Monday, April 18, 2011

My momma's living room.

This was my first narrative article for Rick Bragg's class.
My momma’s living room 
By: Jennifer Gorham

It all started with a 10-year-old girl sitting in a dim-lit living room while her momma was ironing the family of six’s outfits for the next day. Looking into the three bedroom brick house from the outside, one might conclude there were problems. In a neighborhood of nuclear families, cookie cutter houses and Southern Baptist morals this family stood out like a sore thumb. 
“Would you be upset if me and your daddy got a divorce?” her mother asked. 
The girl remembered being mad, outraged, sad and scared at that question. The question that most kids rarely get asked. The question that normally comes in statement form after the divorce has been initiated. That question had been shoved to the back of her mind for years. 
Her momma was standing in the living room while the lampshade was sitting beside the base that housed it. The room never had a light in the ceiling. Because of that fact her momma always complained about not having enough light for her to iron at night. Her thin, fine blonde hair tousled down her neck as she was on the brink of tears. She hated to expose her little girl to the problems in her marriage, but this problem had to be exposed.  
The first thing the girl said was “Yeah, I don’t really want ya’ll to get divorced.” Sitting facing her mother, with a quiver in her voice and tears strolling down her face, the longhaired blue eyed innocent girl knew her life would never be the same. 
From that moment on I knew I had to keep a watch on my momma and daddy. I couldn’t let the thought of them divorcing slip my mind for an instant. After that night I grew up fast and strong. I watched every heartstring be tugged at, every tear stroll down their face and every scream that screeched from their mouths. 
We weren’t the typical nuclear family and we weren’t the most financially stable. We didn’t attend church on Sunday mornings and we didn’t pray before dinner, but one thing was for sure. Our parents loved us with every inch of their well being and never failed us. 
My parents were the smartest people I knew. When I had questions they were who I ran to. My daddy graduated high school and went into the Air Force upon graduation. He had two different jobs throughout my childhood. He was always employed by a factory and his hands would hurt so bad he couldn’t bend his fingers. They were callus ridden and dry cracked from working his life away. My momma never attended high school and the last grade she completed was seventh. She spent her time cooking, cleaning and working. If we had extracurriculars she was in charge. My mother was a catch-all parent. If anything needed done she did it. She was employed with three different companies throughout my childhood and since I was 16 years old she has worked two jobs. She worked as a manager of a deli that was located inside a grocery store, a cashier at a Subway restaurant and worked her way into a manager position at a Dollar General store. 
My grandparents came from the working class, or the lower-middle class, and so did my parents. They didn’t want us to suffer through life barely making enough money for food, living off a week-to-week paycheck and spending late nights concerned over bills that were piled up on the dining room table. They made sure to get us a good education and the foundation for success beyond their nest. 
Growing up I knew my life was different. I grew up scared of what might happen when my parent’s fought, what would happen if my daddy missed work or my momma got sick. I knew the reality of the fairytale most of my friends believed in. Fairytales were unreal and most people never lived a fairytale lifestyle, including me. 
As the years flew by my parent’s happiness diminished. My momma worked longer hours, my daddy got laid off work twice and the money kept dwindling away.  
“Momma is the strongest person I know,” my brother Justin said. “I know she works so hard and loves us so much. I know she is tired all the time and feels rundown. She always keeps busy because her and daddy aren’t in the best position right now.”
My father watched his job slip through his hands in 2009 when the “Sock Capital of the World” turned into a ghost town.  Before the overseas translocation of factory businesses happened my father experienced health problems. He had several surgeries on his shoulder and two surgeries on his foot. The toll of a working lifestyle had caught up with him. 
“I hate it like everything that I can’t work,” he said. “It kills me everyday to know that she is having to support me while I make no money and can’t get a job.” 
While money gets scarce and her husband’s health is on the line, my momma still works two jobs to this day. She was the manager of a Dollar General for 10 months before she stepped down temporarily due to her own deteriorating health. 
“Jen, I can’t keep going like I have been,” she said. “I am tired all the time, my body hurts and I can’t seem to make do even though I wear myself down. I just need help for the time being.” 
My aunt passed away from a bone deteriorating disease when I was 6 years old and my mother has been facing tests for the same health hazards. While in that process she has ran into many more health issues. She has fibromyalgia, a heart palpitation, one air tract to her heart and liver complications. She also has scoliosis, which causes pain in her back and neck. She can’t sleep in a bed but instead she sleeps in a recliner in our living room. The same room where there is dim lighting, one television, one couch and one desk where a hand-me-down computer, which had no internet connection once sat. It is the same living room that holds such a rich history of our family. The same room where my family slept in when my momma found a thin bed sheet to hang in the doorway after our central air conditioner went out. The same room that has three different shades of paint peeping under an edge of peeling boarder. The same room where I would sit and do my homework for my mom and dad to check, where my sisters would watch TV when they were supposed to be doing their homework and the room my brother cried in after he got stitches in his left knee after falling in the school gym. The first and last room visitors see. The room my daddy meets me in when I come home from college, where I watch “The Golden Girls” with my momma. The room my daddy got the news of his father’s death, where my momma found out her sister had passed away, the room my oldest sister announced her pregnancy and the room my youngest sister had her hair curled for prom in. 
We are a family that crumbles behind closed doors, loves each other more than life itself, fights more than Siamese fighting fish, helps one another through hard times and tries to hold each other together from a very fragile position. Through sickness, through fights, through money hardships and through the years one thing has been constant and that is our living room. Our living room has always been the place for story telling and my family’s life lessons. The centralized room for a family that can’t compete for a family of the year award or compare to a TV family’s lifestyle, but a family that can always bring a smile to each other’s face. One of the things that brings my family together, taught a young girl about life, almost turned into the location of my parent’s divorce and kept them together at the same time is my momma’s living room. We all grew up and shared our living experiences in the living room that now hardly has a soul to keep company. While we have grown up and parted ways, our childhood still lingers within those four walls.
Having one center of happiness is not healthy for a person. Centering all your happiness on one thing is unhealthy, according to Stephen Covey the author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Only if he knew the story of my family’s center of happiness might he then stand differing in opinion. From that living room was where I started watching my parent’s relationship as if I were on the outside looking in. 

Me, Momma and Justin a year ago.

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