“Mother and Daughter”
The purpose of this piece was to describe the inner dialogue and experiences and a mother and daughter, showing their perspectives on their lives and their thoughts and previous actions in relation to the daughter’s predicament. The daughter tells the story of her childhood and growing up overweight, describing the times she feels most influenced her, while the mother tells the reader of what her life is like now, raising and looking after her daughter, while both of the characters are struggling with internal problems of their own.
I remember the time I realized I was different.
It was 3 weeks before my 5th birthday. My mum had organized a shopping trip, on the best Saturday that year. We drove 2 hours from our house into the city through the bumper to bumper traffic, our sun-burnt Toyota Corolla scraped the concrete as we pulled into the mall carpark. I felt tall walking through the low hanging concrete ceiling of the multi storey complex. Mum had said two of my friends and their mothers were going to meet us in the food court, only one had showed up. After what felt like hours of window shopping we were led to the only kids store in the mall, Mum instantly dismissed me to the changing room with her selection of tight flowery tops. The managers witchy nose and straight brown hair poked through the curtain.
“Sorry we don’t stock clothing in your daughter’s size.” she had told my mum.
“We just need one size bigger, none of the other stores have children’s clothing. Just have another look!” my mum had demanded, defensively.
We soon left the store and then the mall itself. When we parted with the girl, I turned around and saw her mother hand over a $20 note. On the car-ride home I began to look at myself in the mirror that flipped down from the sun visor. I had a rounder face than the other girls at school. The skin under my jaw hung below my chin, and along with my plump cheeks my face was overcrowded. I remember never really noticing my appearance until that day. Mum cooked me brown rice and fish for dinner that night, I waited until no one was looking, climbed up the stool in the pantry to the place where the chocolate was kept and quickly ran back to my room with two rows of creamy brown bliss.
When I was seven I got my first bike. All the other girls had pink ones with pompoms on either side of the handle bars. They already knew how to bike. Mine was baby blue with rusting training wheels poorly fixed onto the back wheel. I used to ride it in circles on the street in front of our house. Late one night my dad had decided it was time to remove my training wheels. The sky was baby blue, orange clouds lining the rolling western hills. Mum stood close; Her fluffy beige dressing gown draped around her thin yoga toned torso. My legs were tiptoed either side of me when dad pushed into my cushioned spine and I began to glide along the concreted driveway. The wheels started spinning faster as the concrete turned to decline, my brain had told my hands to grip, but the adrenaline had cut the connection. The spokes continued to rotate until gravity pulled me to the ground, scraping away skin onto the gritty concrete. I cried myself to sleep that night, with my thick pink duvet wrapped around my fat deposited body. Two weeks after the crash the scabs were looking as big as they had ever been. Mum took me to the doctors, with a nervous look on her face throughout the car ride. He said I had to start exercising and eating healthier or I would get diabetes before I turned 10. No change in my life occurred and soon after I started having to inject myself with insulin.
I know I should think I’ve failed as a mother. Enough people have told me. I used to think I did, but I didn’t do anything wrong. I fed her right, took her to swimming lessons, coacher her primary netball team, everything that mothers are supposed to do. The 7-pound child I had brought into this world had turned out nothing like how she should have. I noticed when she was 4 that the other children had lost all their baby fat, with slender limbs and defined facial features, but her face was plump and the creases at the backs of her elbows and knees had never gone away.
Most girls at 13 go through the struggle with body image, thinking they’re too fat to be liked, which is almost never true. My newly pronounced teenager really was fat. I had expected her to quickly turn anorexic, or bulimic, or even start running, but nothing happened. I put laxatives into her food, but she just ate more. When I stopped hiding them in her food, the eating didn’t die down either. I used to go to all the fundraisers the schools had. The other mothers would always stare at me while they were snickering with each other, they had normal children. They thought I didn’t notice, but I did, every time.
The last 3 years of my teenage life were spent at home. Alternating between online school, YouTube and Netflix. I left school at the end of my 14th year. No one talked to me and I was sick of getting asked by the guidance counsellor to come into her office. They all thought that I was depressed because I was the heaviest person in the school and no one talked to me. I was the kind of girl nobody knew, unless she killed herself.
Just because I was alone it didn’t mean I was lonely. I did get lonely though, after high school. My dad left the year after I graduated. He told mum if I didn’t leave, he would. She didn’t smile from then on. He has another daughter now, she’s 7 and competes in athletics championships every second weekend.
I started working from home when I was 19. I created online surveys for various businesses. It didn’t pay very well so I had to live with mum. She worked at the organic store in town, stacking and serving customers. Between us we could barely pay for the groceries and mortgage.
I started to feel it in her last year of school. I lay in bed for 30 minutes after my alarm every morning. A habit that started part way through the year. I stopped going to yoga soon after, and then began using my spare time after work watching television, cleaning and helping her with school and then eventually work. One day I was serving this greyed lady at the checkout and she came in. Her waist skimmed the sides of the shelves, pushing the products away from the edge slightly in some places. My boss was out back smoking. She came to me and asked if she could borrow some money, to get a new mouse for her computer. I handed the lady her change and made my way through the storeroom, to the bench where I keep my handbag. I found $50 in my wallet and grabbed it. The boss had made his way into the shop front with a box of cans, ready to stack. I handed the money to her.
As she made her way to the exit, my boss said, in his usual aggressive tone “You’re not supposed to invite people into the shop for personal business, you know you should have waited till your break.”
“Sorry Sir, I didn’t know she was coming.”
“I’m sick of your excuses, you’re a lousy employee who takes advantage of my generosity and kindness and abuses the rules which everyone else follows!”
“I don’t want to hear it, or your voice, at the end of this week’s roster you’re done.”
I had worked there for 8 years, the only job I could get with half a degree and an overweight daughter I conceived in my teens.
Since high school I had put on more weight. On my 18th birthday I weighed in at 101 kg, it had gone up to 136 in 2 years. The surveys had slowed down, bringing in less than $100 a week. It was spent quickly on groceries, spandex and custom made underwear. Mum payed the bills. She said she was fine with it but we had started to get calls from the bank. I could hear her through the walls at night constantly reassuring them she was getting a new job. She never did.
Tuesday May the 5th. The morning was dewy, with the sky hinting to wear shorts. Mum had planned a hike up to the quarry. She said we would be leaving early. When I came from my room I watched her waiting in the kitchen, sipping a cup of English breakfast. Our lopsided car made its way out of the driveway and through the suburbs. The transition from tarseel to gravel echoed off the windows with an gritty crunch. As we make our way to the caper green and yellow track signs, I had begun to realize the thin soles of my only sports shoes provided little barrier from the lumpy gravel.
My heart struggled to pump the blood through restricted vessels to feed my throbbing legs. The cream cheese bagel I had downed on my way out the door sat in my stomach wreaking havoc on the surrounding muscles. Is I walked, dewy air blew inefficiently in and out of my asthmatic lungs. Light strobed into my eyes through the large leaves up ahead. One step after the other, the feet below me pulled my mass up the slope. The path began to twist as we made our way closer and closer to the end.
I trailed behind her. The sun shone through the canopy of greens. The edge of the track was lined with yellowing leaves, their flesh decomposing, revealing the skeletons beneath. The twisted trunks of the young coastal trees created walls to the outdoor hallway, from their creases grew small ferns and mosses. We had made it to the top of the cliff; the winding path which lead to the cliff edge was visible up ahead. She began to slow, her back hunched, and rising rhythmically. The nesting birds in the caves below the cliff added a white noise, ambient to the view.
I had stood a step from the edge. Salty wind had blown through my thin shirt, cooling the sweat gathered between my stomach rolls. The incoming waves broke on the crumbling cliff rocks below, their white paths created patterns on the surface. I had promised myself waffles and Nutella when we got home. Droplets of salty moisture condensed on my face. Browning grass crunched under her feet as she made her way to me. As her arms moved the thin windproof jacket she wore rustled. My surroundings had paused. Her bony hands met the fatty skin covering my shoulder blades. The pressure build, forcing my torso out of my base of support. My body quickly followed, moving closer and closer to the water below. I didn’t scream, I wasn’t afraid. When my body had been taken by the waves, a faint red silhouette was all that was left.
At my school reunion everybody remembered my name.