Fragile. But not. 🖤
When we lived with Doc, we were artsy. We went to see movies at Tower Theatre. Movies that I think are cool now, but not the ones I wanted to see then. We saw El Norte, The Gods Must Be Crazy, Out of Africa, Raising Arizona, The Legend of Greystoke, The Black Stallion, and I can’t remember what else. At least they included me. A happy family. Only not.
We moved in with Doc, into his little house on 45th Street. Not Lady Bird 45th Street, remember. 45th and G. Artsy. A step up for us, not a leap. And what goes up, must come down. That’s the law. He wanted out. So he cheated. She caught him. We left.
Onto the next. There was always a good reason. I see that.
I’m not sure where I was going with that, since I already told you about the Doc into Larry era. Then the Freshman year era. But did I tell you about the Take 2 era of Tony? Yes, Tony #1. The drug dealer. The one she divorced when I was 6. Cuz he was a bad man.
And she was naive.
Then. When I was 6.
This time I was 14. We lived in that yellow house on Sutterville Road. The one right next to Ford’s Real Good Hamburgers and across the street from the park. I don’t know how they reconnected. I just remember her saying “he was the love of my life.” The drug dealer. The one that beat her while I watched.
Except he wasn’t a drug dealer anymore. I wonder if he was still a wife beater. Good thing she wasn’t his wife this time. Those images never go away, you know. Not when you are 14. And not when you are 49.
That visceral memory of him dragging her down the hallway by her hair, intentionally banging her head against the wall. Yelling and screaming and me frozen in my twin bed with the Holly Hobby bedspread. Please leave the door open and the hall light on, mama. I get scared when you turn the light off. Better to watch him hurt you, mama.
Oh, so you are getting back together with him? He’s changed, I’m sure. Everyone deserves a second chance, right? We never stopped loving him, right?
Yes. We fucking did. Fuck that guy. Angry Annie has Girl Power. Manic Mama, not so much.
He was working as a mechanic for a trucking company. Big engines. Starting fresh. Up and up. Now she was his sugar mama. Oops, he cheated. She caught him. Then she was done. But not before I was forced to try and love an abuser. To trust him and to forgive him and allow for it all. That’s what therapy was throughout my childhood. Justification for my mother’s repeated poor life choices. Brain washing. Don’t be angry anymore, Annie. When you forgive them, you release it. Forgiveness isn’t for them, it’s for you.
Bullshit. I am full up of psychobabble bullshit. It was never ok. None of it.
I’m telling you right here and now, if you ever find yourself contemplating giving your abuser a second chance, it is never the right choice. You cannot erase those images and replace them with love and forgiveness. You just can’t. That’s not my brokenness speaking. That’s my badass bitch that sits in her girl power speaking. The one that will fuck your shit up. The one that doesn’t need a got damn mother or father to survive. The door closer. Some things don’t deserve forgiveness and second chances and don’t you fucking dare try and teach your daughter that moving your abuser back in with you 8 years later is the right thing to do. Did you ever ask me if I remember that one night? Or all the nights? Or the early mornings when he was still asleep. I’m 49 years old and sometimes I can’t sleep. These are the reasons why. Like a TikTok or Facebook Reel, those videos play over and over again in my head. Even now. At age 49.
It’s all just distraction, you know. Even this. Especially this.
Alone. But not.
Just feels that way in the wee hours. All alone.
Nobody helped me decorate the Christmas tree this year. The kids are gone and it was never Robbie’s gig. I’m not bitter about it, it just is. Empty nest, but not empty thoughts. Every Christmas ornament has a memory attached and so many of them were given to me by my mother. So the most wonderful time of the year is also the most sorrowful. If I let it. I mostly have glass ornaments. I prefer the ones that look like they could be from the 1940’s just as easily as they could be from the 1980’s. Hand blown glass. Fragile. Like me.
Like mother, like daughter.
Careful, they shatter when you drop them.
I remember Christmas shopping with her in Spokane, and the two of us literally broke 3 of the same ornaments while waiting in line to pay for them. They were so delicate. Thin Italian painted glass. Beautiful. Oops, get another one. Oops, it happened again. Go grab another one, Annie. Over and over again. Like men. I carefully hang it up high every year. I don’t know how this one has survived when the other three didn’t last through the line. This one must be stronger than the others. The proof of it’s strength is in it’s fragility. When Christmas is over, I will carefully place it in the storage bin and hope it survives to next year. Like me. Like this life I have created.
Alone. But not.
There is the antique looking Santa that she bought me at Disneyland, when we took my baby sister to Mickey’s house for the first time. And the yellow rubber ducky, made of glass, cuz I got all my ducks in a row. The pink and blue baby shoe that she gave me when I was pregnant with Dylan, her first grandchild. And the airplane, don’t know when I’ll be back again. Oh babe, I hate to go.
There is a glittery pale pink one, for Cassidy. Fragile. I always hang that one near the top, too. The fragile ones would never survive a fall. No second chances. No do-overs.
And so every year I decorate the tree in melancholy silence. I play Christmas movies and try really hard to be present. I want the Christmas spirit to flood my heart and my mind and my soul. I want it to block out all the other things. The things that still hurt. I keep hanging those ornaments afterall. I want the joyful memories of my children opening their Christmas presents and searching for the pickle ornament to be more powerful than the others. They always forget about the pickle until the end, after all the other presents are open. I broke that pickle ornament a couple years ago. Robbie found me a new one. He made a special trip to Old Sac before the Christmas store closed up for the season and he bought two of them in case we break another one. It’s the back-up pickle. The safety pickle. The always there pickle. The beautiful glass pickle of stability and love. That’s what he brings to the table, if you didn’t know. His pickle. Rock solid. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I set myself up for that one, lol.
So when you don’t hear from me much in the month of December, now you know why. I’m stuck in my thoughts, trying to survive my memories. Trying to remind myself why the door is closed and my mother estranged, all the while also remembering how much I was loved.
Even when love wasn’t enough.
Merry Christmas to all. Find your joy and hold onto it, whatever it takes. And when Christmas is over, carefully pack it all up in tissue paper and put it away for next year.