The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP! Goes Alaska letters – chapter 6
6. Always Wildflowers
March 20, 2013. I am afraid of my childhood. What I can know and what I allow myself to know about it probably amounts to a handful of dust in the desert. I wonder what story I would have written had I thought of doing such a thing in the first few days of my life after I left home at 18. Had I already forgotten then what I never knew I knew about what I had lived through by that age?
If I had the power to ring out my voice clearly enough to be heard by those escaping childhoods in hell I would say to them, “Write it all down now, as soon as you can. Write down everything you remember and do not let go of those words ever in your lifetime. Those words are your guide to understanding your reactions to everything you will encounter next. We cannot fully understand our self if we cannot remember what we will spend the rest of our lives trying to forget.”
I would tell these people that although they will not be able to make sense out of the experiences they write down immediately, over time the bigger picture of how we fit into our lives will begin to appear to us like an image developing in a photographic darkroom. Such a written record of the specific details of trauma and abuse we suffered in our childhoods, as well as the beauty and the goodness that was mixed in, offers us a road map that tells of where we came from. It tells of our genesis. It tells of the creativity and strength within us that allowed us to endure and survive all that we lived through.
Such a written record would be a kind of geological survey of the terrain that formed us. Our stories matter because we do. To remain afraid of the fearsome story of my childhood leaves me being afraid of myself. Had I documented my childhood experiences at age 18 I would not have “awfulized” them. I would have reported them factually without fear, without judgment, and I fully believe my report would have been complete.
I had no reason to question what I had been through when I was 18. I knew no other life. I had no way of knowing how awful my childhood had been, or how bizarre or how unique. I had no way of knowing that I had been abused at all. At 18 I had simply survived. At this point? I am a survivor. There is a lifetime of adult living between these two states for me.
Mildred wrote the following in a diary entry on our second day in Alaska, August 2, 1957:
We always have wild flowers on our table, picked by anxious to please tiny hands. What greater pleasure is there then to watch small children discovering the wonder of nature in the woods – streams to watch flow, questions to answer – where does the water come from and where does it go, will it ever dry up?
Mommy are these berries good to eat? Will this water really freeze and will we really have snow? Yes, darling, yes darling and isn’t it a bit of heaven for us right here in the woodland and don’t you feel closer to God here as I do? Yes, Mommy, yes and so our life in Alaska begins.
A Bit of Heaven in the Woods –
“Always?” How could we have had “wild flowers on our table” “always” when we had only been in the log house one day? (This “table” was a card table someone had loaned to us to use because all of our own furniture was still in California waiting to be shipped.) How long in Mildred time was “always?” Mildred’s “always” existed in her universe of “make-believe,” “pretend,” “once upon a time” and “forever.” It gave us as her children no firm ground to stand upon.
We were young children, and I don’t believe feeling “closer to God here” as “Mommy” did had anything whatsoever to do with our experience of being children in our own life. Mildred continually overran our lives, usurped our experience, placed her thoughts, impressions, feelings, desires, and observations inside of us. Again her words reflect the fact that we did not exist as people in our own right separate from her. We-were-she in her mind. Mother had no boundaries to separate herself from her doll-children. We were nothing but movable props her in dramas, even when a moment of drama came that seemed harmless, having to do with wildflowers, berries, and creek water.
Were Mother’s intentions malevolent in the actions she wrote about or in the words of her writing itself? No, but that did not make her actions and thoughts any less harmful to her children. Mother invaded us. Possessed us. Owned us.
Mildred’s search for “heaven” was directly connected to her moving cycle madness. “Heaven” is what her psychotically split-in-half Borderline Personality Disorder brain-mind continually strived to create in her upper all-good world. “Heaven” could only exist as a possibility for Mildred if she could keep me down in her lower world of hell as the replacement for (projection of) her perceived all-bad self.
We children had no need to name heaven. We had no need to identify heaven with “the Woods.” Mildred was projecting herself onto and into us. Were we happy during the moments she was describing? No doubt, yes.
But our ability to experience happiness was always directly connected to and dependent upon Mother’s state of mind. If she was happy we were allowed to be happy. If she felt anything else, she pursued us with those emotions, as well. She chased us down and pounced on us with her adult version of how her children were supposed to be children. That is not what mothering is about. That is not what having a childhood is about.
We were all Mildred’s prisoners, though it was I that was so frequently her targeted-for-abuse prey. She could be outraged at me, “punishing” me and then turn nearly at the identical time and be “happy” with her other darling children. The advantage to me of these earliest days in Alaska is that Mildred was so “in heaven” that I was not picked out for “special attention.” I could be just one of the crew of Mildred’s mental space ship living her version of our life in “always…wildflowers on the table” time in her own little girl pretend fairy tale life (that most unfortunately DID contain evil monsters).
This meant none of us were ever safe. Never, never safe. But I do not believe any child can continue to exist in a conscious state of terror all of the time. We had to have the ability to live as children ANYWAY, and as I have written before, being a child experiencing childhood is NOT the same thing as a child enduring trauma.
We MADE our own inner space of freedom when and however we could because we WERE children. Not only did I have the ability to be a child “in between” but my siblings did, as well. They had to go on being children experiencing their childhood even when I was being beaten, punished, forced into isolation away from and apart from them.
There was nothing any of us could do to change anything. We were powerless. Mother controlled it all.
We endured. We adapted. We always, as the children we were, chose the “high road.” We always did the “right” thing. We always did the best that we could do in every single ongoing moment we lived.
My siblings were Mother’s imaginary friends and I was her imaginary enemy. Sometimes we seemed to be “let out” of our emotional prison by a mother who was momentarily giddy with “heavenly joy.” But I do not believe that in our perpetual lack of safety we could ever put down the heavy, heavy burden that each of us carried of being the children of a maniacal madwoman no matter how many wildflowers were “always” on our table. Being forced to “play” with our mother when she was “in that mood” – as she herself was “playing” as if she were THE child (without her ever recognizing that fact) – left us always “playing along” with our mother as she monopolized OUR childhoods.
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