Kenya Moore, star of Real Housewives Of Atlanta, recently released the first 42 pages of her upcoming memoir, Invisible, in which she painfully described the rejection that she experienced from her birth mother. Read the excerpt below:
A Memoir by Kenya Moore
“I may need help, I may need love, I may need understanding, I may even need medication, but one thing I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that I am not f*cking crazy.”
BOOK I, CHAPTER 1,
She’s seizing! We have an emergency on floor six! She’s flatlining! Get the jumpers! Get the drugs
STAT! All the drugs you can find, nurse! I am groggy and it’s hazy and I have no idea where I am. I am wet, I am screaming, but no one responds. I try to move. I cannot. I feel deaf, blind and dumb. Stats?! Black female, approximate age 16, found comatose. Vitals are low, non-responsive. I feel out of my body. There are people in white uniforms pushing and pinching, rolling me through dirty white halls of dirty white strangers in dirty white uniforms. They check my pupils, take my blood, twist my body in awkward positions. Leave me alone! Get me the hell out of here!
The dim halls have sheepish ghosts who stare at me, sizing me up. Some laugh, just to taunt me. Others cry and some shout violent words peppered with obscenities at me.
GET HER THE HELL OUT OF HERE! SHE DOESN’T BELONG HERE! SHE IS NOT ONE OF US!
I can feel that my face is wet; I try to wipe it. But my hands do not respond to what my mind is asking them to do. I can make out my fingers twitching, though only slightly. With my eyes, I follow them from the tips and realize that my arm is strapped down to the bed. I try to use the other one. It is tied, too, and I can see a woman in a white uniform attempting to adjust an I.V.
I follow the tube hanging from the bag of liquid and see that it leads to my arm.
NO! GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE! HELP ME!
The ghosts laugh and stare and take bets. Will I stay or will I go? They debate. How long will I be here? What medicine combination will they give me? The apparitions continue, exchanging clear money from one hand to many hands to many more hands. Some take dumps in the middle of the hallway and others sling the offensive, pungent shit, smearing it along the walls and forming illegible words of hate and disdain. I say it’s Lithium, one offers. No, Chlorpromazine, you dumb fucking asshole! Another counters. They gave her Lithium yesterday!
I look down at the sheets and notice they have been stained. They have been stained bright red, and brown, and green, and grey, and a million colors in – between. What the hell are you doing? Where are you taking me? I can’t feel my legs be cause they’ve been strapped down like a wild hog’s. I cannot move.
Relax. Someone rubs my head. I momentarily calm. These whites, unlike the others, comfort me somehow. They make me feel a momentary peace. I feel safe. I believe this is my grandmother. Ma? Yes, baby, it’s me. You will be safe now. I’m here. I smile. She returns the smile. When I focus on her beautiful, soft, beautiful warm eyes, her face suddenly morphs into a hideous creature, puss and blood spewing from its eyeballs. Its dead, fungus – ridden fingernails fall off onto my hospital gown, leaving a trail of greenish, gooey puss. I’m not your goddamned grandmother, you stupid whore! The creature hisses, then turns away and laughs with other now – apparent monsters, giving them high fives.
Where am I? Will someone please, for the love of God, HELP ME!!! The whites continue to roll me with great urgency down a chalky hallway, right between the hungry, hideous figures. The IV continues to push poison into my veins and I am dead.
I am numb, I am stiff, I am without thoughts.
I piss my pants. I am cold and wet and scared out of my mind.
I talk, but no one hears.
No one hears me. I am alone.
I have always been. Alone with the ghosts who haunt and taunt me.
“Where did you think you were Kenya?”
“Isn’t it obvious Doctor? I was in an insane asylum. “Do you think that is where you should be now?”
“Doctor, with all due respect, I know I may need help. I know I may need love, understanding, I may even need medication, but one thing I know is that I am not is fucking crazy.”
“Although I do not know your mother ”
I cut him off momentarily.
“I sense from these dreams that you somehow feel insecure, helpless, and threatened while in her presence, which is a natural internal conflict with cases like yours. Mothers should make you feel safe and loved. They are our first caregivers. Our nurturers. They are the people in this world we first learn to trust, from whom we get our very concept of trust. You did not receive this traditional gift from you mother. Instead, your mother’s debilitating sense of reality and self – hatred seems to cause her to act out, to try to make you simply go away.
Do you think that this is easier for her? To have you disappear make you, invisible?
”I think on this for a while. There is some truth here. This is hurtful, but I want to try to answer truthfully.“
Yes, Doctor. I guess that could be the case.
Do you think your mother would try to harm you to this day?
I think, I think, I think. Flashing through my mind are pop-up images of her barbequing me alive somewhere in the middle of the desert; she and all the dead people from my dreams are having a party, and I’m the delectable roast. My first mind says yes, she would try to harm me.
Even to this day, I think yes. So I answer. Truthfully.
“I think my mother is completely sane and completely accountable for her actions. She is, after all, highly intelligent — a college graduate, a teacher, an educator, one who, by definition, imparts knowledge to young, impressionable minds. (Lord, help those children!) She is more than capable of distinguishing right from wrong, good from evil, reality from make – believe. She gets up on her soapbox daily and preaches to others a bout church and God — all in her own defense, of course.
“Do you think she is happy?”
I think she is unhappy — unhappy that I am alive. I think she resents my life, my body, my breath, with every part of her being. I believe she wishes I were dead. I believe it would make her life a whole lot easier. She would not feel the guilt or suppressed pain of what she has done to me all these years.
“Do you really think she feels pain, remorse?”
His question jars me. It is possible she does not. She could be inhuman. Could she be suffering from a mental or emotional defect, or disease, or disorder I have been unable to find in my own pursuit to become a psychologist? I conclude, theoretically, it is possible. Could it be that she needs to be locked up in an asylum? I wonder. Freud says, everyone in your dreams is you. In some strange way, I hope I am the one who is crazy because I want to be cured, helped even.
I don’t want to hurt people the way I do. The way my mother has taught me, even through her absence from my life. In the bottom corners of my heart, I do not wish to think that my mother, the woman who gave life to me, is, in essence, pure evil; someone who can feel no remorse. I feel a profound sadness come over me. I’m saddened.
“It’s okay Kenya. You do not have to answer now. Our hour is up. I want to leave you with this. Listen carefully. Take a deep, supported breath. Relax. Loosen those muscles you are clenching. Relax your jaw. Breathe deeply. Kenya, I want you to know that she is NOT you. Your mother is not you. And you can save your life and make it be whatever you want. You do not have to be your mother.”
I fight back tears. I fight clenching my teeth, and I fight to breathe. As much as I hate these boring walls, his sentiment — that small offering of hope — allowed me to understand that I am powerful; that I do have a say. And most of all, I am assured that I am not crazy. Above and beyond that, I can’t help but feel that I may have undeservingly placed the guilt and the burden of my life on myself. My mother made sure I knew. She made sure I knew that I was her burden.
The Phone Call
I immediately recognized the voice. It was just as I remembered it. She sounded like an angel. I knew that it was her, and I was so excited that she was calling me. My little 4 – year – old body shook with extreme and uncontrollable excitement. With much – warranted anticipation, my mouth stretched across the width of my face in a smile and I could feel the corners crack slightly. I could not contain the enthusiasm, the love, the overwhelming joy that I felt. I was finally going to be able to talk to her. Maybe she was finally going to tell me she loved me. Maybe she was finally going to tell me she wanted me and she didn’t mean to give me away when I was born. Maybe she was finally going to tell me she made a terrible mistake and now she wanted me to live with her; that we would be a real family and start over.
I was trembling. I held my breath. I listened. There it was again, the sweet melodic quality of her voice. It was mild and soothing. When she spoke, she did not yell or scream. Instead, she released the words in a steady, easy manner. “I am not your mother. You can never call me your mother and you can’t come over here anymore.”
A burning sensation started in the pit of my stomach, rose to my throat and pushed up until it burst out of my dreamy eyes as tears.
These same dreamy eyes that always looked up to her in adoration now wept. They wept for the dreams that would never come to fruition. All I remember was that burn and the hot tears on my cheeks.
I did not understand. Why was she saying this? What had I done wrong? What had I done? I had been on my best behavior when I briefly visited those few and far – between times. What did I do to deserve this? Until that point, she had never even talked to me, she had never said one word to me, but at least I could be around her and know who she was. She just kept repeating it…
I am not your mother.
My world was shattered in one blow and all I could think about was running. I needed to retreat to a place of peace and calm. So I ran as fast as my white, clunky, worn shoes could take me. I ran to the arms of my grandmother. My father swiftly came to console me. It’s going to be alright.
An unexpected blow came from my grandmother, my father’s mother, who was my caretaker by default. Instead of her holding me and telling me I was going to be okay, that we were going to be okay, she acted unconcerned. She instructed my father to leave me alone. I hated her for not understanding my pain, for trying to make me understand it the way she did. I never forgave her for her lack of compassion or refusal to comfort me, and in that moment, I detested her for not being my mot her.
People would always call my grandmother Doris my mother and I hated that with every part of my young,
willful spirit. No matter how much love she showed me, she was not my mother. As a child, I refused to accept my grandmother’s role in raising me. Doris was such a spiritual woman, and she had the kindest heart I’ve ever seen. She also came from very humble beginnings. She, too, suffered a great deal growing up, having been the granddaughter of a White man with blonde hair and blue eyes who never acknowledged her. She
explained that it caused her much embarrassment and shame growing up. Doris was very nurturing and caring, and always put her family first. She sometimes worked three jobs at a time to take care of them. She’d been a domestic worker all her life but always gave her best and sacrificed everything for her children, even me. She had five children of her own, was poor and struggling with an alcoholic husband, and she accepted me into her life.
Now I clearly understand that I owe my life to her. I could have been in a home being abused. Instead, God looked out for me and gave me a family and love. However, this realization was a long time coming.
THE MOVING PICTURES
I think. I think. I think.
When I think of Detroit, my birthplace, it puts a smile on my face and a tear in my eye. My generation, born
in the ‘70s, might fondly remember the Motown legacy in the making: Diana Ross, Berry Gordy, The Temptations, all the sparkle and shine from the gold, plastic, pressed discs that came from the speaker boxes. We may not dotingly remember the hustlers; the drug dealers; the people constantly trying to “come up” or get over on you; the dilapidated homes falling down around us; Devil’s Night; Young Boyz Incorporated and the M&M gangs; the teenage, unwed mothers; Focus Hope; and the legendary—and just as infamous Black mayor—Coleman A. Young. When I look back, I feel so proud to have grown up in such a richly diverse environment, full of history, culture, pride and colorful faces.
Most faces in the inner city looked like my own-richly brown. I think of so many good and bad memories from my childhood, from my struggle, from my life. And there is my very own colorful and elusive perception of what my parents’ lives must have been like before me. Before their impressionable teenage lives were
interrupted. Was my mother vibrant? Was she kind? Was she unspoiled?
Was her heart pure? And there is my father. My father. Was he a catch? Was he full of life and hope and
tenacity? Did he believe he could conquer the world? I’ve heard the stories while sitting in the back seats of cars when no one knew I was listening. I have heard the stories from corners of rooms or behind sofas when I was sure I was Wonder Woman in her invisible plane.
But I want more. My imagination is thirsty, insatiable even. The illicit stories are no longer enough to fill in all the blanks no one wants to talk about. But I need the stories. I want the stories. I want to see the moving pictures. I want more. I want to see the moving pictures. I close my eyes. I recline. I take deep breaths. I take purposeful breaths. When I am ready, I press play. Slowly it comes into focus. It is dusk but there is some life to the otherwise desolate streets.
I breathe in. Deeply. There is trash that smells of rotten food and cheap liquor. There are empty lots. The houses have been burned down by Them when the city would not be bothered to remove the hideous eye sores that rodents and disease thrive in. I hear it. It is faint, ghostly, but I hear it. It comes and goes.
There is laughter.
There are children.
There are no fancy cars, no gardeners and no school uniforms. There is however, the poor working class of those who are the maids, the cooks and the minimum wage workers.
I see the faces of the people who live in the houses next to the empty lots with their pristine uniforms hanging inside. Their faces look worn, as if the world has beaten them down. But still, there is some laughter from the children who may not eat every day, but they are loved. The children may not have new shoes, but they are loved. Their parents may not be able to pay their mortgage that month, but their dainty giggles tell me they are loved.
I see her. I warm. She has a round, sweet face and soft hair. This is the face of my father’s mother, Doris.
She was a sweet and gentle woman most of the time, until she had to take a switch to on e of us, which was often. She was a devout Jehovah’s Witness and believed in emulating the Bible with every inch of her soul.
You could tell that she beautiful in her day. She often longingly recalled that she “had long, flowing hair; fat stockings and a little waist.
“She used to brag about how all the White men would cat call at her, saying she was a, “chocolate doll.” Her
grandfather was a White man, and she could pass for White on a winter day when her skin got particularly pale. She had fine, baby doll’s hair and no backside whatsoever. Doris was petite in stature only. The remnants of the births of her four sons showed in her round face and very round stomach that protruded the way many grandmothers’ bellies do. She barely stood five feet on her tallest day, and her husband, Virgil, similar in height, was slight for a man, weighing only 150 pounds soaking wet.
When I peek inside her one-story brick house, which has been partially finished with aluminum siding, I see that it is sparsely and modestly decorated. The family photos proudly displayed throughout show happy children in Goodwill clothing. There is no trace of any expensive furnishings. I know by the living room furniture covered in plastic that this is a family that wishes to preserve anything that would be considered remotely posh or a luxury item in their minds.
The floors are clean and the bookshelves are lined with literature from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. All the furnishings say poor and working class. But everything is treasured and spotless just the same. Doris is wearing a white uniform and holding the hand of a seven-year-old boy who is crying.
The fragile child is homely and wears huge glasses. I imagine her speaking. Her voice is firm, but just like the many stray dogs in the neighborhood often heard crying out in the darkness of night, her bark is bigger than her bite. She hurries to get lunches together as two teenage boys appear. I snicker to myself. It is my father Ronald, who looks about 15. He is carrying a football and has the kind of richly brown skin that shines without oil. He has a good, athletic build and, even in Goodwill clothes, looks strikingly handsome. He is with his younger brother Gerald, who looks about 14 years old and is what Southern-born Blacks often call “high yellow,” sporting red hair and freckles.
He and Ronald fool around like most young boys do and there is that laughter again. They continue their horseplay as they leave. As they walk to school, most of the houses are run-down, boarded up, and extremely dilapidated—a typical poor, nameless inner-city section of Detroit in the ‘70s.
They pass a playground and cross railroad tracks. As they scamper across a major intersection, I can see them approach McKenzie High School. It is mostly attended by Black students who are poor to lower-class,
and a very few who are lower middle-class.
I feel uncomfortable. I don’t k now why but my energy has suddenly changed. I stop. I breathe.
She is there. This startles me. I have not seen her like this. She has soft eyes.
Not the cold, empty ones I am used to. There is life in her and I can feel it. She is my mother, Patricia Moore, and she is 15. She is stunning and I cannot turn away. She is six feet tall and has a beautiful figure. She could be a supermodel if she only had the confidence. He spots her. I feel it. There is instant chemistry. My father sees her and becomes fixate d. Gerald interrupts. Forget it, man.
She’s out of your league. That’s one of those Moore sisters. You know her father runs half of Detroit! I don’t care who her father is.
My movie is jolted as a pair of pristine alligator cowboy boots shining like new money appears. A striking man exits his brand-spanking-new Cadillac. I first see his boots, which are indeed stomping about the ground
resembling the movement of a strange mating ritual I would imagine two ponies would perform.
I continue upward to his face. My heart is racing. This is my grandfather, my mother’s notorious father, who only needs to be identified by two initials: W and L. He reminds me, and everyone else for that matter, who lays eyes on his gorgeous face and frame of actor and ‘70s sex symbol Billy Dee Williams in his prime. His striking good looks could disarm anyone, but my grandfather was the kind of man that instilled fear in people at the mere mention of his name.
He always made you aware of his presence by the insistent sounds of his boots raucously striking the ground. At six-foot-three and 40 years of age, he was an imposing man. Two men wait for him by the car. They appear to be body guards. One was behind the wheel, the other just outside the door. I can feel it. I feel the tension. I feel his heat and he is pissed. I subconsciously pull up the throw from my ankles as if to gain a layer of protection. He is angry and that is never a good thing. I sense that his wife, my maternal grandmother Virgia, knows it, too. Yet when he speaks, it is measured and steady. He speaks to
her in a calm, even, rich, leveled voice devoid of his Southern Louisiana accent.
Virgia is beautiful, tall and also striking. Her cinnamon covered skin exhibits her Native American roots. Her submissive posture precipitates his next words. But unlike W.L., fear registers in her eyes.
I am cold.
I am shaking. Tense.
I realize I still feel this uneasiness from the mere appearance of my grandfather. I think of him and I know. I know the Moores. Although friendly and outgoing to people in general, to their family, it was somewhat different. They worked so hard to provide for their family, they never really had the time, nor wherewithal to show much attention, let alone physical affection to their children. This was a problem I would later have to deal with on my own terms.
The Moores were immensely strong people, and I believe I received my inner strength, passion, and drive
from them—as well as what some would describe as frigidity.
Unlike me, they were more reserved when it came to outward displays of emotion other than anger. Their children often received a beating—from their parents’ tongues or their belts if they were out of line. “Loving” is not a word that would immediately come to mind when thinking of the Moores. The actual words “I love you” were rarely said, if at all.
Their intense work ethic and determination as entrepreneurs may have been the cause of many missed
moments to bond and emotionally support their children. I recall one Moore offspring jokingly saying they
were still waiting on their mother to give them the talk about the birds and the bees. Their children are grown now. But even when the first child graduated from college—the first to graduate in the entire family—the Moores did not attend the graduation. When their first daughter married, they were not present at her wedding. Some grandchildren felt left out as my grandparents rarely sent them any Christmas or birthday presents.
In their defense, it was explained that they had shown an abundance of care to the grandchildren who were in
their opinion the neediest. Perhaps as their businesses were secure and prosperous, the more time they had to dote over them. To this day, the Moore children absolutely love and honor their parents, and their love and dedication has been tested beyond anyone’s imagination. The Moores have never turned their backs on one of their children if they were in need, although their emotional needs may have never been fully met.
One of the Moore children offered some insight about their parents’ parenting: Although their parents did not “show” their love, the children always knew that their parents loved them: “That was just the way they were. They didn’t know any other way.”
I feel the vacuum. I’m familiar with the pain. I do not want to continue. I don’t like the tone of this
cinematic piece. So I think of something else. I think of the cleaning I need to do and the errands I need to run.
But I am open. I am open. I am strong. My mind is there.
I can’t leave. Not until I know more. I watch. I imagine. I see the pictures.
I wait. I calm. I steady myself. I breathe.
My mother and father reappear. They are together now and they look happy. They look like they are in love. I
gush, I giggle, I can imagine what it was like. I envision a montage, the way filmmakers do when they tell you a story in fast-forward fashion.
RONALD WALKS PAT HOME.
HE ASKS HER FOR A KISS ON THE CHEEK.
PAT CHECKS THE BOX ON THE
NOTE SAYING YES.
RONALD GIVES PAT A PIGGY
BACK RIDE AT A PARK.
RONALD AND PAT AT BELLE ISLE KISSING AT THE WATERFRONT.
PAT AND RONALD SKATE BACKWARDS AT THE ROLLER SKATING RINK
TO A SLOW SONG.
RONALD GIVES PAT HIS FOOTBALL VARSITY JACKET.
RONALD AND PAT MAKE OUT IN A DARK BASEMENT.
THE INTERRUPTION OF EVERYTHING.
I am at the Grant home. I sense a dark mood from the quick, snapping tones of my grandmother’s voice. “I warned you when I caught you two kissing! I told you kissing could lead to fornication! How could you do this, Ronald? You’re 15 years old! You’re just a baby yourself! “I don’t know. She won’t talk to me and they told me not to call their house anymore.”
W.L.’s cowboy boots are ferociously stomping. Pat is sitting in a chair sobbing. Her mother, Virgia, is also
present and looks distraught. “Gotdammit, ain’t no need to cry now! Go to your room. I don’t want to see your face no more tonight!”
Pat does as she is told without hesitation. “And I better not hear you either!”
“W.L., the girl is only 15 years old. What have I done Wrong? Now, three of my teenage girls will be mothers.”
W.L. slowly pulls a fine cigar out of his pocket. His shiny, gold cufflinks flash briefly, catching the light. He lights the cigar and listens to his wife. “She says she doesn’t want to keep it, but we can’t allow her to give it up.”
W.L. silently looks out of the window. After a long moment of inhaling and exhaling the sweet but deadly
nectar, he calmly sits next to his wife and speaks. “This is what we’re going to do. She’ll stay in school until she starts showing. When the kids are out for Winter break, we’ll send her away to stay where Lori is in college. We tell the kids that she went up there to do a special college study program. When she has the baby, we’ll give it up for adoption. She’ll come home and go back to school like it never happened.”
The Moores were very good at keeping secrets and hiding things from their family. Their eldest daughter, Carol, was quite a hell raiser. She’d had a daughter out of wedlock at 16 or 17 who Virgia and W.L. were
raising with little help from Carol.
When Carol became pregnant, no one in the family knew about it. She hid the pregnancy very well. Lori,
Carol’s younger sister who was 15 years old at the time, shared a bedroom with her and never knew she was pregnant. One day, Carol was bent over with stomach pains, so Virgia and Lori took her to the hospital. When they arrived, an observant Lori noticed that the sign said obstetrics, and she observed various pregnant women in wheelchairs. Then they sat Carol in one and wheeled her away.
On the ride to the hospital, Lori kept asking, “What’s wrong with her?”
“She has a stomach ache.” My Grandmother replied.
Once inside, Lori continued, “Why are we in the maternity ward?”
“The hospital did not have any room leftin the emergency ward.”
As the hospital staff wheeled Carol away, Virgia and Lori left the hospital. An insistent Lori wanted to know why they were leaving her. Attempting to quiet the girl, Virgia said, “They are going to examine her and we will come back to pick her up.”
Three days later they brought Carol home with a newborn baby. All the children gathered around and
wanted to know whose baby it was. Honestly, they had no clue that the baby, now named Tamica, was Carol’s daughter. They had never been told. Eventually, they all figured it out. Even though Carol still lived in the house with them, Virgia and W.L. raised her as their own.
However the Moores may have felt about Patricia’s situation, they decided to help her conceal her pregnancy
to the world. Perhaps this was decided to hide their own embarrassment and shame, or to ultimately protect their daughter and her wishes. When their third daughter and baby girl became pregnant, this was the choice that was made. Everything went according to their plan until Ronald found out where she was. I recall my father’s account of the day that changed his life.
Patricia is laying in bed in her sister’s dorm room, watching TV and eating donuts. A knock is heard at the
door. Pat gets up and opens it. Alarmed at the sight of Ronald, she starts to freak out.
What are you doing here?! How did you get in?! Pat, just calm down.
Just listen to me.
Pat, I’m not gonna hurt you. I just wanna talk. Just hear me out, please. Please. Pat calms down. She knows he isn’t going anywhere until he has said his peace. She nods ok. He removes his hand from her mouth.
Look … I don’t care about what anyone has to say about us being too young … or that we have our future
ahead of us. All I know is… you’re having my baby. I’ll drop out of school. I’ll get a job to support us.
All I need to hear you say is that you’ll marry me. Please, Patty Cake. Will you be my wife? I want to do the right thing. Patricia’s eyes narrow and become dark. Dark and cold. She responds coolly and detached, devoid of any emotion. I don’t want to marry you. I can’t even stand the sight of your face. I’m going to have this thing inside of me in three weeks. Then it will be adopted. No!
Pat, please. Don’t give my baby away. If you want it, you can have it. But I don’t want to have anything to do with it. Now go! Ronald stands there immobile, not knowing who this girl is. The girl he loved. The girl who used to love him. She’s completely devoid of emotion. He leaves stunned and stands outside of the door for many moments, looking at the door, not sure of what to do next.
Lori does not remember much about Patricia during that time other than that she was very quiet. She recalls
that they rarely talked. There were no sisterly chats, no pouring out of emotion, and no communication beyond what was necessary. In fact, this behavior from Patricia is all anyone remembers from childhood: “She was a hermit. She kept to herself, and she locked herself in her room allday.”
She was a stranger living amongst her family. To my knowledge, no one took the time to make an attempt to
connect with her. What was the reason she seemed to be so distant? Had she experienced some trauma that no one had known about which caused her to shut down? Had she been abused? Had she been hurt? Was she needy in some way the others were not? Instead of finding a way to reach her and learn how to help her with an emotional or psychological issue, those around her let her fall to the way side.
I breathe. I think. I imagine. I was born January 24. I can see the eyes I am trying hard to focus on, and I know.
I know they are not my mother’s. My mother never even held me in her arms, never looked into my eyes, and never tried to comfort me during my first cry. In fact, she did not even name me; my aunt Lori did.
My mother returned home as if nothing had ever happened. When she returned to Detroit, she went back to
school and was able to graduate with her class without missing a beat. She continued her life normally, as
normally as she could, and no one ever questioned her absence. She went back to school while living a lie and carrying an enormous secret. My mother signed documents granting Doris full guardianship. Doris promised
to never try to contact the Moores again. The Moores would return to their normal lives as if I never existed. This is my picture from all the stories seen in a short of my early life …
Life before me. My heart is heavy. I feel the burden of all the lives my existence has affected. I know there is more to see, but I can’t be certain I want to see the rest. So I decide. I decide to write. I am tired but I am strong. I know I will live. So I write.
I can see inside the living room now. I’m in the Grant home. They had to adjust financially as there was no room for a new baby in the home and no money for a new crib for me. Instead of a crib, my grandmother took a drawer from her dresser, lined it with blankets, and there I lay in my makeshift crib in my new home. From there I grew. From there I new nothing of my mother’s life. The absence of the pair of white, polished, thick-soled nursing shoes by the door tells me that my grandmother is at work.
Doris was now forty-five years old, and soon after I was born, she learned that she was carrying her fifth child. With me, her new grandchild, she now had seven mouths to feed. But to her, children were a
blessing regardless of when or how they came to exist. She was not afforded the luxurious maternity leaves that her employers had. So not working was not an option.
There are voices. There is a woman there with my father who is now a man of just 20. His voice is deep and
soft as he speaks to her. She is a pretty woman who looks kind. She sees me as I see her and she does not reject me. She is warm, and I immediately feel that she is warm.
Kenny, this is Yvette. She is going to be your new mother after we get married. But I already have a
No, Doris is my mother.
She is your grandmother.
Then where is my mother?
No one knows what to say. After a long moment, my father speaks again. Kenny, go get your shoes on. We’re going to take a ride. I could hear the conspiratorial whispers as I obeyed my father’s instructions. Are you sure you want to do this,
Ronald? The girl has a right to know who her mother is. Maybe when she gets older.
She’s old enough. Patricia has graduated from college already. She’s a woman now. It’s time. The Moores seemed to have forgotten about me like my mother had, more than likely to respect Patricia’s wishes. Even though they were financially stable and lived three blocks from where their successful businesses were located, I was told they never helped the Grants with my care. As far as I know, there were no diapers, no milk, no money for childcare and no clothes sent for me. Even with the perceived lack of care or concern they had for my well-being, somehow my father and aunt Lori pushed for them to know me. Our tiny car, our little beat-up hoopty, was overpowered by the shade cast upon us when we pulled up beside the huge home with the manicured lawn and the manicured people who moved in and out of their door ways.
It still looked the same. I looked out of the window in awe of the mansion-like residence. Ronald rings the doorbell. Someone looks out and opens the door with the screen door still cautiously closed between her and
the strangers before her. Yes? Mrs. Moore? Yes?
This is Kenya. She looks down and sees me. Tamica, a pretty, six-year-old who looks just like me, curiously comes to the door. She is two years older but the same height. Come in son. Tamica and I naturally gravitate to ward each other. We go off to play together nearby. Ronald and Virgia sit in the living room. I like your hair. She pulls on a glossy black coil and it springs back. She giggles. How did you get it to do that? My grandma did it.
You’re pretty, too.
What’s your name?
How old are you?
I have the new Barbie.
We go off to her room.
So I hear Pat graduated and is teaching now. She’ll be home any minute. I don’t know if this is a
good idea. I just want her to know who her mother is. It’s been four years. Pat is a grown woman now.
She shouldn’t be ashamed. I mean, look at her. She looks just like her. A key is faintly heard turning in the door. Pat, now 20, gorgeous and well put-together, walks in.
Ronald is frozen.
She turns toward the voice. Slowly she realizes who he is. Her mood immediately changes to anger. What the hell a re you doing here? I tried calling but the number was changed. I told you I don’t ever want to see your face again. Meanwhile, I am having a blast with my new friend—my first cousin unbeknownst to me.
Can you spend the night with us? My grandmother doesn’t allow us to spend the night at other people’s houses. Will you ask your daddy if you can stay with me? Okay. Let’s go ask him. We walk to the stairs and hear the angry voices.
Pat, it’s been enough time. He just wants her to know you. Well, I don’t want to know her. I made my decision four years ago. Nothing has changed. Now leave! Tamica and I are standing at the bottom of the stairs. Pat turns and as if in slow motion, finally sees my innocent face. For the first time, she sees the face of her child who looks undeniably just like her.
There is no mistaking that I am her child. I am her child. Patricia looks at me, rendering me frozen and unable to move. We explore each other’s face. I know. I know. I know this is my mother. My real mother.
I stare, I stare, I stare.
I know I am dreaming. I am certain of it. I can feel my tiny heart and it is racing, it anticipates her every move. I know she knows I am hers. She is me and I am her and she is mine. I love her. I am in love with my mother. After a long and flat, icy stare from her, which was devoid of any emotion, she walks upstairs right past me, purposefully, intentionally, passing me without speaking. I look after her, but she is gone.
And as quickly as the love I had for her had come, those feelings were crushed even faster. That was the first time and the last time she ever looked at me. My father picks me up while I’m still holding Tamica’s hand and walks toward the door. Silently, Tamica starts to weep.
Eventually, I can no longer hold on to my cousin’s hand. My father and I walk out. But before we are long gone, my grandmother offers this: Give it some time. You can call me and you can bring her over when she’s not here. Ronald shamefully gets in the car, unable to look his daughter in the eye. He knows he has failed me. I can see alone, silent tear creep down his solemn face.
I start to cry, too, knowing, feeling that something is imbalanced. I choke. I can’t breathe. I am stirring and it is difficult to keep writing. But I do. I keep writing. I start to cry for my loss and pain. I start to feel sorry for that little girl I once was because I know. I know what is next.
Since that day, I have always known who my mother was, even though she has never once spoken to me. I would infrequently visit the Moores, against my mother’s wishes, often to see my favorite cousin Tamica, who was becoming a big sister to me. Everyone in the Moore house treated me normally except for my mother.
I often remember seeing my mother there. Whenever she would come into view, it would cause me to stop
in my tracks to be able to study her. She gave the impression that she was an African Goddess or some mystical creature that children only read about in fairy tales or dreamed of at night. When I play back the pictures of her in my mind, she carried herself with impossible grace and a delicate poise rivaled by no one. And whenever she walked, she appeared to be moving in slow motion, to a rhythm all her own. Towering at six feet, she was unbelievably tall.
But to me, a small child of 4 or 5, she looked like an ethereal giant with the longest legs, which made her appear to be standing on stilts. She was young and beautiful and everything about her was extraordinary. Her hair was ink black and silky straight as it softly cascaded down to her waist. Her skin was a flawless shade of honey, and she had the most alluring eyes and features of any woman I had ever seen on television or in a magazine.
When I was able to see her, she made it very clear to me, that I was not wanted. She never said it at the time, but I knew it by the way she treated me. I would be playing nearby or merely in the same room with or near her, and she just simply ignored me. When I use the word ignore, most people understand it to basically mean to deprive of attention.
When I state that she ignored me, I mean that she acted as if I were invisible, like I did not exist. Like I was never born. She pretended that I was not at all physically present in any way whatsoever. Period. Even if I was less than a foot away from her in the same room, my mother simply pretended, acted, or imagined that I was not there. To her, I was non-existent. I was invisible.
If she walked into the room where I was, she would speak to all the people there and never look at or speak to me. She would carry on conversations, eat, and watch television, but she would never once look in my direction or make direct eye contact. It also did not matter if we were alone; she still ignored me. If our family was present, she ignored me. If there were strangers in the room, she ignored me. In fact, her entire family, the Moores, knew she behaved this way. They observed her actions toward me, but no one dared speak up about it or question her, at least never in my presence. It was never done. It was never done. Her family chose to close their eyes, thus contributing to the dysfunction. Each and every one of them acted as if it was normal, and carried on as usual around me.
Although I longed for her love and attention, I was conditioned, without choice, to accept her behavior the way everyone else did. As a result, I’d become grateful that I was even allowed to be there. I was honored that she permitted me to be in her presence at all; it made me feel privileged. I contented to myself with being able to gaze at her and take home all the memories of my real family.
They were vibrant, charismatic, beautiful, powerful, and rich—celebrities in my young, impressionable mind. These were the people I wanted to be like. I was a wannabe. I wanted to be accepted as one of them. This is where I felt I really belonged, and there, I could hope to someday be loved by my real mother.
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