Contemporary Drama Sad

The stamp

All mothers are caring. My mother was uncaring. Does that make all mothers uncaring?  

Not entirely correct. If you had hurt yourself; or someone had hurt you; or an animal became injured, my mother nursed us or the animal, in the most caring of ways.

I remember being carried home by my mother after one of my siblings ran home to get her when a rock had hit me in the mouth. It was a rock fight amongst a few of the neighbourhood kids. I remember her carrying me home in a daze with blood dribbling from my mouth.

It must have been a big gash. I still have the scar on my lower lip.

When she was younger, she was an extremely pretty woman, with dark thick black-brown hair, tall and thin with a lovely figure, her smile radiating out of the old photos hidden in musty albums. She was a reader and a seamstress, sewing most of our clothes and dresses as we grew. Reading and sewing were her only hobbies. Before she was twenty-one, my mother married and bore three daughters under the age of four.

My father’s parents lived in Queensland. They were nice to us; I loved them for the way they treated us with kindness. He was an only child, with a strict father, raised in an era ‘where children were seen and not heard’, enforced with a firm hand. 

We moved to Sydney before I was three. Our life with no close relatives was hard on us.  Understanding the ramifications of that life were unknown to us.

Being a loner, my mother refused friendships offered and kept her family isolated.

The trials of living without extended family and the help needed to care for three babies was difficult for her. Letters arriving from her family with the sad news of deaths sent her to bed for days of never-ending solitude. The ability to see poignant scenes of my young life isn’t something I relish. I’d sooner forget.

The memories often take over my consciousness without warning, sketchy and short, others are full-blown episodes. My subconscious still hides more than it depicts. Which is a mild relief. I have fewer nice memories, uncomfortable outweighing the good.

One episode pierces my reality, visiting me from time to time. I’ve never figured out why it reappears so often. It unnerves me, taking me to the point of sickness.

it’s frightening

emerging suddenly

no warning

I’m a child around seven years old. I started a stamp collection. Rummaging through drawers and cupboards throughout the house, searching for stamps to add to my fledgling collection. Euphoria swelled my head. Being a detective searching for lost relics was fun and exciting.

We often stayed home alone while our parents went out to a movie or a meal. That night our parents went out, my two sisters, myself and our brother remained home alone.  

We were awake when they returned. It started out as a pleasant interaction with my mother and father upon their return. Bursting with excitement at the prospect of my mother’s praise, I was dancing and jiggling from one foot to the other, smiling with pride, holding out my stamp collection for her to see.

Needing praise was strong as a child, and now.

There was something in the way she asked me about the stamp. There was something in the way her words came to my ears. There was something in her eyes. There was something in her smile.

She was nice. Too nice. It scared me. This new mother made me ill, uneasy, she was an unknown presence. I could taste my fear, my terror of her rising. How could I utter any words to this mother? My fear stopped the words from coming. Hunching my shoulders, shielding myself. I tried to hold off the foreboding awareness rising within, warning me not to tell her where I got the stamp. That one stamp.

Taking my hand and speaking in this soft strange voice, while guiding me to my father’s office, she asked me as she pointed at the stamp, “Christine, where did you get this stamp”.

I was silent, too afraid to say. The hairs on my arms rose as goosebumps formed, making my skin itch.

She continued in this new novel speaking voice, asking me over and over to answer her question. She asked in different ways, so many ways, I lost track and reason.

I can now describe that voice as ‘slimy’ and ‘sickly’ sweet. It had a quality of an unreal flimsiness, enticing in its encouragement.

She promised me, “it’s okay. Just tell me. You won't get into trouble or be punished. I need to know.”

So many words, so many promises. I weakened after what I imagined being hours of inquisition by her. Unsure, an uneasy sickness rising within me. Twitching from within, debating within, while saying to myself.

‘Just say it, get it over with, keep quiet, what will I do? I can’t answer her, she will get mad and hit me, make up your mind, say it, tell her.’

As I write, I notice my reflection in the screen. Seeing the unwanted silvery tear slide down my cheek, I try to shrug it off. The gut-churning anxiousness is spiralling within me as I recall that night, that stamp, that mother.

Lowering my head in a whisper, I answered in a shaky voice, “I got it from the drawer in dad’s office.”

She erupted unexpectedly,

How could I know the wrath that was building up inside her?

I had no chance to run. The tsunami of temper and fury hit me smack in the face.

I remember hitting the wall, laying on the floor crumpled, hurting. Then the stool landed on me, knocking the wind out of me. Stunned, I panted frantically through the pain and shock.

I mumbled over and over in a pathetic little child’s voice.

“Please mummy, no, mummy, please stop. It hurts mummy.”

I dared to peek through my arms, covering my face protectively from her attack.

Senseless words coming from her mouth, I could not make out her jibber. A strange echo, silent and inaudible sounds making no sense. 

She changed into the monster.

She approached again, this time more purposeful, more meaningful in her movements, resembling a tiger ready to pounce on its prey. Clogging my scared mind was the pain of what my mother was doing to me. My mummy was hurting me and I wanted it to stop, I want her to stop, I wanted the pain to stop.

She struck me around the head, making my head hurt along with my body. She then had me off the floor, limply dangling as high as her, looking me in the eye, her hands around my throat saying something inaudible to me. I felt dizzy and fuzzy, numbness taking over my reality.

Breathing was hard. I felt the hot wee dribble down my legs. Then nothing.

There is no memory after this moment. I don’t know what happened after her outburst. I’m only assuming she put me to bed because that makes the most sense. Being injured, she’d nurse me, because that was her way.

Later I learned it was a tax stamp, a very important stamp that my father used in his business.

Emotionally, I couldn’t leave my mother, intertwined with love was the pain that will last for the rest of my life. I left her physically by moving interstate. Feeling safer thousands of kilometres from her.

I finally formed loving and lasting friendships by living in environments where emotional temperance was normal and valued. Learning new skills, learning not very mother were monsters. Most mothers showed their love and didn’t hurt their children.

My mother passed away last year, three days before her eighty-ninth birthday. Predictably, I didn’t shed a tear at her passing. She was not only a monster; she was a stranger, a danger.

February 03, 2021 10:02

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Maxine Danby
02:45 Jun 09, 2021

Yes, this was my first submission here on Reedsy. Thank you for your kind comments. I posted another story, for this week.


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Anonymous 1
03:28 Feb 11, 2021

Is this your first submission here on reedsy? Well, to be honest, it was good. I liked your choice of words and the way you wrote the emotions of your characters.


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