Some things are more eloquent in another language. Most things are, actually. English isn’t a beautiful language, inherently. Most things that are made up of mostly stolen parts tend not to be.
Maybe they are, but tragically so.
I am made of stolen parts, pieces of myself and what I’ve managed to scramble together of others. Coming from a place of sinister deeds on one hand, and loving acceptance on the other, it’s a wonder I’m not certifiable.
“No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they’re pretty, even if they aren’t.”
― Marilyn Monroe
My mother is not a nice person, and she made sure I was well aware of this throughout my childhood. I was her whipping girl for all manner of deeds, real and imagined, from as far back as I can remember, until as soon as I was able to get away from her. No one knew, or if they did, they turned a blind eye. My father was there, and not at the same time. He had his own demons clawing at his back, and was unable to come to my aid more often than not. When light was able to shine through, he was my white knight, and I’ll always be grateful for those brief moments of clarity.
A lifetime of suffering snuffed his light forever on April 21, 1991. Darkness reigned in our home like the Dark Ages of old until 1995, when I fled for my life.
In the four years between, the woman who birthed me pushed a young, pregnant me down the stairs, twice, allowed my younger brother to treat me as his own personal punching bag, and essentially treated me no better than a beaten dog that remains underfoot, no matter how many times it’s been kicked.
It takes a true mother’s love to force a woman’s hand and make her realize that no matter what lies ahead, it has to be better than what lay behind her.
My childhood was not all doom and gloom, though there was enough of that to fill page after page. I was lucky to have a wonderful set of grandparents, my father’s parents, for many of those years. Though they were ignorant of the nightmares I endured at home, at least as far as I’m aware, they made sure I had happiness to look forward to when in their care. Looking back, I believe they knew something was amiss, but there was nothing they could do to change things, beyond allowing me to come into their home whenever possible, and making it a place of hope and love.
They instilled a love of knowledge and history in me that stands to this day. You’re hard pressed to find me without some sort of reading material in my possession.They taught me about family. My grandmother taught me about secrets, and how sometimes, they keep people safe in their personal cocoons. She was fond of her own cocoon, and could not be released from it, regardless of hearing the truth. She was a woman I thought I knew, but found out later in life, I didn’t know much about at all. She suffered in silence, like a lot of women of her generation, and unfortunately, I got that from her.
Today is the eighth anniversary of her passing, and I feel her all around me. I think of her raising her oldest son, without a father for a time. My grandfather was off fighting in a war, and she was stateside, fighting a war of her own. Postpartum depression isn’t a new thing, but it wasn’t talked about way back when, women just suffered in silence, and held their own. She did her part, for the war effort and her family, and she took care of her family.
After the war, my father was born, and my grandfather was still in the Navy, so they stayed in the DC area until the late 40's/early 50’s. Once my grandfather retired, they moved here, to North Carolina, and started the rest of their family on a defunct dairy farm, where I was eventually raised as well.
My grandmother is originally from the Appalachian Mountains of NC, and was raised by a headstrong single mother. Her father died when she was very young, when my great-grandmother was pregnant with her last child. My great-grandmother was the first female attorney in the state of NC, but was never allowed to sit for the bar exam; because she was a woman. My grandmother and her siblings were able to receive top-notch educations, simply because they were Catholic (the church paid for their schooling).
Similarly, my grandfather and his siblings, though they attended public school in NYC, received top-notch college educations, because of a wealthy benefactor. The Rockefeller Family. My great-grandmother worked for their family, and they cared greatly for her, so they paid for my great-aunt’s education, and were my grandfather’s ticket in to the US Naval Academy. My great-grandmother was a single parent as well; as my great-grandfather left home for work one morning, and never came home.
I come from strong stock, and my grandfather would tell me often. And there are days I need that reminder. Strong women especially. I definitely need that reminder. It’s difficult not to think of who I am directly descended from; my mother.
I often wonder if I’m a good mother, will I fail miserably like she did? But deep down, I know I haven’t. I already have two sons that are adults, who, for the most part, are okay. My oldest son, unfortunately, inherited a lot of the same mental illness issues that my father had. But that is not something I have any control over, and I need to remember that. He was given the best possible care growing up, and what he does with his life now, at the age of 24, is not something I can control either. My 19 year old son lives on his own, has a full-time job, good friends, and is working on his social skills. I can’t ask for more there either.
I gave them the tools, I showed them how to use them.
Currently, I am raising a two year old with my husband. I didn’t give birth to him, but he’s mine. Sixteen more years, at least, of parenting to go. The first two years of his life were rough, and I can’t change that. What I can do, is give him 16 years of good; give him 16 years of family, education, the freedom to express himself, love, and most of all, I can give him my time.
And I can do what my grandparents did for me. I can teach him the importance of history, knowledge, and family; in all of its forms.