I can only imagine what it looked like for the third officer arriving on the scene. A young mother, breasts hanging loose under her nightgown, words slurring and feet unsteady in her living room as she fails to steadily find her nose with her finger. There on the stair landing is her daughter who is fourteen but looks more like eleven in her white cotton nightgown, cooly smoking one of her mom's Winston lights as she watches the policemen handcuff her mother and take her away.
How do I wrap my head around all the things I'm angry at my mother for? How do I process this rage that has steadily built for the last twenty years? Anger that wrapped it's slippery tentacles around me even tighter after I had children of my own. Watching my mother get a field sobriety test in our living room is the least of it. It's just important because it is one of the memories I have where other people witnessed what I saw, a memory so lucid, my mother could not diminish it with her own version of events. No way to explain away that one I suppose.
My mother was seventeen when she had me. No poor, uneducated country girl, she was a popular girl, from a good middle-class family who I imagine got horny and had sex with my father, somewhere around homecoming. She graduated high school in June, got married in July and gave birth in August. My Great Aunt loves to recount how that summer, every time she went to the mail box, there was another invitation or thank you card from my mom.
My parents stayed married the cliche seven years before my mother jumped ship. I can't blame her, her and my father were badly matched from the beginning. My mother is the eternal optimist, inhabiting a world she views with the rosiest of glasses, a world that bends to her will. Whereas my father played the ever plodding Eeyore, life's perennial victim. She wanted a big house and an audience and he wanted someone to blame. I used to say that my mother could be in a field of daisies with a train coming right at her and she'd be traipsing around, oblivious to the dangerous train careening in her direction. My father could be in his own field, an expanse of nothing but daisies in every direction and he'd be grumbling looking for the nonexistent dangerous train, unable to enjoy the daisies for even a moment. Me? I imagine I smell the daisies for a few minutes, look around for dangerous trains and then continue my appreciation of the flora. Have you ever actually smelled a daisy? I don't know where the expression 'fresh as a daisy' comes from because daisies smell like butt. I clipped some beautiful long ones from my front garden and put them in a vase in my office. Every once in awhile, I got a whiff of ass and eyed each member of my family with suspicion. Finally I figured out that the real culprit was the bunch of daisies I had plucked.
Some days I wonder if I am like a daisy, pretty petaled on the outside but with something more rank underneath. When I find myself getting angry and ugly, I get even angrier because I don't know what to do with this legacy they gave me. I don't know what to do with my crystal clear memories of the bad choices my parents made and the dangerous situations they put me in. I don't know what to do when my rage turns inward on myself or is channeled outward at my husband and children in the form of frustration and impatience. When that happens I get to add shame to the pile of anger and hostility, so yeah, that's awesome.
And somewhere, at my core, I understand that this isn't my fault and that everyone, everyone, has parent inducing handicaps. But I just don't know how to process all this anger. Any small criticisms leveled at my mother just elicit defensiveness at best and war at worst. So getting some resolution with her is unlikely. I know I should go back to therapy but just the idea of it is exhausting. Many days it's fine and I don't think about it, I don't get angry or frustrated or any of it. But here's the thing, I know I could be better, do better. I just don't know where to start.