Monday, June 27, 2016

Identity Crisis

My new sister was such a good child.  She was impossible to compete with.  She always said the right things, and made good decisions.  She had the good hair and the pretty eyes.  She was athletic.  She was a year younger than me, but she was smarter about many things.   I loved her.  I admired her.  This added a layer of complexity to our relationship and my place in the household.  On the surface, we were equal, but I needed her much more than she needed me.  At the time, she was the only one I believed truly loved me.   I would have jumped off a cliff for her.  My first taste of loyalty was my sissy.

She was the voice of reason and I was the voice of wild adventure.  Together, we fed mud pies to the younger brothers, then cleaned them up because it was the right thing to do.  We ran free in the acres of wood lined creek beds and discovered all the mud holes we could swim in.  We guided the boys on adventures and packed a lunch to eat in some far off location  in the deep corner of our fenced-in boundary.  We shared elaborate dreams and fantasies that included houses, cars, boys and kids.  In those moments, I lost track of my orphan status.  I was just a kid whose biggest fear was getting bucked off in the creek when we tried to cross on the horses.

We shared a room in the house on Wild Horse.  She was my therapist and I was her dream catcher. Every night we would whisper and giggle until we fell asleep.  We had a lot in common.  We both had dead mothers to wonder about.  We each searched for some kind of identity that included them despite not remembering anything about them.  We both were raised by our grandmothers for a period of our lives.   My grandmother was dead, but hers was very much alive and the reason I was living in exile.  For Sissy's sake, I kept my hatred to a minimum.  In some ways, I accepted that the reason her grandmother hated me so much was so I could have a sister and two brothers.  I understood her love for her grandmother.  She understood my love for mine.  It was safe for us to love them as much as we did inside our secret bubble.

Everyone in the house laughed.  We laughed at dinner, we laughed while we did dishes, we laughed after dinner.  We laughed our way to bed.  I broke my toe on the way up the stairs once.  I cried until Sissy laughed so hard I had to join her.  We only lived in the house on Wild Horse for a year, but I laughed more in that year than I did in all of the previous years combined.  We made up words and had our own slang.  Then we laughed at the words we invented.  We put on plays in the evening that we rehearsed while the parents were working. Mom and Dad M giggled at our mistakes and blunders which encouraged us to deviate from our original script to make them laugh some more.  Love and laughter became synonymous for me.

Going to school was not as satisfying.  I struggled to keep up.  I was not a stupid girl, but I felt stupid in those classrooms.  I craved the attention of friends and a sense of belonging.  I spent my 8th grade year trying to discover what personality I would choose now that I was free from a suicidal wardrobe that warded off any opportunity to make a  friend.  Sissy and I parted ways after we got off the bus and I swam in a sea of students that all felt a lot bigger in personality than me.  I was no longer wearing polyester pants on the outside, but on the inside I felt like everyone could tell I was one outfit away from a geriatric funeral pantsuit.  

My cousin R.A. went to the same school.  He denied that we were related, and told his friends that I was from a step family of his grandfathers.  His mother was my mothers sister, but in the public, I was not his relative.  He was not allowed to speak to me.  He was not allowed to claim me.  When I talked to him about it at a Thanksgiving dinner, he explained that it was too embarrassing to talk about at school.  We could be close in the safety of secrecy, but not in public.

There was tension between the two families and I managed to land on the wrong side.  I was a traitor now.  My relationship with my new Mom, Dad and my siblings was in direct conflict with the war over which set of children were the better children, in the marriage of my grandfather and his wife,   In one sense, I was a liability for the F-Family.  I was so broken nothing could be done with me. At the same time, I was an example they used to demonstrate how his new wife was attempting to rid herself of his family.

I didn't have the vocabulary or the maturity to understand that I was struggling with my identity.  I didn't know if I was a sweet sister with a lot of spunk, or a stupid girl with a learning disability. I wasn't a F-Family member. I wasn't an M-Family member.  Yet, both families seemed to be stuck with me. 

Mom and Dad M would talk about the lack of money in secret code that was not hard to crack.  They were promised a monthly boarding fee that they rarely received. Just as Christmas season came  it was announced that my Grandfather and his wife were not buying gifts for their kids and I was legally their child. Neither me, nor Dad M received a present from them.  It was as fair as they could be. 

I lost hope that one day I would get my Dad back. He would never pull me to the side at family get togethers and ask me to come home.  He would never show up in his pickup and tell me to pack my things. He didn't miss me. He was a man who always paid his bills and he had forgotten to even do that. I began to believe his wife was right. He was stuck with me against his will. She helped him get out of debt and get out of raising me. She did him a favor.  

Christmas with the M-Family had a magic that outshined the damp scourge of disappointment and rejection. We had beautiful handmade footie pajamas and delicious homemade sweets. I learned a lot about Christmas spirit that year.  I learned a lot about resilience and finding that spark of light and love in a dark world. I learned that it was not the present, but who wanted to give you a present that meant something. 

With that same fire, an anger ignited deep inside of me. It was a tangle of resentment and utter helplessness. I began questioning the validity of my existence. I wished my mother would have had an abortion. I wished I hadn't been born. I had no one to tell this to and nowhere to put this energy. 

Do not be ungrateful. 


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