All The Wrong Places

wind chimes

The clues to who I was and how I came to be were in a big trunk filled with random photos in a dark and dusty outdoor dwelling not far from our house.

As a child I liked to kneel in front of it and sift through these black and white photos. Peer into their faces and wonder who they were.

The photo of one little girl in a stiff looking dress with one leg crossed underneath her particularly captivated me. Something about the shape of her dark eyes seemed a bit familiar.

No one wanted me sifting through that big trunk. But I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

I don’t know why they didn’t just put a padlock on it if they didn’t want me asking questions about the people I found inside.

I eventually figured out that the little girl was my mother, but no one talked about her.

mother and father

(My Mother & Father)

I think she was a lost soul who grew up asking her own questions about who she was and where she came from. Someone who shared the family’s blood but didn’t quite fit in.

As soon as she was old enough, I hear she walked away from all the secrets and headed to the highway to catch a ride out of town. Someone said my father was the trucker who happened to pick her up.

old photo

The photos I now have of him tells me he liked attention, fancy cars and his arm around a pretty woman.

I get the feeling that my family thought he was an unsavory character. But then I never met him and he’s been dead for many years. So all of this is based on snippets of conversation and little else.

I think my mother was one of those pliable creatures searching for love in all the wrong places who just wanted someone to love and protect her. Because it was patently obvious that she couldn’t take care of herself, much less any of the six children she gave birth to that were scattered around the country like leaves caught up in a wind storm.

I’ve only met her a few times and the last time was well over thirty years ago. But you get a feeling about people though you only hear others whisper about them when they think no one is listening.

When I gazed at her photo, what I recall is that I didn’t see light in her eyes. I didn’t see happiness or mischief. I saw someone devoid of spirit before she was even six years old.

She was easy fodder for charming older men with fancy cars who were probably father figures. (She never had a father either. Or rather, to my knowledge no one knew who he was.)

old photos

Over the years, mostly the latter years, I have been able to piece the mystery together here and there. Though I’ve never acquired enough of the puzzle pieces to fully understand what happened or why.

I was apparently just born at the wrong time to the wrong people. And that’s about as much as I’ll ever truly know.

As the old song by Johnny Lee goes, some look for love in all the wrong places. That’s how I think of my mother.

And I guess I’d have to admit that I fit into that category as well.

“Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places,
Lookin’ for love in too many faces,
Searchin’ their eyes and lookin’ for traces
Of what I’m dreamin’ of.

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43 Comments

  1. It’s good to know one roots but that does not determine what one makes of her or his own life. Nobody is born perfect, we all are born with flaws and tendencies and personal characteristics that make us unique and distinct from each other, even though physical resemblances can be carried forward for generations in one’s genes. We can make, or break, ourselves.

  2. You are an amazing woman of strength to have lived through your life as it was and to have found peace and contentment within yourself. That is a trait that many of us do not find for a long time if at all. I am glad you are at peace and pray blessings for you and Charlie.

  3. Brenda, you write so well – you oughta write a book.

    My parents had their issues but I am grateful to know my family history. My mom is my best friend to this day. My relationship with my father is a very superficial one because he was mostly a superficial man – also the fancy cars and a woman on his arm, without the money that supports that kind of lifestyle and he didn’t invest much of himself in being a father. He never truly respected his friendships either, and he was left with almost nothing as he aged.

    I commend you for making a good life for yourself and finding contentment, growing where you’re planted, despite not having had much support as a young child and adult. You see things with a pretty clear eye, too. That’s a gift not everyone has.

    1. I know how close you are to your mother. And that you have done your best to help your father. You can feel proud to be the person that you are. Caring and unselfish. Always helping homeless animals. I’m proud to know you.

      1. That means so much to me, brenda – thank you. I feel the same about you, a very courageous woman.

  4. So well written! Thank you so much for sharing!
    I grew up hearing my mother’s life story and she was always telling us that we had it so much better than she did…. some of my siblings resent that because she lived so much in the past that it was like a dark cloud over us. I learned a lot from my mom….”how to make do with what you have” AND “what NOT to do.”
    It has been a struggle for me to finally “come to terms with the relationship I had with my mom. I still have my moments and I know that my God knows my pain and has sent comforters along my life’s journey…for that I am so grateful.
    I guess so many of us who grew up with mother’s like ours have to keep in mind that “she did the best she knew how to” considering all she had been through….and I have to say “there, but by the Grace of God, go I” – my mom was born in 1926 in a very impoverished area in New Iberia, Louisiana…. lived through the depression, which as we have heard was very hard for most people living during that time.
    Thank you again Brenda for sharing…..it has helped me to realize that thinking on my past is not as painful as it used to be….you have reminded me that this is something I can count as a Blessing today!!

    1. There was a time when I thought about all this and it was painful. But it has no power over me anymore. And yes, that is a blessing. We can be thankful for what isn’t, just as we can be thankful for what is.

  5. Brenda you wrote you are happy with who you are..that is a wonderful place to be. I am happy to “tune in” each day because I am happy you are the person you have grown up to be; a thoughtful,caring person who loves her cozy home, sweet Charlie boy, and care about the friends who check in on you each day! Don’t change a thing..you are perfect as you are to us.

    1. Oh, you are so sweet! I don’t feel the need for friends outside all of you. It doesn’t matter that we haven’t met in person. I think it’s actually stronger than if we had met. I have my daughter and Andrew, my Charlie boy. And though I am grieving, I am content in the place I am in life.

  6. I understand you don’t miss what you never had. I hope you know though that so many of us here love you and are always pulling for you. Just keep being Brenda . You’re enough on your own ❤️

  7. The Past has passed and the Future is unknown. All we have for certain is Today.
    Make today happy or make today a sad day; it is yours. It belongs to you. Be joyful
    or get the tears and Kleenex out. Today is yours.
    Marjorie Miller

    1. No need for Kleenex. I just write about what happened with all the bits and pieces I’ve gathered over the years. But I really don’t feel anything about it. I could be writing about someone else. You’re so right. Focus on today and what you have control over. I have to write about the past and present because the future hasn’t happened yet.

  8. Brenda, I read this early today and it stayed with me. I feel such sorrow for the small girl that was you, and even for the misguided people who were your parents. But I also am so encouraged that the little girl grew up to have so much talent to express her life through words and pictures.

    A safe and meaningful Memorial Day weekend to you and Charlie,
    Dewena

    1. Dewena and Brenda,

      I read this several hours ago and I could not leave a comment. I have been following you for a long time Brenda and am often in awe at the beautiful way that you express everything, from your painful times to your everyday life. I feel much the same way that Dewena does. Your childhood makes me sad for you and your siblings but I am happy that you have turned into the wonderful caring you that you are.

      1. Please don’t feel sad. I didn’t feel sad when I wrote this. There was a time years ago when I would have felt the emotions. But not any more. I tend to recall these things around Mother’s Day. But of course Abi died just before Mother’s Day and she was all I could think of. So it was belated.

    2. Thanks Dewena. Writing is always how I’ve figured things out, made peace. It has been my salvation. That little girl is grown and much stronger now. I don’t wish for what obviously wasn’t to be.

  9. I am still mourning my Daisy two years later. Your attitude seems so healthy because you have persevered and are stronger in spite of it. Kudos to you. I tend to look forward, not in the past. You can’t change the past.

    1. Regret is meaningless, though we all feel it from time to time. That’s feeling bad for things you can’t change. Best to look toward the future.

  10. The wonderful part of this post is that you did find love in so many of the right places (although it was probably a tough journey at times). You found love in your daughter, your grandson, your Abi, and your Charlie. Thank you for sharing your memories and your story.

    Hope you have a terrific weekend with your little Charlie. Enjoy your cozy little house with your furry friend and lots of good reads.

  11. Your history is a sad one and much of it I do understand. I always had a knack of looking for love in all the wrong places. I was fortunate to have my family growing up but by the time I was born my parents were scarred by alcoholism. I think one of the most difficult of life’s lessons is how to let go of those parts of our past that harm us and go forward as the person we are individually. I’m not sure I’ve done that as well as I’d like even now. I’ve always admired you Brenda for you seem to have a good sense of who you are and you live your life for yourself with that understanding. Have a good weekend and thank you for sharing.

    1. It’s only in the last five or so years that I have had a good sense of who I am. I live my life quietly, unceremoniously, and do not engage much with people outside of this blog. But I am happy now with who I am.

  12. a happy memorial day to you too dearest bean and little Charlie!
    our holiday weekend (i always count Friday! an old work habit i guess) started with a cooling beautiful soft rain. and it’s to rain again later today. of course it will head your way. and i think of all those beautiful flowers and Jade getting a fresh drink of water!
    sending hugs and well wishes for your little family there. xo

  13. I’m sorry your mother’s childhood seemed so unhappy and that she as a mother, well she just couldn’t handle it. On another note, I do so love black and white photos over the color ones; they are just so vivid and real life to me.

    I wish you and Charlie a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! Relax with a good book and enjoy that sweet dog of yours. Carol and Molly

    1. And Charlie and I are in for the weekend with enough food and books for me to read. We stick close together. He is never far from my side. Happy Memorial Day, all!

  14. Brenda, have you ever considered writing your life story in a book? Maybe it would be therapeutic for you and would help you to heal and not hurt so much. I am 76 so have seen a lot over the years. Mental illness was not discussed years ago and people were just sent away to a sanitarian. My mother was raised by her grandmother because her mother ran a boarding house and didn’t have the time or didn’t take the time. She always talked about her grandmother and father but never her mother. I know you are going through a difficult time right now and I understand as one who has lost seven pets over the years. They become your children. I want to thank you for all the wonderful pictures, stories, decorating ideas, etc. over the years – they touch our hearts and souls. Sending you (((((hugs)))).

    1. I don’t feel that I need healing over this. I think that’s long past and I’m fine with it. I don’t really want to write a life story, because I really don’t have a lot of info and it just isn’t something I want to take on. I may write about this from time to time, but it doesn’t make me sad or anything.

  15. A very poignant story Brenda, I can empathize somewhat. I was adopted and later in life found a way to contact my birth mother, through 4 other “children” who thought they shared the same parents…a family, My birth mother told me she did not know who my father was, and perhaps did not know the father of 3 of her children.. My birth mother may also have been a lonely person looking for love in all the wrong places. I know she was not very educated and did menial work all her life. Even before I learned all this I felt I never quite fit in somehow. . It has made my life a strange journey of 3 failed marriages and no children.. .I think it is part of the reason my furbaby family is so important to me.

    1. I certainly have your history you wrote in your last sentences. I think it puts you adrift in life. But it no longer makes me sad. It is what it is.

  16. It is sad when we have a family who seems to falter at the teaching, living, and nurturing of their children. You seem like a part of my family as I really do understand a lot of your feelings you share with us. I grew up in a ‘normal’ family unit I suppose, but it has left me with many hang ups in my almost 61 years. Sect esteem and knowing how to handle crowds are not my forte. Hope You and Charlie have a great weekend.

  17. I HAVE NO REAL MEMORIES OF MY MOTHER. SHE WAS ILL AND IN A SANATORIUM FOR YEARS BEFORE SHE DIED WHEN I WAS 9 YRS. OLD.
    I DO KNOW THAT I HAD A WONDERFUL DAD, WHO CARED FOR ME , I NEVER FELT NEGLECTED OR LACKED FOR LOVE. HE WAS MY BEST FRIEND UNTIL HE DIED.
    I HAVE TO SAY, I DIDN’T MISS WHAT I NEVER HAD.

    1. Exactly. People have asked me if I miss not ever having parents. But how can you miss something you never had?

  18. Same here, in many ways. Your story sounds very familiar…but you worded it much more eloquently than I ever have.

    I’m grieved for you that it is your story. However, you have obviously done SO WELL in spite of it!!!

  19. How sad that your mom was someone who couldn’t care for the children she gave birth to – I wonder how your life would have turned out if you had a mother’s love to count on and her guidance? My mom certainly had/has her issues, but I can’t imagine growing up without her. Have a happy holiday weekend, Brenda – hope you and Charlie are doing well today.

    1. If I’d had her around as a mother, I think I would have had it much much worse. She was not really capable of tending to children. So no regrets.

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