When I was a little girl, my mom wanted to be a writer. She wrote short stories in the vein of her favorite television show, The Twilight Zone, and she did research on areas of historic interest in our hometown.
I would see her typing away on her old typewriter and watch in awe as she created piles and piles of papers, all part of a manuscript, being thrown into a box.
My beautiful mother Victoria
What she was working on was her life story which she called WEEDMONKEY.
Weedmonkey is a Southern term for the word whore and this ugly word was being used to describe her mother, my grandmother, Maud.
My mother grew up during the Depression and was forced to live in coal mining camps throughout Appalachia. As a child, she was subjected to child molestation, the KKK, murder, homelessness, starvation and ridicule for being the daughter of the town whore.
She grew up hating her mother who was taken away when she was nine years old and while she was gone, she and her brother were put into foster care, starved and abused.
My uncle Gerald and my mother Victoria (Ruby)
When her mother returned, she did not know her husband or her children and my mother could not understand why she had changed.
At 16, my mother made the decision to leave Kentucky and the only life she had ever known after discovering her prostitute mother was having an affair with the young boy my mother loved.
She grew up with hatred, resentment and shame for the woman she called Mom and it was not until her mother’s funeral, did she learn the horrible truth, the reason for her change and the reason why she became the town whore, a weedmonkey.
I knew this book meant a great deal to my mother. I also knew that she was afraid to do anything about it out of fear of being scorned by her family, most of whom were still living.
She put the book away many times only to talk it about again and I grew up feeling that Virgie, the name my mother gave the main character in the book, was my friend even though she was my own mother.
In 2005, my mother said she wanted to work on the book again and asked if I interview her once a day for at least an hour. This way her thoughts could be contained and she would have clear notes to look back on. I agreed and so it began.
Oftentimes, she would stop, cry and say no more. “I can’t do this, it’s too painful.”
Red Creek, Kentucky after a flood
I gave her the time to reflect but urged her to continue. I stressed the importance of this book being brought to life although I could see the old wounds were still fresh and very raw.
Although a kind, loving and gentle woman, my mother carried a lot of pain in her heart.
My great grandmother Dicie, a full blooded Cherokee who brought my mother back to life when she was born dead in 1929. She was mother’s mentor. Her husband Peter and their children. My grandfather Jesse is the little one.
In 2006, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to live. She was 77. We talked often about Weedmonkey in those last few months and I knew how much it meant to her to have it completed. Sadly, it was not meant to be.
As she lay dying, she asked me for a small favor. Would I please finish the book and write it for her. Although I was at a lost for words, I said yes.
She only asked that I do a few things: the book must be called Weedmonkey, the main character must be named Virgie Hopkins, and the cover must say Mama, Mother, Whore.
After her death, it took me a few years to even look at her pages. I was grief stricken beyond words and mourned not only the loss of my mother but also the death of her dream.
I finally decided it was time to do something with the book so I searched for her notes and her interview. However, in the confusion of her death, they had been misplaced.
I went to bed one night and asked for my mother’s heavenly guidance. Where are your notes? Your interview? If you want me to work on this book, I have to know where everything is!
That night I had a dream. I was standing in my mother’s kitchen, opening up the cupboard over her desk and the dream ended.
The next day I went to the cupboard over her desk and was met with two large pills of papers. I took them all out and went through them one by one and there at the very bottom of the pile was Weedmonkey.
My great grandmother Mallie Victoria and two of her children. I was given her name Victoria as my middle name. She and her husband were very wealthy and owned Ward’s Emporium in North Carolina.
However, this was not a book in completed form. It was typewritten pages, all with carbon paper, there were multiple versions of chapters, duplicates of the same pages, scribbled handwritten notes, papers that were torn and words scratched out. How in the world was I ever going to make any sense of this mess?
It took several months to sort it all out but I kept thinking how important it was for her to have her story told and I did it.
I got the book published and within a year, it was on the Amazon Bestseller list and went to #1. It ranked me into the Top 100 Authors on Amazon Memoirs and was being sold in local bookstores such as Turn The Page owned by famed romance novelist Nora Roberts. I have even had two book signings there!
So, you see, this is what this books means to me. I kept my promise to my mother as she lay dying and I hope I have made her proud.