Songs of Small Town Mothers and Daughters

Once in a while, my mother plays for me an old country song called, “Idol of the Band”.  One of the chorus lines speaks to a brief bittersweet period of shining glory for a young woman from humble beginnings.

sheet music with red rose sepiaWe always have a little laugh with it, but within the mirth is a little wistfulness too. I think that song reminds my mother of a funny moment or two from the bad old days. I share those feelings, but I also feel traces of poignancy that can’t quite be defined.  They are flashes of the heartstrings that join us more by fate than by our blood.

I’d heard forever that I am my mother’s daughter.  I look a lot like her, and I put her temperament on display now and then, but that was the absolute limit to the comparisons that I was determined to live out.  I loved her, but I had every reason not to repeat every aspect of her life.

My mother was that young small town girl that did not dream of escape to the bright lights of the big city.  Maybe she’d become a nurse, maybe even a nun, but in the end she longed only for a simple life of family, and hearth and home in the same little town. As it always is, it was about a boy.

Her dreams were devastatingly reshaped when step one of her plan led her into the arms of that handsome young man who soon became an abuser who drank too much.  Step two in the unintended reality was giving life to me, and then pulling me along on the path to their hell.

By the time she left him, I’d already learned a lifetime of what not to be. There was no doubt that meant being everything my parents weren’t.  What I had no way of knowing then was how deeply the sins of the father and mother had already been woven into the fabric of my future.

Like my mother, I was mostly raised in small towns or a very insular sensibility within a city. Maybe partly because of that I grew up craving the promise of anything but simplicity.  I was going to be one of those bright lights in the city. I intended to be the people I saw on TV or read about in books about success.  I used the same success examples my mother did, but unlike novels of romance, I was not going to depend on a man, or have babies anytime soon.

I was desperately eager to be in that new life.  Desperation was probably mistaken for boldness and so, at almost sixteen I went off in search of those bright lights. I hugged my mother goodbye.  She armed me with a little money, those lessons well learned, and a crock pot.

The years to follow were harder than I could ever have imagined. I began them by piling on loads of makeup and lying about my age to be able to work long days analogous to slave labor. When the realization grew that I could be stuck there forever, I added night school to the schedule.  It took years, but eventually I got my business titles.

I succeeded at school, I succeeded in work, and I succeeded in social status.  I was nothing like my mother’s life.

Not until I was.  Not until I realized that there was just one thing missing for me, and I would wholly embrace the answer to that, and it would gut everything I’d worked for, including part of the spirit that had carried me away from small town nightmares.

I fell madly in love.  He said that I was the smartest, most beautiful woman he’d ever known.  He asked, “What can I do to make your life happier”?  He said, “I promise, I will take care of you”.

He eased the deep thread of emptiness so common in the fabrics of my kind of past. It was really an unraveling, but I’d grown used to pretending that strand of vulnerability didn’t exist anyway. That was a necessary evil to confirm how much more ahead of my mother I was.  So, I ignored the red flags that waved and I said, yes.  Just like my mother did.

He swept me off my feet and back into hell.

It was a little over three years before I was able climb out.  By then, almost all of my relationships with friends and family had deteriorated, along with all the other areas of my life.  The only miracle within the madness was that I didn’t have children with him.  Not that we didn’t try.

I moved from the immediate brutality of that time, but it turned out I wasn’t completely out of those woods yet. I was always a bit of a slow learner for anything that required my heart to assess what was not in my best interests, especially where love was concerned.

I hadn’t learned yet that honest trust for anyone else can only come from honest esteem for self.  I still had to learn what that looked like. I still had to learn that betrayal hides in plain sight for the unwitting, and sometimes it’s disguised as your best friends and your closest confidants.

It would take another turn on that shaky dance floor before I could really see under the masks. This second teacher was far more subtle, but just as oppressive with his demand to control.   That three year dance was a constant and chaotic struggle to change him/them, but it was clear that this one was about accepting that all the changes needed were mine.  I accepted finally that it wasn’t my job to love someone enough to become a better person or to make them be better people.

Time moves every story along, and it became more of my friend this round.  My bright future lay tarnished on the ground, but I was finished with the idea of gleam anyway. The only choice I could face was to go back to the beginning.  A revisit to that place that gives you the so called strengths you depend on to survive, but really are old scars that need to be opened in order to be properly closed.  I was taught that healing me was part of healing the whole of humanity, but it was the only part that I was, or could be, responsible for.

I reworked how I defined success and my revised ideals created the roads to more meaningful ways. I learned to accept that healing is never really over, but the lessons begin to bloom more in joy than the scrapes of sorrow.  I worked my way to a life that is different, quieter, but true; to one that matters.  Just like my mother did.

And every now and then, we sing together the words of an old country song that plays to our fated heartstrings and we smile at the notes that we more than survived.


This story was partially published as a guest post for JT in September 2013. Revised May 15, 2014



41 thoughts on “Songs of Small Town Mothers and Daughters

  1. So beautifully written, and so easy to identify with that young girl who left home so full of hopes and dreams. *sigh* Sometimes Life is brutal. But here you are. Still standing, and stronger for every single thing you went through. And that’s sayin’ something, now isn’t it? 🙂 Good for you.


  2. How is it possible that you can continue to get so much better? You certainly are my idol of this whole band. You leave me without words, only a quivering lip.


  3. What poignant and beautiful piece of writing. I almost feel guilty reading it over and over again knowing that there is pain penned in each sentence. I hopped over here after seeing you on Christy’s site…so glad I started my morning with you. Now, I just need coffee 🙂


    • ..And this was a really lovely note to get at the start of my day too. Thank you so much for that. I hope your coffee went down as easily as mine did this morning. Thanks again for coming by. 🙂


    • Thanks Diahann. This seems to be the season of release for a few of us, or maybe it’s a contagious condition. Either way, a few of us are into lightening our loads lately. Hope you are well.


  4. What a beautifully written post. Your words leap off of the page and into my heart. I’m so glad that you are a survivor. Thanks for sharing your story. 🙂


  5. “I worked my way to a life that is different, quieter, but true; to one that matters. Just like my mother did.” No doubt about it; this is the voice of hard won wisdom.


  6. A very brave and beautifully told story. I see you as one of the “lucky ones” who have the inner strength and resilience to pull yourself out of the muck with the determination that you deserve much better. You’ve done more than survive – it sounds like you have succeeded. Best wishes on many more successes!


    • Thank you very much Joanne. I know it’s odd to use that word “lucky” in these kinds of situations, but we, my mother and I, have been lucky within the contexts of what could have been. Of course there are stories within the story, and my own is not quite finished yet, but for now this will do. I do feel the promise of even so much better on the way, so it’s full speed ahead. Thanks again for sharing a part of your day with me.


  7. Wow, Robyn.
    You really have been to Hell and back, haven’t you?
    At least you’ve come out the other side stronger and hopeful of what the future holds.
    You’ve become one of my favorites and not just for obvious reasons. They say you cannot appreciate the beauty of the sun until you’ve lived through the darkness. You’ve proven that saying a hundred times over, my friend.
    Be well.


    • Thanks Robert, I’ve had some moments alright, like most of us. I’ve learned that when we tell our stories, we shine light on a lot of garbage for someone else who thinks the bad stuff only happens in their worlds. I love that you also throw in some wicked laughs to round out those story edges.
      And, it has been one year since I’ve been able to count you as one of the best supporters and teachers anyone could ever have. Thank you SO MUCH for that!


  8. So heartfelt, heartbreaking and filled with the kind of honesty that I’ve come to appreciate and respect, Robyn. I am so glad you have come to that quiet place in your life; how ironic — and perhaps fitting — that it is from this quiet place that you have come to shine brightest.


    • Oh irony, is right – if you knew how hard I used to work to be ‘shiny’! I just finished writing an answer to Robert for a 5×5 next week that sort of notes that my learning has become so much better from this quiet place. It’s been a big week of reflection, the kind that’s big enough to shake confidence a little, so thanks very much for your encouraging words and insight, Ned.
      And, I wonder if you have any idea how profound your comment is? By any chance, are you wearing that cowboy hat?


      • I’m so glad my words could help shore up a little confidence for someone who deserves that and so much more. I’ll be looking forward to your piece at The Hook 😉 I might even read it while wearing my hat.


    • Yes, benze, it is funny. I had someone else comment on how they ended making a wood frame with these words carved into it: Mirror, mirror, on the wall, I am my mother, after all. Thanks so much!


  9. This story was so eloquently written. You and I have so much in common, I think we were kindred sisters in a past life. Don’t ever beat yourself up for not recognizing the abuser(s). It’s their specialty to deceive trusting souls. Rather, be proud of yourself for recognizing it when you did and making the move to get out. So many women never do. So many women would rather be abused than alone. Kudos to you! ❤


    • Thank you again Rachel. I had a feeling we had more in common than has been said so far. I’ve learned in life that like attracts like, and this blogosphere thing is definitely no different. Thanks for your supportive comment, and you know, it was seeing another woman much older than me stuck in a bad situation that was the final nail in that wedded coffin. It’s not easy by any means, but at least I can breathe. Thanks again, kindred sister.


      • Wow, I have goosebumps as I read this… It was seeing an older woman who I worked with who had been there over 20 years and hated the job so much that made me decide to go back to college. Talk to you soon! 😀


  10. Goodness. What an introduction post for me to read while I’m in my stalking mode. Hook just said it perfectly already, Sunlight, darkness and appreciation. It’s something I firmly believe in and you wrote this so wonderfully. I’m just so glad you found your inner strength to survive and share your inspiring story .

    It’s lovely to meet you, Wonder. 🙂


    • Thank you. This gave me a great morning ha ha and smile. Yes, I could see how this might be an interesting intro. I appreciate that your kind stalking wasn’t scared off! Cheers to you TJ.


      • Yay for smiles!! 🙂 I do love smiles, and you’re so welcome. It takes quite a lot to scare me off though, unless you come after me with clowns or porcelain dolls…

        Pretend you didn’t read that.



  11. This is very beautifully written, and is both poignant and honest. It is a difficult thing to shake off the script, and become our own person. I respect you, and I admire you, And what a writer you are!


    • Thank you Mike, very much. Those are the days that help me see more clearly now, most of the time, the magnificence of the Rockies and the joyful soul in a dog’s face. Oh, and of course, how spectacular my son is. 😉
      Speaking of dogs, my own big black hairy wrecking ball has announced that he is accepting attention from me at this time. Duty calls.
      Thanks so much for your visit Mike!


What's on your mind, let's talk about it...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s