My mother established all the rules of my life from birth through the next 18 years. Because she had both malicious intent and pervasive control of me, I never learned during all the years of my childhood that my mother was nuts.
While it might be easy for outsiders to think that something was wrong with me that I never figured out this MOST important piece of information, I challenge you to read her own writings and see if you can tell this fact for yourself.
I bring up this point now because at the same time I titled this page I also admit that her ‘ridiculous list’ was something I was forced to take dead seriously – which I did not ONLY during the time I lived under her physical control, but also after I escaped (or should I say was ejected from) my parent’s home.
I am not talking about an imaginary list like the one she kept only in her mind in the form of her ‘litany of abuse’ she recalled both through verbal abuse and during the ever increasingly drawn out beatings she assaulted me with over the years of my childhood. This was a real and tangible list that she wrote down on pieces of paper.
Although the ACTUAL physical list wasn’t begun until I was 13, the items that she wrote down included things that she felt needed to be added even though they ‘belonged’ to many years prior. Once she started writing things down, she kept the list. She brought it out and showed it to me the day before I walked onto that jet plane and flew away to boot camp shortly after my 18th birthday.
It was important to her that I understood that now I was going to be employed in a solid, ongoing fashion, she expected me to honor ‘our agreement’ to send her money out of my paychecks until I had made financial restitution for every item that still remained on her assorted pieces of paper. What little income I had been able to make ‘taking in ironing’ from the age of 13, and what little I could pay her from the one-month job I had right before I left home, had done little to vanquish the items. A whole host of them remained. I was accountable for every single one of them, and responsible for paying her back.
(I was never allowed to baby-sit growing up because my mother insisted I was ‘too irresponsible’, ‘not good with children’, etc. – all the details of the reasons were contained in her OTHER list, her abuse litany.)
My mother put on that list every item she could think of that she blamed me for breaking or damaging in some way throughout my childhood. She put the dress on there that I tore when I was 3. She put the assigned value of my sister’s doll I had cut the toes off before we left California (a crime I was never allowed to forget because it, too, was included in her litany). She put all the dishes I had supposedly chipped from the time I was 8 and had trouble not hitting the faucet as I washed and rinsed them. She put pots and pans on there that I had not been able to scrub clean enough so that they always looked new.
She put dish towels and pot holders on there that I had gotten too dirty. She put aprons on the list because I had ‘intentionally’ made gray lines on them at the waist by rubbing my stomach on the metal strip around the cupboard when I washed the dishes. She put the shoes on there that I ruined by playing in the puddle and getting water over my boots. She put the cost of irons on there because I ruined them by twisting the cord along with the ironing board pads that I guess I burned holes in! She put clothespins on there because sometimes I forgot and left some on the line instead of bringing them into the house and they got wet and turned brown(er!). She put wooden spoons on there because I left them in the dishwater too long and they also turned brown(er!).
Yet even though the list became extensive because of all the things I ‘ruined’ according to my mother, what made the list a ‘real piece of work’ was her addition onto it of every single thing I had forced HER to ruin HERSELF because I was such a terrible daughter and made her have to beat me.
So added onto the list was the cost of various kitchen utensils, every wooden spoon and Stanley hairbrush she had ever hit me with and forced her to break.
I dutifully sent her the required payments without question each time I received one of my boot camp paychecks. I was grateful that after I had completed boot camp and was transferred to my first schooling, she wrote me a letter and told me that because I was ‘doing so well’ she had decided to forgive me my debt. She told me I should appreciate how fair she was being because now she would consider my debt to her paid in full. She kept every single item I had left at home as payment.
We were not allowed to take anything personal with us to boot camp, and even though I owned nothing of value, those were my accumulated possessions of my childhood, and precious to me. It was my right, I know now, to decide for myself what I was going to do with those things. But I didn’t know it then. I never saw any one of them again, and looking back, that might have been a good thing because they were all ‘contaminated’ with all the trauma of the life that I physically left behind me.
Yet I have never forgotten particularly the shoe box full of cards that my 3rd grade teacher had asked all her students to make for me the winter my mother taught us on the homestead over Christmas. The cards were sweet, and made me feel missed, accepted and valued as a part of the class.
I have also never forgotten the soft light blue comforter with little pink flowers on it my grandmother had sent to me the first fall we were in the log house in Alaska. We had arrived before our furniture did, and she wanted each of her grandchildren to have something that felt like home in that new empty house. My sister, Cindy, had been sent a pink one. Sharon had been sent a yellow one. I had always thought mine was the prettiest because I loved the color blue, and my grandmother must have known I loved flowers.
Yet while that soft, puffy, shiny, pretty covering had been on my bed throughout all the years of my childhood after we left my grandmother behind in California when I was five, it also had covered me for so many, many days I was forced into my bed as if I were in a prison, and for so many, many, many nights I had lain under it sobbing silently into my tear soaked pillow. I remember all the hours and hours over the span of my childhood I had followed the lines of its stitching and traced the outlines of the flowers with my finger tips.
Note: It’s interesting after I wrote this I realized that both of the things that I’ve never forgotten and always remembered had to do directly with my attachment needs. The box of children’s cards meant so much to me as a terribly abused child because they made me feel remembered and cared about by a group. The comforter, of course, was a direct connection to my absent grandmother who I knew loved me, even though my mother had done her best since I was very little to interfere with my grandmother’s affections toward me.