"If writers possess a common temperament, it's that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave." Gail Caldwell, from her book "Let's Take The Long Way Around"

"To look life in the face, always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. . .always the years. Always the love. Always the hours." From the movie "The Hours", based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham

"Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly." Baz Luhrman, "Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)"

"A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls." Walt Whitman

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant or talented?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The First Christmas

It became pretty evident that we were on our own.  No wonder we ate so much candy, as the only meal we could count on was dinner.  I started to learn/experiment in the kitchen.  It wasn't that I loved to cook or anything, but I liked trying recipes and really, it was out of necessity.

Matthew stayed out of the house a lot, playing with friends.  Eventually, our grandparents (my mom's parents) bought us an Atari and that helped pass the time and keep us occupied.  Julie and I spent a lot of time together.  As mean and bitchy as I could be sometimes, we were really close and even though I didn't think of it this way at the time, she was like my baby.  I would walk her to school everyday and drop her at her kindergarten class.  She cried every time I left her, which made me cry as I would rush off to my fifth grade class.  I still think of her as my darling, sweet baby sister, even though she is now well grown up, married with a young son and new baby daughter, a strong woman who has had her own share of troubles but has overcome them.  I couldn't be more proud of her.  I am tearing up now at the thought of her as a child with virtually no voice at all.

As kids at that age, at that time in Santa Monica, we retreated into an imaginary world, a total escape.  We called our blankets "akies" and suddenly started giving voices to them.  They became real to us.  Just like kids play with dolls, I guess, we created this whole world of "Akie Land."  Matthew participated a little but he didn't really have a blanket that was "the" blanket, and I didn't really welcome him.  But he and Julie played, I think.  My akie was a yellow and white handmade blanket that by 10 years old was tattered and torn.  Julie's was blue and pink and a variety of other pastels, and at 5 was in much better condition.  My akie's name was Akiana and Julie's was Akiella.  We also had little stuffed animals that we included.  Mine was a little pink elephant named Effie because Julie used to say "efelants" instead of "elephants."  Julie had a brown monkey named Kiki.  Kiki and Fe (that's how we decided to spell it) were best friends and boyfriend/girlfriend but in a very innocent way.  Since we were our akies' mommies, our akies were cousins.  I could go on and on.  We had special names for everything.  We would talk in high pitched voices and play for hours.  It bonded us, and this game went on forever, until I went to college, I guess.

I also turned to books.  I would read voraciously and visit the library often.  Judy Blume was a a favorite.  I was also in love with the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, and of course, Nancy Drew.

All of this helped when sudden disruption would occur at home.  The first time I ever suspected Direll of hitting Mom was when he backed her into the laundry room and shut the door.  I immediately ran to the door and flung it open.  Mom didn't like me getting involved, but there was no way I was going to sit by and let him beat on her.  He never touched me in a violent way, but he bullied and beat on my mom for 10 years.  He tried not to do it in front of us because I think he wanted us to think he was okay and that it was my mom's fault anyway.  She often provoked him, but I certainly don't blame her for his violence.  There was nothing good about this man.  He had no soul, probably a sociopath.

One of the first Christmases in Santa Monica - probably the first Christmas - we had a logistical issue dealing with my dad coming to our house Christmas morning.  He had always done so in the past since the divorce, but we had lived so close by.  I don't know.  I'm sure this was all an excuse, planned out.  Anyway, Dad came over on Christmas Eve, dumped all our presents under the tree (usually he held them back under the pretense that Santa brought them, even though we knew better by then).  He came over with the sole purpose of getting high with Direll.  They were up all night, freebasing, but I didn't know it until this:  I woke up, in excitement of Christmas, of course, like I always did around 3 in the morning, wanting to sneak down to see the presents "Santa" brought.  I walked downstairs with Matthew.  All the lights were on but no one was in sight.  We sat on the couch, intending to stay up until the "reasonable" hour.  Suddenly, Dad and Direll came crashing through the living room, frenzied, high (although I didn't understand).  He yelled at us for being up and sent us back to bed.  My feelings were hurt, and of course, I knew something was very wrong.  I think this was the first time I had ever actually witnessed Dad using coke.  They freebased all night.  The next morning when Mom was up, and it was time to open presents, I don't know where Direll was.  Dad was crashed out on the sofa, strangely depressed and quiet, coming down, obviously.  Mom tried to make things nice, said he was sick.  I know she was mad about the whole thing, but she tried.  The day was colored gray for me, not the normal excitement of Christmas.  I was only 10 but things were not right with the adults in my life, and I did not like where it was going.

My explanation of this Christmas is all in retrospective understanding.  I really only vaguely understood what was going on at the time.  I didn't want to believe anything really bad was happening.  I just wanted to pretend.  Pretend and forget, or rather pretend and deny.  I couldn't forget.  The images would play through my head over and over and I would have to push them away any way I could, whether it was by reading, immersing myself in Akie Land, eating, or just trying to make everything perfect for my parents.  I wish my parents - at least one of them - had recognized what I was trying to do by being so good, but I think it was just easier to let me make things easier for them, their lives were so chaotic and stressed out.  My mom was already calling me her "near perfect daughter" and saying I was 10 going on 30.  She said it in a complimentary way, a proud way, but in the end, it only put more pressure on me to be that way.  I just didn't know it at the time.

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