Monday, April 30, 2007

Honor thy father and thy mother?

"I would like you to continue with your earliest memories of your childhood," TGD began, "and try and put yourself back in that time and place and try and tell me what exactly you were feeling." Sure, start off with the easy questions. Fuck.
"I don't know," I stammered. Thinking back to when I was a kid was painful enough, let alone talk about how scared I always felt as a child was another issue.
"I guess I spent most of my time alone. It was safer. I made sure I kept out of everyone's way."
TGD leaned forward and quietly spoke. "Do you think it's unnatural for a small child to be alone and not feel safe?" "Well, now I do, then it was just the way it was."
"And why do you think as you say, "that's the way it was?" What the hell??? "Because that WAS the way it was. My mother worked nights, my brother was out, and my step father worked days. When my mother wasn't home, the sexual abuse from my brother would start and it was just better to be alone anytime I could get away. I never went far. Just tried to disappear and amuse myself I guess. No one was really looking for me anyway."
"What did you do by yourself all the times you were alone"? Man, this really sucked. What did I do? Interesting question but it still sucked. I thought back and images of the backyard on Henry Street came into view.
"I'd play baseball. I'd throw a pink rubber ball against the back of the brick house, where we lived, and a chalk target was drawn for pitching strikes, in or I'd play basketball. Basketball was harder because the rim was way high- for Prince Frankie my brother, and the basketball was deflated. So I made my own basketball game of throwing the stupid deflated basketball up and if I just hit the rim, it was 2 points."

Jesus, I must have sounded like a lunatic. Who the hell plays with deflated basketballs? I hadn't thought about this ever. But funny thing, the images started coming back of this funny looking little girl with the boy's haircut, throwing the pink ball against the wall, and catching it with one hand. As I recounted these memories to TGD, another image came into play. In my other hand I was holding 2 raw hot dogs.

WTF?? Yeh, I was. We weren't allowed to make noise inside the house when Mary was sleeping, so I would sneak in quietly and take whatever was in the icebox. Raw hot dogs. I used to eat fucking raw hot dogs. Yeh, I don't have an eating problem.

"What kind of mother would let her child eat raw hot dogs"? "What kind of mother would not feed her child or make arrangements for the child to be fed," or allow her to be sexually abused," TGD said.

And then TGD lowered the boom. "Suzy," she gently said, "you were motherless."

"No I wasn't." "She died when I was in my forties," I countered back.

"Suzy, you were motherless. Your mother was not there for you emotionally, physically or in any other way."

"So basically you're saying that she just gave birth to me and that was it"?

"Yes," TGD said.

Motherless. Motherless. This was the first time I had ever heard that adjective describing a mother who was still living. It took a while for me to wrap that around my head. Still does.

Motherless. But my brother wasn't. Wasn't that a bitch.


Blogger Jess said...

Suzy, you tell this so masterfully, so honestly, I am always dying for the next installment.

I love the image of the funny-looking little girl throwing the deflated basketball.

And I have to confess, I did go through a raw hot dog phase myself. Not sure how old I was or if my mom knew.

2:34 AM  
Blogger Jerri said...

That was a bitch. It was. I can't imagine how it felt to be told you grew up motherless when you clearly had a living mother unit. Can't imagine how it felt to BE motherless when you clearly had a living mother unit.

You were once a little girl throwing a pink ball against a brick wall with one hand while holding two cold hot dogs in the other. Now you're a writer holding readers in the palm of your hand.

And *that's* a miracle.

10:50 AM  
Blogger kario said...

Ugh - I can still feel the skim of grease that coated the roof of my mouth after eating a raw hot dog. Makes me want to barf now.

It wasn't until I read Hope Edelman's book "Motherless Daughters" as research for another project in my 30s that I realized I was motherless as a child, too. Amazing what an insight that can be and how many questions it answers.

Love you!

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This really sucks! You did not deserve to be motherless, you were just a child, a wonderful child, who grew up to be an amazing,caring and sensitive adult. I will never, ever understand why mothers can't see the wonderful gifts they have before them and instead use their own unresolved issues and crap and take it our on their children (or some of their children, for whatever reason or trigger). I am just so very sorry you had to experience that, but I know the answers/peace will come and you will rise above it and more importantly, you will be ok. More than ok, you and your life will be great. Trust in this and in yourself, and in your friends.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Carrie Wilson Link said...


You were/are motherless, but the real loser was Mary. She never knew what a gem she had right in her own backyard, literally.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

It doesn't matter how much I know about this story--every detail breaks my heart again. It is so f'in awful to think of this little girl--you--being so neglected, so abused, so terribly alone. I wonder if in some ways it is even more painful to be motherless when you can look directly at the person who is supposed to be mothering you, loving you, feeding you, keeping you safe. And there is nothing there.

She was nothing, less than nothing. Whereas you are an amazing woman who is not only overcoming all of this pain and transforming her own life--but also, profoundly affecting and helping to transform the lives of so many others whom she touches. You are a goddess. And I think the saddest person in this story, ultimately, is Mary, because she missed all of it.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Ziji Wangmo said...

Suzy, your story is gripping. Your power and courage is showing with each word. You were/are motherless, but your writing is bring you the female support & love that every woman needs.
Thank you.

12:07 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

Another beautiful piece, Suzy. I can really feel your vulnerability in this. You and your writing are miracles of hope and testament to the strength of your amazing spirit. I'm so grateful that you're sharing your story and yourself with us.

Love you!

8:28 PM  
Blogger s@bd said...

hugs again.
(dude, if you keep writing like this, i'm gonna' have to go on over there and hug you in person)

1:38 PM  
Blogger holly said...

Oh that image of you and the raw hotdogs and the pink ball. What a bitch, what a bitch that she left you to the wolves. What a bitch she was. And, I'm with Kim, ultimately the saddest person in this story is Mary - who missed out on you, the amazing woman you are no thanks to her.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Terry Whitaker said...

Wow. I'll be back

11:32 PM  
Blogger grammer said...

Holy smokes, what are we, the raw hot dog eating club?

Suzy, telling your story through sessions with TGD is just brilliant. I am completely taken with the honesty and the rhythm of your writing. Right to the core, my friend, I read you loud and clear.

I'm so interested in that flash of defense and confusion when TGD names you "motherless." -- ""No I wasn't." "She died when I was in my forties," I countered back." -- And then the swirl of understanding and reconciliation which sounds like it may still be hard for you.

Do you think it's possible that you might have come around to this "motherless" realization without TGD? I wonder how that might have made everything different for you...

Just musing tonight. I have nothing but gratitude for your latest brave installment.

xo t

11:08 PM  
Blogger riversgrace said...

I think the girl who plays with the deflated ball is f'ing brilliant. It's the sign of an indominable sprit. She knows that nothing will destroy her, and she finds a way to delight in what is in front of her. How beautiful is that....just the image.

So many adults want to spend time with teachers who have this kind of simple yet totally different way of being in the world. It's special.

Motherless. Yes.

The question really is not so much about Mary anymore. Where did you find mothering? In Nature? In your town? At that bar? With animals?

Who taught you how to care for your beloved dogs so dearly?

I want to say I'm sorry....but more, I want to say that I see you, celebrate you, and support you in carrying forth the work you came here to do.


7:28 PM  
Blogger Monica said...

Suzy, the image of you with the ball in one hand and the two hot dogs in the other is just brilliant. Brilliant in that right there is the answer to so many questions: why was I sad? why did I feel different? why didn't someone come looking for me? why do I still feel all of these things now?
I'm imagining these questions because I feel the same way. And your young self, with the boy's haircut, flinging that deflated ball and giving yourself two points if it hits the rim, makes me love you even more than ever. As if that were possible.

12:51 PM  

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