The first twelve years of my life are remembered in a series of snapshots. The first snapshots I remember are of my mom. I remember seeing her feet while I was sitting in the floor, we were all getting ready to leave for church. I remember chasing a butterfly and knowing she was planting flowers nearby. There is a shot of her sleeping on the couch while I “cleaned” with toothpaste (oops…). Another one captures her picking me up and putting me on the back of her car to examine my knee after I fell skating – I still have a tiny scar on my knee. She is washing dishes and watching as our parrot asks for and thanks me for kernels of corn. Waking up in the middle of the night and seeing my mom asleep on my favorite pillow in the floor beside my bed because I was sick that night.
Then suddenly, the subjects of the photos change. Mom is no longer there. Sometimes there are shots with my father, but more often than not, I am alone. There are many photos of my father telling me to be quiet. One of him yelling at me because I made a 99 in a class, and that was not good enough. Another of him standing in my doorway telling me that my mom did not love us, and that she was a slut. Then there is one where I spent all day cleaning and dusting and he announced that he there was dust on my freshly polished table – so I was going to have to do it all again. Immediately after that moment, there is one of me looking at dust in a sunbeam and thinking that my efforts were always going to be hopeless. Being yelled at on Mother’s day because I wanted to show my real mother my appreciation for her.
Then there are the snapshots of me. Crying in the bathroom after being whipped, while my father yelled to hush up, or he would give me something to cry about. Long rides in silence because children should be seen and not heard. Being embarrassed to ask teachers to sign the homework form my parents made me make. Being late for class because I had to wait for teachers to sign my homework form. Looking for quartz crystals – alone. Riding my bike, once again, I am alone. Playing house, you guessed it, alone. Crying on the phone while telling my mom we could not come see her that week – because my father said so. Whelps & bruises. Hearing my father say, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” Wondering how whipping me really hurt him at all. Being locked outside and having to ask permission to come in, just to go to the bathroom. Retreating into my closet because no one looked for me and life was just easier when I disappeared.
There are many other snapshots from those years, most of which are lonely. From these snapshots I am able to learn many things. First I learned that my mother was always there. She loved me. She cared for me. She never really left me alone. My father, however, abandoned us every chance he had. Don’t get me wrong, he was always there with us, but he was never really there for us. Whenever we wanted attention, we were always told to go play. If we were invisible – we still were not good, but we were less annoying.
This is my first twelve years – not exactly the best time of my life, but it was life as I knew it. These snapshots in my memory are all that I have from those times. It is funny how that is all I can remember – maybe because there really was not much in my life worth remembering until I moved in with my mom…