My poor mother – you’d think from listening to some of her children, that she’d got EVERYthing wrong, not most things or some things, but the whole lot. Hmmm… she definitely got some things right – but there’s not much percentage in telling folks about how right and normal and ordinary your childhood was (not that I had more than ten minutes of a right, normal and ordinary childhood.)
But even when my mother did try to get it right, I think we pretty much just ignored her. And I can speak for the four of us on this, as I was the oldest and the ‘good’ one, so if I was ever bad, the other three were three times badder, or nine times badder because I am pretty sure the badness of bad kids inbad families is exponential, not linear – especially when you belonged to one of those families on the wrong side of the tracks, down past the swamp. With too many dogs. And fighting. And loud music. The neighbours still complained – and we lived 12 miles out of town on a dirt road.
I had multiple personalities then, rather like a properly insane person might have, except mine all had a specific function and were basically under some semblance of self-control. There was the McLaughlin kid, which meant there was fighting, screaming and all the things being simply savage involved – totally in the moment stuff. Heart stoppingly exciting and fun, except for the fat lips and bruises. But running through the woods in the dark, while being chased by someone who might have a gun, sure gets the adrenalin pumping. Then there was the weird, quiet girl – the one reading Dostoevsky and listening to music and dreaming of escape to someplace, anyplace that didn’t have all that crazy business. Sometimes she’d despair and do things she still doesn’t admit to because you weren’t allowed to talk about them – not then, and still, not now. Well, you could, but some people would feel sorry for you which is just yuck, and some would try to help, which is ick, and others would say it’s time to get over it, which is ugh. BTW, she IS over it and so am I, so talking about it would just make other people react. Oh and the last one was Little Miss Perfect. She got straight As and her teachers loved her and she had a great future ahead of her. She even got to be pretty in high school. But she wasn’t totally perfect because the other two would leap out from time to time (always an inappropriate time) and spoil things.
It occurs to me now the most tumultuous years were the ones when I first went out on my own, trying to integrate those three mini-mes into one regular all-purpose me. It’s still a work in progress, of course and what I wouldn’t give to have a wee chat with those girls I used to be. Mostly I’d just let them know it would all turn out great, but there’d be some crap to deal with and some dark days too, but they were practicing for that now. But I’d tell them to get in a little more mischief, misbehave a little more. And for Little Miss Perfect to stop thinking she was the boss.