maarmie's musings

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why am I doing this?

During a recent counselling session, I told my counsellor that I started writing about my childhood on my blog. She had only one question: Why?

The answer came quickly but surprised me. I said I was writing about my childhood because I want it to exist, I want it to be in the world. I want it to be more than shadows and sadness inside my own head. I want to shout to the world that this is what happened. Maybe show people that I have become more than what my childhood role models taught me, didn't teach me.

I've only just begun sharing, but I don't entirely know if it has been - or will be - good for me in the end. All the stories are swirling. I can feel them wanting to come out. Will they help anyone else, though? Will it help me to write it? To have others read it? Will it make any difference?

I think most people, before they die, want to feel they have made some kind of positive difference in this world. A difference to their children. A difference in their chosen career. A difference to society. A creative difference.

It's obvious to me now that I will not be making much of a difference in any kind of career or work pursuits, but I am hoping, through my relationship with my daughter and various volunteering efforts,  to make some kind of difference in the world, nonetheless.

I think the biggest difference I can hope to make is to break the cycle of sadness and abuse that runs rampant on both sides of my biological family. That certainly seems to be what I've focussed my energy on since Elliot was born and is not at all inconsequential. If I can make Elliot feel valued, respected, and loved and raise her to be a confident, loving, capable, and healthy person, that will be energy well expended. That will also be a minor miracle considering the experiences I have to draw on from my own childhood and the piss-poor parenting role models I have inherited.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

First Halloween

This Halloween is the first one that Elliot will be properly celebrating. We are going trick-or-treating on Halloween night. I can't wait to see what Elliot thinks of begging for candy!

This year, Elliot is a Frankenstein ballerina. She likes the makeup more than the Frankenstein mask, though, so I'm thinking by Wednesday night she will just be going as a ballerina.

Here's a picture of my boo in her costume taken Friday night when we got back home from the haunted Ness Islands, and there is a photo of the entire costume. It just doesn't look right, does it?


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Show me the money

On a solo vacation to Hot Springs, North Carolina, one year, I stayed at a lovely B&B run by a pair of gay guys. The B&B is situated on a small farm a short walk from the centre of Hot Springs, a sweet little town that boasts natural hot springs and fabulous restaurants and is the only town through which the Appalachian Trail runs.

One day, the guys invited me on a short hike through the surrounding woodland. I started talking about my parents during this hike, and, at one point, one of the guys told me not to feel guilty for any monetary gain I had received from my parents, who, by the way, had long been making salaries I can only dream of. Monetary gain?

A current friend of mine, an American who is married to a British guy and lives in Edinburgh, is the only person I personally know who had a worse childhood than I did. Her mother is more of a bad friend than a loving parent, and her father is a violent man who has a host of mental illnesses. Mom and dad split when my friend was young, and mom sent kid to grandma so she could party and really live it up. Mom remarried some rich dude who didn't want kid around, so they shipped her off to boarding school for a number of years. Now, rich dude is dead, and mom is loaded. She's still a bad friend and not a mom, but she dishes out tons of cash to make up for her other deficiencies. As it should be, folks. As it should be.

I'm not saying that money can buy everything. I'm saying that it can buy me.

Just recently, friend's mom has paid for friend and friend's daughter to fly to the United States for a visit and hosted them for a month in her home. Friend's mom also has recently paid for friend to take a course in Malaysia studying primates and has offered to pay for flights for a Christmas visit. That's just the beginning...

No, her mother doesn't call her. No, her mother doesn't offer the loving words and gentle reassurances that only a mother can. But she tries to make up for it in the only way she is able. It's not right, but it's something.

I'd take it in a heartbeat if I could get it.

When I was a child, my dad was dirt poor. My mother left him on his own with two kids. He was just a kid himself. I honestly couldn't imagine the struggle. He had just finished his four years in the military and moved back to Florida with his two kids, one under the age of 1 and one who was 4. My dad was working as a butcher in a meat market and going to college at night to make a better life for himself. Even with help from his mother and my mom's family, he never did finish college but he somehow got a job in a bank and worked his way up with sheer hard work and dedication. That dedication paid off handsomely for him, monetarily, but cost him other things. It cost me everything.

Dad lived with us in a house owned by his mother for awhile. At other times, he was renting crappy apartments and burning through wives faster than I can fathom. After he married his fourth and current wife, we moved into an apartment complex in Clearwater and lived there until they had their own house built in Largo. I was 10 and my brother was 14 when we moved in. I finally had my own room, but it was all so isolating living in some suburban house on a suburban cul-de-sac road. I had no friends there, no kids in the neighbourhood to play with. I had to share a room with my brother in the last apartment, but at least there were plenty of kids in the same complex to hang out with. At least there was Tampa Bay nearby, fiddler crabs and mangroves and other sea life to marvel at at low tide. In the new house, I had nicer digs, but my quality of life started to suffer. And it only got worse from there.

It's interesting to think about it now, but it seems that the more money my dad made and the bigger the pot of money there was, the less I seemed to get. My parents picked out all my clothes until I was 15. In middle school and the first couple years of high school, I was a laughingstock because of my clothes. I know my parents dressed me to their taste, pleated shorts, white socks, and white Keds, but I don't really remember what they bought me to wear to school. I only know that I was mocked for my style until I turned 16, got a job and bought my own clothes, clothes that were considerably more pricey than the ones my parents were willing to pay for.

I know that my dad bought my brother a car - he pitched in $500 after my brother saved and put up the other $500. I was offered the same deal but rejected it in favour of better clothes for myself. My parents were only offering $50 per outfit for school clothes, and I was tired of being made fun of. After I started buying my own clothes, I never got mocked for them again.

But they certainly had really nice clothes for themselves and three cartons of cigarettes a week. They certainly had brand-new cars and a maid and someone to wash their cars and cut their grass.

I had crappy clothes, a baton, pom poms, a basketball, a TV, and a radio/cassette player. All the cassettes I had were blank ones that I used to record my favourite songs from the radio. When I was 15, my dad bought me Guns N'Roses "Appetite for Destruction" and the "Thriller" album a few years before that. That was all I had.

My dad had a subscription to Playboy. I had books from the library.

My parents only ever bought me two books in my entire life: Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and "A Light in the Attic." I have gotten rid of so many books through years of moving around, but I still have those books and am just starting to read them to my daughter.

The only two films my parents ever took me to see were Top Gun and ET. We seldom went out to dinner, but, when we did, it was always to dad's favourite restaurant. We never got a choice.

My parents bought a bag of apples every week. That was my snack every day after school. One apple. Every day. For my entire life. No deviation. After I left home, I couldn't bear to eat an apple. Only just recently have I started eating apples again.

When I moved out of the house, my parents changed the locks and had an in-ground swimming pool and hot tub installed. They paid for it in cash. I only ever went in it two or three times. After I moved out, they started going on all kinds of vacations. While we lived at home, we only ever went to Michigan a couple of times to visit stepmom's family and one time to North Carolina for a week. The only times we ever went to a theme park or to the beach, or, indeed, even to the park, were when my stepmother would have family from Michigan down for a visit.

Christmases and birthdays weren't much better. We each got about 7 gifts for Christmas and one gift each for birthday. Christmas didn't even exist anymore after the age of 15. I remember sitting alone in the dark in my living room when I was 16, crying and staring at the lit-up tree. There wasn't even a tree anymore after that year. Nothing. And birthday ceased to exist at the age of 17 (or was it 18) when my parents took back the single wrapped gift they had gotten me because I came home an hour late. I never did find out what the gift was. What was the point of asking? Only more pain, more pain.

Love as a weapon. Cash as a cloning incentive.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Still waiting

I had a mini nervous breakdown in May that peaked near my 40th birthday. Midlife crisis, I guess, and one that is only getting better with acceptance of what my life is and what it will likely become. I'm not really any happier with my life five months on, but I have learned to accept that I alone made the choices that led to where I currently am and that I would have made very few different choices if I had it all to do over again with the knowledge I had at the time.

I called my parents sometime in April or early May after phoning my grandmother only to reach a disconnected line. I left a normal message asking if they knew what was going on, asking where my grandmother was. Noone ever called me back. In mid to late May - as my breakdown intensified - I phoned again and again all times of the morning, day and evening trying to reach them and leaving message after message on several lines, each one increasingly more desperate and teary and begging my dad to call me back. Saying that I am alone and scared, that I want to move back to the United States, that I need his help. I still have yet to hear from him.

On Father's Day, my brother was visiting dad during the two hours allotted to him on special occassions (10 am to noon) and, during that visit, told him I wanted to hear from him because I was in a bad place and wanted advice, given that he had been a single parent himself at various times throughout our childhood. He was generally creeped out by my dad's response and told me that dad just looked straight ahead the whole time and never said a word or even changed facial expression. He said it was like dad didn't even speak the same language, like what my brother said never even registered.

And here I am, still waiting for something I know will never come. I guess the key is in accepting that as well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Keeping secrets

I have written about my parents a few times on here thoughout the years but have never before written in such detail. I've always been afraid that my parents would somehow find and read the blog posts and punish me for my insolence.

I've known for quite some time that I have been one step away from complete parental abandonment. The last time I tried to talk to my dad about my childhood, something he refuses to do, he responded by saying that he would stop talking to me if I ever brought it up again.

Fast forward at least a decade and here we are with no communication. I'm not quite sure why they aren't talking to me. I'm thinking it's one of 3 things:

1.  They found my blog and read previous unfavourable posts.
2.  They decided that since I'm safely stuck in Scotland, now would be a good time to finally detach once and for all with minimal muss or fuss.
3.  It was because of something I asked my brother to talk to my dad about after the last time my parents and I spoke. It was in January of this year after more than a year of no contact. Night after night, I couldn't sleep. I had written a letter to them letting them know that I desired no further relationship with them and why. I couldn't post the letter for some reason, so I decided to phone them. If they were nasty, I was going to just tell them on the phone. But they weren't nasty. Well, he wasn't nasty. She had a few snarky comments to make, but it went largely ok. Then time passed. One week. Two. And I became angrier and angrier the more I thought about that last phone conversation, one in which I shared details from the last couple of year of our lives - information the parents would and should have already had if they bothered to keep regularly in touch.

So, after a counselling session in which I ended up basically yelling about this phone conversation and my subsequent feelings about it, I decided that I didn't want any more similar conversations with them.

My stepmother was an easy target for my anger as she was the one who made snarky comments, but I couldn't really tell my dad that I didn't want to talk to my stepmother anymore. They come as a package deal, those two, him on one phone and her always listening in and adding a comment here or there on another. I have only very rarely had a conversation with just my dad. But I decided that I couldn't bear the two of them at once anymore, so I asked my brother to talk to my dad and tell him that I find it overwhelming to talk to the pair of them at once and that I'd prefer to speak to them individually. That was it. That's all he said. And my dad blew a gasket. And hasn't talked to me since.

Could that really be it? Could that be the reason he has decided not to have a relationship with his only daughter and his granddaughter? I guess I could understand him being angry if brother had told him that I couldn't stand stepmom and only wanted to talk to him from now on. But, really. To freak out because I asked to talk to them one at a time? It doesn't make sense.

Then again, nothing else about them makes much sense, either.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nice things

I've been feeling guilty all day at work thinking about my blog and the things I've been writing lately. After all, like my brother says, my dad could have given us up for adoption after biomom left. He didn't go that route, as don't the millions of women who go it alone after dear old dad gets up and goes, and here we all are.

To recognise my dad and stepmom for their good deeds, I will list the nice things they have done for me since I moved out of the house in 1990.

  1. Let me move back home...twice...however briefly.
  2. Take me out to a fancy dinner for my 21st birthday.
  3. Pay for the removal of a wisdom tooth when I was 21. I was a poor college student with no insurance.
  4. Transport me home from community college one night a week for one term because one of my classes let out after the buses stopped running.
  5. Pay for tuition during my time at community college and textbooks at FSU. They also gave me $200 a month when I started FSU so I wouldn't have to work but stopped that one year into it when my stepmom retired.
  6. Let me stay at their house one summer when I didn't take summer classes at FSU. The one thing I remember from that drive home with dad was that he refused to hug me when we got back to Largo and stopped at a shopping plaza that contained the bank at which he was working. Why? He said he didn't want anyone he knew or worked with to see and think he was having an affair with a young college student. Huh? It still boggles my mind, and I never got that hug.
  7. Attend my college graduation. But they didn't clap or cheer when my name was called. Complete silence. Dad later said I wouldn't have ever finished college if it weren't for him. I quickly and angrily corrected him.
  8. Pay for several dinners out during several visits home.
  9. Loan me $1,000 when my boyfriend and I moved to NYC. Dad forgave the rest of the loan after I had paid back half of it.
  10. Let me stay at their house a few times when I would visit home. The rest of the time, they wouldn't let me stay, so I'd have to get a hotel or stay at my brother's house or at my brother's office in a scary deserted industrial park. After awhile, I just stopped visiting.
  11. Come to my wedding. And dad only complained a little about the inconvenience of it all. I'm a lucky girl!
  12. Come to Tallahassee to see me one last time a couple of weeks before I moved to Scotland. My idea was to visit them for a long weekend, but they didn't go for that option as their schedule was too jampacked. So I got one night and one dinner, instead.
And the nice deeds end there. Since I moved to Scotland five years ago, they have phoned me only a dozen or so times. They have been sending cards for Christmases and birthdays, but that's about the only contact they have with me. I have phoned them a lot in the past, but they don't call back. Stepmom told me years ago that they didn't have an international phone plan so they couldn't call me but that we could certainly e-mail to keep in touch.

I'm wondering why I can manage a good international calling plan but they can't? I'm also puzzled because my brother told me that he told them how to dial me for free using his Internet? If money is the barrier, it's not adding up.  I'm also wondering why I would write long, detailed e-mails and then receive nothing in reply until weeks later when I'd get one sentence asking for photos of Elliot.

I really, honestly am not sure what they are expecting but it seems like they want me to make all the effort while they keep treating me like shit. Hm. That doesn't really seem to be working for me anymore.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Whistle while you work

Growing up, chores are a part of life for most kids. I think chores are a good way of teaching kids about responsibility and getting them involved in the daily or weekly care of the home. The completion of chores is also a good way for children to learn about taking pride in their work and allows them to earn money to buy some of the little extras they want that aren't supplied by the parents.

Though I think chores can be a positive thing for kids, I think the demands parents can make on their children can be unfair and damaging if taken to the extreme.

My story:

Whenever I tell people about the chores I had to do on a daily and weekly basis, they come away from the conversation comparing me to the same fictional character: Cinderella. I'm sure the evil stepmother in both stories aids with the comparison, but what was required from me (and my brother) was way over the top - especially considering the meagre compensation involved. I come away from the experience feeling like little more than cheap child labour, keeping in mind that my parents and I didn't have much of a relationship outside of the context of what was expected and required from me to keep them off my back. When my brother lived at home, the chores were just about split 50/50. When he moved out, all the chores became mine until I got a job after school at which time my parents hired a maid who worked one day a week for 12 years until she was let go with a note on the kitchen counter.

Daily chores:

  • Make my bed (before school)
  • Check the post and put it on the desk outside my parents' bedroom
  • Empty and clean dirty ashtrays
  • Empty coffeemaker of used grounds and put in fresh filter and grounds
  • Boil teabags and make a pitcher of sweet iced tea for my parents, if needed
  • Dry and put away dishes out of the dishwasher
  • Clean my bathroom (countertop, sink, toilet, mirror)
  • Set the table for me and TV trays for my parents for dinner
  • Wash the dinner dishes and pots/pans and clean up the kitchen after dinner
  • Brownie points were given for massaging my stepmom's feet (with lotion - cringe!)

Weekly chores (completed after school on Fridays):

  • Dust my bedroom and my brother's old bedroom
  • Clean my bathroom top to bottom (including bathtub and sweeping/mopping the floor)
  • Dust the two lounges and my parents' bedroom
  • Clean my parents' bathroom top to bottom (including shower and sweeping/mopping the floor)
  • Windex all sliding glass doors inside and out
  • Vacuum entire house
  • Clean entire kitchen (including stove/microwave and scouring sink and cleaning under cupboards as well as sweeping/mopping the floor)
  • Dustmop parquet entrance hall
  • Sweep/mop laundry room and dust off tops of washer/dryer
  • Vacuum back screened porch and dust porch table
  • Empty and sweep entire garage and sweep out area housing outside garbage bins
Weekend tasks

  • Fold and put away empty paper grocery sacks
  • Help with dinner prep if needed
  • Set the table for me and TV trays for my parents for dinner
  • Wash the dinner dishes and pots/pans and clean up the kitchen after dinner

Plus, there was the immensely exciting Spring Cleaning Bonanza every year that involved lots of cleaning of baseboards and window blinds and closet louvered doors and tons and tons of daily hovering around the edge of the kitchen offering to help and being rejected while my stepmom loudly sighed and made it clear that she was so completely overburdened and why wouldn't anyone help her? And let's not forget all the holidays when the family would gather together, the women busting their asses in the kitchen and the men making jokes about women and black people in the living room and later watching football while the women cleaned up the entire mess. I was the only child/nonparent expected to contribute to all this misogyny/general unfairness.

I could literally go on forever. But I digress.

My stepmother did all the laundry and ironed their work clothes. They both cooked dinners and made meals on the weekends. My dad did all the yardwork (but I had to sweep the driveway and sidewalk after he finished the edging). Cars were taken to a carwash. As far as I know, neither one of them did a lick of housecleaning. How much was I paid for this hard, hard graft? Three dollars a week, an amount that never increased through the years. Our maid was paid at least $30 a week for doing the same or less work, and I was paid $10 a pop for helping my neighbour with her housework sometimes, a task that required far less of me than I was doing at home.

In my house, cleaning wasn't just cleaning. It was CLEANING. Lucky for me, my stepmother was (is) an OCD clean freak who pretty much reviles me. Any fingerprint on the phone or crumb on the kitchen counter was met with scorn and derision. Any drop of water left in the kitchen sink (it has to be dried every time it is used) was met with...I'm not sure. It just didn't happen. In my house, you were scared to move. You were scared to breathe. It might leave a mark.

Floors were mopped on hands and knees with a rag, and everything was cleaned to perfection or you'd be hearing about it later. And hearing about it. And hearing about it. And maybe, just maybe, she'd grab you by the back of your neck and push your face down to the countertop so that you can better see the crumb that you missed cleaning up earlier.

Really needless to say, my brother is a packrat filthmonger, and I live in a house full of wet sinks. I hate clutter and massive filth, but a light layer of dirt is nothing to get worked up about. I've got better things to think and worry about than dust. I wonder what I'm going to require of Elliot when she reaches chore-doing age.

I'm currently of the mind that less is more.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

At the end of a hard day behind the wheel

High school graduation

It takes a lot of effort to get from the first day of kindergarten to high school graduation. Given that I was generally an overachiever who chose advanced courses, it took an above-average mix of genuine hard work and sneaky cheating to get that diploma in my hand on graduation night.

The only memories I have of school before grade 5 are these: lying on a purple and white checked towel during nap time in kindergarten (pre-K?) and getting hit on the knuckles with a ruler in the early grades by a teacher who didn't appreciate me wearing my brother's mesh football jersey to school.

In fifth grade, I was one of the school's few crossing guards and spent a good amount of time sharpening my skills as a geek, loner, and general outsider.

By the middle of junior high school, I spent most of my time by myself and had very few, if any, friends. My grades were amazing as a result of this, and I was on a good track for college-level courses in high school. In high school, I continued my habit of being thoroughly unlikeable and completely unable to fit into any one social group. I was bullied and mocked, shunned and laughed at. I may have had one or two friends at any given time, but, by the end of high school, I spent my lunches alone in the library or smoking off campus with my boyfriend.

These great grades slipped mightily during my junior year of high school, the year I got both a job and a boyfriend and spent less and less time studying. I was working a lot - up to 30 hours a week - as a checkout girl at Publix, something I would never let Elliot do while she's in school. I was also becoming more and more aware that who I was required to be by my parents was not who I actually was and that who I really was was not going to be loved or even acknowledged by them. As I became more and more who I really was, I slowly disappeared.

It seems strange to say that I can't recall even one positive exchange between my parents and me from the ages of 16 and 18. If they weren't getting onto me about how I looked or my chores, they weren't talking to me at all. We didn't eat any meals together. We didn't have any weekly or monthly family events or outings. We barely even ever laid eyes on each other. During this time, I worked more. I smoked more. I spent more time with my boyfriend. I got more and more depressed. I started to realise how I was being treated - how I had always been treated. I cried a lot. I wished I was anywhere else.

My grades sank from the 5 As and 2 Bs I had gotten every grading period my entire life to a mix of Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs, without any comment or apparent notice from teachers or parents. Even though the last two years of high school yanked my 3.8 GPA to a final 3.2 and even though I failed an entire semester of physics (3 Fs on report cards and an F grade on my final exam), I happily and proudly graduated from high school in 1990.

On graduation day and in the weeks beforehand, nothing had been said about the end of my compulsory education, and no conversation had been had about my post-high school plans. Continuing the years of no communication, my parents were mute on graduation day as I got ready to go. I had left an invitation for my parents on the dining room table, and I had given another invitation to my brother, who moved out years before. That night, as whoever it was called my name, noone clapped and noone cheered. Noone in my family showed up that night, and as I reached my favourite teacher in the handshake lineup, I grabbed a hold of her and broke down crying and saying "Noone's here for me. Noone's here."

Years later, I asked my dad why he never showed up to my graduation. In true "my dad" fashion, he said he was probably busy watching something on TV. I'm this close to crying just thinking about it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Non voyage!

The only time either of my parents ever mentioned anything about coming over here to visit was a few years ago when my stepmother talked about a cruise in May around the British Isles that was to dock in Invergordon for half a day. She asked how far away it was from our house and if we would agree to meet them at the dock and spend the half a day together. I said that would be great (half a day is better than nothing!) and kept the following May in my head throughout the winter.

Months went by and I hadn't talked to my parents, and, during a phone call with my brother, I found out the trip had been cancelled. I was a bit peeved that they thought to tell Brian that the trip had been cancelled but not me and, the next time I talked to them, I asked why they hadn't let me know. My dad was on one phone and my stepmother was on another. The three of us sitting there and my dad says he didn't know what I was talking about. That there never was any trip. A boat? Invergordon? What?

I said that mom had told me they were coming on this cruise ship that docked in Invergordon for half a day blah blah blah and stepmom just sat on that second line and never said a word while dad repeated that he had no idea what I was talking about.

Since then, there has been absolutely no mention of ever coming here. They don't even lie and say they wish they could or offer to help me travel to them. They can't even pretend they care about ever meeting their granddaughter.

They so better not be expecting a card for grandparents' day.

How to make the funnies completely unfunny

So many stories are running through my head this morning. I think I had a bad dream about my parents last night, so I'm feeling pretty down. The stories are battling for dominance. Which one should I tell this morning? Newspapers? Letter? Birthday? Grades? Graduation? Plays?

I'll just go with newspapers.

On weekdays, I didn't see my parents in the mornings before school. They would both be in their bedroom (my parents designed and had built the house I lived in from ages 10 to 18 and their ensuite bedroom was on one end of the house whilst our bedrooms were on the exact opposite end separated by two lounges, two hallways, and a kitchen) getting ready for work after downing a pot of coffee and reading the morning newspaper. On weekends, they would usually be mid-pot and mid-newspaper when I awoke, and I would stumble into their lounge to say good morning, procure the comics, and generally try to be part of a family.

On a weekly basis it was always the same and never failed to leave me feeling sad and awkward. I would walk into the lounge and say "good morning." I'm assuming they would respond with a "good morning" though I don't quite remember. If they - or one or the other - did, it was with a brief movement of the newspaper from the face but my memory is of being met with a solid wall of raised newspaper that didn't move. I would ask for the comics (god forbid me disturbing their precious newspaper to get it myself) and my stepmother would get them for me. I would lie on the floor in the same room and read them - again with no conversation from anyone. Finally, I would either leave the room filled with the same wall and the same silence or be left sitting there after they got up without a word and started their day of laundry or nail painting or bill writing or who knows what followed by lunch and sports on TV and a nap and more of who knows what.

Every day with Elliot, I stop whatever I'm doing and look her in the eye and smile and beam my good morning and give her a huge hug and kisses (if she'll let me) and ask her how she slept and whether she had any dreams and talk about what's going on for the day. On weekdays, she eats her breakfast in front of the TV and gets ready (mostly by herself) whilst I prepare lunches before we leave for nursery and work. On Wednesdays and weekends, I always involve her in plans for the day and nearly always make one or two plans just for her, things she enjoys doing and that we can do together.

I don't remember much from my childhood, but, from what I do remember (especially once my brother was older and never at home), I spent my weekends by myself listening to music, reading (a lot), throwing a basketball at the lightpost in front of the house or twirling the baton outside, or playing board games by myself in my bedroom. I was even alone at meals once my brother was out of the picture. We ate the same food at the same time, but my parents ate in front of the TV in their lounge while I sat by myself at the table in the dining area. Then I silently washed the dishes and retreated to my bedroom without any interaction or conversation once again. For years.

I guess that's probably how I ended up at age 15 having an affair with/being successfully preyed on by the 33-year-old married neighbor across the street. He was all too happy to give me attention, and he actually smiled when he would see me.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A place of my own

My first boyfriend was an abusive alocholic who raped me once when we were living together. Good times. Good times.

I was with him for about four years off and on between the ages of 16 and 20. We lived together twice. The first time it ended while we were cohabiting, he dumped me off on my parents' doorstep in the middle of the night. The second time, my parents came to get me one afternoon after he threatened to throw me out on the streets. Understandably, they didn't want me to be with him anymore and let me move back in with them the second time on the condition that I would go to university and never again get involved with the guy.

Fair enough.

Stupid me was temporarily wooed back by the idiot, however, and my dad saw us kissing from his office window near a shopping centre. When I was confronted by my dad, it was decided that I would move out, and my parents set about finding me a place to live while I was at work. At the time, I was working in fast food and couldn't afford much. What my parents found me wasn't much, either: a converted front porch with sloping floors, indoor/outdoor carpeting, no heat, no air conditioning, no locks on the windows, and a dodgy lock on the only door to the place. I moved in that week.

Things were OK there even though the conditions were quite crappy. I still dated the guy for awhile, but he treated me well, I'm guessing because I had my own place and relied on him for nothing. He didn't have any power over me anymore. I ended up dumping him not long after I got my own place, though. I guess I had finally decided for myself that I deserved better than what he had to offer. But not long after I stopped seeing him, I was home alone and it was the middle of the night and I heard an unfamiliar male voice outside the open window calling my name:

Julie. Get dressed and come outside.

I turned off the loud music and yelled out to the darkness asking the person who he was and what did he want, threatening with lies that I had a gun and would certainly use it. My handbag came flying in through the open window and landed on my bed. Whoever it was had been in my house, had maybe stood right behind me. I didn't have a phone. I was in my pajamas. I was afraid to run out of the apartment. I was afraid to stay there. I was afraid of some disembodied voice, what it might belong to and what its owner was capable of doing.

Eventually, the guy parted the curtains so I could see his face. He wanted to know if I really wanted him to go away. I yelled "yes" and he was gone. I turned off all the lights and crawled around on the floor with a knife. I got on my clothes. I shut the open windows and rifled through my handbag. Whoever it was had been in my house and gone back out with my handbag, looked at my ID and found out my name. He threw it back. He didn't take a thing. I was terrified.

The next day, I phoned my dad from a nearby payphone and told him the story. I don't know exactly what I was hoping for from him or what he could have done. But his response was as brief and final as it was strange:

"I have to go. I'm in the middle of dinner."

The midnight stranger made a reappearance some months later but my dad was never to hear of it. What would be the point, after all, when it was obvious he had more pressing things on his mind.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Home movies

Now that I'm an orphan, I'm going to be telling all the stories that I remember most vividly from my childhood and beyond, stories that play through my head like unwanted home videos I am forced to watch again and again, stories whose morals are that bad things happen to children who are born defective and that children who are born defective don't deserve good things from the people who are supposed to love them the most.

A friend of mine had her first child more than a year ago. This friend comes from a truly amazing family that has always had all the time in the world for her, is always interested in and supportive of her endeavours, and gives her all the unconditional love and attention that I desperately crave from my own family. I went with her one weekend to visit her family many years ago (such a warm and accepting and lovely family!) and was sad the entire visit and ended up spending at least half of it chain smoking in her front garden and thinking about my own parents who are so unlike hers, mourning for the family that I wanted and saw before me but never had and didn't feel worthy of.

Recently, this friend wrote on her blog that having her own child and realising all the hardships that come with the job has made her appreciate her parents all the more for the job they did with her and that she hopes she can be  even half the parent to her own child that they were (and are!) to her.

I feel quite differently, of course. From the time Elliot was born, I have grown more and more sad about my own parents and  my own childhood  and how I was always and am still treated by my family. I know how much I love Elliot and how her best interests are forefront in every decision I make. I know how much time I devote to her, how I take an interest in her personality and interests, how we talk and joke and sing and dance and laugh, how I bring her little surprises to show her that I love her, how I want her to know me as a person as much as a parent, how I never want her to feel alone.

If anything, having a child, and feeling the intense love I feel for her, a love that rivals no other I've ever known, makes me realise exactly what my father doesn't feel toward me. I asked him once what he thinks of me, and he hung up the phone on me and didn't talk to me for months. I think a normal person would find this behaviour to be completely bizarre, maladjusted to say the least. But I'm fucked up, and that's just dad.