I had a random memory yesterday…it wasn’t a memory so far removed that it came as a great surprise or anything. I have remembered it in the past, but I suppose the emotion wasn’t firmly attached, or at least not connected to anything larger.

This particular memory was probably triggered by something I ran across on YouTube earlier, about a 14-year old boy whose parents were divorced, apparently not amicably, and he was due to return from a visit with his biological father back to his mother’s house. He didn’t want to go back. He said all he did in that house was fight with his mother, and the step-father wasn’t particularly welcoming or tolerant, either. He wanted to stay with his father.

Dad was returning all of the kids back to mom’s house, as per the court order governing his visitation. The younger kids had gone in, but the 14-year old refused to get out of the truck. Mom stood outside the vehicle and alternately blamed the dad for fueling the kid’s rebellion, and telling the kid that he needed to get his butt out of the truck and come inside to discuss his issues with her. The kid said no, we can either discuss that here or not at all. I do not want to live here any longer.

Mom resorted to bad-mouthing dad, who was in the driver’s seat and filming the entire thing and getting emotional about “losing her baby”. She told the step-dad to call the police and waved the court order granting her full custody of all the kids. When the police finally came (it was a non-emergency), they listened to everything but mommy could not strong-arm them into “making” the kid go back into her house. They said that was a civil matter, but they were called out to resolve a disturbance and that was easily resolved by allowing the kid to stay with his dad. The rest of it was a civil issue of custody, and she needed to handle that in family court.

Mommy, of course, turned on the tears and screamed about the custody order…step-dad stood there like a statue, and the officers told dad he was free to leave with the kid. The kid was allowed to bolt inside to get his things for school, and later said mommy had tried to lock him in his room to prevent him from leaving. That didn’t work, since the police were still outside, and the kid ran out a minute later with a duffel bag and got back into the truck. He and his dad left a moment later.

I could relate entirely to being split between parents, feeling as though my needs were not taken into account. The constant fighting, the constant feeling of being discounted because I was “only a child”. That was the whole point, y’all – I was only a child but I was being hauled into adult matters and expected to handle that like an adult…but wait…you’re only a child, so know your place…but be mature and handle things reasonably…but wait….

OK, no more “but, wait” moments. The part of the whole YouTube saga that got to me was that the kid had some place to go. His dad wanted take custody of him, supported him in the decision to leave the mom’s house. During the confrontation with mom, dad never spoke ill of her. He filmed the encounter, because he wanted to document it, and the police officers never told him to stop. His support for his son was impeccable.

I never got that. The memory that came up was having fought violently with my mother one day, and deciding that I wanted out and wanted to live with my father. They were not officially divorced yet, just legally separated, and he was living in an apartment. I called him and said I wanted to come and live with him, but I didn’t get unequivocal support of that decision. What I got was well, um, I would have to make arrangements…and talk to the apartment management…and get some things in order…blah, blah, blah.

At that moment, I realized I had no place to go. I was stuck, and I’ve really never felt otherwise. I did not want to be in my mother’s house, but at least it was a roof over my head and my basic physical needs were met (food, shelter, school, doctor). I was alternately afraid of her and hated her. I knew she was wrong, but any conflict was turned back on me so that I was the villain. “If you wouldn’t <whatever> I wouldn’t have to <whatever>.” That’s usually what abusers say, and emotionally/spiritually/sometimes physically she was abusive. Full stop.

I no longer hate my mother. There are a lot of things I understand now that I couldn’t understand then. I don’t hate my father, either. Not hating them doesn’t mean that I don’t remember, and that I don’t hold them responsible for all the ways they caused me to feel as though I had no home, no family, and was the worst kid in the entire world. It’s not a question of forgiving them or not forgiving them, but as with all of it, I have to clean up the mess. Am I angry about that? You bet.

I was afraid of my mother until her last breath. It was impossible for me to touch her…I had tried to hold her hand when she was in the hospital, right before she entered hospice, but she drew back her hand. That was directly tied, at least for me, to the day of my grandmother’s funeral when she wanted me to hold her hand walking down the aisle in the church, and I didn’t want to because I was afraid. She looked at me and said, “I’m going to remember that.” Those were words she frequently uttered that meant she would get me back later, there would be revenge, there would be punishment. I have never forgotten that.

I’ve never forgotten that day when my father didn’t immediately open his arms to me and say, “Come on. Come right now, I’ll come and get you, you always have a place with me.”

I’ve never felt as though I have a home with anyone, anywhere. Whatever constitutes “home” for me is what I make for myself. I suppose I could live with that, but what I make for myself is so inadequate, so non-homelike, so barren. It’s great that I have a stable roof over my head and all that stuff, but it doesn’t feel like what I always thought “home” should be…with the warmth and the happiness and the safety. It feels like the necessities, like what is required. It’s where my stuff is, where my toilet is, where my clothes and my guitar and my dog are. I’m not entirely sure it’s where I am. I’m not entirely sure it’s where I live.

Maybe this is just a dream, or a page in a coloring book.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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