"I'll Always Love You, Mommy"

Delta Winds cover 2003Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


"I'll Always Love You, Mommy"

Jessica Pittman

In the small cozy Southern town of Meridian, Mississippi, the fresh scent of pinecones and summer blooms wafted through the air. There is one memory in particular that reoccurs in my consciousness quite frequently. I was cuddled in my mother's arms on a lazy summer day. Sheltered from the responsibility and insecurities of the adult world, I felt a great sense of peace enveloped both of us. We lounged together on that summer evening amidst the summer's sweltering heat. Nestled against the sweet skin of my mother, I looked up adoringly at her and said, "I'll always love you, Mommy."

Then the peaceful silence started to become disruptive and slightly jarring. After a few seconds I looked up to my mom. Instead of a smile, I saw her mouth taut over an expressionless face. She stated, "I wish I could record you saying that now, because you won't feel that way forever." Suddenly, the gentle summer warmth became oppressive. What exactly could she mean? How could this incredible feeling of safety and gentle warmth ever dissipate? As an innocent child of eight, I had yet to discover the meaning of my mother's statement. I finally understood, many years later . . . ten years, to be exact.

It was not a particularly eventful day on the night that it happened. I had just started my first semester at community college, so I was still adjusting to many changes. The humidity seemed slightly stifling that day, but nothing out of the ordinary. I was eating dinner across from my younger sister. My parents had finished dinner quite a while ago and were watching television in the adjacent room. I'm not quite sure what struck a note of discord within my thoughts, but whatever it was, I couldn't shake off the fact that my youngest sister appeared to be slipping back into her own ordeal of anorexia. I could not help but make an observation of her frail body. Her pitiful bones jutted out from beneath her shirt.

As I was eating, I noticed that with each painstaking spoonful she took, she was trying to restrict herself from eating. Each minute of her dinner appeared to me as a battle that she was fighting against her own hunger. There was a ravishing hunger within her body that wanted to eat, yet there was a stronger part of her being that was trying to restrain the amount of food intake. She sipped her meager bowl of soup. After watching her eat for an hour, I could not hold back my thoughts. I knew that I had to be cautiously quiet when I spoke, though, or else my parents in the other room would hear us.

They held me accountable for my sister's anorexia because they felt I had influenced her. In no way did I ever intend for a debilitating disease, such as anorexia, to take hold of my sister. We had both been on diets before, but nothing ever this extreme. How was I to know when I started dieting, eight months before, that anything this horrible would happen? I originally started dieting in an effort to be a fashion model, but when they said I was not thin enough I lost control over my dieting.

Dieting soon became an obsession for my sister and me. It gave me a distorted sense of control that I had been craving for so long. She too had a dire need for control and direction in her life, so she wound up being a victim of anorexia too. It had taken over my soul and smuggled out any other enjoyment I had in life. It destroyed my personal life as well as my family life. My parents, in their efforts help us, had driven themselves almost to the point of madness, trying to restore both of us to normal. But how could they help us if they did not even understand the actual mental complexities involved in anorexia? Neither my sister nor I had any comprehension of it.

"Suzanne, are you eating enough?" I whispered to her. From across the table she threw me a menacing glance to let me know I had invaded her private territory.

"What are you talking about?" she hissed back, "I've been eating a lot."

"No, you haven't," I quickly retorted. "You just spent an hour eating a bowl of soup for dinner."

With a slight desire for revenge, she cut back, "Well, what about you?"

As I looked down at a meager salad I too had picked at for an hour, I realized that . . . wait, this wasn't about me. She was the one who had the weight problem; I was getting better.

"This isn't about me," I quickly replied. At that moment my heart sank as I realized my mother might have heard us arguing. I had tried my hardest to keep down the volume, but after my sister's biting remark I was unable to resist the urge to raise my voice. For a split second, the room was silent, and I thought we had gotten away with it. For that moment in time I could almost hear the sound of my heartbeat. "Da dum, da. . . ."

My rhythmic heartbeat was quickly shattered by my mother's voice. It was too late. I realized my mother had indeed heard us, and there was nothing that I could do to prevent what happened next. Just as I had realized my mother's sudden attentiveness to our conversation, so had my sister.

"Suzanne, how much have you been eating lately? What do you weigh?" she demanded of my sister. My sister sat like a dog with her tail between her legs. She didn't feel bad because she had lapsed back into anorexia, but rather that she had been caught. A deafening silence covered the room like a blanket, smothering us all, as my mom and I waited for an answer.

Finally, Suzanne muttered a weak reply that seemed to crackle through her thin pale lips. "I don't know."

"Get on that scale now!" my mother screamed. Her voice broke the silence. I sat staring at my sister's bowl of soup, thinking to myself, "Darn it, what have I done?" I felt bad for her, but worse for myself. I knew that my parents held me responsible for my sister's anorexia. If any punishment were bestowed upon her, then the penalty for my influence on her poor decision would be twice the price. My mother dragged my sister into the bathroom. I sat in anticipation of the results. Seconds seem to last for hours. My mother emerged from the bathroom yanking Suzanne out by the arm.

I saw her lifeless little head look up as tears swelled in her eyes and she mumbled, "I'm sorry."

I'm not sure if I've ever seen such a mixture of fear and anger on my mother's face. "Suzanne, go eat something now! Go to your room, Jessica, and don't talk to your sister anymore. You have destroyed this family, you're hardly ever home, you don't participate in family chores, you're messy, demanding of others, and you're evil . . . evil!"

A number of emotions surged through my body. There was no way to communicate my feelings of anger, sadness, hopelessness, and guilt, so I remained silent. I stood paralyzed with fear, waiting in anticipation for what my mother would do next. She had threatened me before, but I had no idea what she was capable of. I knew I had pushed her past the limit this time -- just one step before the edge of sanity.

In no way was I prepared for her next few statements. "I am tired of this childish behavior. You are no longer my child, you are now an adult. Furthermore, if you screw up one more time you are out of this house!"

The words seemed to pierce right through my heart. Like a beast beaten into submission, I had given up rather than defend myself. I did not feel that it was fair for her to hold me accountable for my sister's anorexia. At that point, though, my fear of being thrown out of the house was more prominent than my desire for justice. I felt trapped because I had nowhere else to go. I had lost touch with all of my friends when I became lost in my own problems of anorexia and depression. Since I didn't know what else to do, I went to my room. My mother's menacing eyes followed me the whole way there.

Once I shut the door, all of my emotions flowed out in a gushing stream of tears. When I was a child, I cried for my mother. Things were different now because I was not a child anymore; I was an adult of eighteen. Maybe God was listening, or maybe not. At that moment, however, I was in such despair I needed anyone or anything, so I assumed He was. All of a sudden, I had lost my will to live, but I did not want to die either. My tears stopped when I realized the horror of living another day. I was existing in that moment of time solely as a physical being, devoid of emotion or feeling. I stared into space, trying to separate myself from my physical being, but to no avail; I remained in my room--trapped. At no other moment in my life have I felt more alone or more scared than I was that night. I went to lie on my bed and stared at the ceiling until my eyes burned with the fire of despair. At least despair was an emotion, and it enabled me to feel human once more. I began to cry again, but this time my tears were silent because I realized no one was listening.

I awoke the next day, hoping that maybe my memories were an awful nightmare. But with the taste of stale salt in my mouth, I knew that I had cried all night. That day was probably one of the worst days of my life. Like a wounded soldier trudging through enemy territory, I searched for some sense of hope. The next day after school, just when I thought I was going to break down into a mass of tears and hysteria, my boyfriend appeared. He was there to comfort me. Perhaps it was his love that prevented me from suicide that day. I am not quite sure, but whatever he did, it enabled me to make it home that night and face my family again. Things were very tense at first, but eventually the hysteria and yelling that had come to be commonplace in my home tapered off.

As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, this event was slowly forgotten. Or at least it was never mentioned again. A certain part of me seemed to die that night. My sister finally came out of her anorexia, but something changed between all of us. I can not quite put my finger on it, but there's a certain glaze over her eyes whenever I talk to her. It is as though she can hear me, but she's not really listening. As for my relationship with my mother, I am not quite sure how it changed, but there is a wall between us.

Sometimes, when I think back to that memory of us lounging on that lazy summer day in Mississippi, I wonder how she could foresee this happening to us in the future. As a child, I did not understand what she meant when she said that there would come a point in my life when I ceased to love her. I understand now what she meant because on that night I actually stopped loving her. What I will probably never understand, though, is how she knew that someday our special bond would be broken. I highly doubt our relationship will return to its previous state. I once again love my mother, but it is a different form of love than it was before. My love for her is a sense of understanding and respect. I also know now that there may also come times in my life when I will stop loving her because my hate will be more prominent. Unfortunately, the love I have for her will never again be the same mix of adoration and trust that I once had, because I am no longer a child. I will also never be able to say these words again: "I'll always love you, Mommy."