How can I be so terrified of something small, sweet, seemingly innocent? Something that came from my own body? I carried him, nursed him, nurtured him, and I’ve come to realize he is mine but not only mine, and she is jealous.
Growing up in the deep hypocrisy of the Christian South, I never believed in reincarnation. I believed what I was taught to believe, and I didn’t question, because good Southern girls didn’t. My shaken faith began with my daughter. Her first words were in Spanish.
We don’t speak Spanish.
That passed quickly as we coached her and cooed at her, and I didn’t think much more about it. Then, when she was a toddler, I was driving through a run-down neighborhood in our small town that I don’t frequent. From the backseat, she let out a blood-curdling shriek. “I live there,” she sobbed. “With my mean mommy.” Confused, I followed her finger to the ruins of a house, burned out years ago and never rebuilt.
For the next year or two, she would occasionally tell me snippets about her old house and her mean mommy. Mean mommy used a belt on her. Mean mommy made her be hungry. I’d hold her and promise her that Mama would never do those things. Mama loved her and would always take care of her.
One night I was looking through old pictures and came across one of my great grandmother, and my daughter told me that she knew that lady. It was Granny’s mommy, and she took care of her when she went back to Heaven after mean mommy hit her until she died. Then Granny’s mommy chose me to take care of her.
How does one respond to that? I just assured her that I loved her and I would always take care of her.
By the time her little brother was a toddler, I firmly believed my daughter had been abused in a former life. I was not expecting them to have been together…until the day he noticed the burned out house and begged me to let him get out and find his other mommy.
She was not his mean mommy. In his stories, Other Mommy loved him. She cuddled and kissed him. She promised him they would always be together and she’d never let anyone take her attention away from him.
And he told me that he died in a fire, and then came to live with me.
He told me he loved me but he missed his other mommy more.
I did my research, starting with the address of the burned-out house. Back in the fifties, a small family lived there until the father died of mysterious circumstances shortly after the son’s birth. A daughter fell down the stairs and died from her injuries. And then, when the son was four, faulty wiring caused the house to burn. He died but the mother made it out. I looked up the mother as well: an asylum, and then suicide.
My son became increasingly violent towards his sister: he said his other mommy had taught him how to make her sad. More and more often I would have to stop him from hitting her, throwing things at her, stealing her food.
The day I tried to take him in to talk to a therapist is the first day I was truly terrified of him. I hadn’t told him what we were doing, but he knew. He screamed and fought. He is strong for being only five, but not strong enough to keep me from carrying him in somewhere. That day, he had an unnatural strength and managed to fling me to the ground like a puppet. I hit my head on the pavement and the world went black. When I came around, he was sitting angelically beside me.
“I’m sorry, Mama,” he told me in a voice as calm as the eye of a hurricane. “My other mommy says you’re trying to make her go away from me, and she needs to be with me always.”
I felt the chill of those words all through my body and soul.
After that day, the violence was not only directed at his sister but at me. Bruises. Welts. Even cuts.
But today…today when I went to wake him up–still with the snuggles and kisses I’ve always used; I do still love my baby boy–he told me that his other mommy has decided it’s too much. “You’re taking my attention away from her. You want us to be apart.” His voice softened to a sad whisper. “She says today is the day I have to kill you and Sissy. It’s time for it to be just us again, like before.”
I know she’s there, whispering to him. I know he will attempt our murder today. With her helping, he may succeed. I’ve called the police, but they didn’t take me seriously. So now, my daughter and I are in the master bathroom with the door locked, waiting. I think it’ll be a fire. Every few minutes, I sniff the air for smoke and hope he won’t be waiting beside the window. This boy, my sweet kindergarten baby, is going to take our lives if I can’t stop it. But I can’t hurt him, either. I love him.
Even so, there’s nothing I fear so much as a mama’s boy.