I had intended to write a couple of follow up articles to Childhood: Then and Now, but something terrible happened. That damn article made it to the front page of reddit and got hundreds of comments. Which, in itself, isn’t a bad thing. I just made the mistake of reading said comments.
I should have known better.
Generally, I avoid reading feedback about my site like the plague. First of all, I’m boring. Second of all, it usually gives me a headache. I’ve been far too busy lately to nurse a throbbing skull.
Don’t get me wrong, most everyone said something humorous (intentionally or not) and a handful even managed to come up with logical or insightful anecdotes/arguments.
But the idiots always bray the loudest, don’t they?
One dipshit even implied that all my stories must be fake because I periodically write about happy memories of my childhood/Mother/Home life. Apparently, these stories don’t make sense when peppered with stories of child abuse. Oh, gag me.
Can I please point out the obvious? If my life had been a nonstop horror show, I probably would have committed suicide by now. Seriously, let’s be real here.
Secondly, am I the only one who understands that people aren’t characters? Am I the only one who knows the difference between the two? Please God, tell me I’m not.
There is no such thing as a virtuous hero. There are no witty sidekicks. Real life doesn’t contain crazed super villains who exist only to kick puppies and give the star of the show a believable character arc. Reality and fiction are two totally different things. People are complex. Situations aren’t black and white. There is a spoon, people! THERE IS A GODDAMN SPOON!
The reason I can write about both good and bad memories of my Mother is because I have both good and bad memories of my Mother. She is not a character in a movie. She is a living, breathing human being. Thus, she is made up of shades of gray just live everyone else on this godforsaken planet. I know, I know. Shame on her for not following the fucking script.
My Mother totally lacked the ability to be physically affectionate with her children. Never in my life has my Mother kissed or hugged me. As a child, when crossing the street she would refuse to take my whole hand in hers. Instead, she would distastefully present me with her pinky finger to clutch. When we made it to the sidewalk, she would snatch it away as if I were a dirty, repulsive thing that caused her physical pain to touch. Now, I can also be kind of weird about touching small children. It just doesn’t feel normal to me.
On the other hand, my Mother never censored me. I could read or watch any damn thing I wanted. When my concerned 1st grade teacher called home after I brought Stephan King’s ‘Carrie’ to sustained silent reading, my Mother snapped at her. “My daughter is not an idiot,” she said, “She knows the difference between fantasy and reality.” I was so proud, I slugged through the entire book with a dictionary carefully balanced on my knee so I could look up the words I didn’t understand. I ended up reading at such an advanced level, I skipped grades in school.
My Mother had an extremely bad temper and almost zero patience for children. Imagined disrespect, loud noises in the morning, a chore done subpar…everything set her off. She would go from completely calm and serene to violently out of control in a split second. Anything within her reach would become a weapon. I was beaten with hot wheel tracks, burnt with hot curling irons, or stabbed with steak knives. In the absence of a suitable weapon, my Mother would simply grab me by the hair and repeatedly slam my head into hardwood floors or walls. I would quickly learn to go limp when she started on me. Crying or struggling always made it worse, so I took my punishments silently and stoically. Today, I have an extremely high tolerance for pain.
My Mother never catered to our dietary whims. When she fed us, she fed us well. Fruits, veggies, foods from every nationality or culture were foisted upon us. Now that I think about it, she really was an excellent cook. It’s a pity she wasn’t in her domesticated moods more often. Either way, though, neither me nor my brother are picky eaters and we have her to thank for that.
My Mother had a hard time finding her own identity; her personality changed with every new boyfriend she acquired. Nothing ever lasted for her and ultimately her romantic relationships would fail and her situational friends would disappear with them. I think…this made her feel very, very low. And when my Mother was feeling low, the only way she knew how to soothe herself was to tear someone else down to her level. Mostly, this was me. She said things to me that I can’t even bring myself to type today. It’s far easier for me, emotionally, to tell you about the time she set my hair on fire. That, at least, is funny in a darkly humorous sort of way. But the way my Mother used to scream at me, for hours on end, viciously slapping my cheeks should I nod off around 2am…no….I can’t find anything funny in that.
My Mother had a talent for taking apart every aspect of your personality, magnifying the bad, and twisting the good until it was bad, too, all in order to replace every emotion you’ve ever had with shame and self loathing. Sometimes my mind would break when she did this to me. I couldn’t hear her anymore. My my mind would be filled with wailing, this god awful wailing, that reminds me of a dying animal whenever I try to conjure up the memory. I would slump over during these times, eyes open but unseeing, with nothing but the sounds of sirens in my ears. I never went to school after a night of this. I needed time to learn to speak again.
I suppose you could read all of these things and come to the conclusion that the bad memories far outweighed the good. Perhaps you’d be right, but that doesn’t mean the good never existed. I guess you could read this and assume I hate my Mother. But you’d be wrong. Hating my Mother for being who she was would be akin to hating a rock for being a rock. It’s an exercise in futility to hate someone for being a product of their environment. If anything, the fact that she could do this to a helpless child just proves the depths of her own despair.
I’m still afraid of my Mother. But if I weren’t, I’d like to give her a hug. I wish I could tell her how sorry I am for whatever happened to her as a child that scarred her so deeply and drove her to this. I wish my Mother could learn how to feel love and empathy and find peace within herself and some semblance of joy in her life. I wish I could help her. But I can’t.
She’s broken. She’s broken beyond repair and it was inevitable that she’d lash out at someone. Secretly, I am glad this person was me. If only because I was able to take it. I like to pretend she picked me for this very reason. I like to think she ripped me apart not because she hated me, but because she knew I was strong enough to put myself back together again. God knows she always raised me to be tough. And if I am anything, I am tough. Tough as nails.
And I have her to thank for it.
- Hanging the Kids Out to Dry
- Sometimes Mediocrity and Lies Go Hand in Hand
- About Your Host
- A Happy Ending
- Fifteen and Already a Wife