Electric Grandmother

Maggie Croft's Personal Journal young spirit, wire-wrapped
spark electric grandmother
arc against the night

-- Lon Prater
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little leaps

There's curry cooking in the wok, gingerbread on top of the stove.

My house smells like ... something ... but good.

And I had a little growth spurt this weekend.

If you've read my blog for a long time, you may recall me mentioning that my mother is a little ... off.

Honestly, I suspect my mother is a pretty ill person. I hope she's ill, otherwise there's some moral issues there that are pretty horrifying to consider.

And so this doesn't turn into some rediculous pityfest (okay, this is going to turn into a pityfest -- feel free to move on now) let me put it this way: I like a lot of Stephen King's books because it's fiction I relate to. It's almost realistic fiction for me. A lot of horror and dark fiction is that way. I don't necessarily mean literally, but the metaphorical undercurrent is as real as anything, and reading these things is cathartic for me. A lot of, "It's not just me," moments, you know? And some of it explores the nature of good and evil and morals and other such themes.

Now, it wasn't just my mother. Her mother before her was just completely ... just really bad. And it goes back. And my grandfather wasn't the best person who ever walked the earth, either.

And the funny thing is that my father is a very good man, raised by good people. Not perfect by any means -- they are mortal, but good, fine people who try to do the right thing.
But he met my mother, and my mother is exceptional at beguiling people (really, she's amazing), and she sucked him in for a very long time. And then they had kids and the truth of my mother's (and her family's) character started to leak.

I tell you all that to tell you this:

My mother and I broke when I was seventeen. We had a difference in morals, and I had discovered a lot of her more shady behaviors and dealings with people, and called her on it.

Things went down hill from there. She emancipated me and sent me packing. (Yes, at seventeen. No, I don't know how she got this done, but she and her mother have an insane amount of money and it was a small town, so I suspect that's a good deal of it. I also suspect if I had had it looked into, and known that one couldn't emancipate a minor, it would have been found without legal backing. But I was happy to go.)

Growing up I believed I was funny looking, stupid, fat, and weird. I also thought I was adopted and incompetant. I thought I was unlikable and worthless. I believed these things because she told me so. She was my mother. She wouldn't lie to me.

After I went to college, I ran into people from home who had been talking to my mother. These are the sorts of things they had been told: I was hooked on drugs, I had run away to marry my step-brother, I had stolen my grandmother's credit card and pin number and had stolen a lot of money to buy drugs and they had photographic evidence; I had also stolen journals, large blueberry muffins, an alarm clock, and other assorted things. They even called the police to report these missing items. Anyway, the impression given to people was that my life was an absolute mess.

So they would run into me and say, "What have you been up to?"

And I'd say, "I'm at the university."

"Oh, are you working there as a janitor or something?"

"No, I'm a student."

"Oh, are you at the vo-tech?"

"No, I'm an academic student?"

Pregnant pause. They look at me funny. (Really, pretty much this same exchange everytime.)

"What are you studying?"


The best ones, however, took place when I was in grad school:

"Oh, are you working there as a janitor?"

"Sort of. I teach/do research/work in the museum/etc."


"What are you studying?"

"I'm getting an MS in biomedical anthropology, and an MPH in public health." (I eventually dropped the MPH after determining the program sucked and was a waste of time.)

Further conversations were entirely different. Often they'd lead to a "What's up with your mother now?" sort of question.

I tell you all that to tell you this:

Though she'd emancipated me, my mother didn't let me go. She would call me and yell at me to come and clean my room (though I hadn't lived at the house for, oh, you know, years), or call to tell me what a terrible person I was, or any number of things. Finally I quit giving her a phone number. I did give her email in case someone died or something. Sometimes she'd send me an email with guilt attachments.

When you have had an abusive person in your life like this (in all ways here), you get to the point where even them sending you an email that tells you you are awful can send you into a quivering mass.

She sent the last one just after Avadore was born.

I had been afraid that if I had children I would turn into her. And then Avadore was born. One night I had a horrible memory inside of a dream, and I almost felt the break. Not the break of where I would turn into her and hurt him, but the other way. Like an actual break somehow, as his birth would remind me of me and what it was like to have been a child. And then I pulled myself together and said I was stronger than that, and I would not let that happen. I was 26 years old now. I had a son. I had made a life for myself. I had worked hard for that life. Nothing was taking it.

My mother sent me an email, and my heart started to pound, and the adrenaline rushed, and I started to panic, and completely freak out.

And then I said, "This is rediculous." I breathed deeply. I listened to some Beatles ("Let it Be"; it's how I calmed myself down in high school). I removed myself for a bit. And then I emailed her. I was nice about it, but I called her on her behavior and told her that was enough.

I was in control of the situation now.

She has behaved for a long time now. At least in front of my face.

I tell you all that to tell you this:

My SIL (the K-Spot who, since her marriage to my brother has seen a good portion of who my mother really is -- again, Mother puts on a good show) IM'd me to tell me my mother was saying all sorts of things about the three of us. This isn't a new thing. She's been pulling this crap with them too frequently now, and she gets away with it. (She freaks my brother out pretty easily still.)

I started to get nervous. And then I said, "No, we're past that."

I emailed my mother. I called her on her behavior.

She emailed me back twice, telling me she didn't know what I was talking about. (The first one signed "Mom", the second signed "Mom and I", which you have to admit is pretty concerning. But my mother has a million faces.) And then she emailed me again. She said she'd talked to the Spots and apologized, and she was so sorry, and could I forgive her, yadda, yadda. She went to counseling and learned not to be like this anymore, but she let her emotions get the better of her and let evil spirits tempt her to say these things, but when she saw how such behavior could rip her family apart she realized she needed to repent, especially during Christmas. She said she had asked God for forgiveness and she hoped we were okay about it.

Now, I don't buy her apology. It sounds horrible to say that, but it lacks complete sincerity. But I told her I forgave her anyway, and to move on. Though I can forgive her, I will believe her when I see her behavior change, permanently.

But in the meantime it feels so good. I feel like I have control of the situation. I can decide how I allow her to affect my life. She is no longer the one in control. She has as much as I allow her to have in my life, to a certain extent.

And it feels good.

This has been such a good year. It really has been. It has taken so long, but I'm really seeing that so many of the things she'd convinced me to believe about myself are untrue.

I remember when it first started:

When I was in high school most of the people there just were pretty superficial and boring. I craved intelligence and stimulation. There was this kid in the school who was brilliant. A genius, literally. But he read what I read (and we read some different stuff), and we had similar interests. (I knew this because my father had worked with him a lot in the special education program -- in addition to working with the handicapped, he did gifted and talented stuff). But I was afraid to talk to him because I was convinced I was stupid, and he would have had to have talked down to me.

It started with my mother telling me I was stupid, and I just don't come off as intelligent, I guess. I remember once some guys in junior high asked me what my IQ was, and I told them, and they laughed. I mean they howled. They said, "There is no way that's what it is. You can't be that smart." (Thirteen year olds, I know. What did they know? :)) And some of my teachers were the same way. I always did well in school, but so many of them were convinced I wasn't that bright because I didn't behave as a relatively intelligent kid should, I guess. I wasn't a math geek. My junior high school principal told my dad he didn't think I'd get through high school. (But he was an ass anyway; that's another story for another time.)

In junior high my father wouldn't let me enroll in the gifted and talented program (though the instructor was constantly asking to test me), even though I had been put into it in the sixth grade. I thought it was because I was stupid. Later he told me it was because it was a really poor program (he supervised the program, but couldn't fire the woman who taught the classes, or change how she taught them, because that wasn't in his job description, and his boss wouldn't allow him to), and he wanted me to have a good background in English and Reading (which which were the classes I would have missed if I'd enrolled). But at this point, in high school, I thought it was because I was too stupid for such things.

One morning before school, while doing my hair in the bathroom, I mentioned to my mother that I wanted to talk to this kid, but I was afraid that he'd have to lower himself intellectually to talk to me. She said that was true, and so I should just forget that.

So I did. And I'd see him around, and I'd want to talk to him, but I never did.

After the guy had graduated and gone to attend school at an incredibly prestigious tech college in California to study astrophysics, and my father had quit his job with the school district and could finally speak plainly, my father finally told me why he hadn't let me into the GT program. He said he wanted me to learn something instead of sitting around the library for two hours every day for three years, doing nothing. (And I knew he was right -- some of my really good friends had been in the program and rebelled, but that's a story for another time.) I told him how I had wanted to talk to this kid all through high school, but never did because I thought I was too stupid. Even my own mother had said so. (But at this point I had also figured out my mother was a missing a few crayons in her Crayola box.) He said it was true -- I was not as smart as this kid, but that he was incredibly lonely and would have been happy to have had me as a friend.

After my first year away at college, I came home with some more faith in myself. (And this is for lots of reasons.) I had some strange theoretical physics questions I wanted answered. I knew this guy could answer them. So I called him. (I still can't believe I did this.) He was still at school, but I left a message with his parents (mentioning who my father was), and he called me back a couple weeks later. We had a fabulous long, detailed conversation about theoretical physics. Several times he had to say, "Hold on. I'm not sure, but I know what book that should be in," and he'd go dig up said book and find my answer. It was lovely. And I held my own.

And I could have done that in high school. I think my biggest regret in life is that I didn't go talk to him when I was in high school and we could have maybe been friends.

No matter what my mother thought.

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