December 4, 2018
Another day, another scar. I burned my hand this morning. Nothing dramatic, just accidentally poured the boiling water from the electric tea pot over my hand instead of into my hydroflask while making my tea. Probably an accident, but I also believe that sometimes spirits hover round in mischief, and as I passed my mother’s ashes, in a plastic box which sits atop my garbage can to keep my dogs from getting into it, I glanced at her and acknowledged, again, that it is beyond time she was released. What has held me back this 9 years since she died is not the dark satisfaction I get from giving her a garbage can as a throne, as is, I feel, befitting, but that perhaps I still need something from her.
I am reminded of a night, when I was 9 years old, in our kitchen in Cambridge, Ohio, when a frying pan full of grease, on a gas burner she had forgotten to turn off, suddenly burst into flames. She grabbed it to put it in the sink and her hand caught on fire. She dropped the pan on the floor, and I stood unable to move as I watched her put her hand in dish water in the sink. My stepfather took her to the hospital, leaving me home alone, with orders to clean the mess in the kitchen. She showed me her burns that night, and made me help her with the dressing daily. I heard her tell everyone who would listen how she had rushed in to push me aside to save me from being burned that night. Funny thing is, I was nowhere near the stove when she grabbed the pan. She didn’t do it to save me from anything. She told me her love for me was so strong that she had gladly caught her own hand on fire to protect me, and that would bear the scars to prove it the rest of her life. Ah, the scars of mother “love.”
The scars she bore, of her own stupidity and poor decision making, (much like my own this morning,) were also nothing compared to the scars she inflicted, most notably the very visual ones…the big, fat, prominent, ugly scars that ran across the top of my left leg, just underneath my butt. I was 2 1/2 years old, and I don’t remember what I did, but I remember the switch and her fury as she grabbed my arm and hit me with it, over and over and over until I could no longer cry, or even see anything but dark shapes swirling around the room and even after she let go of my arm, and I collapsed on the bed, I was vaguely aware of the rhythm of the switch continuing to lash into my legs and butt. I don’t remember her stopping or anything much except waking up with blood dried on my legs and searing pain as I wet the bed and it went down my leg. I remember her putting me in the tub without a word. I remember crying as quietly as possible so she wouldn’t notice as she washed off my wounds and wrapped toilet paper around them.
As she tucked me into bed that night, she told me she loved me, as she always did. I believed her. It would take years before I knew that was a lie. Notably, when I became a mother at a young age, and understood what love was. The woman who beat me badly enough to leave such scars, would go on to allow her husband and others to hurt me as badly, and manipulate me into silence, would tell me daily that she loved me. As I grew up, she often recounted the many things she had done for me, taking credit for all of my accomplishments, and beamed when others reminded me of my how lucky I was to have a mother who loved me so much.
As I wrapped a cold wet cloth around my hand and headed to work, I said goodbye to my dogs, and as always, “I love you!” My sweet little dogs, whom I would protect with my life, and whose well being and happiness are so important to me, watched me as I drove away, and a flood of love, real love, flooded my heart. Oh, Mom…you said the words every day, and maybe you even believed them, maybe even had some feeling of need or cheap affection for a very good little girl who actually adored you, but I promise you, whatever it was, it was never love.