Mother Knows Best

by Victoria Macklai

                                               Mother Knows Best It was a rather peaceful morning for Nicole Robinson. She woke up to the sound of birds chirping and sunlight shining through the window in her room. She rose from her bed, yawned, stretched, and silently thanked the heavens that it was Saturday. Nicole turned her phone on and started to play some music. Not only two minutes later did her mom barge into her room, cruelly interrupting her relaxing jam session. "You have a C- in American History? Seriously, Nicole!?" Her mother questioned, throwing her hands up in the air. The careless girl mentally slapped herself for that one. She knew her school had already mailed out deficiency letters and had planned to wake up earlier in the morning to take it from the mailbox before her mom could find it. "The class is SO boring mom. You don't understand!" Nicole shouted back, crossing her arms to defend herself. "I don't care if the class is boring to you. If you want to get into college.." Nicole's mother began. Unknowing to her mother, Nicole had already drowned out her rant after she uttered the word "college". The girl didn't understand why she had to take history in the first place. She was the type of person to live in the present and didn't concern herself with the past. "..and if you don't raise your grade by the end of next week, I will ground you for the entire month!" Nicole's mom threatened, storming out of her room and shutting the door. Now this definitely caught Nicole's attention. The girl did NOT want to be stuck in her house on the weekends for an entire month. She knew what she had to do in order to raise her history grade. There was a "Family Tree" project due on Monday, and of course Nicole had pushed it to the very last minute. She simply had no interest in digging through her family's past and presenting it to the class. But she desperately needed to raise her grade. She walked downstairs to find her family's photo albums. Nicole entered the closet in her father's office, reaching up to find the box that contained all the heirlooms of the Robinsons. She set the container on the floor and searched through the box to see if anything was worthwhile. Photos, necklaces, and a dusty old pocket-watch. Nicole stopped shifting through everything when she noticed an orange envelope- one she hadn't seen before. With great curiosity, she opened the envelope and poured the contents on the floor. Her interest sparked even more when she saw the name "Samantha Robinson" marked on the back of a letter. Although Nicole hated to admit it, she was excited to see whatever her great grandmother had to say. Nicole took the letters with her, sat on her father's comfortable armchair, and began to read:

March 20th, 1876

My Dearest Father,

I apologize for not properly expressing myself through my writing. I do not have a way with words quite like you do.

Harrison and I are greatly enjoying our honeymoon. Your cottage on the countryside is beautiful. We ride horses, feed the chickens, and watch the sunset every day. I wish we could stay here forever. I'm writing this at your old desk- my favorite place to recollect my thoughts.

I simply cannot thank you enough for the plentiful gifts you've given Harrison and me for our nuptials. The pocket watch with a silver pendant, the pack of cigarros, your sacred quill, the polaroid camera, my beautiful wedding corset...

I appreciate all of it, father. But most importantly, I appreciate your kind sentiments; I appreciate your love and support for my husband and I.

You gave Harrison your blessing- something mother quietly resented. A decision of mine she must come to terms with.

I've written a poem for you to express my gratitude. I hope you enjoy it, father.

                                   The Awakening Unleash your soul from the fiery pits of vice Do not hesitate Do not stutter Do not cry Speak your mind Leave thy earthly self behind And be reborn into a white paradise. Respectively,

Your Darling Daughter Samantha Robinson

April 4th, 1876 My Darling Samantha, I cannot comprehend how you could leave me, your dear mother. I am frail, almost withering away into thin air. It is tradition that you care for me in my old age as I cared for you as a young child. Your poor father, he's dead. And I'm all alone. I know you are still suffering from his passing. But we must stick this out as a family. You are the eldest, Samantha. Please take some responsibility. Johnny and Tommy are busy with their families; they do not have time for me anymore. But you, Samantha, have not yet found a man to take your hand in marriage. As the days go by, you will not be able to conceive a child. Your last husband- Harrison was it?- brought nothing but shame to the Robinson name. If you two had started a family, he would not have left you. A child is the answer to all relationship woes. Trust me, mother always knows best. But the past is the past. Once you find a new husband, you can properly take care of me again. This separation cannot last forever, Samantha. You will eventually forgive me. Your beloved mother Rebekah Robinson

June 7th, 1876 Mother, When will you understand- I am never coming home. You are the reason my father killed himself. And you cannot even bring yourself to say how he truly died. He did not "pass away", mother. He hung himself. I knew the years of emotional abuse took a toll on him. I will forever blame you for this. Harrison- my soulmate- did not just leave me. I know he's dead too, mother. You killed him. We did not need kids to make our marriage happy- unlike you. You needed me. You cannot even admit it. I found the letters that you stole from the mailbox. Do you know how heartbreaking it is to see your own husband's death plastered on the headline of a newspaper? Do you know how heartbreaking it is to know your mother had something to do with it? "A hunting accident" the newspaper said. Harrison had never picked up a rifle in his life. I am twenty four now; an adult. You do not have control over me anymore mother. No more backhanded compliments, no more gaslighting, no more victim blaming.. Your narcissism completely suffocated me. I will not end up like father, my "darling" mother. With careful consideration, Samantha Robinson

         It took Nicole more than a minute to process everything she just read. She had no idea her great-great grandfather, Maxwell Robinson, killed himself. Her view of her great-great grandmother was tarnished. The idea that her own grandmother's mother had to deal with a monster like Rebekah scarred her. But now, everything made sense to Nicole. She knew why this history project was so important. Everything in the past ultimately affects the present. Learning more about her family's history would make Nicole understand herself better. So, with a change of heart and a determination to raise her grade, the girl started to read the very last letter, which began with "Dear Nicole,".

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