An Essay - 1
"PUT THEM DOWN" he yelled in reference to a stack of cards I was holding in my hands.
Cards from birthdays and Valentines Day and Easter and Christmas....cards my grandmother had kept buying and kept filling out and kept saving for us for "one day". I remember it being a substantial stack. It must have been months since we saw them.
I knelt down and placed them in gravely old street. Hot tears in my eyes, huge lump in my throat.
I looked over to see my brother sitting down a bag in the road. A bag full of treats and gifts my grandmother had saved for us over the months. You couldn't leave her house without a pile she had been accumulating for you. A magazine you might want to read, a trinket she found in the store, a little recycled butter tub full of her best fried potatoes. It was how she showed love.
We got into the car and the silence was terrifying. He had brought us here unexpectedly. To my grandparents little trailer, in a tiny town that wasn't far from our home.
Until recently we hadn't seen them for months. Hadn't been allowed. And today my father had aimed the car towards their house. I'm not sure if he had been feeling generous, or guilty or if it was another way to win the "which parent is better" competition that was constantly going between my parents.
Either way, he had brought us here. And that could have been great and good and we would have loved it.
Except. Secretly. Covertly. Sneakily, my mother had been bringing us there. Once or twice at least at that point. We would get in the car and be sworn to secrecy and take the fifteen minute drive to their home. They were always happy to see us again after those times of being blacklisted by my father. They never let on how it made them feel or that they hadn't seen us for months. Each time we showed up again it was like it had only been a few days.
Then there was that day. The day my father put us in the car and took us there. I remember being frozen internally. Knowing that we couldn't let on that we had been there but also knowing that my grandparents didn't know the rules of the game. They had no idea that my father didn't know about our visits.
And then she said something. I don't even remember what it was but it made it clear to my father that we had been there recently. There was yelling and screaming. He blew up at them and we stood to go. She tucked things into our hands, her little signs of love and he bolted for the car. We followed fearfully, leaving a trail of the things she had given us as he barked orders to leave it all.
And we left them behind again.
That memory has stuck with me, lodged in my brain like a rock stuck in a shoe. An ever present reminder to me of a childhood that wasn't very child like.
Remembering is not the same as not forgiving. Remembering is protection. Remembering is learning.
It's episodes like this from my childhood that remind me. That keep me focused on the ever wearying task at hand of raising my two little boys. A reminder to keep their childhood very childlike. A reminder to keep adult things from children. A reminder that heavy secrets make children grow up faster, feel unsafe and become dislodged from their job as children.
Forgiveness should be quick but a memory long.