Friday, May 19, 2006

Legend Continues—Unhappy Childhood

Sometime (I was probably twelve or thirteen), I remember writing on a scrap of paper: "When I grow up and someone asks, I shall tell them I had a most unhappy childhood." I remember writing it down and somewhat smugly burying it beneath the panties in my underwear drawer.

Of course my mother found it. Maybe I wanted her to... but it made her angry. She was a struggling single parent, when the term single parent hadn't been coined. She felt betrayed that the one person she worked so hard for—me—was so ungrateful. I was ungrateful, and intensely lonely.

I rarely went "out to play"”. Besides there being nothing to do "out", it was dangerous. Even before I started kindergarten I learned that bullies could be lurking in the shadows, behind every corner. I packed toys underneath my doll blankets when I went out with the stroller so I could bribe the kids who threatened to beat me up. My mom was exasperated. "You have to learn to stick up for yourself!" But I was terrified of pain. and bribery worked. I was awkward and gawky, uncoordinated at team sports. I tripped over my own feet. Any activity involving a ball was hopelessly beyond me.

My world was one of escape into books.

I was also too geeky to be popular. Popular was the term that summed up self-worth like success does today. I wasn't popular, but neither was I destitute of friends. I had friends. But many of my friendships were bought and paid for. My allowance was spent in treating others to candy bars.

I missed my father. At least I missed the image of what I thought he would have meant to me—the imaginary potential of him. And I let it be known that I missed him and that too was a betrayal for my mother. She was the one who stayed, for God sakes, the one who didn't desert me. I was the child she chose to raise, stayed on to raise, (after my dad's ignoble departure) sacrificed her life (the best years of, I might add) to raise. What thanks did she get for all that sacrifice? But that was her schtick—mine was something else. I was not my mother's daughter. I was unappreciated, just as she was. I was some alien child, with a quick and sarcastic wit, a talent for just about everything except sports, with nobody to relate to. No brothers or sisters to harass or protect me, no extended family to pound some perspective of humility into me— just me and she, and the constant clash of wills. "Willfull" was the term she used to describe me to her friends. Willful and stubborn and hard-headed. And boy-crazy. I, on the other hand, remember myself as intelligent, but shy and easily intimidated. Maybe not intimidated by her, but by everyone else.

We neither understood nor appreciated each other then. And so my mother drank to ease her pain, and I eased mine by writing messages to myself and hiding them in the underwear drawer.

6 comments:

HeyJules said...

Oh girl - I had a feeling we were cut from the same cloth! I didn't hide mine in my underwear drawer but I did tear it up in big enoug pieces that my mom would find it in my trash can and put it together. Then, of course, I got to confront her for going through my trash...

Pilot Mom said...

I wrote my in letters to my sister who was so much older. I would leave them out...almost in the envelope but not very far. Then she would read them and I could confront her. I was willful too. Oh how we have clashed until I moved out. Isn't it a corker that I end up being her caregiver? I'm absolutely positive the good Lord has a sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

Why do you expose yourself so to strangers?

cgssis said...

I've been reading your posts for months and have had the suspicion that you and Sr. CG either get along very,very well or not at all because you seem to be so much like me. Now I'm more certain of it than ever!

Claire Joy said...

Yes, we do get along very well. She's one of my favorite sisters (if I were allowed to have a favorite)

Anon... I'll respond to your question in a later post. If I answer now, it will be a knee-jerk reaction, rather than a thoughtful action...

kpjara said...

I Thank God you expose yourself to strangers and "friends" like me!

After all isn't the seed of friendship sprouted by strangers that finally meet?

I love that you truly do come to the "world" with your suitcase open!