Having just finished my last post – +THERE I AM – SKINNY 16-YEAR-OLD ME – there is more I need to say about me and the story that is not going into these seven books of my mother’s writings I have nearly completed. It matters to me today to discover I am cooking on a hot plate – rather than on a full size stove with an oven that I KNOW was in that spot – at SOME TIME – because I have a memory – I will only mention now – that I have never written about – that I have not known WHEN it exactly happened – that involved in my memory a STOVE in THAT spot.
In the very lowest corner on the right of the picture in my last post where I am so sweetly smiling as I make candied apples (carmel?) you can see the raw end of a painted 2’x4′ board. That was the edge/top of a little wall that gave just enough room behind it to turn around and sit down at the table you see there in the bottom picture.
In my memory Mother had flown into one of her deadly rages at me. I have never yet written about the tortures of doing the family’s dishes. I always washed all of them. Only me. I had been doing so since I was 9, in 4th grade. It is marked in Mother’s letters where that began. I found it.
Dishes. 100 rules to doing the dishes. Perfectly. 100 steps. All of them had to be done in order and done perfectly. I am not ready to write about the beatings I suffered because I could not do the impossible. Even when I tried my absolute hardest — then I didn’t do them FAST enough. When I tried to do these dishes by all 100 steps, never forgetting ONE of them, never doing one of them out of order — when I did this all faster, then I MADE TOO MUCH NOISE. Hundreds of times I had to write the 100 steps. Over and over and over again. Beginning when I was 9.
But that’s not what I think of as I look at this picture of me at 16. What I want to know is WHERE IS THE STOVE as I feel a strange kind of shock at seeing a hotplate where the stove should be – because I have a crystal clear memory of my two sisters standing behind that little wall as Mother Mildred was in one of her abusive rages at me – because I had not cleaned the top of the stove well enough after doing the dishes (one of the 100 steps). At the instant Mildred grabbed my right hand and forced my pointer finger into the exposed pilot light of the STOVE – I see the instantaneous look of ABSOLUTE HORROR on the faces of my beautiful sisters.
When I look at this hotplate picture, and realize the date this was taken – Halloween 1967 has to be it — which leaves this horrible memory belonging to the following year when I was 17, my sisters 15 and 13. I do not discount the details of my memory even though there’s a hotplate instead of a stove. This just informs me that the stove must not have appeared in that spot until after this Halloween age-16 picture was taken.
This leads me around in a circle to another post recently published here – +WHAT IN THE WORLD IS ADULT ATTACHMENT?. In the second paragraph of the article mentioned in this post the author states this: Such conflict and inconsistencies indicate the operation of parallel memory systems and the dissociation of painful affect. The AAI is designed to detect conflict and inconsistencies in the discourse and narrative style of the interviewee.
Parallel memory. Nearly every single memory from the 18 years of my abusive childhood exists as ‘parallel memory’. I know this WAS me sweetly smiling making sweet treats. I also know there was another time I was forced to stand in nearly that exact spot while another kind of memory was being formed. Parallel memory. How well I know what THAT kind of memory is.
I stay away from those memories, most of my memories. I write what I need to — when I need to — for very specific reasons. There’s another kind of memory I have. I remember why I LET my mother hold my finger in the pilot light. Yes. There was something I could have done to stop her. One thing. Only one thing.
I could have killed her.
That is the ONLY action I could possibly have taken to stop my mother from doing what she did to me. This is the truth. I remember this truth along with everything else.
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