Too Much and Not Enough

I had my own apartment at age 15. My mother had fallen in love, again. This one would become her 3rd husband. She was good at falling in love. There would be two more husbands after that one. It was the staying that she had trouble with…

By the time I got to high school, I had gone to 15 different schools. And no, my parents were not in the military. I was the daughter of a single mother, a rolling stone. She was always looking for something better, never satisfied. Never in one place long enough to grow roots. She calls herself a wanderer, because “those who wander are not lost.” She may not have been lost, but I always was.

So she fell in love and wanted a fresh start in a new place. Again. I did not. I was finally part of something that felt solid. Even though in reality, it was as solid as quicksand. I was a cheerleader, and on the swim team, and was going to be Editor-in-Chief of my high school yearbook my Senior year. I had friends who were my family. I didn’t want to start over again. So she let me stay.

She got me a studio apartment on the second floor of a run-down 4 unit building, a couple miles from school. Her boyfriend even installed new carpet for me, in exchange for cheaper rent, $225/month. She got me a couch and stocked my kitchen. All the ramen and frozen pizzas you could eat. She paid the rent. And then she left.

This isn’t fiction, by the way, in case you were wondering.

I was a Junior in high school, 11th grade, without parental supervision. My friends thought it was cool. At first, we tried to keep it a secret from my father’s side of the family, my friends’ parents, and school administrators. We didn’t want anyone to call CPS and we didn’t want to go through the emancipation process. Like she did. When she was 15. Her side of her story is a whole book of a story. And that book is hers to write.

So I went through half of Junior year and all of Senior year, and eventually the rest of my life, unparented. Neglected. Abandoned. Because phone calls and visits are not enough, especially if you are the custodial parent. But let’s be honest, the neglect and abandonment wasn’t new. There is so much to this story…

I didn’t even drive yet, when she moved two states away. I depended on my friends for rides to school and work. For laundry and grocery shopping and for all the things. Then I turned 16 and my grandparents bought me a red 1971 VW Bug for $1100. This was in 1989 and that car meant independence and control for me. When it wasn’t breaking down on the freeway, that is. But hey, my mom got me AAA, so that’s safe, right? Oops, no cell phones then.

Me and my friends partied like they did in the movie Less Than Zero. Like first year college students, just leaving the nest. Like rockstars. It was too much and it was not enough. I rarely made it to a full day of school and I barely graduated. I had to take classes at night at Fremont Adult School in order to have enough credits to walk the stage. Good grades do not equal intelligence, this I know.

I remember having my heart broken for the first time that first year I lived alone. I had given up a part of myself I was supposed to save “for the right one.” He wasn’t worthy, even though I really wanted him to be. I wanted someone or something that was mine. Looking back, that may have been my first panic attack. I remember calling my mom, sobbing, unable to catch my breath. I’m sure her heart was bleeding and she wanted to reach through the phone to give me a hug. But she couldn’t cuz she was two states away. I’m pretty sure she hopped on a plane the next day to come and be with me for a few days. She wanted to be a good mom and she loved me, she just was so broken herself that she often made all the wrong choices. I only know that now because I am a mother. I was too busy living that whole life to know then how much damage was being done.

My story is an iceberg. It’s what’s below the surface, the parts you can’t see (or can you?) that can cause the most damage to a ship in the night. And this iceberg dives deep, into the briny deep, the briny deep…

It’s all too much, and not enough. But that’s enough for today. My heart can only bleed in small doses…

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