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Mama Who Raised Me

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I know nothing changes in this world
Every day the muezzin calls
Sun comes up and Baghdad falls
Before the eyes of storytelling girls
- Anais Mitchell, Before the Eyes of Storytelling Girls


Elizabeth Proctor plays Ivor Novello when she cleans the house, when her husband isn't home, when she cooks, when she dances with her son. This will be one of the few things her son remembers about her six year later when he is eight when she sticks her head in the oven. Her son, Matthew, is left alone with his father and he will be one of her few regrets.

James Proctor is a cruel man. Whether this was because of what happened in the war or something else, she does not know, what she does know is that he didn't used to be this way when he was courting her, he brought her flowers and told her she was beautiful. She isn't beautiful now. Life has taken her vanity from her, long black locks have been replaced by a limp grey, eyes, once alight with joie de vivre have faded into an indeterminate deadness.

Her son, she knows, will have the glossy black hair and shining brown eyes, and this brings her a twisted sort of hope. Hope, that her son will be able to go on without her, hope that it won't be the end for her beamish boy.

So, with her lovely little lies crammed into the forefront of her mind with all her doubts locked away safe and tight, Elizabeth Proctor, starts up the oven, reads her son a story ('It is, indeed, a fearful place, The torret, swollen by the melting snow, plunges into a tremendous abyss, from which the spray rolls up like the smoke from a burning house.'), writes a leather which is tucked under his pillow, and opens the oven door.

Mathew will find his mother three hours later when he gets up for a drink of water. James Proctor comes home to a police car and an ambulance, whereupon the first words out of his mouth are 'What's the fuss? Has the stupid cunt gone and gotten herself killed?'.

James Proctor dies eight years later when his liver gives out. Matthew Proctor dies much sooner, even if his body is still alive.


Guadalupe Fernandez meets Alberto Zambrano when she's seventeen and he's twenty. He stands outside her window rain or shine for two weeks before she agrees to let him court her. In a year they are married and he is studying to be a doctor. It's hard, that first couple of years, living off whatever they can make while Alberto studies at medical school. She works two jobs as a secretary and clerk and Alberto washes dishes and waits tables in between classes.

Eva is born six years later and she is their pride and joy. Alberto has to pick up another couple of shifts, but their little baby girl is worth it. Once he's out of medical school, Alberto rises fast through the ranks of the trauma surgeons, and soon it's a house instead of a single-bedroom apartment and new clothes for their baby girl instead of hand-me-downs from the neighbour's children.

No matter what though, it is still hard, Guadalupe's father is arrested for treason and shot, putting Alberto and his star-like career under scrutiny and halt. After three years of stasis and fear, a month after Eva's sixth birthday, they get on a raft in the middle of the night and set sail across the Gulf of Mexico for something that they hope might be better.

It's not though, at least not for Guadalupe, she contracts something, what she's not sure, some where out there in the middle of nowhere, and she knows she has to keep fighting because if she doesn't then Alberto and her little Evita will stop fighting too, and she could never let that happen. Alberto is sick and she is dying and her little Evita is so scared, Guadalupe can just feel it. Bu, at long last, they are picked up by white men in boats who tell her baby girl everything's going to be alright as they load Guadalupe and her husband into an ambulance. When she hears Alberti will live, she decides its not worth fighting for any longer. If she lives she will be crippled for the rest of her life, she's served her purpose and failure was never an option.

Alberto will become as renown a surgeon here as he was in Cuba and her little girl will grown up to be beautiful, smart, caring, and wonderful. (Only one of these things comes true.)


Melissa Warren didn't go to university, instead, she got married. It is one of the biggest regrets of her life. The man she abandons her dreams to marry is a crushingly boring accountant with a beautiful paycheque. She doesn't mind her husband, Melissa just doesn't like him very much. She'd rather be surrounded by intellectuals, painters, poets, not bankers and accountants. Melissa knows she is a walking, talking cliché, and she doesn't mind that - after all, we're all a little clichéd sometimes. What she does mind is that her cliché is so goddamn boring.

Mark is born in the fifth year of marriage, and Melissa loves her son, if only because he provides an escape from the suburban abyss she has fallen into. Serena comes along a few years after that.

Melissa's children are her's to begin with, but she has to sit and watch as they get pulled into their father's orbit of expectation and success. Make no mistake, her husband was not a cruel man, he was not even a bad father, but he took from Melissa what was rightfully hers.

She looses Mark to business school and Wall Street, but she hopes Serena will not follow. She plays old Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies and teaches Serena to dance and for a while she thinks that she won't loose her daughter (She'll make sure her little girl can do everything backwards in high heels.). She doesn't though. Her baby girl becomes a doctor, and Melissa cannot help but be immensely proud. Proud that Serena is doing something that makes her Daddy proud all the while following her dreams. Those who cannot do, teach, and Melissa taught her daughter to be strong and brave.

Serena flies off to follow her dreams in Miami and Melissa learns to make pastry and speak French. Melissa doesn't mind anymore.


Emily Silva gets pregnant with her first son when she's sixteen. Like most of the other girls in her hometown, she ends up dropping out of school and getting married to a man she's sure she doesn't love. She knows she isn't cut out to be an Air Force wife and she tells Tony this. She has the baby and works double shifts as a waitress in a bar that she wouldn't want to see her father in.

Ricky is destine to repeat his father's mistakes and fall into the same holding pattern that everyone else in this godforsaken town are trapped in, she sees this from his early childhood. Chris comes later, and there are times she wishes that both of her children have never been born. They can't afford two children on her and Tony's meagre salaries and they both know it.

Tony gets discharged when he hurts his back and suddenly Emily's supporting four people and a drinking problem by waiting tables. When Tony hits her the first time she thinks its some kind of mistake, as if he's an actor who's gone off script. Once, just once, as he beats her she screams that she hates him (he just hits her harder after that). When he starts to hit the boys she puts her foot down, which really doesn't do much, except she and Chris end up with matching scars across their backs.

The people at work cluck sympathetically or pat her back, but they never do anything and they never say anything. She doesn't blame them, not really. Tony is vicious when he's been drinking, which he seems to do almost constantly an she couldn't live if he hurt someone else.

She and her boys get older and the blows get harder until they stop entirely when Tony climbs into a car to drive her and her sons to one of Chris's football games and runs a red light.

Tony's crippled from the waist down and Emily's on life support for a week.

She mans the homestead, waiting for her boys to come home. She works and eventually retires, takes care of Tony, keeps the house clean, and life goes on.