Sunday, November 29, 2015

Reflecting On Oddities

That particular grouping of flowers is one I have never seen before.
There are camellias which are normal for this time of year and there are also zinnias, blossomed off volunteers from the zinnias I grew this summer and which I should not see until next summer. There are Japanese magnolia blossoms which, as I have said, we should not have until February, and lastly, there are violets, those eternal harbingers of Spring, but which I discovered already blooming in the side yard by the burn pile.
I have never in my life seen a November like this.
At this moment I am wearing a pair of overalls and a tank top. It is six o'clock in the evening and I am as comfortable as I can be.
There are also mosquitoes, the size and ferocity of which I have never seen before either. As I was turning on the hose to fill up the chicken waterer, I felt something stinging me through the nitrile glove I was wearing. I looked down to see something so large I thought surely it had to be a spider, but no, it was a mosquito. Besides the huge ones, we have small ones. We have many, many, many mosquitoes. And they are hungry.
The azaleas are budding up. The hydrangea I cut back is putting out new green leaves.

Odd times. Things I've never seen before. Well, I've seen all of these things but never all at the same time. Never all in late November.

I did not get nearly as much done as I had hoped today but the chickens are sleeping on fresh straw in their nests and their feeder and waterer are filled up. I swept porches until I formed a blister. I watered the porch plants which, let me point out, should not BE porch plants by this time of year, but huddling together into a tangled jungle in the mudroom, waiting out the freezing weather. The beds all have clean sheets and I tidied up the cabinet where I keep my baking dishes and pizza pans and pie plates and all of that stuff. I also cleaned out the food cabinet and made room for all of the jars of preserves I've made recently, clearing the counters of those. I scrubbed sinks and folded and put away clothes and gave the chickens leftover pancakes that needed to be cleared out of the refrigerator. Maybe I'll get a little more burst of inspiration and straighten out the skillet and pot cabinet. It needs it.

As I've worked today, I've spent a lot of time thinking about my brother, a lot about the things that happened this week, the things we said, the things we did not say.
I am glad for the unsaid things, mostly.
I know that if I had not asked him to leave, those things would have been said and that's what I was afraid of. And the very sad part about it, is that I feel as if we are both puppets, our jaw-strings being manipulated by the circumstances of our childhood.

As dear Jo pointed out in a comment, yet another of the curses bequeathed to the children of dysfunctional families is the inability to have the sort of relationships with each other that siblings should be able to have. Although I was aware of this, it never really hit home with the entire true honesty of it until I read what she said which was this:
"One of the things my father said at his brother's funeral was that the awfulness of their upbringing had precluded a real relationship between them in their adult life."

Oh god yes. It's been another odd thing in that since my mother died, this particular brother and I have gotten along for the most part better than we have in years while the brothers I have been close to my entire life and I are barely communicating. 

Here's another thing I realized- my brother's very presence is a powerful trigger for me. It throws me back to the many years when we lived in the same house where I spent my days and my nights in a veritable sexually and emotionally fueled terror. This is not his fault. But it is part of the reality of the situation. 

When we talked on Thanksgiving night, my brother and I, there were moments when he heard me. When I would say something and he would say, "Oh. Wow. That would explain this..."
And then immediately, it was as if he had not heard a word of it. As if the understanding had suddenly vanished under a rushing wave which had washed over it, deleting meaning and any understanding he may have had. 

He is SO angry at me for writing about our mother here because the things I write are not in line with the woman he knew. 
"Mom was joyful!" he said. 
"She was joyful around you," I answered so very quietly, "And I am so glad that she had that."
"She couldn't be that way around you," he told me. "You didn't have the connection."

The connection. The connection. The connection. 

No. We didn't have the connection. 

It wasn't until my older children were approaching the age I had been when my stepfather began abusing me that I had the epiphany that there was something horribly wrong about the connection my mother and I had. Had always had. As I said yesterday, my love for my children came with them and my overall feeling at their births was one of protection. I remember as if it was yesterday. I was raking my yard and I had just gotten married to Mr. Moon and I felt as protected and safe as I had ever been in my life and out of the blue came the realization that this was the first time I had ever felt safe and protected in my life and that felt incredibly wrong. And impossible to accept. 

And I became so angry that it took me years of therapy and going to a group for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to even begin to sort out why I suffered the depression, the anger, the sadness, the resentment, the fear that I did, much less do a damn thing about it. 
It's unbelievable that my husband stuck with me during those years. I was horrible. I was incapable of loving him the way he deserved to be loved. And I was NOT the mother I should have been. 

My mother did try to apologize to me once. But it was not unconditional. She said she was sorry that my stepfather had abused me but that I had to understand that she was not aware of any of it. That it was not her fault. 


The good result of this is that I have, as a mother, been so willing to admit my transgressions to my children. Even up to the point where I recently apologized to Jessie for telling her that she didn't need this fancy stroller/car seat/infant seat system that she wanted to buy. 
Turns out it's pretty awesome and I wish I'd had something like that when my babies were babies. And I told her that. 
"I was wrong," I said. 
"Yep, you were," she told me. 
And we laughed. 

And that is the least of the mistakes I've made with my children. I know it. They know it. 
But they also know that I am willing to admit them and I will apologize to them whenever it occurs to me that I have transgressed. 

Well, I'm rambling. But as I said, I have thought about all of these things a lot today. 

I know that my mother was not a monster but I also know that she had very deep problems which got in the way of her ability to love and protect some of her children the way she should have. I feel deep sorrow for her because I know she felt horrible guilt. 
She WAS capable of great love. I saw that not only in my own childhood but with her grandchildren at times. 
She could be joyful. I remember her dancing, singing, being silly. 
She was not Joan Crawford. She was not Sybil's mother. And I am quite aware of the fact that as my brother points out repeatedly that so many others have suffered so much worse. 

But that doesn't always help and it doesn't erase the fact that so many of us suffered horribly from our parents' inabilities to take care of us the way we should have been taken care of. 

I remember my wonderful, wonderful therapist telling me when I kept saying, "But I wasn't raped! It really wasn't that bad!" that one of her most damaged patients was a woman whose father never touched her at all. He simply would not let her close the door to her room. Ever. And that she always knew he was watching her. 

This is not a contest of who had it worse. This is just the way it is. 

The Japanese magnolia is blooming with the zinnias and the violets and the camellias. To the casual and unknowledgeable observer, these flowers look beautiful together. 

But it's not right. 

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. I so admire your bravery. I was too afraid to have children, afraid that I would replicate how my mother was (similar to yours). But you jumped in and did a damn fine job of it and that all was hard and you have done it so well. Cheers to you!

  2. NOLA- I had no choice. My ovaries were too powerful to argue with. I swear.

  3. I want to thank you Mary for being brave enough to share this here. Incest thrives on secrecy and I believe only the light of day will ever begin to turn the tide and stomp it out. Also it struck me that you and your mother had a connection, of course, far too deep and intimate a connection in that you were a partner in her marriage.

    I have found that one of the problems is that onlookers who are in close enough proximity to see and recognize the signs may not consciously recognize and clue in to what is going on if it is a familiar dynamic to them already. I wonder if your mother was previously exposed to incest or exploitive relationships. As for your brothers, they of course were exposed to that environment in their home and wouldn't have had the knowledge to identify it as something wrong. I am sure they are traumatized in their own right by that environment and are likely triggered in your presence just as you are in theirs. So tragic. You are a strong woman.


  4. Sometimes people are given knowledge but need time to internalize it and make fuller sense of it. I wish that for your brother.

    Although even if this happens, it feels very unfair that you - the abused in this case - end up being the one who, over and over again, must be patient with the person coming to grips with the knowledge.

    It must have been hard to ask your brother to leave, but it was a good and strong thing to do so that things did not get even worse. Good for you.

    Peace to you, Mary.

  5. Oh Mary. This is beautiful and hard and true.

  6. I am here for you, always listening and knowing. You are a voice for many and yes, brave. Thank you speaking up and changing things for the next generation. I wish you peace and love.

  7. It takes a lot of emotional intelligence to understand and peel away the layers as you have here, and to share your feelings and vulnerability. Thank you for talking about things that are still by some considered to be family secrets rather than what it is , sexual abuse.

  8. I'm here, abiding with you. I am struck by the brilliance of you weaving these strange bloomings of flowers that should not be with the story of your childhood and the damage wrought then. I think it's called a narrative braid, and it's very beautiful and careful and powerful.

  9. I've never understood the 'others had it worse' thing. It's an odd one. Nobody should have to feel grateful that they wren't raped. You know what I mean?

  10. I don't have adequate words...but I have read yours and those of your other commenters and am awe struck by your strength and their insights. I was one of the fortunate ones who grew up in a very stable environment, with a Mother and Father who loved us and who made us feel perfectly safe. No child should ever have to experience anything less than I had and I cannot get my head around parents who abuse their children, or who allow it to happen. I just don't know how a Mother could not know :(

  11. I still need to catch up on the past few days. But let me just appreciate with you how stressful the holidays can be, how they dredge up such powerful familial feelings, good and bad. They test all those relationships. Don't they?

    That mix of flowers is indeed very strange. The violets are blooming here too, though I must admit I'm not sure whether that's unusual.

  12. Never doubt yourself. You own the truth.

  13. well, as usual, I'm late to the party. though I guess I wouldn't actually call it a party. today's post made me go back and catch up. why does all the juicy stuff happen when I'm not in the room. I'm sorry, I'm making light of a situation that is not light at all. my heart goes out to you. my sister and I have been able to talk about our parents and the verbal and emotional abuse we suffered. the few times I've written about it, mostly in the first year or two of my blog, my brother, like yours, was completely surprised and while I have commented to him that he received different treatment than we did, being the golden boy and all, he doesn't quite believe it I don't think and we have never shared our stories the way my sister and I have. When our mother was failing, before she moved up to live with him, and I was the only one here to care for her (and I admit I did a pretty piss poor job of it, I would send reports to him and my sister. he never quite believed what I was writing until she went to live with him and he got some of it first hand. I am so proud of you for not lighting that bonfire. there are some things and some people that can never be reconciled and we have to learn to walk away from it for our own peace and well being. your brother seems to be so angry because your story is so different from his and it challenges the legitimacy of his in his mind, I think. and maybe also he feels a little guilt for not knowing what was going on (and I'm assuming here that he did not know while it was going on). I don't remember if you have said whether you thought your mother knew, if you ever told her. I think, yes? anyway, I never received an apology from either of my parents for any of the stuff they rained down on me nor my sister either. I too was/am always willing to admit being wrong and apologizing to my children. well, walk forward, leave the shadows behind. it's all we can do, right?

  14. Good morning, Ms. Moon. I just want to say that I read this, I hear this, I appreciate you. Families are so complicated. I frequently tell my children I am sorry. I think it's a good thing to do. My own mother has apologized to me for things, and though I don't think she needed to, I love her for it.

  15. You truly are an amazing woman. Words fail me, but I hear you clearly. One must pull weeds in life in order to fully blossom. You have done just that.....difficult as it surely was. I applaud you. By the way, that IS the beautiful Elvis on your new header is it not? I love it!!!
    Susan M

  16. Hoping to beat the goddamned robot here. You are a warrior woman. You give voice to so many of us. You are an amazing writer. Sometimes you write just what l want to say but could not. And not just the hard Hurty stuff. Fun observations of the world tooYou so freely give this gift of words. Hope l am making sense. Am feverish! The others had it worse thing is vile. I do it to my self Crazy. People say it as if it is supposed to make us feel better! NO! Others suffering don't make me feel better nor did being force fed revolting food and being told you couldn't get it in the war and people are starving etc. Anyway you inspire me Maggi xxxx Bugger the Robot Here Goes!

  17. It worked! Now l am mad for all the times l wrestled with the drafted thing!

  18. Invisigal- Wow. You bring up so many valid points. Yes. My relationship with my mother was tainted long before the abuser came into the family. That's a whole other story...
    And I am not sure at all that my brothers escaped the sexual abuse. Some of them, anyway. It is all just a billion layered onion of wrong. And I have searched and searched to try and figure out if my mother had been abused and I can't find any evidence. But something was wrong. There is no doubt about that.

    Angella- You are an angel. I love you.

    jenny_o- It was not easy. It was very hard to ask him to leave. But honestly, I felt, rightly or wrongly, that I had no choice.

    Ramona- Thank you for those words. They are in my heart now.

    Joanne- If ALL of us spoke openly...but I know that it is not always possible. I KNOW that. I just feel very grateful that for me it comes relatively easy. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing at all. Not in that regard, anyway.

    Leisha- Amen! Fuck the secrets. Let in the light.

    Elizabeth- If I'd taken more time, I could have done it better but sometimes these things just pour.
    Thank you.

    Jo- I certainly DO know what you mean. And it gives me great empathy for those who did have it "worse."

    Desiree- It wasn't until I had my own children that I began to wonder how any mother could be so blind. That is where and when my anger began.

    Steve Reed- Oh my god. You are so right. Fuck the holidays and their Hallmark expectations. Violets in Lisbon?

    Colette- At least my OWN truth and I stand by it.

    Ellen Abbott- Thank you, sister. I remember when my mother was failing and I'd call my brother and tell him and he wouldn't accept the truth of what I was telling him. He did come and visit some years before she died and he did very much help us get her into assisted living but that was the last time he visited. When I called him, knowing that she was close to death, and told him that if he wanted to see her alive again, he said, and I quote, "I don't need to do that."
    Okay. Whatever.
    I did tell my mother. And it was horrible and painful and that was the end of any real relationship I had with her.
    Guilt has a lot to do with it on everyone's side. Fucking guilt.
    I agree with you- apologize, walk forward, leave the shadows behind.
    Wisdom there, my friend. Thank you.

    Lora- What is the harm, where is the pain in apologizing? I don't get it. I am so far from perfect that I can't even see it from here. And I am so aware of that.

    Susan M- Yes, ma'am! That is Elvis when he was a young rooster and Owen, checking each other out. One of my favorite pictures in the world.

    Maggi- Thank goodness you have gotten past the robot thing! It's like so much in life- we give power to things and people that we owe nothing to, right?
    Ugh. I hate the "remember the starving children." Yeah. Whatever. There is no logic to that argument, no matter in what situation it is used. As I have always said, "Someone else's cancer does not cure my broken leg."
    We all have our own pain and our own stories and our own truths. And for anyone else to deny those is absurd.

  19. Thank you thank you thank you for this.
    I am envious of anybody who gets on well with their siblings, especially if they had a hard childhood "together" - because really you are never in it together like a courageous band of kids in the little house on the prairie, you are all at war even if you have to be looking out for each other. To each other you are always living reminders of who did or did not see/hear/do this or that or the other important life saving thing. Siblings know how to be cruel and how to blame each other. Often, these relationships are the only ones where we can lash out - finally and in my experience, even more so once the culprit, the cause of the suffering, neglect, cruelty, abuse has gone.

    But yes, yes, our children, they teach us the good stuff.


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