Wednesday, March 17, 2021

40

Growing up, I didn't have many birthday parties.

My folks didn't like other people's kids in general, or me in particular.

They didn't have tons of money.

They were young when I was born, and had me about 9 months and 1 week after their Honeymoon.

Don't misunderstand - there was never a time that my family "16 Candles"ed my birthday and completely forgot. (Though my neighbors up the street threw me my 16th birthday party because my parents had no intention of doing so. This family up the street thought that was a travesty, so they actually stepped up and did it. How fucked up is that? Ropers - thanks. I still remember and appreciate it.)

And I was luckier than some. I always received something. I wasn't Harry Potter sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs. It just always felt more like an obligation than a celebration. More like a "well, I guess we have to do something," than an actual celebration of human life. Maybe that sounds ungrateful. I'm sure that'll be the accusation. Whatever. I genuinely no longer care.

I was told some pretty terrible things about myself - who calls their 5th grader a "bitch" for not wanting to be slapped around all the time? I mean, honestly? What are you in 5th grade? 11??? - which, I guess, justififes not making a big deal about your kid on her birthday...but suffice to say that I learned at a pretty young age not to expect much. That I didn't deserve much.

This is an oversimplification - for my sanity's sake as well as your own - and there have been times over the years that attempts were made to rectify...all the things that need rectification.

I have to say that. I want to be fair.

Some people grow and change and try to do better, later. That's acknowledged.

It's appreciated.

Hell, it's even forgiven, even if it can't be forgotten.

But with that acknowledgement comes another - one that crept up on me and makes me realize just how broken I am.

And y'all brought it to my attention.

Not purposefully, but you did, just the same. (Thanks a lot, y'all.)

There are a few folks who went out of their way for my birthday this year.

And while gratitude is my first and most prevalent emotion, it's followed closely by confusion.

I literally do not understand WHY people care about my birthday.

And the fact that they do - and that they want to do things that are within their power to ensure that I do - is a concept so foreign to me that I literally do not understand how to thank or repay them (you).

I do not understand their (your) gesture.

I do not know what I am supposed to do about said gesture.

And I am stuck.

I feel unworthy - which makes me think I need to "make it up to you" somehow. Like I claimed time and energy and effort that I do not deserve, and I need to give it back to you with interest.

That I do not know how to do this makes me feel inadequate, ungrateful, and in a precarious situation because, if I do not adequately show my gratitude, I will be punished... somehow.

I do not know how to comfortably sit in love. I do not know how to take it in.

I'm so afraid of squashing it, or of it disappearing into vapor, that I stand far away from it.

I can observe it, but not interact with it.

I can marvel at it, but not understand it.

...If it disappears, I'll know I deserved its departure.

Or I will come to the inevitable conclusion that I never deserved it in the first place.

I will overanalyze what I did or did not do to make it go away.

A part of me will always be glad it came - and for that part, I thank you.

I thank you for taking 5 seconds, 5 minutes, 5 hours, or 5 years out of your life to make me feel that maybe I should have had some birthdays.

I dunno.

I'm lost.

I'm fucking lost.

40 years and this shit still doesn't make any sense to me.

For whatever it's worth - I AM grateful. I'm just broken.

I don't know how to deliver because I do not know what is expected of me.

And I'm sorry.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Madison

When my mom was having an affair with Rodger, she stole my Barbie dolls.
I was saving them - for myself, or perhaps for any future daughter I might have -  but my desires (as ever) meant less than nothing to my mother, who was gonna do what and whom she wanted to do, when she wanted to do it, no matter who she hurt.

My first memory of this was when I got 2 balloons for my birthday - a pink one and a purple one. I don't remember exactly how old I was, but it was prior to second grade, because we were still living in the house on Ebenezer. Anyway, my mom asked for one of my balloons to give to a neighbor who'd just had a baby. I didn't want to give my balloons away, but my mom announced she was taking one anyway, so the only decision I had in the matter was which one she was going to take. I said she could take the purple one. She took the pink one.

This was the first of many examples. Another was when I saved all my money to buy my own bike. I took my mom to the store and showed her which bike I wanted and gave her my money that I'd earned. She bought me a different bike, and beat me when I complained that she used my money to buy what she wanted and not what I wanted.

I guess you get the picture. 

So anyway, she gives me this spiel about a little girl she knows who is poor and whose parents cannot afford to get her Barbies. And how "selfish" (with some expletives) I am being because I will not do what she wants me to do. I continue to refuse, because I know the kid she's talking about is the kid of her... I dunno what to call him? "Mister"? (ever notice how there's no masculine equivalent for "mistress"? "Back Door Man" I guess?), and I am fucking furious that she is doing this shit, AGAIN, in our family's house, in which me, my brothers, and my dad still live.

There she is, bold as brass, entirely unrepentant, cheating AGAIN, and now calling ME the selfish one. Hey mom - if you ever read this - YOU'RE THE SELFISH ONE. Remember how we all went to Disney but couldn't go to the park for forever because YOU WANTED TO TAN BY THE POOL? Yeah. I remember.

So anyway, as with the rest of my life, I do not agree with her, so FUCK ME she does it anyway, and steals my Barbies and gives them to Rodger's kid.

By this time I am livid. And it's probably around this time all of my nightmares started... Anyway...

I am the lead in the high school musical. It's my junior year. My parent's divorce isn't final yet, but there's my mom - with Rodger - sitting in the audience of my show.

I finish. I bow. I leave. Because I don't want to have anything to do with them.

As I am walking to the car to GTFOT, I hear people calling me and I turn to see this bouncing little blonde girl running up to me. I've never seen her before, but I KNOW who she is.

I remember I had a lot of feelings as she bounded up to me - but they're confusing now. Mostly what I remember about that moment is that she radiated light.

I cannot see auras, but in my recollections, the sun shone bright and gold off of her hair. She looked like an angel.

Before I knew it, Madison was at my side, chattering away at how she's wanted to meet me. How my performance was the most amazing thing she'd ever seen. She wanted to do... things. I cannot remember exactly what because she was speaking SO FAST - a trait about her that, even as the years passed, remained a dead giveaway that she was happy and excited. But she wanted to hang out with me. A lot.

"I always wanted a sister," she said to me.

And I loved her.

I loved her with an immediacy that I can't say with certainty that I've ever felt for anyone else.

I felt it so immediately and so deeply, it felt like an impact. It felt like love collided with me. It's the closest I will ever come to holding my baby in my arms for the first time...

From that moment on, if Madison wanted something from me, she could have it. She could have all of it - my clothes, my dolls, my time, my energy, my love - all of me. To this day - more than a decade after her death, she still has all of me.

There's more to the story. The sleepovers at grandmas. The random gifts, and phone calls, and helping her prepare to sing The Star Spangled Banner (her choice) to audition for the community play. The day trips to the movies...

When I went to clean out her room after the accident, I emptied the contents of her purse. The ticket stub from the movie we'd just gone to see together was still in there. She'd kept it.

I kept it.