I learned very early on that my existence was a mistake, an accident, almost an impossibility, and very likely an inconvenience. My mother, speaking to her friends, referred to me as “my little surprise.”
A few years after my sister was born, my parents had a son. His name was Randy. It was a difficult pregnancy and Randy was born underdeveloped. He died within days or hours of birth. I don’t even know details, he was almost never spoken of in my family. My mother was told at that time that she would be very unlikely to ever carry another child to term.
When my sister was 12, my mother got the flu. Except it wasn’t the flu, it was me. I wasn’t expected or wanted. One family rumor I heard was that my father had a lawyer at that time and was ready to divorce my mother. Then there was this “little surprise,” and he stayed.
“Children are to be seen and not heard,” was something my mother loved to say. I do not have any warm memories of hugs and kisses from her. I was little more than a thing that had to be dragged around with her wherever she went, like a noisy, annoying handbag. My purpose was to be silent unless, of course, she was in the mood to show off my intelligence level to her friends, but that was more something she would talk about rather than actually bringing me into the conversations to display it myself.
I have very few early memories of my childhood. Random things, really. I remember when my sister got married when I was about four-and-a-half years old. I remember my first night alone in that bedroom without her, crying myself to sleep, feeling betrayed and abandoned and afraid. My mother had lost her favorite victim and I knew I was next. Even at that young age, I knew. I remember visiting my sister and her husband in their new apartment and begging her to let me come live with them. I remember the look on my sister’s face and I remember her husband’s laughter at the thought. What did he care? He had his young piece of ass all to himself, finally! Fuck you, little girl.
I remember being maybe seven years old and hatching a plan to kill my mother, that was the only way to protect myself from her, she needed to die, because no one was going to save me. I would wait for her to come home, you see, baseball bat in hand, hiding behind the door. I would hit her and knock her out and tie her up and hit her some more until she died. Then I would hide and, when I was found, I would tell them that there was a burglar and he killed my mom and I was scared so I hid. And then she wouldn’t be able to hurt me anymore, not ever again.
I remember how she treated her dog better than she treated me, always sharing her food with him and petting him and telling him what a pretty boy he was. She never told me I was pretty. She said I was ugly and, when I would eat sweets, how fat I would get and how no one would ever love me.
I remember when I was in kindergarten and they brought those machines with the headphones and the beeps and tested our hearing and sent a letter to my parents that I should see a doctor. I remember the little soundproofed room the doctor put me in and the headphones and the little beeps I could not hear, but I wanted to pass the test, I wanted to make my mother happy, so I raised my hands anyway. I remember the doctor telling my mother that I could not hear, that I raised my hands at all the wrong places, and that I needed surgery. I remember how she laughed and said, “I just thought she was a brat who wouldn’t listen,” and the doctor saying, “No, ma’am, she just can’t hear you.”
I remember one summer my father took me to Dairy Queen it seemed like every day after dinner. I think he must have been trying to make up for something.
I remember once, before I was even in kindergarten, I guess, my parents had friends over and they made drinks in a blender after dinner and I didn’t want to go to bed. We had never had guests before, and I don’t remember ever having them after that night, the night I laid in my bed and cried and yelled and said, “I don’t want to go to bed!” and my dad came with his belt and pulled up my nightgown and left welts all over my back and the backs of my legs. I wonder why my parent’s friends never visited again.
I remember being twelve and asking my aunt, my dad’s sister, please, please, can I live with you? And she told me that I would be old enough soon to move out on my own, that I just had to survive. My grandmother, sister, and cousin were all there, with their sad eyes and shaking heads, what can you do? I was my mother’s daughter and there would be no intervention from this front, it wasn’t their place, to tell someone how to raise their child.
I remember before that, going to a school counselor with two of my friends and my friends and I telling the counselor about the things my mother did, the things she hit me with, how she screamed, the horrible things she would say. I remember the look on her face, the shaking head, and the statement, “You’ll be old enough soon to move out on your own, you just have to hang in there.” She must have forewarned the seventh grade counselor, who also must have forewarned the eighth grade counselor, because both of them gave me that same look and that same statement. “You’ll be eighteen soon, just hang in there.”
I remember a game of Bunko, my mother, grandmother, maybe my sister, and five or six other female family members, distant cousins or whatever they were. I remember having one of those childish moments of trying to get my mother’s attention, “Mom, mom, mommy? Mom… mom… mom…” and the sound and flash of pain as she finally responded by grabbing my thumb and bending it back as far as it would go and then a little more, breaking it.
I remember my freshman year of high school and an after-school choir rehearsal and my mother picking me up, angry that my schedule conflicted with hers. I remember her carrying grocery bags to the front door and trying to dig in her purse for her keys and me saying, “Here, let me hold the bag for you,” and she found those keys just then, yes she did, and made a fist with them and punched me in the eye. I went to my choir concert that night wearing a lot of makeup, but the cuts and bruises around my eye could not be hidden so easily.
I remember the next day at school, the counselor calling me to the office, asking me, “Does your mother hit you?” and me saying, “No, sir, I had a fall.” Because why should I trust this stranger to help me when no one else would? To hear yet again, “You’ll be old enough soon, you just have to hang in there.”
I remember being maybe fifteen and making my mother angry in some stupid fashion while visiting my grandmother. On the way out the door and down the front steps, she pushed me and I fell to the sidewalk on my face. Then she kicked me, bent over, lifted my head by my hair, and slammed my face back down to the concrete. That’ll teach me to talk back. I remember the lady across the street on her porch swing, just swinging, swinging, and not a word spoken.
I remember also when I was sixteen how my mother told me I was mentally unbalanced and I really needed help and I gave her a number to call. I remember going to see this nice lady who talked to me and then talked to my parents and then talked to all of us together and how she told my parents that I needed counseling, but so did they, that we all did, and counseling as a family because we were broken. I remember the drive home and my dad saying, “No one is going to tell me how to raise my kid.”
I remember, still when I was sixteen, I fought with my mother over the use of the telephone. The rule was that I had to be off by 10 p.m. but she needed to make a call at 9:30. Once her call was finished, I made to resume my call and she said I was done for the night. Oh, the unfairness! My father came home then to witness what he so rarely saw, these epic battles my mother and I would fight for hours on end while he was at work or out bowling or golfing. He ended up in the argument and I ended up with him straddling me with his hands around my throat. I remember kicking him in his boy parts and then I remember him holding me down with his hand over my mouth while my mother called the police. Oh please, come take her, she’s scaring us, she’s threatening to kill us in our sleep! I never said any such thing, but that was just the way my mother worked.
I remember the police and the phone calls and the bruises on my neck and the hospital they found that had room for me. I remember the four days in that hospital with the girl who saw aliens, the boy who had cut himself on both arms from wrists to elbows because his girlfriend broke up with him, the girl who ran away from every foster home. I remember the meeting with my parents on the fifth day, the nice lady telling my parents that I was a fairly normal teenager who had been abused emotionally and physically and how we all needed counseling. My parents agreed and made the appointment for our first family therapy session that we never showed up for and the whole thing was never mentioned again.
I remember when I was twenty-six and wanted to die and didn’t understand what was wrong with me and started therapy.
My mother said, “What on earth could you possibly need therapy for?”
“Because you abused me, mom.”
“I never touched you.”
And so on and so forth.
I remember when my mother went into the hospital to die two years ago. They found a brain tumor almost as big as her brain, among the hundreds of other tumors scattered around her old body. I remember wondering how long that brain tumor was there, growing growing growing out of control, big enough to actually move her brain over to one side of her skull. Maybe it started growing when she was young and maybe it was pushing on the wrong place in her brain and maybe she really couldn’t help herself and maybe she really did love me after all.
Last updated June 28, 2019