And then there was Sunday morning… ”Rise and shine sweet, sweet”. Daddy always new how to wake me up, his baby girl. Daddy made sure he kept us in church. Sunday School, YPWW, noon day prayer, you name it we were there. Matter of fact he encouraged a lot of the children in church and he made sure we knew our Bible. Daddy was a teacher, not by profession, but he had a gift to teach. He was patient, easy-going and he showed how much he loved being a father. Everybody knew how daddy was about his girls. “I’m getting up daddy, but I’m so sleepy.” “You have to get up baby girl and get dressed so we can get to church”, he said.
All the kind words in the world couldn’t make up for the woman my daddy shared a room with, my mother, his wife. “I don’t know what to wear to church!” I always had some kind of excuse to stay in the bed a little longer. “Wear the dress I just bought you, hanging on the door”, replied my mother. “No, I don’t like it.” Matter of fact, I never liked anything she bought for me to wear. “The dress looks better than you.” She replied.
I don’t think anyone was more shocked than I was at my mother’s snide remark. She had never taken any of her frustrations out on me. I was always the innocent bystander. I would learn to get use to her putdowns and negativity.
“Leslie did you hear what mom said to me?” “Yes and what’s the big deal, you never want to go shopping with her; I like wearing the clothes she buys”, she stated. “I’m not into all that and she knows that”, I replied.
You could tell where Leslie’s loyalty lied. That’s how we were raised. We were each other’s greatest enemy. I tried my best not to let it get to me.
My mother new exactly what to say to make it hurt; to make all the love and nurturing from my daddy void. She never offered apologies when she was wrong or when she hurt you to the core. I think from that point on, I had emotionally detached myself from her, my mother, his wife.
She didn’t notice, at least I didn’t think she did. You see, I was the baby of the family, a splitten image of my mother, as far as complexion goes. We even shared common names Rachel and Rhachelle (pronounced Rah-shell, I was always told it was the Greek spelling for Rachel) but we had nothing else in common so I thought. I had two older sisters and a brother. My oldest sister, Monique was 14 years older than me and I guess in my mind she was my second mother. She was in highschool by the time I was born. She was quiet, had plenty of friends and had a fight in her. Monique or as I called her, my other mother, was the one who tended to me. I crawled in bed with her when I was sick, tagged along with her and her friends, she combed my hair, when my daddy didn’t, and even scolded me when I was wrong. Then there was Anthony, but we called him Tony Junior. He was athletic, played baseball and football. Probably would have gone further in one of them if church didn’t conflict with the Sunday games. Really didn’t get to know him or bond with him as a brother. He’s eleven years older than me. By the time I was old enough to even understand I had a brother he was getting married and moving out. Last but not least, was Leslie. We were closest in age but very different. We went to school together all our lives, we shared a room for a few years but really we were just sisters.
From the outside looking in, life was good. Everyone trusted my parents with their children, since we had all internalized my mother’s number one rule. But it wasn’t just about what went on, it was about the things that were also lacking. You see mom always knew what to get to make you forget about the harsh words, or the physical wounds. But she also tried to make up for the fact that she was never around, never combed my hair, never tucked me in bed, never even rubbed my stomach when I was sick. I didn’t fall for it, but the rest of them always did.
Leslie always got it the worst. Was it her light complexion or her naturally wavy hair, whatever it was mom sure did try to beat it out of her every opportunity she got. Leslie just seemed to always put up with it. Monique reaped the benefits of the mistreatment as well. She traveled a lot, drove my parents Mercedes, was always in the latest fashions and always had her friends over for sleepovers. I think they enjoyed the clothes, purses, shoes, trips and all the things mom tried to bring to make up for all the grief. I didn’t want any part of it.
Though we all had the same mother and father we were all very different. Mom made sure to magnify the differences in order to keep us apart. She played the light off the dark, the younger against the older, boy against girls, father against daughters, always leaving us second-guessing one another. It was like she didn’t want us to bond together and retaliate. She was our greatest source of competition. I mean who could compete with a woman who had been Who’s Who in California, received one of the highest awards in service throughout the national church, multi-million dollar business and a picture perfect family.
Though I didn’t understand my mother’s lashing out that morning, I would eventually be able to draw my own conclusion. I didn’t have to endure the harsh treatment as a little girl like Monique or Leslie but sometimes I felt like watching it was even worse.