My Mother, Myself

(work in progress)

As I looked back on my memories of my mother's relationship with her mother

I saw us all riding a carousel of trauma, unable to break free from the patterns of the past

Even though she died years ago, my grandmother still pulls the strings, her trauma reaching down and ensnaring my mother, who is unable to break free from the cycle

Looking through my childhood glasses, memories emerge of times my mother failed 

Like the time she washed my mouth out with soap, for chanting a swear word that I had no idea what it meant at the age of four

Or the time she forced my sister to remain at the table to finish eating the calico soup she had made, even after my sister vomited

Or the time I was working on a pencil drawing of a horse for 4H, and she came over and erased parts of it so she could fix it

Or the feeling that I had no privacy, no space to share my thoughts without fear of them being read, which I wrote about in my diaries I kept during my adolescence

Saying things like or else, rebelling, being defiant towards her rules, became a way to try to establish some sort of power in a dynamic where I felt powerless, where there were no boundaries

Hiding things from my sister so she wouldn't borrow them and then forgetting where I put them 

Like these shoes and when I could not remember where, despite my mother's demands that I do so,

She threatened to send me to an insane asylum


The actions don't matter as much as the fact that I have always been made to feel that I am the cause of all problems in my family, always the first to be blamed, called a liar

I don't have a clear picture of myself, who I am, without the definitions my mother has tried to pin to me

There were others in my life who were better role models, who told me that God is love and that I was made in his image and likeness, which meant that I was good

Which in the end helped me to plunge head first into this suitcase of memories, to swim amongst them until I understood them, their currents and their undertows, the rhythms they try to swallow me up with

Coming up for air, I pack them away, learning from them to be different

To step off the carousel and leave them safely tucked away in the past, where they can't hurt anyone anymore

Copyright 2014-2021 by Jessica Paullus.  

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