We had a problem every day back then, when I was a kid… there was never time to talk about last night, or yesterday, or the last time, or feelings, or fears, or things that went on right under my parent’s noses. We (they) were too busy dealing with right now. There is a problem right now that must be dealt with, and screamed about, and scary noises and slamming doors and neighbors staring and kids laughing at us and me crying alone in my bedroom about. So, no… I did not talk to them about it. I did not talk about it at all. I simply developed an inability to focus on anything the least bit unpleasant and a tendency to burst into tears at the first sign of stress…not much has changed.
I never had much of an attention span. I would decide not to be there…daydream, play. Even at 9 I had a desire to document things. I would audio record myself talking into my boombox, sing, make jokes, do voices (I had to think for a minute there, should I say ‘interviews’ for, that is what I was trying to get the listener to believe was happening…but it was me and then me with a southern or British accent). I found that I could come up with songs and poems easily, writing was tricky…I always had to share it if it was on paper. Making sure your daughter is not writing in her diary or school journal about what actually goes on in her home, disguised as support, nurturing creativity. Fear. I wanted other people to hear me. I wanted someone to talk back to me. I wanted to communicate with someone. I did not know this about myself then, but I just wanted someone to understand and hear me…feel me. Ya feel me?
My mom looked for an apartment in the area, one in Salinas (which was funny to me because dad had always joked that his professor said that if you found yourself in Salinas, then you should find yourself out of Salinas. I remember seeing one completely white and tiny apartment with a microwave in it. “Whoa! Wait till I tell dad!” Mom just smiled. I told him about the tiny apartment and the microwave, he warned me not to stand in front of it, of course I won’t what am I nuts? I don’t remember if I didn’t know that they were divorcing…I can’t imagine that I didn’t know…when I look back I feel like I was acting like I didn’t know. Finally, he yelled it at me in the middle of a fight. “You know what she’s doing don’t you?! She’s leaving! That’s why she’s looking at these places, and all these papers every night. Did you know that?!” What did I do? I don’t really remember, other than looking from him to her, and realizing that mom had seemed calmer lately. She seemed like she had headphones on in a noisy room, you know? Like, the chaos just wasn’t soaking into her anymore. “Oh.” I blinked.
He was my buddy, he was fun, and he made me laugh like no one could, or did, or ever has… but he was not the stable father that I needed… I mean, did I need to even say that? I think we all gathered that much yes? Ok, so he was like a friend, a friend that was scary a lot of the time. I just wanted him to be happy. All I ever wanted was to make him smile, make him laugh… it was not easy. I would learn later about his childhood and feel nothing but sad for him. I would later learn how his mental illness combined with addiction had left him unable to be what I needed him to be and feel pain for him so deeply that tears sting my eyes almost every time he crosses my mind. I hold no anger or resentment for him. The idea that my memories, or more specifically, my writing about my memories would cause him pain, is the only reason that I never did. I am not healed. I still burst into tears every time I attempt to write anything about my childhood…but it is not anger that I’m choking on…It’s all of this. I just wish someone had seen me is all. Or, on days when I am feeling fragile, and broken, and like I am still just a lonely child talking to herself because no one else will, I wish that things had been different. On other days, I feel empowered, like my past has left me with an ability to see pain in others and move with compassion. I am a true empath. I can see nothing but love in some ways because of those ugly days. It has been work to get to that point though… I suppose that work is a lifelong job…
During all of my mom’s apartment hunting I would go to school and update my friends about what neighborhood we looked at. I was super into the idea of moving closer to my friends, but we were an Army base family and my friends were Carmel kids. My mom made good money for 1990 as a Manager at McDonalds, like the head manager. My mom has worked her way up to the top of every company I have ever seen her work for, but that’s a different story…maybe. But, I went to school at a Catholic private school in Caramel. I had gone to the base school but my poor grades inspired my parents to pay lots of money for me to get a ‘better education’. Personally (sips tea) it seems looking back, like I if had lived in a more stable environment at home my grades wouldn’t have been so poor, but who knows. Anyway, we were NOT going to be living anywhere near my friends. On the phone to my grandma June, my mom’s mom, Grandma said ‘you know you can always come home right?’ and my mom had not known that. She did not know that was an option. I was excited, because new was exciting. I told my friends, they all signed my plaid jumper on my last day and I never spoke to any of them again. I thought I would write to them, I wanted to, I just didn’t (obviously this would all be shot as a montage with against something bluesy). My dad and I cracked jokes the whole last day. He gave me a present. A gift bag with a Wilson Phillips cassette, a camera and film, candy, etc. I cried myself to sleep in the back seat as we drove out of the base for the last time. Years later my dad would tell me that he too cried himself to sleep that night.
When they sat me down to tell me that they were divorcing I did not cry. I immediately said, “at least you guys won’t be fighting anymore” … I was 9. I guess we could go on about how mature that was, but it’s just sad. Sad that I knew that so deeply in my gut that even my 9-year-old brain with my temper tantrums and smart ass mouth couldn’t muster up even one tear for them. ‘End. This. Now’ was my feeling. Partly because I was not able to see or even imagine the future, that I would miss my dad, that life would be so different, that I would miss California so deeply that even some commercials are hard to watch…Good, is all I could think… Good. I liked change. My cousins in Ohio would ask me later if I wanted my parents to get back together. ‘No way’ I’d say, and they couldn’t understand that. I didn’t want my mom to be with any guy. My dad’s dad was an abusive alcoholic, my mom’s dad ran around on her and then left her with 8 children, and my dad was, well you know… I thought that our moving away was once and for all stating that men were bad. I wanted to put a sign on the door that said, ‘NO BOYS’ and live out our days just me and her. Like a Thelma and Louise vibe. So yes, I was a total bitch when my mom finally got a boyfriend. I was like a jealous boyfriend. ‘Like who is this guy? Sitting on MY couch, with MY mom?!’ Because no matter how you do it, when your mom starts dating someone it’s weird.
I don’t drink enough water. I am ‘in recovery’ I think anyway…I am sober, clean, you know? (I have gone back and forth on whether I should say things like ‘in recovery’ or not. Maybe I will just say that I am someone who has chosen to not ever drink or use substance… I will say that, yes. With my chin tilted up, I’ll say that. But seriously, anyone who has known me for longer than you’ve been reading this probably knows that ‘in recovery’ is exactly what I should call it.) I am scatterbrained. I am anxious, not in a cute way, like ‘oooooh (pouting) I’m so nervous.’ (Bites nails, blinks a lot. Adorable.) I chew the inside of my cheeks to the point of scaring, I don’t sleep well, I cry way too easily… I raise my voice too easily, I can feel the clutter and the mess sometimes, like actually feel it. But… it’s all worlds better than it used to be. Because these are real feelings. I am not numb. I am not heightened or dumbed down. Personally, I think I cry easily because I started self-medicating so young that I did not learn to feel and deal the way a grown woman should, so I am stunted, maybe? I am in the process of learning these things though (namaste, ohm, breathe, amen) and the old Emily would not recognize me. Thank God.