a difficult childhood - quotes and descriptions to inspire creative writing
When my father's new lover was cast out I was told to stay home from school, to watch them, to be sure they didn't steal. They would pack, be emotional, often times leave me something to remember them by. I got perfume, make-up, other things I had no use for. Then they were gone, another "mother replacement" leaving my life for good. Then I would wait for the new one and be the good girl I was expected to be. I still recall their names, their faces, parts of their personalities. Some were kindly, others were mean spirited and possessive. But isn't that the life of a child, to be one without power or choice, always going with the change in wind and praying for a safe harbour?
I recall the day my father shook me above the couch by the scruff of my clothes. My body moved more like a rag doll than a girl of eight. Right before then the radio had been playing The Beetles... those songs of love. Then there was his rage and I had no idea why. Mother ran in screaming for him to stop, "She was just doing her math! Stop!" She was right, I had been lying before the fireplace with my workbook, quite happily doing sums. My father thought I had been jumping and that was the reason his stereo had failed to record the music. He dropped me and left me crumpled there, too shocked to cry, just breathing.
Dad had spent money on the vacation and he meant to enjoy it. That day on the sands of France I simply vomited and buried it while he and his girlfriend ignored me. I recall the hot sun, the blue ocean and the encroaching feeling of weakness. As the sun began to dip and the breeze grew cool they packed up to leave. Walking to the car was like trying to place my weight on rubber bands and that only drew their frustration. My sickness was inconvenient.
In this life I will never be more than a ping pong ball, bounced from one to another for my love. I give it for free but always the other wants to put a cage around it, to put limits on its expression. My father demanded that I show my love for him by demeaning my mother, my mother demanded the very same. And so the damage sets in, softly at first – but just as with a cold tide, doesn't the beach erode? I still spend my life like the child with love exposed, always an open door, an open mind... but there is pain in that way of living. Closing inward is to die, facing outward is to risk hurt, yet always I choose to live with maximum love, what else is there to do? What else gives life meaning other than love?
I was about ten, it was after the divorce and before mother moved far away. She had taken me to a climbing place, an adventure playground of sorts, it was a sunny day and the wooden shavings were pale. It climbed aboard the big ship, swinging on the riggings. She had been gossiping as I fell and become cut on the ground. Some women rushed to pick me up, brush me off, find my mother. I went home to Dad a little worse for wear that day but happy for the day with Mom.
The next day was a Monday and as usual we wrote about our weekend in class. I told in my excited way of seeing mother and going to play. My handwriting was neat, spelling quite good and I was proud of my work. I got an A. I took it home to show Dad and he lost his mind. I had failed to describe how negligent she had been. He took my work from the book and made me re-write it through streaming tears, telling what a terrible person Mom was. Then I had to take it to school so that the teacher could mark it all over again. I felt so naked, wearing my pain like that for Sir to see, like their hate was a mark on my skin.
Mother hired the young girls for cheap house help and babysitting, Father saw them as naive girls to target. She would go to bed in a temper, he would stay up to "chat" to them, leaving mother to stew sleepless just rooms away. Once in a while she would storm in to challenge him and he would mock her. That's a special kind of rot relationships never recover from - the start of war with children as pawns. Father didn't waste time in telling me of mothers "crimes" and she did the same about him - I was nine. I knew things children shouldn't know - the dirty part of a failing marriage, that part when love turns to hate.
Dad liked it when I called Mom a "big fat pig" and though it hurt to say the words I did it anyway. He was pleased and that made my world safer, hadn't she gone already? Hadn't she left for pastures new not weighed down my three kids, only her one favourite? She would arrive with her false smile and I would slink into the back of her mini-estate. Should I fail to have a good time she would love me less, if I succeeded in enjoying myself Dad would be angry. When she pulled away I felt every bump in the road, staring at the cars that passed, mind becoming more blank to protect my ten year old brain from the fear.
One day Dad put a cage on the front door with a lock. "It's so the dog doesn't get the mail." I knew better. I was so Mom didn't get the mail, in that small house they pretended we kids didn't have ears, that we didn't hear the details of their fights. He was handy with his fists when money was tight, she was hiding the bills rather than facing them. Even at eight I knew "armageddon" was coming to our house.
At dinner there was always tension, his rage at the hardness of his life, her sullen withdrawal at the receptiveness of hers. She would serve the meal and he would criticize. We kids ate in mock oblivion, constructing volcanoes from the mashed potatoes, anything to keep our eyes on the plates and not their hating faces. The trick was to do everything right, be sweet, smile, otherwise the wrath they weren't openly showing each other found a new and smaller target.
No matter how dark the storm I always scampered back with the wide eyes of a child, confused, hiding the fear. Two people you love with all your heart go to war and you are the one in the middle, always. Each desires to know whom you love more, but in truth there is no such distinction. They ask and should the “right” answer not arrive there is anger, swift and brutal. Who in this world tolerates the notion of equal love, even from a child? In truth it was my parents that were like children, fighting over a toy until it broke. Even then they carried on, not caring for the damage they'd inflicted. It was difficult, in truth every harsh word was as a lash from a whip, though they never saw it. All they saw was the outpouring of love I gave them and in their hatred of one another preferred not to share.
Dakota was a sweet and gentle child when I knew, her though it may sound like a cliche, it’s true. Her hair was lighter back then, chestnut I suppose and she would braid it for hours in front of the mirror; but Dakota was already disturbed by the age of six. Though the toilet was only a few metres from her bedroom she would crawl under an old pool table and urinate on the carpet. No-one knows why she did it. It was as if some animal instinct drove her to do it, to hide somewhere dark, somewhere that felt safe. She played with her dolls and was kind to her siblings. She was a fighter, never staying down if she fell or got knocked. She would go out of her way to be nice to other kids at school, but mostly stuck to just two friends who didn’t mind how old her clothes were. Did I say she has freckles? She does. She was a skinny kid but mostly healthy. She loved animals, as most little girls do. She hated jelly and sausages. She was a teacher pleaser, always doing her best in classes and clever too, learning quickly. But her childhood was rough from the start, some kids have it worse, but her home was turmoil and violence; not constantly, but enough to make her less stable than she should have been. I wish I could have saved her from the years ahead of her, but I was only a teen myself back then.
Found in Are you awake yet? - first draft, authored by .
There were nights nothing could drown out the shouting and on those occasions my mind would fill with escape plans. When you're three years old and the most stable thing in your life has plastic eyes, there's a problem. Some say that when parents fight (and I mean yell, hit and scream) it's like pulling out the foundations of your child, but it's more than that. It creeps into your psyche. "Is this all there is in the world? Fear with nothing to ward it off but a stuffed toy and a blanket to hide under?"
There were times the trouble started and I was not safely out of the way but right out in the open, trying to look inconspicuous and hiding my eyes. Eye contact meant trouble, it meant getting the blame for something I hadn't done, or something as inconsequential as putting an item back in the wrong place. Even doing homework and keeping quiet was no protection, math one moment and being shaken in the air the next at the end of a muscular arm. It does something to you - growing up knowing how fragile peace is, that it can be taken at the whim of some angry person. In a way I matured beyond my parents very early, neither of them owned their behaviour and I saw how destructive that was. They felt entitled to their rages instead of managing it, and entitled to the love of a child who was born to them. I do love them, I adore them, but they terrify me. They didn't just shake my foundations, they caused me to build a new house far away in another land, one where they couldn't pull me in their crazy new direction every time the wind blew in a new direction.
The only rule in the house was "finders keepers." The teens loved it and the younger ones went hungry. The children in that house lived Darwinian theory, only the fittest and meanest thrived. In a weird kind of way the parents approved, admiring their tough and ruthless brood. Crying was for "babies" and even a bleeding nose was nothing to "whine about." They weren't so much a family as a bunch of people competing, making transitory alliances of convenience and hating each other, hating the world. "Finders Keepers" moulded them into something less human underneath and set them on a path to extract as much from the world as they could, hoard it, hide it.