Sunday, 25 September 2005

When I was 11...

This post re-published December 2012

This is one of those snapshots. We all have them. Moments in time saved in our memory banks or in my case seem to be in boxes in the back of my mind. Then something happens to trigger a memory, just a word or a phrase and suddenly this memory pops up unexpectedly, like a well-worn episode of a soap opera, it gets played again, thought about some more, and then put away.

My brother is a year or two older than me and I was about 11. He had problems with being dry at night throughout his childhood. But this particular night was different. Living in Australia, we lived in a caravan at that time. My brother and I were in bunk beds down one end of the caravan with him at the top. In the morning I was woken by a sense of wetness all around me. He had wet the bed so much it went through the mattress and wooden slats and landed on me. It was revolting and I was revolted but it wasn't me who did it and I was tired of always cleaning up his mess. I daren't say anything to my mother as she would flip and make me stay late and clean up and this was one morning I wanted to get to school on time.

When we came home from school all hell broke loose. I'm not sure if my mother hit us but it would have been inevitable, and both my brother and I were told to go away. Not sure where or for how long but I heard it as go away and don't come back. So I didn't. I didn't want anything to do with my brother so we went in different directions.

At some point during the course of the afternoon I was running down a small hill road and was knocked over by a bicycle coming from a side road. I was thrown up and flipped onto the ground but was otherwise OK.

Night began to fall and I was terrified of going home but I wasn't far from home. In the end, I crept back and hid under the back of the caravan and laid down. Curled up for the night. Hungry and alone and cold. (I could ham this up into more of a tear jerker but I don't need to!) I could clearly hear my brother come home and welcomed back in. The prodigal son who could do no wrong and I could hear him charming my mother with his stories and the sound of an abnormally happy home.

The police had been called and I heard them coming and going but I couldn't come out of my hiding place. It had gone too far and I was mentally stuck. Combination of furious, sad, desperate, lonely, angry. I can still see me as this little frightened kid in a ball in a scary place with the wildlife of Australia to contend with in the dirt under the van.

Finally, when darkness had completely descended, one of the police cars pulled up nearby and their headlight reflected on my white shirt and I was retrieved. It was a kindly police woman and she was really nice to me. But being the 'good girl' I was, and having been taught well, I knew better than to tell the police what had really happened so I was vague. On questioning I felt it was safe to tell them about the accident on the hill road earlier and so they put down my behaviour to concussion. As a result, I was able to keep the lid on the situation and life continued on as it ever did.

Very sad snapshot. My mother has never acknowledged any of these situations and I've no desire to bring it up with her. There is nothing to be achieved and instead she lives in a rose-tinted world "bigging up" anything that could have been construed as good. Perhaps the one time we baked a cake together becomes "I was always cooking with you kids". I'm not sure if she wants me to explode one day or to confront her, but deep down I know there is nothing to be gained.

I have lots of lovely snapshots too, from my adult life, and these are the ones I have on display in my heart, but it is interesting to put some of these sad ones into writing. I'm still in a lot of pain from my dental treatment the other day but this memory popped up and I thought it might be a distraction from the pain but alas not.


Mama Mouse said...
Pain brings on other pain ... and magnifies it all around. I'm so sorry Doris. It is a sad, but true, fact of life that not all mothers are meant to be mothers! Apparently your mother isn't the maternal kind of woman.

But that's ok ... while you have many sad memories ... you know the pitfalls and are making wonderful memories with your OWN children! It doesn't take the place of a happy childhood ... but it can give satisfaction that you are providing one for YOURS!
mrshellonheels said...
Having to pretend that you live in a normal family and a perfect world when your young isnt easy. My childhood was similar to yours. There are many dark dark memories. I at least have a family that acknowledges it and talks about it. We are all still messed up tho.
doris said...
You are so right Mama Mouse and am glad you didn't get all sentimental on me! I very much take the view that what's done is done and I know that I have built a completely different life.

However, not entirely perfect for my daughter and I think we have many issues that stem back to my own childhood.

Hell on Heels I wonder how we'd be if all this stuff came out into the open in our family! I suppose I am still keeping the silence to some extent but that is only being pragmatic. Those "dark dark" memories are hard aren't they. Of course we have gotten through and survived one way or another (and I know that many have had it much worse than I) but those memories surface occasionally and it seems to me that they should be acknowledged, because they are a part of us.
jane said...
What a loving daughter you are, Doris. This is the same mom that you treated like gold a few weeks ago? It's hard to imagine you being treated so horribly & unfairly. But you, you are amazing. Through all of this, you choose to show so much love & grace towards your mom.
You are most definately amazing.
doris said...
Jane I was just about to retire to the sofa to nurse my jaw but just saw your message. I am not loving to my mum! Despite how it looks I reckon I do all that stuff for my mother because I am essentially kind and not as a loving act!

In fact, the love is so absent from me I must be a walking enigma to my own immediate family. And how I am towards my mother does disturb me... I feel more love towards some of you online bloggers than I do her. But after spending the first 30 years of my life loving her and seeking her love and acceptance it is ironic that after further periods of estrangement and now contact that she pours on me all the love one could want but it means nothing to me now and is empty and I know she can be as manipulative as ever and withdraw her affections at any time.

She is a damaged soul herself and has no friends. It is no longer my job to be her saviour - that is her responsibility. Meanwhile, it is no skin off my nose to be nice and charming :-)

Life is darned complicated.
Jo said...
For me a lot of my relationship pain with my mother has been about me trying to change her, fix her problems (widowed years ago, resolutely bitter, no friends, scathing tongue)and 'make it better'. My trauma was when my dad died when I was in my teens and I guess it somehow felt like I was in charge of 'making it all right again' for her.

I couldn't. Of course. But that took me 25 years to understand. And during that time I took the brunt of behaviour from her designed to reinforce her shrinking misanthropic world view - a shelter behind which she could hide. Rudeness, thoughtlessnes, selfishness, shocking remarks about others or people I cared about. None of which I could do anything at all about.

Eventually I stopped trying. She's much the same. But I feel much better. It's not my job to fix things.

Mothers eh? Complicated.

And Doris - give yourself a pat on the back. If it's through kindness and/or a sense of duty etc not love that you hold it together with your mum, then that's tough. You deserve some congratulations.
Pookie65 said...
I can only imagine is that times like this have made you such an amazing mother to your own children. You probably go out of your way to see that their own childhoods are actually filled with loving, fun, and sincere moments. That's a gift your kids will forever have.

If I could go back in time and give that 11 y.o. girl a hug I would.
Sue Richards said...
Does your mother read your blog?
doris said...
Just quickly... Sue Richards - I am anonymous and have not shared this blog with my mother. That would be pretty callous and out of character for me to bleed out my heart knowing that she was going to read it!
Cheryl said...
We go into these dark places in our minds and find cobwebs and old junk we had packed away so long that we thought it was gone. I really hope that writing it helped to exorcise it, a little.
I am so sorry but you really make her sound, umm, a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic.
Lets say she really believed that both of you had accidents, but as a parent I hope I would take the responsibility and worry about my childrens diet or health, certainly not shout at them for something beyond their control and done in their sleep.
If she really thought you both did it deliberately to upset her, then theres a screw loose there, somewhere; sorry. I'd very much sooner be you than her.
Anji said...
I had to go away and come back to this one. You must have been terrified. I remember Lionel Blue saying years ago that you must train yourself not to go over and over the bad memories, but it does take practise. You don't come across as a bitter person!
doris said...
I too have had to give it time before coming back to this one!

Jo I have a friend whose mother is also along the lines of yours and continues to be - it is a very sad situation. You said "It's not my job to fix things." That is what I learned too and is a great lesson. Doesn't mean we can't help but there comes a time when clearly nothing we do helps so there is no point laying down our lives to be trampled over.

Pookie65 You brought a tear to my eye you naughty boy! You remind me of a bus driver who once said something very kind to me as I boarded a bus, impossibly late for school as ever and I had been bawling my eyes out and my face was all red and puffed and he just called me "the girl with the smiling eyes" - just a little remark - but that kindness stayed in my heart to this day! We all hold so much power in the tiniest of things to make such a difference to other people's lives.

Cheryl I know these things in my memory are not gone, but I do not dwell on them nor get particularly sad and definitely don't get depressed. But I sometimes think back to the little girl that was me and want to give her a hug! I think there was never any suggestion that I had also had an accident as I never did - my crime was that I had gone to school and not sorted out the wet sheets and mattresses! A few sandwiches short would be about right on the one hand and utter brilliance on the other. I am very grateful I am me and not her!

Anji Interesting what you say about Lionel Blue and the memories. I don't particularly go over them but I am aware they are still there. With the world of blogging I thought it might be interesting to take a few for an "outing" just to see if there is anything beneficial. The jury is still out as to whether anything is to be gained. You are certainly right that I am not a bitter person as a result. What is done, is done. Sometimes I am just sad for what happened.

Thank you to everyone for your kind and sensitive and thought provoking comments.
decrepitoldfool said...
My goodness - sorry to hear about your teeth. And what fine timing that your brain called up this memory to join the dental pain.

What a terrifying night. When you said 'it had gone to far and I was stuck' it is so resonant.

For what it's worth I think a parent's memory is twisted by shame as much as by their own pain. Your mother may have endured similar treatment, and may have felt ashamed at having treated you that way. So the story is rewritten to suit until she believes the new version.

Many times I have caused my own children pain and the understanding of how the familial fabric is woven comes too late in life to be of help. The memory of my father's unkindness is eclipsed at my own shame of being its echo. So I have some notion of how he felt.

Thank you for writing this post.
doris said...
decrepitoldfool You are right in realising that my mother had her own pain and terrible childhood as did her elder siblings but she turned out the most fearsome (to this day) of her siblings perhaps as a coping strategy. I reckon she probably didn't mean to repeat history but she did in effect. As I too, didn't want to repeat history and would have to say that on the whole reckon I haven't. I may be terrifying to my kids sometimes but it is utterly rare these days, that I can't even remember the last time which must be a few years ago, and under intense provocation.

I suppose I was lucky to realise about our "familial fabric" and indeed, in the last couple of years have found and met my mothers siblings and other relations and what stories they have to tell.

As for yourself, at least you acknowledge what has happened. Remember that what is done is done and even if you only acknowledge to yourself then that is something. I hope your kids have been able to break free from the "familial fabric".

One thing I have realised is that as parents we all make mistakes. And each generation has its own wounds of childhood to cope with.

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