FRIDAY #FICTION with RONOVAN #WRITES Prompt Challenge #26-A First Time.
Graduation! And I get to give the commencement speech. Everyone wants to hear how a single mother took her child from the depths of poverty and was now watching her “little girl” graduate with specialties in neurosurgery and emergency room medicine.
The truth is a great deal more interesting, but I’d rather have the humongous wad of money offered by my so-called grandfather to purchase that house I always wanted. It’s just outside Palm Springs, California, where the sunrise comes at you in waves of color.
My speech should be a rage-inducing revelation, not a thing of beauty eliciting tears of joy.
I’ll start out with this gem of wisdom:
“There’s a first time for everything,” my mother always said. She’d often follow that cliché with, “behind every cloud is a silver lining.”
That is the only shred of truth I’m willing to admit.
How could a single mother living in subsidized housing continually spout Polly Anna platitudes in a Polyester world? The only kind act this woman never rolled over and begged to do was invite the rats and roaches to dinner.
I came into the world the day she turned 14, believing her dream of becoming a singer died with my first breath. You’d think she would’ve prepared me for the ticks hell-bent on sucking the love out of anyone who had an ounce of it.
She’d found a way to teach me at home, and did a decent job of it with the help of a monthly bus trip to the local library. We met people who provided her with the curriculum and a written guarantee that if I completed 12th grade, I’d receive a real high school diploma.
She hovered over me like a helicopter on steroids, but waited to tell me about a woman’s “monthly” the day I thought I was bleeding to death. No TV’s, no friends, and certainly no boys were allowed inside the house.
I wasn’t entirely naive. The hard-of-hearing neighbor whose speakers blared out Judge Jane Fights Crime in her living room taught me a lot about law.
We read magazines in the library while waiting for my monthly homeschool review. My mother loved the science magazines, I scanned through the ones about makeup and beauty hidden inside the larger photo magazines, discovering that the German/Ukranian/Iranian/African heritage of my mother and my Chinese/Costa Rican father had produced a child with a model’s face.
At the age of 12, she’d dragged me to one of those Rock Star Reverend churches where the TV cameras were broadcasting love, hope and peace to little old people endowed with more money than sense. Not one of the parishioners sitting in the well-padded theater seats were dressed in clothing from a thrift store conveniently located on the bus route to church.
People didn’t stare too hard at the exotic new members sporting a deep tan, and we silently accepted their assessment of our heritage. We sat at the back, proud to be wearing hats that looked almost new and clothing my mother had inspected for stains, rips, or too many washes.
I had always loved the way my mother sang Amazing Grace, and she quickly moved from choir member to soloist. Her fame among the “called” grew, but my heart fled the church shortly after my 13th year on Earth.
I’ll never forget that day. The pastor had recited another in a series of religious clichés, “Nothing is impossible, only believe.” While my mother chatted with some of the prominent ladies in the church, my eyes gravitated toward our pastor’s 20 year old pearly white son. He motioned to me and asked politely if I’d like to go for a walk in the woods.
When Adonis says he loves you, and your body tingles from head to toe, you don’t know what questions to ask if you don’t have part of the answer. It only took 5 months for my mother to see the results of my ignorance.
“Who is the father?” she demanded.
“The only one I’ll tell is the pastor,” I insisted.
As his burgeoning star attraction, he eagerly agreed to see “that lovely child and her dear mother” on a moment’s notice. He had quickly arranged a photo shoot for the front of his monthly newsletter to show the world how much he loved the diversity of his congregation. After that, he was, as my mother would say, “all ears.”
“How can I help you?” He asked with a plastered-on smile.
“My daughter is…with child,” she said sadly. “She’ll only tell you who the daddy is.”
“You’re pregnant?” he’d asked, his voice disapproving. “Don’t you know it’s against God’s law to have a child out of wedlock?”
“Tell that to your son,” I’d replied, matching his tone. “He said he loved me.”
“He doesn’t know you,” the pastor sneered at me.
“I never kissed a guy before he kissed me! He said it was my baptism and I’d go to the highest levels of heaven if I didn’t tell anyone! I may have been ignorant at the time, but I’m certainly not stupid. Tell him I’ll see him in court!”
“Polly Esther!” my mother scolded me. “I never would’ve brought you here if I’d known…”
He took a long look at my mother and I swear he was trying not to smile when he said, “I insist on a paternity test.”
After my son was born and tested, no doubt remained about his father’s identity. Fortunately, I was too young for the pastor’s son to marry. My mother was 28, not as pretty as me, but…
“You can’t serve God and money,” My mother used to say. Tell that to the pastor! He forced his son to marry mother or lose his inheritance, the church quadrupled their viewers, and he’s spent the past 20 years imprisoned in the shadow of the greatest gospel singer who ever lived. If mom isn’t watching her husband, security reins him in if he tries to stray from the straight and narrow.
Am I going to explain to my son that his mother is really his grandmother and his 3 other siblings are actually his half-sister and brothers?
Are you crazy?
I fled that den of hypocrisy shortly after my son’s birth. I gladly attended a private boarding school, chose a college at the other end of the country… and I never looked back.
Yes, there may be a first time for everything, but there’s a last time for everything, too. I swear as God is my witness, I will never go through 20 hours of labor again.
That’s what surrogate mothers are for.