The pale light from the window above my bed tried valiantly to banish the shadows that filled the corners of the room, but never quite succeeded. I didn’t mind the shadows much. It gave me a place to hide. I learned to love the shadows in my room, especially when there were strangers in my house. Each time someone I didn’t know came calling, it sent little shockwaves of fear down my spine.
I was always sure that I would be sent away to live with another family at any time. When new people invaded my immediate environment, I was pretty confident they were discussing terms for my purchase. If money exchanged hands, I was out the door and down the street faster than you can say rent-to-own. As you can imagine, even the 16 year old kid who delivered our newspaper would send me screaming down the street.
Friends of my father would often stop by our house while he was at work. They’d chat with mother about the weather, the price of gas, the latest Charger game, but I was always sure they were talking about me.
“No, he doesn’t wet the bed, but he tends to wait until he’s dancing before he’ll go. He’ll probably grow up to be fruit,” I imagined she told interested parties. I hoped this information would turn them off, willing them down the street where the O’Tooles and their 17 children lived. Surely a better bargain could be found among the towheaded children.
Once, on a shopping trip to FedMart (the 70s answer to WalMart), my mother drove away while I was still in the store, standing in the waiting line for an ICEE. It would have been much easier to believe my mother’s contention that she had simply forgotten me if my brothers hadn’t been in the back of our brown 1964 Ford Falcon screaming my name as she drove away.
Another time, my brothers and I were left in the car while my mother went shopping at the grocery store. We waited in that parking lot for about three hours, any number of scenarios of abandonment discussed and discarded in turn by my brothers and I. My father finally picked us all up and brought us home without my mother. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I found out my mother had been arrested for attempting to shoplift a roast she had stuffed up her dress.
This isn’t a pity party. I don’t mind that my mother was nuttier than a squirrel’s digestive tract. Hard as it is to believe, these experiences formed my sense of humor, my strength of character, and my understanding of right and wrong. They also helped me develop as a writer. The stories I could tell you… and through this blog, I will.