Friday
Aug122011

« Meeting Mom Again for the First Time—25 years On »

I was born nearly 38 years ago. But for all intents and purposes, I met my mom as a 12 year old on this day 25 years ago. It was rather unceremonious, and linked to a newly reheated battle between parent-figures who wanted to play games with me as the ball to be hogged as often as either of them were able to get it. 

One day in August 1986, after returning from the day care for us pre-teen kids (at Patty Hurt's place), I was told to make ready to go meet someone. He and I got on the motorcycle and rode over to the Bob's Big Boy across from the Superior court on Clairemont Mesa Blvd where my mom and her mom were there to greet me for the first time in my memory. There had been times before when I was rather young but those left no lasting impressions on me. Pictures of the gifts they gave me were keen to not feature mom or others who visited my grandparents' place. 

That day in Bob's Big Boy I was introduced (by notes on napkins and some pictures I still have) to two sisters, three brothers, two nephews, an aunt and uncle, all of which I pretty much didn't know I had. It ushered in a period of a lot of newness, promise, and adjustment. My old man feigned being interested. Everything else I know about his exchanges with this family suggests to me that on this occasion in 1986, he knew that he got got. The con got conned.

There is no empirical evidence for this but it was pretty clear that this is the case. Since I was raised apart from that side of the family, the tales I got over here were always portraying them as as fault, or that somehow mom wasn't fit or stable to take care of me, and that quite frankly, the Lucas people were all so much better at this. So it was for most of the time till this reunion. Then, from what I can tell, in late 1985 or early 1986, my old man went to court to stick the knife in just a bit deeper, by claiming that mom should pay child support. In March 1986, he took me to a scenic viewpoint near Julian, CA near where he and my grandfather were buying a house for vacation/leisure use, and in one of those kind of saccharine father-son moments, he asked me what I would like to wish for while staring out over the desert and Salton Sea. He planted some answers that I might hope for, to get the ball rolling, and the one of interest now is "fifty dollars a month." 

My bank deposit book leading up to my trip to Europe in 1991That was in March. Accounting for a bit of administrative lag through the courts, I could understand now how in May I got the first check from a mystery woman named Christina Weiss. Fifty bucks, sure as anything. I began to get a story about how she needed to be reminded she had a son she left, and this was for that reason. Checks would be arriving each month. They continued to arrive until my 18th birthday, though somewhere in the span of time the payments were reduced to $25 a month. This was the old man's great job of sticking the knife in and giving it a bit more of a twist than his original legal custodial victories when I was a tot. Those victories are said by my mom to be the results of three way collusion with my grandfather and the lawyers. So she says. I don't know for sure but it does fit the "boys club" dealmaking model that I do know of. 

But his strategy probably backfired. I think his goal was to extract some money from mom so that I'd have some sign that she was contributing to my life. She resented it all along, and was always suspect that the money went to him and not to me. Not so. It did go to a bank account for the remainder of my juvenile days. It paid my way to Europe in 1991. She was relieved in 1994 when we had a second major reunion period, and I told her that the money did get to me but that I was only able to make deposits, and finally that the Europe trip was a worthy way to use it. But I am ahead of things here.

I suspect that the May-August lag was another court scheduling matter, but I'd guess that her resentment at having to pay for a child she couldn't see took her to the court to contest that, and to demand some share in my upbringing. This seems to me to be why she'd be in San Diego, about 110 miles from her usual life in San Pedro. It seems that she got a victory to see me and to have me up to her place on a fairly regular basis. The old man knew where that could lead and he never liked it. So I have to think that this was rather humiliating for him. Everything else I know about him is vehemently opposed to my relationship with mom and that family.

After the first Bob's Big Boy day, we had a couple reunions here in San Diego in the couple weeks before school started. We met at Mission Bay a time or two, and Lindberg Park once on the day before school. After that, I began a period of biweekly trips up to her place in San Pedro, spending weekends up there with my younger brother Steve and his full sister Nikki. Also around was our older sister Christie, the one who has really turned my life inside out, and her kids. Some day I'll get some of those pix up. At that time, things were optimistic, but you can see the look on my old man's face that he wasn't digging it. For my part, I was delighted to have siblings to play with.

Mom wrote in a birthday card a couple months after the initial reunion:

Our family is whole again having you with us. We have a lot of time to make up for and the future holds great promise for us all. God Bless you Eddie.

Two report cards a year apart: end of 8th grade and the end of 9thStarting school in 1986, I was so distracted by the newness of the family dynamics, I had miserable grades and my old man made me pay for it by some draconian restrictions for the second year running. Two years in a row I had gotten to my birthday on October 12th, given new toys or models to build, and then to get a school six-week progress report card and/or call home that doomed me. He took all my models and supplies, and all my toys and put them into a locked trailer out in front of the house where they stayed for the whole school year or till the grades were elevated. The idea was to make me focus on schoolwork, and to somehow pretend I was not a kid who had to play and be creative. The loophole was that I could engage in such a life at anyone else's house, but that's no way to build models. What his method did, if anything, was to embitter me. It was bad enough in 7th grade when there was none of this family drama going on. The second year was devastating, and in its way made me cling more to my mom, who at that time in early 8th grade, was seen as the good cop.

She was heroic and played a kind of political game with my old man. I still recall the day I got the devastating D report card and called her at work. It was a new thing to do something that kids probably take for granted. Eda, my step mom, never worked and was almost always reliably at home when I came home. But she had been gone for just over three years by the time this 8th grade story was unfolding. Calling my own mom for counsel on how to deal with this was something new to me. It wasn't always so, but at that moment, she did provide some refuge. (My tune 8th Grade Report Card is a reference to this period, and that one report card when I got a 1.0 GPA, otherwise known as all D's, or something equivalent. The opening part of it is drenched in D power chords and octaves, hence the title.) 

The other major thing I have to give her props for was from the following year when she bypassed the old man's specific request to not buy me jeans I wanted—specifically Levi's, and more specifically the shrink to fit 501s. She did an end run around that and took me to Mervyn's with Steve and Nikki for back-to-school shopping. I got exactly the pants I wanted and for years, I was as loyal to Levi's as I could be. I even recall telling a school counselor early in 9th grade about this very thing as he was trying to get some basics on my motivations and personality. I recall telling him what utter hell it was to go shopping with the old man, who was always ready to give me a range of lame choices and told to pick five from that selection. And Levi's never made the cut. He'd get me other jeans, or he'd make poor attempts at something more classy, but it was garbage. My grandmother was the alternative who might at least let me make my own decisions about the kinds of conservative, quasi-preppy stuff I'd wear. Until my mom came on the scene, it was looking hopeless in that regard. She blew the roof off with that one purchase of 501s.

The thing that I didn't appreciate so well as it was happening is that those earlier reunion days of late 1986 and into 1987 were times when mom took time off her second job some weekends to spend time with me, to make the place a bit more social, and to generally make me welcome. There were plenty of times when the weekend was spent with a trip to a major mall, out getting stuff, or hair cuts, or seeing movies or whatever. I think she was paying in plastic. Eventually she had to wind that down, and as she did so, the weekends that I visited were spent more at the house and sometimes even going with Steve and Nikki to work with her overnight at the answering service where she worked. It was a dingy place in Harbor City. It wasn't quite as much fun. I recall that taking a few rolls of toilet paper was either okay or necessary. She worked that job overnight on Friday and Saturday nights, in addition to being at a major commercial glass factory during the regular workweek.

I was always clear that they lived a different life than I. Their house in San Pedro was about the same age as mine but it was dingy, brown from smoke (I came home hacking hard, and one day went to the school nurse for it), dirty from children, messy from carelessness and the need for rest when it was attainable. It was different for sure. There were essentially two families there with single moms and their children: mom with Steve and Nikki, who all slept in one giant bed, and Chris who had her kids in the other room on a bunk bed. Six people in two rooms. And they were a volatile set. Mom and Chris have a knack for flying off the handle. Chris smacked Steve with kitchen implements, one time breaking a big wooden spoon on his back. Another time it was a carrot. Another time still it was flying high heel shoes. This was all new to me. Shocking, even. It might be that for the simple reason that I didn't have other kids to share my space with, which, in the absence of Eda was bigger than ever. A three bedroom place for a father and son? Spare room? It was this difference that was always used as a device to guide me to seeing how "good" I had it. To this day, the old man will level a case against the life they led. It isn't that he's wrong. It's also that he's not completely right. Returning to my house in San Diego was usually a downer when considering the trips to the mall, or watching TV together or having a big feast was not going to happen for a few weeks. But when it came to relative calm, space, and a pretty tidy house, it was nice to be home, excepting of course, the business of having my toys taken away for seven or eight months at once! As mentioned before, this two world stuff was very disrupting academically. 

The romance was over after Easter of 1987. That was the first major crack in the wall that brought the seemingly festive and permissive early days to a close. The first period, as I call it, sputtered out over 1987-1988. I didn't expect it was going to come back, but there have been the subsequent reunions that start rather bright and then burn out. It's been a pattern. More recently, I've taken to doing clandestine correspondence to communicate something, but that falls on its face too. 

Many more images are available at the family gallery and are captioned with generous notes.

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