I did not finish my work today with the last ten pictures out of the probably 300 that I have already sorted and planned where they belong in these 7 volumes of my mother’s writings. Ten pictures. I feel like I accidentally discovered a wormhole. Ten little pictures that show portions of the changing stages of our family homestead dwelling.
I feel like I am taking some kind of final exam. “How much did you really learn about your family story through all of your forensic work, Linda?”
500,000 of my mother’s words, all these scrambled up, fire damaged, undated pictures — all finally in a dang good straight line for the first time EVER — and I am stuck at the very end of this journey — on the story of a HOUSE?
I am a stranger in a strange land. There are too many refracting rays of light coming at me from so many directions. These pictures pertain to a segment of my childhood I have spared myself from writing about for the most part, spared myself from thinking about — having told myself I would get to this part of my abuse history — later. Much later. MUCH MUCH MUCH later?
Certainly I did not anticipate staring my 16-year-old self in the face in a picture in THIS series of books. I mentally looked the other way, not preparing myself in the least for whatever it is I am going through now as I am SO CLOSE to finishing this part of my work.
I am reminded (strangely, it seems) of what the developmental neuroscientists say about very young babies who are overly stimulated by interactions with people. This happens even when the interactions are entirely playful – and positive. The fact of the matter is, too much of ANY kind of stimulation to an infant is harmful. Babies will instinctively take care of their needs for down-regulation and self-soothing — by simply turning their head and facing away from the source of the stimulation.
We can watch that happening in the middle of this research video (if this link doesn’t work just Google this) –
The turning away is only one of MANY stress reactions this infant in the video displays. But it is the one I am thinking about now.
Because a baby younger than one year old is so rapidly building their right limbic social-emotional regulatory brain hemisphere, most of the time the baby will turn away to the LEFT – which means it is processing information in the RIGHT side of its brain.
I have been choosing to turn away from any information about myself in my teens. For the most part I have not gotten up close and personal with my teen self – even though I have written some of my ‘stories’ from that time in my life.
Here I am finding myself — of all places — showing up right here in this book’s writing process as I try to make sense out the changes the very structure of our family home went through. I am IN THE HOUSE.
Today, IN THE HOUSE – means more to me than I have ever thought about before. I can tell my mother’s madness was literally IN THE HOUSE – in the fibers of that canvas Jamesway – in every material and every object in that house — or should I call it a SHOEBOX? 384 square feet for 8 people – it wasn’t any bigger than a shoebox. BUT, as I discovered today as I examine one particular photograph closely — the top one here – (I have no way to divide these scanned pictures at present) – I see my teen self – this must have been Halloween 1967 – I was 16 – such a thin 16 – smiling as if I had never had a care in the world and BOY did I have cares! I am sweetly making carmel apples for my family……. So thin, remembering how often I was HUNGRY. Noticing the details of this little kitchen in our ever-morphing house — noticing the metal bread box I had to keep meticulously clean, same with the little metal matching spice cans I can see there…..
BUT — what shocked me most today is the fact I am cooking on a hot plate. In our shoebox we did not evidently have a stove. Nor, as I can see in this picture ’cause I know where SOMETIMES there was a refrigerator — did we have a refrigerator at the time this picture was taken. No running water, but we did have an electric generator (power plant, light plant) — but we didn’t run it all of the time. It would not have supported an electric refrigerator.
Well, I don’t know where this part of the story about the living-crazy-house is going. I have not run that guantlet all the way through yet. The lower picture is of our father, and the two youngest of the six of us kids. I can tell by the tablecloth and the little Santa cups on the table…… what season this was, but the YEAR? I can see the addition was on the living room end of the house by this time. I guess the shoebox had grown a bit. But that is all a part of tomorrow’s work……..
Followed by this related post – +SOMETHING ELSE I NEED TO SAY….
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