5th Ave Sisters Journal
Fifth Avenue East was a place of constant change. While our young bodies and minds were developing before Barbie dolls and Santa wanted to be let go, other things were changing, too. Shit, everything changed. I was feeling my brain and emotions develop “abnormally”—it must have been the Bipolar Disorder making room for its ass on my couch—because I felt off and wrong and terrified because of it late at night–my designated time to “feel” things. I began to start shutting off at random, I began to do and say the routine things without being behind the wheel, I was crying every night—my emotions getting all caught up in my head and tangled there with the far-reaching snares of home life. I didn’t know I was also physically developing until my stepfather pointed it out in his various ways, his touching, his comments, his need to tickle us on the ground until we cried. No one had the talks with us about our coming periods, they just came and we each cried alone (so I learned later) until mom noticed it in the laundry and gave us pads. Womanhood simply did not exist in our household. Well, it existed—it was bursting out the eaves—but it was not discussed. Periods were a thing of disgust and emotions were things for children that we had to learn to put away. We weren’t punished for these things, it was worse—we were ridiculed and teased and took turns being the butt of Scott’s bantering. Even thinking of yourself as a woman was humiliating—flashback—I’m on the swing singing a Little Mermaid song (I knew every word and song to that movie) and Scott walks by and tells me Ariel’s a slut. Just that, just now popped into my head for some reason.
Letting go of childhood—meant letting go of those you loved and if they were hurting you’d better leave them alone to do it. Scott used to beat our
puppy Stormy at night; I’d listen to the huge, hollow house echoing back his night clock in the pantry that ticked to help him sleep, but he got scared and lonely for us so he’d start whimpering and every night, once that started, Scott would go down and beat the crap out of him until the dog gave up. I think we all know—dogs don’t exactly give up. I’d lay in bed and cry, wanting to hold our puppy and kiss him and tell him he would be okay here in this place if we stuck together and just….kept waiting. Life was becoming, so I was learning, about making it through and praying there was enough of me left to bloom and blossom after I escaped to live a somewhat normal life–while half of me fought believing that this was it–and the great fear with that is that parts of you become numb along the way and they fall asleep in their idea that this kind of living is okay, and you neglect parts of yourself that need you, because you don’t know how to help it—its not that you don’t really know any better (though that’s largely the case) but that that particular limb or body part or emotion got tired and gave up, like Stormy, and accepted its fate quietly under a small cry
Aside from there being tremendous changes in my relationship between my mother and I and Scott and I and me as a dependent to a growing independent, along with the changes I was observing and absorbing between everyone else, plus John gave up on trying to quit drinking to try to get us back—the greater change was between my sisters and I. For me, two changes took place: for one, we knew somehow that something brilliant and young sparked within each of us, and that some how, all the negative changes and circumstances were hurting each of us in ways we knew could mean everything. We knew if we maneuvered around our parents’ radar and we kept our profiles low, that we might stand a chance to maintain something beautiful—our innocence, I suppose–and I upheld my innocence by looking at my sisters to see how they upheld theirs, and amid all the fighting and the hitting and the touching and the changing and the crying in private and the sirens going off in my head, I still kept a spring of light inside me that Scott or mom or anyone couldn’t touch, because my sisters still saw some goodness in me and I saw theirs, and it was our most sacred thing to hold—each other’s worth. I knew when I began to fight back and stand up for us (to no avail), that I was defending something all those shitty years and fucked up parents could never take from us—our self-worth–our own claims on who we were going to be.
The second change that occurred between us three is the sad fact that parts of ourselves did shut down, and maybe we were too embarrassed to go to each other, or maybe we were just hurting so damn bad from disappointment and confusion and we saw it reflected in each other, so we just…went with it–believing with sad hearts that that was just the way it was.
When I became a parent it gave me many pauses to look back not because I wanted to but because the way I would handle a situation with my child would instantly put me back to how certain things were dealt with with me, and it baffles me that some people are willing to drag their children under the bus with them to save face. As if children are cards to play. When my mother hated herself she wanted me to hate myself too, as fucked up as that sounds. I had a letter to prove it, but I burned it. That makes me choke up because then I imagine someone doing that to my girl and I’d fucking kill them. How can you not want to encourage their growth and help them blossom and become their very own shapes of their dreams—telling them their future is beautiful and there’s so much more to see and feel and experience. I grew up thinking what’s in front of you is what there is. My sisters are the ones that dared me to dream something bigger for myself. My oldest sister was the one encouraging me to grow and become whatever it was I wanted to become because she believed it, and if she believed it, it was probably true…but I’m a stubborn learner.
The first time I admitted myself into the mental ward, my sisters came on visitors day. And the power of them in the room was enough for me to totally allow myself to fall apart and for the first time to actually look at myself and what I’d become—and I wasn’t alone, they were there with me, crying for me. When someone actually cries FOR YOU, it does something to your heart—you oddly soften towards yourself and you feel love—a strange self-love you’re not used to. Because they were there, in that god-awful room, crying and letting me suffer out my craziness, it was like they took what little self and innocence I had left, and held it for me–keeping it safe, and they knew only they could be its guardians—just like when we were kids. At least that’s how it played out in my mind. When I looked into their faces at the hospital and saw the sadness and grief, I finally knew that what I was feeling was real, because there my sisters were again–reflecting myself back at me. They kind of prove I’m here to me, if that makes any sense.