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The International Writers Magazine

Amber C Wisniewski

Many 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 abandoned teardrops.

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 can’t help to call it anything but love.

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 mother’s 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 Barbie’s 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 mother’s 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 wasn’t 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 father’s 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 father’s entire body was trembling yet he continued to steadily hold the gun to my mother’s 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 don’t 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 mother’s 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 couldn’t we had been rich, or at the very least normal? I was young, naïve and ashamed to be seen with my mother. I didn’t 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 don’t 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 wouldn’t 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 couldn’t 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 couldn’t 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 hadn’t 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 mother’s 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 don’t 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 mother’s 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 April 2007

Love 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 to nightmares?

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