom

    What a candid and moving piece – all with more than a pinch of humor.

    My 22 year old daughter asked me today if I missed my Mom who died 7 years ago. I had to think about it because I wasn’t sure how to say “no – not really”. She wasn’t totally a monster but there were some bad years and although she taught me some good stuff (she was very smart) what she mostly left me with was a raging case of low self-esteem. Thanks Mom!

    I’m happy to say that my daughter told me she would miss me a lot and then proceeded to consider various ways of preserving me – lucite, carbonite… I suggested photos.

  • Minda

    I spent the day recognizing all the wonderful things about my children, because it felt weird not to say nice things to some family member today. Then I felt huge amounts of guilt so I popped off a nice facebook platitude about my mother. Reading your more honest salute to yours feels like a nice purge to me, so thanks for that. I envy you the freedom to tell the truth about the sacred mums in your life. Wish I could do the same.


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