On_giving and thanks_remembering

At Thanksgiving – I am more than thankful – I remember.

I remember my Mother. The way her hands moved over the raw turkey, salting and buttering under the skin. She was mindful about food and set in her ways about how this or that should be done, when it came to cooking. All ten of us kids were banished from the kitchen, but I would watch – from a distance – in wonder – at how she made things – all from scratch – all on more than a tight budget.

When I was old enough, which wasn’t very old – I was allowed into the kitchen – for a few minutes – to add butter, milk, salt and pepper to the potatoes – only in her way.

She’d mash with an old hand masher, thick grooved metal at the end and a wooden handle that used to be red, but was mostly worn down to the wood. I’d add things. In her way.

Butter first. She’d hand me a butter knife and put a stick of butter on the table, still cold in the wrapper. “We’ve got to add this butter while the potatoes are hot.” I’d slice off inch after inch of butter, unwrap and throw it into the pan – all as fast as I could. She’d mash and then stop to look into the pan. “More butter.” I’d slice, unwrap and throw in again. “See there, it’s not all white anymore.”

Then milk. She’d mash and I’d pour into the old battered, but still solid cooking pot. My small hands balancing the gallon jug of milk, one hand at the top, one at the bottom.  “Not too much milk.” She’d mash and mash. “Potatoes should be creamy, not too thick, not too thin. Add some more milk.” Bang. She’d hit the side of the pan with the masher. The potatoes fell back with a thud. “More milk.” More mashing – Bang – the potatoes fall back – with a lightness.

Then pepper.  “You should see the right amount of pepper all through the potatoes.” I’d shake and shake, the pepper never came out of the pepper shaker very fast. “See that’s right, now you can see pepper everywhere.”

Then salt to taste. I’d shake the not really white anymore, plastic Tupperware shaker with the broken lid, a few times. “Potatoes need a lot more salt than you think, Amy.” I’d shake and shake and laugh, so much shaking. She’d press on, now with more stirring than mashing, fluffing up the potatoes. She’d drop a finger into the pan and bring potatoes up to her mouth. The back of her hand would come into focus. Thin and thick at the same time, veins standing out, small brown spots, always tan, but not leathery. Their smell in my mind without ever smelling them, onions, salt, butter, flour – it’s as if she had been cooking her whole life.

“Mmmm, but not yet, more salt, a little more milk.” I’d pour and scramble to keep up. And then bang, bang, bang, the masher on the side of the pot, to shake off all the mashed potato stuck to the masher. With me standing on the chair next to the table – she’d hand over the masher. I’d scrape it clean with my hands, shoveling what was left into my mouth – jump down – turn on the sink – rinse the masher and throw it into the sink with another bang.

Mom would cover the potatoes still in their pot and I would go back to doing whatever it is we do on Thanksgiving, on a cold November day – hoping for snow, thinking about Christmas, fighting with each other, watching the black and white TV – In the middle of nowhere in Michigan.

July 1976_searching

It’s my birthday.

For my birthday, I’m putting up this writing session which makes me sad, but at the same time, it makes me happy. I look back at the little me at five and think, you’re amazing. GO! I also look back and think, THAT HAIR! And a pink shirt!?

I am pretty certain that my Mom must have cut my hair for this photo and for some reason it looks orange. My sister always argued with me about this photo and one other saying it was her, but I know this was me. So there. Regardless, it could have been any of us.

We’re human, we’re amazing, it’s what we do with it that matters.

~ July 1976 ~

“Momma, I can sing real good if you want me to.” I said. She looked down and said “No girl, singing’s not going to get you anywhere. Learning is what you need.”

“But Momma, I’m big when I sing.” I stand up tall. She shakes her head back and forth, short curls swaying close to her head. ”No girl, singing’s not for you.”

“I’ll be right back, don’t come looking for me either.”

I know she is not coming back, the little feeling that I’m choking comes up in my throat.

“How long Momma, how long will you be gone?”

Looking down at me she lifts a hand, the back of it brown from sun, she slaps her leg and laughs a little. Her mouth is empty, only a few teeth left, those are black and brown and broken on the edges, she has one gold one in the back. We aren’t that bad off if she hasn’t had to sell that tooth yet.

“I can’t find peace with you Gaaddamn kids”. She mostly smiles with her lips pursed straight across, so that she doesn’t have to show her teeth.

I need to know how long she will be gone.

“How long will you be gone Momma?”

Her serious sad face, her saggy skin hanging down “Just a few minutes.” Turning to the door

“Is a few more than a couple?” I ask. “A couple means two right Momma?” “Yes a few is more than two.” she says “Like five?” “Yes, three, four or five is a few.” “No more than five, right Momma, that would mean many and you said a few. Do you promise Momma? Do you promise it will only be a few?”

“Yes, only a few minutes.”

I throw my arms around her leg and take hold.

When she lies, I feel all tingly on the inside, I can tell so I ask more questions to see if I can figure out the truth.

“How long, how long, how long, don’t leave, don’t leave.” the rhythm of the words choking back tears. Please just tell me “5 minutes, 10, an hour.”

“Now let go of my leg and behave” her polyester pants scratching me as she moves her leg, her hands pushing me down and away. My hands turn cold and as she gets close to the door; I run to it pressing my hands against it as it closes.

I run back to the couch and sit stiff like a board.

“Three, four, five, she’ll be back in three, four or five.” I sing, “3, 4 or 5. 3, 4 or 5 is a few, means more than a couple, that means 2.” I watch the clock. I always watch the clock when she is gone. “Sit still, very still or you might cry. Watch the clock. Watch the clock.”

“3, 4, 5.” I sing, in a small and quiet way.

At three minutes I am hopeful. I can move a little now because I know she’ll be back soon. Four feels good, hopeful. Five is very long but by six she’ll be home, she said so. Five comes and goes and I am not sure what to do. My head says she is not coming back. Five, five, five, she’s not home. I rock back and forth, running my hand along the seam of my pants. They are my favorite pants, purple pants. What if she doesn’t come back?

I punch my leg hard. Maybe I won’t think about her never coming back if I do something else. I hit the place where the bruise is deep, black and lumpy.

The bruise is from Peggy and a game she plays with me to see how much I can stand before I cry. Peggy hits me over and over. I don’t even feel it anymore. It’s just about being strong enough to not cry.

Last week when Momma was in the kitchen making noodles, I was on the couch, watching the black and white TV. Peggy sat beside me and hit the soft fleshy part of my thigh. I winced, but no crying. Pausing, in between the balling up of her fist, she pinched. I looked straight ahead, no crying. My face hot, not saying a word. It could have been worse she could have been kicking me or hitting me with the brush or broom handle, or threatening to stab me with a knife, which is much more scary than this.


“Ready to cry yet?”


Smack. Sucking in air, holding my breath

“How about now”


Smack, smack, smack.


No longer able to hold back the breath, chest rising and falling, the tears came, giving away the pain. I couldn’t stop them once the bruise was deep enough.

I didn’t want her to be able to make me cry.

She turned away happy, smiling, her wavy brown hair flying behind her bee-bop walk into the other room. I got myself back together and just as she was about to leave the room, I laughed and I couldn’t even stop myself from doing it. I laughed and laughed, which brought her back and the hitting and asking started again.

Today, when I hit myself, it doesn’t hurt much. The tears are already welling up because Momma is never coming back. The punching makes me wince, but I’m not afraid of that hurt. Only afraid she is not coming back. It’s 8 now. I want to go looking for her. She said not to, but I have to.

I know when I go looking for her I don’t like what I find.

I can’t wait any longer. Ten minutes is too long for me, I will check with Granny to see if she knows where Momma is. She’s not really my Granny, but that is what everyone calls her. She is smaller than Momma and bent at the shoulders, her blue and pink flowery housedress is always pressed and clean, small glasses shade her eyes, her thick panty hose sag at the ankle. I don’t know her real name. She lives next door and I like that she only has a basin and a toilet, no bathtub or sink in the bathroom. I would like it if I did not have to take a bath. There is a sink in the kitchen, but none in the bathroom. If Momma is not there Granny will give me a cookie, she always does, the kind with jam in the middle from the store, not the kind we have at home.

I peek out the front door though the plexiglass window. It used to be glass-glass but has been broken too many times from angry slams. Every time it broke Momma started crying, someone cleaned it up and put cardboard in the window. Whoever broke it was always long gone and the rest of the day we’d all try to be quiet to not make Momma cry anymore.

After checking the front door, to make sure no one is lying in wait, I open the door, the handle jiggles because it is loose. The smells of summer, grass, lilac, rough wood siding, slip through me. I run down the stairs and across the cement that was replaced earlier in the summer, but has already shown wear because one of my brothers didn’t know how to mix cement. There’s always something half way finished around here.

Running fast across the two driveways, ours and Granny’s, touching the big maple tree that stands in-between them. Hand hitting bark, rough, it’s not smooth like a birch. The gravel is hard on my bare feet, but I am a fast runner and I don’t care.

I hear them after me already, my brother Bobby and his friends, Phil, Joel and Pat, like a wild pack of heathens. Momma calls them that. I am not sure what a heathen is, I imagine it as some sort of monster, gray like a rat with yellow teeth and the legs of a lamb, where you aren’t quite sure what you are going to get the good side or the bad.

Yelling, they chase me.

“Yeah, get her, we’re going to pound you AmyBeth.” They say my name as if it is one word all strung together. Stomach lurching, eyes darting back and forth searching for an exit, I run faster.

At Granny’s door, I know I should knock and wait for her to come but if I knock they’ll be here before I get in. And today they might wring my neck good. I reach and grab the doorknob, lungs pumping, hands slippery wet with sweat, open the door shove myself through and quickly but gently close it behind me. I slide my back down against it, breathing out fear.

I hear Momma laughing in the other room, a laugh that comes from the belly, the kind like you really mean it.

“Who’s there?” Granny calls, she sounds like the voice on an old record.

“Probably one of those gaaddamn kids looking for me.”

I walk through the kitchen, the dining room, and into the sitting room. Passing the cookie jar, which seems to smile at me as I walk past. Standing up tall and proud, a fake smile across my face, maybe they’ll think I’m pretty.

“I found you Momma.” I say as sweet as I can.

She looks angry and rolls her eyes. My shoulders fall forward, head down.

“I told you not to come looking for me.”

She nods to Granny “I can’t stay away for not one minute.”

Granny who smells like liniment, laughs and smiles at me as if to say you’ll be ok.

“Now gaaddamn it I told you I’d be home soon now get the hell out of here, I’m having a quiet time with Granny.”

It hurts me in my heart, more than punching my bruise, when she says things like that. I turn around and run but know I can’t go back outside, I don’t want to get beat up just yet.

I’ll wait until I hear Momma leaving.

I pretend to leave, opening and closing the door and then shuffle into Granny’s bathroom, lifting the lid of the white wicker hamper, I hike one leg up and pull using my back to push forward, I slip down into the hamper and close the lid. The rubber rim around the lid does not make a sound when it closes. I sink down into the dirty clothes. It is musty here, but it feels safe. The smell is like the hair from Granny’s trash that we burn on the burn pile. She wears her hair in a bun, when she lets it down it’s down to her waist. When she brushes it hair gets trapped in the brush, she pulls it out in little bundles and throws it into the trash that we collect, because we are always helpful to Granny. I like to watch the long gray hairs burn, bright red at the ends, winding around through paper. The smell of it is nice and bad all at the same time and I like it.

In the hamper, I get nervous that if I don’t go home Momma will hit me with the paddle for coming to look for her, I wait for a while longer, which is probably only a minute or two and scramble out of the hamper, head first, hands out, the whole thing tilting behind me. I make the few steps from the hamper to the door silently. I stand on tip-toes looking out the glass-glass in Granny’s window. No one is around. Bobby, Phil, Joel and Pat are in the backfield. I grab the handle and turn it as quiet as I can. Sliding out the door, this time not running at all. They may not hear me if I walk soft. I pass through gravel, tree, dirt, broken cement, uneven stairs that creak which reminds me. Momma says they’ll need to be fixed by winter and where the hell is she going to get that money?

I’m not tall enough to see in the door window from the outside. Most times no one is home during the day but me and Momma, so I don’t feel too much worry going back into the house.

It’s quiet inside and smells of dust and plaster.

Maybe if I can sleep, I will wake up and she will be here. That’s what I’ll do, I’ll sleep, close my eyes.

To be safe, I move the couch out just a little using my hip and leg to push with force. I grab a wadded up blanket from the chair and slide behind and under the couch. The heathens can’t find me here. Momma will know to look for me if she comes home though. She knows all my hiding places. Lying there, I stare at the wall. She might be gone forever. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Sing your song. Sometimes singing makes me sleepy. Go on sing. I know that singing makes me feel better especially if I get all the words right. Where is thumbkin, where is thumbkin? I sing quietly, the words rock me back and forth. I use one finger from each hand to talk to the other.

It takes a long time to fall asleep during the day, especially if when Momma is gone forever and I don’t know where I’ll get any food. But, if I am behind the couch with a blanket it seems like a cocoon and that is good. I know I can’t get up and look at the clock because she is still not home and it makes the lie seem bigger the longer she stays away.

I pick at the plaster and at the peeling off wallpaper. No one can see it here, it’s ok if I peel it off. I won’t get yelled at. The paper is brown on the edges. It used to be tan, now its ugly and torn like someone peed on it. I am sure someone probably did or spilled some slop on it. The carpet behind the couch smells like dirt and old things. It’s red and yellow with a wavy curly design in it. It has been worn thin, even here behind the couch. Yellow fibers show through where there should be red. Sometimes the dusty smell makes me sneeze. I know how to sneeze real quiet so no one will hear me or find me back here. As long as I am hiding, no one can see me, they can’t bother me.

The creak of the door scares me, hot air streams in.


Spring, 1980

I work at the store after school on some days. I only earn a quarter or two, but it’s worth something to me to feel important. I know at nine I shouldn’t worry about feeling important, but I do. Working. I put the quarter or two that I earn into my bank account at the bank across the street. I’m saving for a way out of this town.

I stock the coolers at the store and can carry two 8-packs of glass bottles under one arm and one 8-pack in the other.  Each day when I walk by the cooler, I check to make sure that everything is stocked up and when someone buys something, I run and replace it right away.  It’s my job.

I am tempted everyday by one thing in the store, Perrier. The smooth green glistening bottle taunts me each time I walk past the cooler door.  I slide open the door, the black rubber on the bottom squeaks and I have to push in while I’m pulling to the right or the door gets stuck. If the Perrier bottle is not facing forward, I turn it so the perfect lettering is facing to the front.  Why we sell Perrier in the store, I don’t know.  I’ve never seen anyone buy it.  Perrier is RICH and beautiful to me, not poor and run down like our town. I have never tasted it, but I bet it tastes clean, like the smell of laundry after hanging on the clothes line.

I can’t stop thinking about Perrier and instead of saving for it, which would take months of work at the store, I decide that I can steal it faster than I can save for it.

I know it is wrong to steal, but my brother Patrick does it and he doesn’t seem to ever get in trouble for it. I will only do it once, I promise myself. Only once.

I keep watch for anyone coming down the aisle by the cooler. I’m nervous and I think this is why bad things happen when people steal. They get too nervous and mess up, but I can’t stop my nerves from making me shift around – left foot, right foot – my heart racing.

There are customers up front talking to old Mr. Hambone, who drinks Seagram’s Seven from a paper cup all day long. If I hurry I can run out while they are distracting him.

I slide open the door, pull down one bottle and put it up under my shirt and hold my arm against my side as hard as I can to keep it under cover. I run out of the store, down Avon street, legs and arms pumping, breathing short and quick, sprinting down the sidewalk as fast as I can. I run all the way to the library, around the back where there is a fenced in electrical cage. I sit down in the grass and hold the cool bottle against my face. Sweat dripping, heart racing. I know someone is going to catch me. I want to taste the sweet taste of Perrier, but I am scared. My nerves are jumpy, jumpy and the bottle now feels hot and bad. My belly has the I’ve done something terrible feeling.

I stand up and throw the bottle over the fence, which is locked, with barbed wire along the top.

I stare through the fence, longing for Perrier. Sad.

It was quite a few years before I could afford Perrier and when I finally tried it, I fell in love again – not just with the packaging, but with Perrier. The cool crisp mineral taste. I was hooked.

I thought Perrier would make me feel rich – but realized it wouldn’t if I didn’t get it in a way that felt good to me. Why I learned that lesson and some people keep stealing, I’ll never know, but I’m grateful to have learned it early.

I still don’t know why I had it in my head that Perrier was so good, I laugh at my nine-year-old self, but realize she’s still here with me today. Loving Perrier.  And it is – GOOD.


As promised last month – here is an excerpt from my memoir.  Feel free to comment. I’d love to hear from you.  

LIFE is about connection

Follow the threads, follow the connection – what led you to here? And to hear? And what do YOU hear?

For a few short moments before posting this, I had to relax my breathing, remember, that this too is part of the story, my story.  I then went to Twitter, you know – to distract myself and a message from the universe appeared – I’m headed in the right direction.

From Anne Lamott – You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories.  If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.      

~July 1974~

I am lying in Momma’s bed, which is my bed too. I am four and wearing my pink nightgown. I don’t like pink, but since I’m a girl I have to wear it. My blond hair is ratty and laying on the pillow.  I don’t like to comb it, ever.  My mouth is crusty on the side from drooling through the night. I have one of my stick legs kicked out of the covers because I get hot sometimes.

The queen-sized bed is parked in the left corner of the room against the wall.  I sleep closest to the wall so I won’t fall out of the bed.  I never thought I would fall out of bed, but Momma says “Gaaddamn it, move over or you’ll fall right out.”  One of Momma’s favorite words is “Gaaddamn it”, with an A drawn out right in the beginning, she strings it on to the front or end of most any sentence.  Her favorite is when she’s trying to yell at one of us and can’t get to the right name fast enough, “Billy, Jenny, Patrick, Michael, Peggy….Gaaddamn it, Amy Beth!”

I stay in the middle as best I can. Momma sleeps near the window and I’m glad because if anyone ever breaks in, she’ll get them before they get me. She’s tough.  She had me when she was 46. She says “No one has a normal baby at 46, most of them come out retarded.”  She can also knock you into next week with one backhand and that means strong.

Momma has a few things on the top of the brown wooden headboard.  A bobby pin, which she uses to clean her ears in the morning, a jelly jar full of water that is mine that I drink out of when I get thirsty at night and her reading glasses which are smeared and greasy on the front. I don’t know how she sees out of them.  She once let me try them.  They made me blind. If I touch the bobby pin or glasses, she gets so mad at me and yells loud. “Gaaddamn it Amy Beth – if I told you once, I told you a hundred times. Don’t touch my Gaaddamn glasses.”

I am the last of Momma’s ten babies, and the last always sleeps with Momma, there isn’t room anywhere else.  There is only one real bedroom in our house.  It is at the top of the stairs, that Momma can’t climb because she is too fat.  If we’re trying to get away from Momma that’s where we go – right up those stairs.  Outside of that room is a landing where there are 3 more beds.  Downstairs behind the kitchen is a pantry that we use as a bedroom.  The pantry, the bathroom and the room upstairs have doors on them. None of the other rooms do. Momma’s room is big and wide with 3 windows, but it is not really a bedroom, it is more like a living room or something else, but we use it as a bedroom.  There is a walk-in closet sized room off of Momma’s room that my oldest brother Mark sleeps in.

When I wake up and am scared at night I twirl a ringlet of Momma’s hair between two fingers.  It is smooth and silky.  I want to put my whole face in her hair to be close to her.   I never get very much time alone with her, except here – in the bed, in the middle of the night, she is all mine. Sometimes, I twirl her hair too tight and she wakes up and yells “Gaaddamn it, what are you doing!?” and then falls right back asleep.

In bed, short rays of sun dance in through the windows, shining spots onto my blanket. I stare at the wall where there is plaster missing. Chunks of plaster are missing from the walls in spots all over the house. Some are small, like my hand, others are as big as my whole body.  In the places where the plaster is missing I can see thin boards that are rough and splintery, in between them there is gray rocky plaster. I am not supposed to pick at it.

When Momma is out of the bed and I am alone, I do pick at the plaster.  I hold my hands down as long as I can, but they just want to pull that plaster out. I try to see if I can pull out long pieces without breaking them. My finger is just the right size to fit in the space between the boards. The plaster is cool on my warm hands, rough, but falls apart easy.  I line up the pieces I pull out of the wall on the bed next to me, brushing the crumbs onto the floor.  Sometimes plaster falls back into the wall where no one will ever see it.

There are thin gray hairs in the plaster.  My brother, Bobby, who is next oldest to me, 5 years older, tells me “There is horse hair in that plaster.”  I don’t believe him, because he also tells me that a tiny little witch lives in the knot, which looks like a tiny little door, in the giant maple tree by the Arnold house, 3 houses down from ours.  I don’t walk past the front of that tiny little door by myself though, just in case he is right.

After lining the pieces up, I imagine they are rock candy.  I lift each one as soft as I can and bite the end of it. I like the longest pieces best, fully formed and taken from their home in the wall. Biting off the end of a long piece is the best feeling in the whole world.

They taste like what I think chalk might taste like.  I know not to eat chalk, but I can’t help from eating the plaster.  I try not to as hard as I can, but I love the gritty feel and the crunching it makes when I bite down on it with my small black teeth.  Most people have white teeth, but mine are white and black.  Rotten.

I am careful to hide the pieces behind the blanket because if I get caught I will get the paddle.  I don’t know why I get the paddle for eating plaster, I can’t help but eat it.

Bobby walks in the room. He is taller than me with sparkly blue eyes, a mop of blond hair that swoops down on the left side of his face and freckles on his nose.  I hurry and cover the pieces of plaster, my mouth is full of it though and he sees me.

“Mom, Amy’s eating the plaster again!” He yells behind him, flat, focused, as if he sees me doing this every day.

“It’s going to rot your teeth out you know?”

I don’t know that it’s going to rot my teeth out, they are already rotten and I hardly ever eat plaster.

Momma comes in the room marching her fat body over to the bed, snatches back the covers and looks at me with her serious sad face and saggy skin hanging down, her black and gray curls bouncing around.

She looks sad and then angry, “Gaaddamn it, quit picking at the plaster, you kids will ruin this Gaaddamn house one day. Amy Beth, I told you to stop eating that goddamn plaster. Now get out of that bed.”

Bobby sticks his tongue out at me.

Momma grabs my arm, her short fingernails biting into me through my nightgown and yanks me out of the bed and onto my feet on the floor in front of her.

I finish crunching my plaster.

“Momma, I don’t want to eat it, I have to.” I look up at her with the saddest eyes I know how to make.

“I’ll teach you to eat that plaster, I’ve warned you enough.”

I drag my feet as she keeps hold of my arm and pulls me into the living room, which is just outside our bedroom.

“No Momma, no Momma, please no Momma.” I cry before the paddle is even down off the hook.

The paddle is made of wood.  On one side it has a saying on it that I can’t read and some kids standing against a fence with their butts out like they are about to get spanked.  On the other side Momma has written the names of every person she has ever spanked with that paddle.  The list goes all the way down. Linda, Brian, Kloosie, Joey, Chrissy, Billy, Jon Jon, Heather, Kelly, Denise, Tom…so many I can’t keep count.

If Momma likes you, she hits you nice and soft.  If Momma’s mad, she hits you mean and hard.  She’s always hitting someone with something, whatever is closest, she’ll throw things too and she has a good aim. She’ll spank a neighbor kid as fast as she’ll spank any of us and then send them home saying “Go ahead and tell your Momma I spanked you and see if she doesn’t hit you too.”

I put my hands over my butt so she won’t swing the paddle.

“Move ‘em, or I’ll hit ‘em!”

“No Momma, I’ll be good I promise.” I cry

“I’ve warned you enough, now move ‘em.”

I hear the paddle swing back through the air and move my hands just as it reaches my butt.

I jump forward a little, but Momma still has my arm so I can’t get away.  Smack, it stings and I feel the heat of the stinging run out and down my legs, smack, smack, smack.

Five times.

She turns my arm loose and I fall on the ground crying as loud as I can.

Momma puts the paddle back on the hook and walks toward the kitchen.

Bobby stands over and whispers. “I told you not to eat the plaster.”

Momma hears him and yells back toward us “You’ll be next it if you don’t stop it Mister.” And I laugh through my tears. I laugh.


It was a different time, it was a different place, I can make all the excuses in the world for my Mother, but when it comes down to it, she didn’t know what else to do. I suppose, if I had lived her life, I may have been the same. A man who she kept getting pregnant with, and him never fully being responsible for us kids – he was married to someone else, little income, ten kids, a 9th grade education, depression, worry, worry.  She was a victim of her own circumstance, but she didn’t have the skills or the courage to do anything else. She had her reasons for being sad, miserable and for lashing out when she’d had enough.

I used to be afraid to talk about my story, other than making fun of myself and of how I grew up, not realizing that it was terrible to do that. My psyche suffered for years. I now have compassion and empathy for the me that was and for the work that I had to do as an adult to become less caught up in this old story.  I used to think if people FOUND OUT who I was, everything I was working toward and even my identity could be taken away.  I don’t think I even had an identity, I was just muddling along, muddling along, doing the things everyone does, job, home, tv, blah, blah, blah.  I was powerless. In time and through therapy, reading, and believing, I’ve realized that I am powerful and I make my own destiny, I do not have to go back and no one can take this away from me, ever, unless I choose to let them.

For those who say forget your past and move on, I believe there is something valuable at examining your past and figuring out why you do the things you do. Figuring out the why I do it in most everything, has become a passion for me. Sometimes when you find the answer to the why, you don’t need to do it anymore.

By examining the past, I can decide if the story makes me who I am or is just a story that is holding me back from being more alive, a story that creates anxiety. I can decide if I want to change it or keep it. The stories don’t have to keep hurting you forever; you can unravel the mystery.

In writing this particular story I did unravel a mystery, Gypsum, which is in horsehair plaster, reduces fever, according to Chinese medicine.  I always kicked my leg out of the bed, maybe I had a fever and my four-year-old body was craving what it needed to do to cool it.  Gypsum.  I now know to listen to my body – thankfully at the moment, it is not craving plaster.

My whole life has been pushing me to this moment – where I can say, I’m me and that’s all that matters and I know who I am and what I want in the world.

I am not a victim. I got out of there. I have the skills to figure it out.

I do believe my life’s experiences made me who I am today – and I kind-a like who I am today. My past is the reason today – I am fierce in my life, I LOVE fully, and I LIVE fully, without regret. Live.

For some reason, I got out of where I was, not everyone does, but hopefully I can help people see that you can change your life, even if it feels like it is too late, even if you had a wonderful childhood but life feels like it sucks right now, you can change it.  If you don’t like how your life is – Change IT.

And I know I’m constantly quoting Danielle LaPorte, but – You can’t face forward until you’ve processed your past.  

And then I shivered, I’m headed in the right direction.

What do you hear when you tell yourself some story from your past?  How does it make you feel? 




Two notes about this writing session and all future writing sessions that are memoir related, this is my memory of how things were. I have a big family and I’m sure they may remember some things differently or they may remember things that I don’t.  All names have been changed, other than mine, Bobby and Michael’s.  Bobby and Michael – didn’t get out. They died in 1996 and 1991 respectively – more on that in another session.