Writing a Memoir 101, a workshop I’m taking, is helping to strengthen my confidence as a writer and why I am worth reading. The book emphasizes the importance of reading: you cannot be a good author and tell the story you want to tell without being an avid reader.

The author encourages reading others’ memoirs to get ideas on structure. She referenced a lot of memoirs that are composed of short stories, a structure that could work for me since I’m pulling content from my blog.

In my counseling appointment today, I told her the topics I am writing about are embarrassing. A stranger reading it: buy copies for all of your friends. My family and people in my past and present reading it: stuff is going down.

No matter how far I am from my mother’s dysfunction — emotionally, mentally and physically — there will always be that one tiny wound where she has staked her claim. Infect. Heal. Infect. Heal. Infect. It’s the only consistent thing she’s ever done.

My mother in a nutshell

  • Cheating on my step dad and arguing with him about it while I’m standing right beside them
  • Witnessing physical fights between my step dad and mom
  • Having converations over the telephone about my recent terrible behavior and punishment while I’m sitting in the middle of the living room
  • Not letting me hang any of my drawings from school on the refridgerator
  • Putting a bowl of cereal and a small cup of milk in the refridgerator at night so I could make my own breakfast by myself while she slept before driving me to first grade
  • Cruising through parent pick up in elementary school and I’m the last kid waiting for my parent to take me home
  • Disregarding, regularly, what time I had to get to my first class in high school, causing me to walk into a full class while the lesson had already started, and getting glares from the teacher and students

So many fights, and too much time
One fight vividly sticks out in my mind. My mother and step dad are on the floor fighting and my mom is biting and pulling my step dad’s shirt collar with her teeth. I remember thinking how disgusting she looked.

During another fight my mom grabs me because “we are leaving!” We get in the car and my mom just sits there and doesn’t turn on the engine. What’s happening? I wouldn’t find out until a couple decades later that she was playing her favorite game, “I hate you, don’t leave me.” This game doesn’t really get you any points in the “mothering” department but you definitely bankrupt the normalcy for the child sitting right beside you. She gets out of the car and goes back in the house and they continue fighting.

Meanwhile I am grabbing all of my books from my room and taking them to the car because I don’t want to leave them since we are never coming back. I have a sorority of Barbies but all I care about is saving my books. (I’m still that girl.) My mom comes outside and tells me to stop putting books in the car. Looking back, I think when she saw me putting my belongings into the car like a person who is actually leaving would do, it got a little too real for her. Or she just really hated books.

SPOILER ALERT: We never left. “I hate you, don’t leave me” became familiar territory. Years later when I would find myself in unfamiliar territory, like a loving relationship for example, “I hate you, don’t leave me” was my response to any disagreement.

My mother and step dad were married for seven years, and they fought for seven years. For seven years of my childhood, I witnessed verbal and physical altercations between a husband and wife who hated each other and cheated on each other. They had at least two good-enough days because I have two younger sisters. As a child, you didn’t have to tell me they hated each other. It was obvious even as a six year old. But the cheating? I shouldn’t know about that period. My childhood was filled with their toxic marriage, and I suffered the most.

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