Imagine a perfect world in which to grow up: it is an idyllic world where your physical needs are provided. You never go hungry, have attractive clothes to wear and your mother and father are married and seem to love each other. You know from an early age that education is important and that whatever post secondary education you will desire will be made available. The country is Canada, where the true north is indeed 'strong and free'. Your world encourages freedom of speech, religion and politics.
Now imagine such a world where there is no sense of being loved, of belonging, or of being taken seriously. Suddenly, you are in the world in which I grew up. Children are to be seen and not heard, integrity is only expected in the adult world, and behavior is criticized but never corrected.
I loved my parents, now both deceased. I loved them enough never to have composed the stream of thought I'll compose here because it would have angered them. Interesting I don't say 'it would hurt them.' I would not write if it would hurt them either, but I'm not sure it is possible I ever hurt them. I'm not sure they liked me enough to be hurt. Rather, they disliked me enough to get angry with me.
In my head are many random stories. Each of them are true. How do I compile a series of vignettes that will best encapsulate my family history? And why do I do it? These are the questions I must ask myself as a writer.
As this is a blog, I think I'll provide one story at a time, randomly at first. Perhaps something will begin to take shape and from that I'll design a more structured approach.
As to why I do it? It seems fitting to write about my life given I've entitled this blog "A Life Examined". I'm aware as I write now that my tone is a bit clipped and my mood remote. Perhaps I'm a bit nervous about writing to the world; perhaps I'm a bit anxious I'll fail. I know I'm not angry with my parents or my sister. I'm just wary of what I'm about to do... to share my journey in order to capture another's interest.
The first story has just two characters, my mother and me. It isn't even a story really, but a moment in time. It begins with my mother raising her hand to me and stopping. I was about 9. I remember I'd done something wrong - I don't know what but I'm certain I knew at the time - and she was really cross. She raised her hand and our eyes met. I was scared she was going to hit me and that fear must have been written all over my face. She looked at me, her hand suspended in the air and said, "Some day I'm going to hit you." (she never had up to that point, that I can remember, nor ever did)
The moment passed. I guess she walked away. There was no hit, but no hug either. No physical contact of any kind.
I was not punished for whatever I'd done. I expect she showed compassion, or tried to, by not spanking me. But she didn't teach me, correct me or help me to learn from whatever I'd done that I shouldn't have done it. Interesting that I remember the moment of eye contact and fear, but not what I'd done to cause her anger. Was it good for me as a child, to live in a house where my mother never spanked me? Certainly to have no consequence for bad behaviour was not ideal.
It was the '60's and Dr Spock and such teaching was that you should not spank a child and a child will work things out for themselves. Well, I didn't. Perhaps others did.
It's stories like this that I'll write about. It's stories like this that make me feel sad about how I grew up: completely disjointed from my mother, who lacked confidence, and from my father, who was emotionally shut down.
I grew up in one of the biggest houses on the street, with educated parents and a very brainy sister. I had music lessons and at 6, when I had trouble with reading, my mom helped me until I could read. But inside myself I was alone, lonely and torn between over confidence and under confidence, because I felt no love.
I have love now in my own family. I'm very blessed. And I'm grateful for my history, because it's made me who I am now. But every little experience as a child has the potential to bear significant impact on life as a whole. Perhaps I'm writing to help you to tap into your memories, to see how they've impacted you - for better or worse - and to help you to grow beyond them. Perhaps I'm writing to parents who struggle with parenting, or to siblings who struggle with sibling relationships. Perhaps I'm writing to daughters and sons who have parents who are aging and there is unsettled business between them. Whoever I'm writing to, I'm hoping my words will be read, and the words will help to make our relationships better, while we are still on the earth. I shall write again next Thursday. (Is it Thursday's child that's full of woe??)
|me, sitting in my back garden|