No one ever has it all together and that is the most fucking beautiful tragedy about human beings who are just trying to be. We are all just patchwork dolls that have been previously loved, if we are lucky, that is.
That being said, when you’re a child, you never understand your parents’ motives for the things that they do. All you know is what they do and how it makes you feel. It is a certain kind of naive, tunnel vision. The kind that amplifies everything that happens to you and minimizes perspective.
My mother, God bless her, was born one of eight kids. She would have been one of nine if it wasn’t for the stillborn. I sometimes wonder what my aunt would have been like, if she would have been smart like the rest of them, desperate for love like my mother, or a trouble-maker like my uncle.
Her parents were dirt poor. Not the kind of poor in which coupons are helpful, but the kind in which all clothes were sewn by my grandmother and were passed down from child to child until they more closely resembled rags. Christmas was a time to be together, not to give and receive presents.
The amount of neglect in that household was undesirable, but at the time, probably not unheard of. The eleven year-old snuck cigarettes for he and the ten year-old, the nine year-old kept an eye on the seven year-old, and the seven year-old told the five year-old how to change the baby’s diaper. Her parent’s worked hard to support the children but in the process forgot to tell them they loved them. It is my impression that their efforts to feed, clothe, and educate them were the best way they knew how to show love.
We have all somehow convinced ourselves that we are doing the best that we can. Self-serving lies can go a long way–through generations upon generations, in fact.
“You’re wearing THAT to the movies?!”
My mother’s voice carried only the way that words from practiced vocal cords can.
“All the beautiful clothes, heels, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and stockings I buy you and you put on sweatpants! What if we see someone we KNOW?”
The time was 4:30 PM on a Monday and I was a fresh college graduate. This was not a new occurrence in my household, but on this particular occasion I did not find refuge in my shell. Rather, I fought back. It felt as if my bones had been snapping under the weight of all of my insecurities for years. It pains me to even reproduce the actual horrific things that escaped my mouth like water leaking from cupped hands, but you must be aware, I was far from gentle.
To this day, I have never seen my mother cry like she did that apologetic afternoon. More than anything, I wanted to hug her and console her despite having been the victim, and I can only assume that’s because I knew deep down how frayed her edges were.
For many years I resented her and if I have permission to be candid, I can honestly say I hated her. The drinking and drugs helped to keep me numb throughout it all, but everything surfaces eventually.
“I’m so sorry I’ve been saying those things all these years,” she choked through a waterfall.
“I just never had nice things and I always vowed to be able to give my children better clothes, take them on vacations, and allow them the opportunities I never had.”
From that point on, the “why” became much more important than the “what.” There was no way I could understand the emotional trauma I was receiving without knowing my mother’s life growing up. I always knew she was poor but not much else was ever elaborated. That Monday afternoon in the kitchen, I learned that my grandparents hadn’t told my mom that they loved her since she could remember.
“That’s just it, though. You never had nice things so you wanted to provide your children with them. You were never shown love, so why not give us love and support?”
The damage is irreversible, that much I know to be true, but at least I can take a step back and see beyond the walls of the tunnel for the first time. I may have been carelessly threaded with buttons for a mouth and red string eyes that are frayed along the edges just like my mother’s, and I may have a few too many pins perforating the spot where my supposed heart should be, but after hurting so many people like I’ve been hurt, I can begin to remove those pins one by one and mend my seamless relationships.
–article by Marisa Crane