Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I Go Where the Music, Where the Music Fits My Soul

Here is a photo from my senior yearbook. It was the first year we had a girls' cross country team and the only reason we got one, was because the girls' gymnastics team got canceled after they all got caught drinking on the bus on the way home from a meet.

My Excuse:

We stand in the dining room and watch as the two-tone brown Suburban crawls up the hill of our block and a half long driveway. We're waiting until it's gone. As if she can somehow see what we're doing in the house from the car. None of us doubt her powers.

As soon as it's gone, we all get a little giddy. She only went to the store, so we don't have much time to breathe and relax. I do my impersonation of her. I'm really good at it. "Tuh-REES-ah!" I screech at my cousin in a nasally, exaggerated Chicago accent. "Take off your glasses so I can slap your face." I don't voice what's missing in that statement - "...At least your glasses are worth something..." We laugh nervously and talk shit about her behind her back. It's all we have and we won't have it for very long. She'll be home soon.

She is confusing. Usually, she is harsh and mean and alternates spitting out insults and orders. I have developed skills in order to function within all the crazy. I practice lying, (I'm an expert) and being invisible. I know that whatever I do will never be good enough. I try to do everything very well. Things are cleaned as quickly and with as much detail as possible, I cook all the crappy food she likes to her satisfaction, and I try to make sure my cousin isn't too defiant. The goal isn't to get her approval, (that will never happen) it's to keep her out of my face. I blend in, I don't establish eye contact, I am charmingly self-deprecating. I don't need to give her any reason to knock me down any more than she already does. All of these things I do to survive in this world, will fuck me up later on, when I'm an adult and I try to function in a healthy environment. It will take me years to shed those behaviors.

Other times, she can be fun and nice even. It's almost worse than if she were consistently mean. Because then I have to feel guilty about hating her and wishing a horrible debilitating accident on her. I am incapable of carrying a grudge and I start to open up, to even trust her for a minute. An hour later she'll get bad again, just as quickly. "You lazy, rotten, lousy, stinkin' , ungrateful..." And I will have to sit there and take it and feel like an asshole for letting my guard down.

There are things that I have. Things that are mine that she can't get to. Those things are my albums, and books and running and writing. I write everything down. I have to. It's the only way I can keep it straight. She will never admit what she's like. Never. Not even to herself. Not even when she's old and it doesn't matter anymore. Not even when all is forgiven...Mostly. So, I document it for myself. So I know that it happened and I'm not making it up and as a reminder to myself the next time she is nice to me, not to trust it. It won't last.

One of my cousins gives the signal. She's on her way back down the hill. We're all in a tizzy, trying to turn off the TV and put away any food we were sneaking and tidying everything as much as possible and then all retreating to our rooms. We have no idea how she'll be and no one wants to draw attention to themselves. Just in case. I go to my room and find my hidden notebook to write this down too.


Mrs. Hairy Woman said...

That is such a shame that a parent has to be so mean and critical.. I too have had problems with my past that has sometimes led me to believe less in myself due to the spiteful and cruel comments..Now that you are all grown up.. You don't have to hide.. come out and see the world..

Remiman said...

How kids cope with helplessness.
We all learn to survive. Unfortunately being miserable gives some adults a false sense of superiority.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting look into your past. I guess I was one of the lucky who had supportive parents.

Leo said...

Ah, but most importantly, you've broken the chain. AND you've moved on, compartmentalized (please be impressed, Churl, that's a big word for me!) and managed those feelings.


dmarks said...

I had no idea there was a Chicago accent. Is there a celebrity or something who is famous for using it?

NoRegrets said...

That's a rough one to get over, but good for you for working hard to get over it. I'm sure it took a long time.

Not Fainthearted said...

I'm going to echo the kuddos from everyone here: Great Work on identifying it, and controlling it in your own parenting: breaking the chain! and I know that every now and again when a slightly off comment comes out of your mouth because of frustration, or migraine pain or plain old being tired toward your girls you cringe and berate yourself for it. So, uh. stop it OK? You're doing a great job!!!! and this is in your past, and in theirs (not in their present or actual life experience.)

This doesn't make sense, probably but I hope you get my gist. Where's the d--- coffee?

Susan said...

This is an interesting look. I had far from the perfect childhood but my parents were always there for me. They still are to this day.

Poptart said...

What's amazing is that you are able to deal with her at all now - when I first found out about that, I was literally shocked. You're braver, and more forgiving, than most.

laura b. said...

I want to cry for that child. I feel lucky to know what an amazing adult she grew into.

Churlita said...


Oh, that's the beauty part. I've been out and seeing the world. It's also the thing I like about getting older, I'm further and further away from all that crap.


Yes. She was crazy and unhappy, and in her world, shit rolled down hill. I'm just glad I'm not like her.


Good for you. Be sure to tell your parents how grateful you are.


Nice big word. I think you might just win some kind of prize for that.


Did you ever see those SNL skits with John Goodman and Norm from Cheers where they keep talking about Da Bears? That's a Chicago accent.


I'm sure I'm not done. I still have my doormat days, or my hiding from the world days, but I'm a million times better.


No. I get you. I do try to be so careful in my parenting. I never yell, and my girls stress if I even use a harsh tone with them. If I have an off day, I usually warn the girls ahead of time not to take it personally if I'm grouchy and they say they really appreciate it when I warn them.


I was lucky that my mom was so awesome. She died when I was ten, but I had that base that really helped me through the later shit.


Yeah, but I didn't until I had kids. I just didn't want to lay all that old stuff on them, you know?


Thanks. I'm still working on it, but I'm sure we all are on some level. The good thing about it, is that now I appreciate just being able to live a normal life with as little drama as possible.

MrManuel said...

I guess it makes you appreciate supportive parents. You are awesome for getting past it.

Churlita said...

Thanks. Living with my aunt really made me appreciate my mom.

.j.william. said...

great post. Sad, but triumphant.