The Monster in the Closet

My mother has never been sentimental. We moved like gypsies when I was a kid, and took very little with us when we did. There are few mementos from my childhood, which suits me fine as there are few things I wish to remember from childhood.

My parents’ habit of moving with nothing but a car-load taught me to keep what was important close at hand. I had a cigar box of treasures that I kept under my bed, and I carried it in my lap every time we moved. There was a necklace that my aunt passed down to me, a glass mushroom that a stranger gave me, and dozens of other items important only to my child’s heart. When I ran away from home at 15, I stupidly left it behind, favoring a backpack full of clothes instead.

I never moved back home, and never found out what happened to my heart’s treasures. Since moving into my mother’s home to care for her, I’ve idly hoped to come across my box tucked away somewhere. I haven’t.

Living with my mother again has reopened scars long ago cauterized by space and time. If this were an Oprah Book of the Month story, I would use this opportunity to work through unresolved injuries, finding peace with my mother and then appreciating the time we have together as I care for her. We’d plant a perennial garden and share tea on the porch, holding hands.

But this is real life. Real life isn’t so pretty. Instead I daydream of burying my mother in the bare patch where I torched a growth of poison ivy. I spend my days resenting that I am caring for a woman who rarely cared for me. And the fact that her head injury changed her quite profoundly doesn’t make it easier,  it makes it far harder for me.  I resent that she is helpless and childlike now. It makes my hatred seem so misdirected.

The few items my mom did keep from my childhood are tucked around her house like bombs. Every drawer, closet and box has the potential to explode in my face. A photo, a letter, a scrap of paper- even mom’s paintings from that time period make my skin crawl. I’m living in a Quay Brothers diorama of a nightmare as photographed by Diane Arbus. Or something.

As a child, I didn’t fear the monster in the closet. I knew better that monsters walk around in broad daylight. How ironic that as a grown woman, I’m dreading them now.

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7 thoughts on “The Monster in the Closet

  1. Whiskey, a wonderful piece indeed, my heart breaks for the child you were…I believe it is these sort of experiences we have that make us who we are. I don’t know you, but I would almost guarantee that because of this, it has made you strive to achieve, endure what life throws at you and persevere. Just know that you are the better person for taking up this responsibility :)

  2. I really cannot fathom there are any words that I or anyone could offer in response to the above. I imagine, perhaps rightly perhaps not, that the reason you write these things is just to give them shape. That perhaps naming them – your feelings, your thoughts – gives you a power over them and may at some point let you let it rest. I don’t know. I cannot know- I have no frame of reference nor do I know who you were nor who you are beyond these glimpses you share. I can only read and appreciate where you are now and the bits we see shine through.

    Thank you.

  3. I just wrote a ridiculously long response to your post, then decided I was talking way too much about me and not you. So instead, I’m just going to say, “Yeah, what Whiskey said. Like. +1″ And send virtual hugs. Piles of them.

  4. Your story is a great illustration of how a parent’s “mere” narcissism can result in pain and trauma through a thousand little cuts. Sorry it happened to you. Grateful for the story and image.

  5. Whiskey, I watched this happen to my niece. My sister is like what your mom was… it was painful to watch and not be able to do. Thing. Thankfully our mom stepped in at a time of need and rescued my darling niece from the life you unfortunately were forced to live.

    Knowing what I do… my heart goes out to you. I have a better idea than most of what you went through and can only hope you can find it to someday forgive your mother… not for her sake… but for your own

Talk to me, people.

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