Mother is in the closet again. Sometimes she stays in there a very long time. I hear her weeping, muttering and talking to herself. Dad doesn’t know about it, at least I am pretty sure he doesn’t. There’s no way I am going to tell him either. It’s better that way.
Everything is my fault. Everything I do is wrong. I am never going to be good enough. These lessons I’ve learned from my Mother.
Last week my brothers were at a basketball game after-school and Mother was in the closet, again. So I made everyone’s favourite – spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner. Just before my Dad got home Mother emerged from her room, all made up and spiffy. She put on her cooking apron and shooed me out of the kitchen and pretended she’d cooked the whole dinner when my Dad walk in the door after work.
We all sat at the dinner table like a normal family is supposed to. Bite after bite my Dad and brothers raved about how good the spaghetti was. Best they’d ever had! They ate up every last bit. Dad asked me, “Don’t you think this spaghetti is terrific?”
Mother glared at me as if to say, “Don’t you dare say a thing or suffer the consequences.”
So I said, “Yep, it sure is great Dad!” And kept eating.
Mother took every single one of those compliments, without ever telling everyone the truth. After dinner Mother told me to tidy the kitchen. Which I’d thought was very unfair since I’d made the whole dinner, and the boys hadn’t done a thing to help.
“But…” I tried to explain.
“But what?” Mother scowled, “Tidy up the dishes or be grounded, your choice.” Mother stomped off and I was left with the mess of a family of five. How does tomato sauce get on the walls?
The next day when I got home from school Mother wasn’t in the closet. Instead she was in the kitchen cooking up another one of Dad’s favourites. She was in a foul mood too because she screamed at me to get out of the kitchen, and told me to go do my homework in my room. Which was fine because when Mother is in that kind of mood not even Dad really wants to be around. I’ve seen Dad hide in the garage, pretending to reorganize and tidy when Mother is acting all mean and angry.
I’ve learned avoidance from my Dad. I’m an excellent student.
At school, I’m liked by my teachers. My brothers say it’s because I brown nose, but they’re vulgar, so I don’t listen to what they have to say much. When I’m at school I feel free to be myself without harsh judgement. I smile and laugh. I have friends.
And that’s how I know things will get better — one day I will get to be the kind of me that I show at school all of the time – that’s when I’m going to be the happiest, when I’m living my own life, and finally out of the closet.
As a social worker, Lisa Washbrook is a survivor of all kinds of things, but especially life. She prefers to see the glass half-full, and can be found at https://whatdifferencewemake.wordpress.com/