The International Writers
Amber C Wisniewski
people harbor different stories of their mother. Some people may
say that she has been their best friend, their guiding light,
their shelter from the storm. Then there are those of us who often
repress the haunting memories of our childhood because our mother
has violently crushed something as sacred as youth into a thousand
I know nothing could have protected me from what I was to learn from my
mother. No one could have warned me of the hardships I was to encounter
in our so-called relationship. If I had only known that every harsh word
she ever said to me was never meant to be verbalized and merely only an
angry thought, I would feel differently about her now. Despite the silent
torture within my feelings for my mother I feel the need to tell how our
relationship was destructive and callous. Yet, somehow it grew into something
deeply rooted inside of me and I cant help to call it anything but
When I was very young, too young to understand the nature of the relationship
between my mother and my father, I can recall many heated arguments that
casually took place in our household. Their fighting was something foreign
to me because I simply could not understand why they could not co-exist
and be happy together. After all, had they not been in love when they
married? My father was my mothers high school sweetheart. So what
had changed? All I knew was what was portrayed in front of my innocent
eyes and on one cold, blustery afternoon my eyes took in more than I ever
could have imagined.
It was the winter of 1991 and we were living on W. 6th street at the time.
It was one of the 13 homes I would live in during my childhood. On this
particular, cold, afternoon I was playing in the living room with my Barbies
strewn about me in a state of disgust for having to play by myself. I
was often left to my own makings, fending for myself, creating imaginary
friends because I lacked real friends of my own. My two brothers, Nicholas
and Jason, could usually be found glued to the floor in front of the television
with their eyes plastered to its flickering screen, but today they
were not home. Being that they both were older than me they were not as
naïve to believe that my parents were happy and I know if they were
there, they would have been more perceptible to the signs of the uncomfortable
discontent that was mounting in our home. Unfortunately they were not
there to protect me from what happened.
I remember cautiously walking up the hallway stairs following the sounds
of my mothers chilling screams. The sound of my mothers pain and
sorrow pervaded the entire house. As I fumbled my way up the stairs following
the unfamiliar sounds, I was careful not to be heard. I slid my hand up
the supportive oak banister, consciously making an effort to bypass the
parts of the stairs that would reveal my identity. What I saw when I entered
my parents bedroom will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life.
I saw my mother sitting on the floor shaking, crying and bruised. She
did not see me, but I clearly saw her. Towering over my mother, there
was a large figure. I wish I could say that it wasnt my father,
but sadly it was. His back was to me, but the grey of the gun he was holding
in his hands was visible. I recognized the gun from my fathers collection
of hunting rifles that he proudly displayed in a cabinet in the corner
of the bedroom with wild geese etched into the glass. My fathers
entire body was trembling yet he continued to steadily hold the gun to
my mothers bloodied head. For whatever reason, my father released
himself from his fit of rage for a split second to see me standing at
the door, tears streaming down my face frightened by what I had just witnessed.
At that moment, I heard the metal of the gun hit the floor reverberating
into my tiny ears sounding like thunder crashing down onto our house.
I watched, as if time had stood still, my father fall backwards onto the
bed and my mother running towards me at the door. She swung me into her
arms and we left the man and the home that had created our hell.
That was the last time I have seen my father, and I dont feel as
if I have suffered some great loss in doing so. I have later learned that
he was under the influence of cocaine during that incident, and throughout
most of my childhood. For the rest of my short lived youth, my mother
would bury herself deep into a depression because of my father, for all
of the torment he had put her through, and even though he physically was
not there, he would continue to torment her for many years after.
I thought that my relationship with my mother would change once she had
left the man she so loosely called her husband, yet, we had only begun
to grow further apart with no intentions to come back together again.
Eight years later, my mother and I had moved five more times before I
was even fourteen years old. We had traveled around Monroe, Michigan as
if it was some great tourist spot, yet we never had a destination in mind
let alone any money to spend. My father subsequently refused to pay any
sort of child support to my mother and since she could not afford a lawyer
she enlisted the help from the government. We had lived off welfare and
my mothers meager earnings for what seemed to me, at the time, like
an eternity. Whenever my mother paid with food stamps for the food that
kept my body nourished, I was ashamed of her and ashamed of the life that
I was living. Why couldnt we had been rich, or at the very least
normal? I was young, naïve and ashamed to be seen with my mother.
I didnt think it was fair for a young girl to have to go to school
wearing outdated clothes or have to live in an apartment that barely had
any room for her to breathe.
My mother and I were at constant war with each other. She wanted to control
her life, her surroundings, her situations, but she had failed in those
aspects which led her focus to controlling me. I often felt smothered
by her. If I was quiet or simply keeping to myself she assumed that I
hated her. Our conversations were not conversations that a mother and
daughter would have but they were merely her accusations of the hatred
that she felt I held for her; "I know that you hate me," or
"You despise me dont you?" There was constant blaming
and name calling that flew out of our mouths like poison, but never once
had I said that I hated my mother. Not even to this day have those unutterable
words slipped from my lips. So why then had she thought that I hated or
despised her? For years I thought that I was doing something to make her
feel that way. If I could have realized then that I would never comprehend
why my mother acted the way she did, I wouldnt have put so much
pressure on myself to try and understand.
Then I was a freshman in high school; new situations, new people, new
self image. I had discovered a way to latch on to something that made
me feel grounded and sane, anorexia. Anorexia, for me, created a world
that allowed me to leave my reality. I could lose myself inside the womb
of my eating disorder feeling its warmth and comfort enveloping me like
a fortress with impenetrable walls. There, I couldnt hear the screams
of my mother, accusing me of being a terrible child and telling me to
leave and to never come back. Little did she know I had created for myself
a place to do just what she had wished, a place from which I have never
completely returned. I went through most of my high school years locked
inside the security of anorexia, until I found someone who had the key
to unlock the chains that had held me tight for so long.
His name was Justin. My mother, pessimist as she was, immediately assumed
that he wanted one thing and one thing only; sex. She would often corner
me in her bedroom, which had paisley covered walls that would make any
person go insane, and tell me that I was a whore. Had my father really
distorted the image of men so badly that my mother thought that I was
a whore for having a high school boyfriend? I couldnt understand
why she thought this of me. But after so many times of hearing her say
that I was one, the word "whore" started to slip its way into
my consciousness. It proceeded to evoke my thoughts, and after awhile
I too began to think of myself as one. My self-esteem had been so completely
damaged by my eating disorder and by my mothers constant battering of
my ego that I shut myself down completely from the world. I learned not
to care about what others thought of me, I learned not to care about anything
at all. Nothing mattered, accept Justin. I clung to him with all of my
strength, which I had found to be surprisingly weak because it had been
diminished from all the years of fighting.
My mother taught me to be independent. She herself hadnt been but,
I learned to be because I watched her feign helplessness. She portrayed
herself as being weak, innocent and relied solely on others to do things
for her. I vowed early in my childhood that I would never, as much as
I could help it, depend on another human being. I watched my mother create
a life for her that seemed unbearable to me. How could someone rely on
someone else to get them through life? What if they were to let you down?
All I know is that I never wanted to be let down by others. Yet, I had
never been so incredibly dependent on someone before until I met Justin.
I put my trust and faith in him and discovered that I had found my soul
mate. He stuck by my side, harnessing me in a cradle of love which often
caught me when I was knocked down.
When I left to attend college for the first time in Traverse City, the
relationship that I had with my mother had changed. We somehow found the
ability to be civil to one another and to maintain a conversation that
did not mention the phrase "you hate me." In fact, I often looked
forward to our daily morning talks; they gave me comfort in a way that
even Justin could not give. I felt my mothers love. Our fondness for each
other had been discovered after peeling off the thick layers of years
past that had been wrapped around our emotions, our anger, and our hearts.
We laughed with ease, instead of saying harsh words. We were honest with
each other, instead of telling hurtful lies. We had grown together as
a mother and as a daughter.
Two years later, as I stood in front of a mirror in my mothers foyer,
I watched her as she delicately beaded the hem of my white satin wedding
gown with great care. She handled the dress as if it were something sacred
and I knew that to her, how she felt about the dress was how she felt
about me; she felt I was sacred.
I may never understand the memories of my past with my mother. I honestly
can say that I dont want to understand them because I am at peace
with the way our relationship has flourished. The core of my being loves
her more than she will ever know and more than I will ever be able to
say. I hope one day, maybe not today, maybe not even this month, but one
day I am able to replace my mothers constant thoughts of my hating
her, with thoughts that let her know how much I truly love her, how much
I always have and how much I always will.
© Amber C Wisniewski
Story: A Narrative
Amber C Wisniewski
It is 5:30 a.m. and my husband lies alone in our bedroom
unaware of my absence. I cannot sleep. How could I possibly think about
closing my eyes when every image I see is so disturbing that I am driven
Lifestories in Dreamscapes
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