Mother’s harsh words fell like lead. “You’re no good. I hate you,” engulfed my sister and me, damning us. No loving, but constant oral insults.

As we matured the defamation intensified, “Your Father doesn’t love you. He is bad.” Toxic webs of hate and acid spread. Mother made Father despised rather than honoured. Mother ranted against him; he failed to hear. Sadly, he thought perhaps we did the same. He failed as a shield. I loathed her critical tongue yet absurdly copied. 

Whatever we did was wrong. Turning left was wrong. Turning right was wrong. Our good school grades, Mother attributed to herself for pushing us. She told us to concentrate on our studies and leave the housework to her. When we did as asked, she berated us for not helping clean and cook. Innocently, I thought, when I am 18, Mother will love me. At 21, she will be pleasant. When I emigrate…have children…

Although dreading Mother, my soul ached for maternal warmth. I was sitting on the saggy kitchen sofa when Mother opened her letter from Sao Tome. Reading the Portuguese from one of her numerous siblings, Mother uncharacteristically danced. Vengefully, Mother gripped the photo singing, “That ________ is dead. I hated my Father for destroying my Mother. You’re named after my sweet Mother, although you aren’t. Inheriting the coffee plantation made him a demon. The hypocrite threw Maria, my pregnant sister out to die. He drank our inheritance causing my sisters, that Step-Mother, and me to flee to England.”

I will never know what Mother endured within an abused large family in Sao Tome. Over decades, she emphatically declared my Grandfather a bruiser. He physically prevented the two eldest sons from escaping in a fishing boat. After beating my Grandmother to the grave, he shamefully advertised for a second wife like advertising for a used donkey. An old, bespectacled, unsmiling man wearing a white suit, gripping a wooden cane stood in the black and white photo. An abusive husband and Father? As a child, what did I know?

I know Mother’s corrosive words pitted our mental well-being. 

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
10 days ago

Such a heartbreaking tale, Margarida. So heavy that makes my eyes teary. 

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
Reply to  Margarida Brei
8 days ago

Thank you, Margarida. And thanks a lot on your last two sentences in your comment. That’s a great reminder for myself.

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