Monday, April 17, 2006

A Wail

I tried to think of a better or more creative title for this post but opted for the simple truth.

We (me, Co, and the dachsie) went to my mother's house to celebrate Passover. She lives in a house I never lived in with her husband (she hasn't lived in my childhood home for years now and there have been a number of places, and partners, dad's the one who left her, though).

The truth is I had three childhood homes that I remember (the fourth is the apartment I was born in, but I don't remember it, we only lived there until I was two) in three different states (and not all of them were in the Northeast!). My mother and sister now live in the last state where the family landed, but not in the same city where I lived for 8 years. My father lives in that same state as well, though not in the city where they raised us, and not near my mother and sister. I can actually feel my breath get shorter when we cross the border into that state. It is not a place I ever really liked, though I cannot deny its effect on my personality and growth and selfhood.

The details are long and complex and perhaps not even worth relating....the simple truth of the situation (from my perspective) is that she (and to some degree my younger sister, you know, the one who is pregnant) have an image of me that does not match my own image of myself. Their image of me is of someone with serious emotional problems, someone needy and angry and manipulative who must be "managed" at all times and who has a habit of "ruining" events with my unpredictability.

It's not how I see myself. My own memories involve hiding from my mother's inevitable rage (especially at holiday times) because no matter what I did, whether I was hiding in my room or helping by her side or doing cartwheels in the living room (I actually never learned how to do a cartwheel; it's a metaphor, if you know what I mean) she became enraged at me for ruining her holiday. I came to the conclusion early on that my existence has ruined a lot of things for her....but once I learned how babies were made, I knew whose fault that was!

She does not direct this kind of rage at my sister (nor did she until I left the house, but I didn't know that until many years later), probably because my sister was and is passive and small and blond and sweet and feminine and pretty. And now, pregnant. Though I was not fat as a child (despite what I thought at the time) I was always tall. This fact is funny to me now, because I am only about 5' 4" and am constantly asking students to get things off shelves for me, but I grew to my full height quickly. At the age of four people regularly thought I was six; at six, people thought I was eight; etc. etc. By 8th grade I was regularly taken for a college student. I still can't imagine how that worked since in my perception and in pictures I look like such a, well, 8th grader.

Really, this needs to be a photo-essay, so I can show what I mean; one of these days I'll scan the kiddie pix.

The point of this post being, I guess, that family dynamics die hard, and I hope I am the person I think I am, the grown-up who lives in the city I love (childhood home #2, as it happens, though not the actual house of course) and raises a dachshund with love and has a wife I love who loves me....a person with a career that matters, a congregation that matters, a real life where I am not ruined, not a ruiner.

That is all.


Sophia said...

wow intense.

wasn't there another post before this?

btw you can reach me at twonycmoms at aoHELL

mermaidgrrrl said...

It's interesting the way that family will construct their own version of who you are and have trouble deviating from that set idea. It's like they have an investment in you being that person and they wouldn't know how to cope if you didn't fit that in their mind anymore. It's sad that their sense of self relies so heavily on having you fit those parameters.

Lo said...

There was, Sophia, and the kind comments it generated aren't up anymore (though I have them saved for myself)....there was some debate about whether the post is fair to my sister.

It's back up, which is to say, I think it is fair. Do I know what she or my mother think about anything? No. Only what they tell me. But I only have one perspective to write from, and it's my own...

I mean, my real name isn't on this thing.

art-sweet said...

Lo -

Making contact right back at you.

I think you have a lot to be proud of. Of which to be proud.

Hoping the babymaking goes smoothly for you. I even promise not to hate you if it does ;-)



charlotte said...

Family. Wow. Sorry your family does not 'see' you. Really this is one of the more damaging things you can do to a child...and an adult.

Sophia said...

I'm the resident drama queeen that regularly airs the dirty laundry for all the world to see and they just wish I would mind my own business. WhatEVER! They think my involvement in church is only because Mikey is religious and love to bait us left and right to have biblical debates which we avoid.

Just gotta remember to detach with love. They don't have the healing I have had.

Estelle said...

That is who you are. You're not a ruiner.
I'm sorry they heap this shit on you.

Calliope said...

well I said it before & I will say it again- I think you are fabulous.

& you write whatever you need to write. I'm sure my twat Uncle would have much to say on the posts I have written about him - but he can get his own darn blog!


Adriana Velez said...

I hate it, hate it when someone constructs a negatively inaccurate image of me and gets all condescending. It's hurtful enough when friends or acquaintences do this -- I can't imagine what it must be like when you're family does it. Families are tough -- I guess that's why we keep starting new ones, each generation -- to create a happier home life.