|People are supposed to enjoy holiday weekends. For some reason, I've never been able to do that. I have memories that haunt me during holidays.
During Christmas, I remember that my grandmother died on December 26th, and I'll never be able to see her, or to apologize for the things I did in my life that hurt her.
There are no more large family Christmas gatherings anymore. Everybody has either died, or grown up and made a family for themselves.
They don't need me to make their Christmases happy. I did need them. I tried to work my way back into their lives after an absence of many years, and many miles.
It didn't work.
I finally figured out that they only managed to be polite to me at funerals, for propriety's sake. No phone numbers were ever even exchanged for the "let's do lunches" that never came to pass.
The graduation and wedding announcements never even found their way to my mailbox. That's when you know for sure that you're out of the multi-generational family loop.
It has nothing to do with the fact that I was the youngest child on my father's side of the family, and the oldest on my mother's. My extended family seldom acknowledges my existence.
It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I was married once, for 50 weeks. A year is composed of 52 weeks, you know. I suppose it's a convenient measure of time.
I had a step-daughter, once. I had a husband, once. We didn't have a child together. His daughter was 10 years old ten.
I thought my married life would be perfect. At age 22, I started teaching high school English in Houston, just like I'd always hoped. I'd married a man who loved me, and I loved him.
We had fun together as friends, going to social functions of the Tall Club: happy hours at happening clubs, parties at member's homes, and even out of town trips--like the one we took to Hippie Hollow, at Lake Travis, just outside Austin.
I felt so free and happy on that trip. I had actually swum about a football field's distance into the lake, overcoming my fear of not being able to stand up if I got tired swimming. My swimming skills were best tested in water that was not more than 6 feet deep. After sampling several bottles of wine, I found courage.
We all drank lots of wine, and ate mouth- watering bar-be-cue. Somebody had some pot. The group of about 20 tall people partied until late, then settled into sleeping bags around the fire, or some secluded duo dash off.
The night was beautiful under the stars. That night my man asked me to be his woman. Childhood dreams of a white dress, and all the other trimmings of the celebrated union, filled me with euphoria.
The next morning, the girls in the group kind of gathered together at the lakeside, to bathe in nature. I remained behind after most of the others left.
Hippie Hollow is a "clothing optional" place. I decided to "go for it."
I left my bathing suit on the shore and swam out, again, as far as I had the day before.
Floating on my back, naked to the world, I felt serene, safe, and secure. I was exactly where God wanted me to be, and all was fine.
The man who would become my husband had uttered those precious words of question night before. The world was mine. In the summer of '78, I had my own little version of Woodstock.
I swam back to shore, and retrieved a razor and soap from my backpack. With no one from the club around, I began the process of de-hairing my long lovely legs, in the nude.
I sat at the lakeside, dangling my legs in and out of the water as I shaved. A couple of times I jumped when little fishes nibbled at my toes.
Suddenly, I noticed a hairy naked man entering the shore area that I thought was my private louvre.
He began a genial conversation, and though I felt a bit strange, we chatted while I continued to shave my legs. I found it very difficult to not be self-conscious of my nudity.
Here I was in the buff, chatting with some fellow I'd never met before. The third time a fish nibbled at my toe, I gashed my ankle.
Rich red blood oozed across my heel, but washed clean in the lake's cool clear water. I still have the scar on my ankle.
This hairly Jewish fellow's discourse diverged from the weather, and he noted that he had an appendage in want.
I was alone at the lakeside, buck naked, confronted by a stranger with an unequivocal hard on.
I wasn't interest in anything but recovering my bathing suit and returning to the group of friends with which I had arrived.
I called my future husband's name, as loud as I could. Within minutes, he had shimmeyed down the steep trail to the shoreline (the water level in the lake at deficit), and made it perfectly clear to the hairy guy that his company was not wanted.
Nobody punched anybody. No one said harsh words. My man sneered a little sneer, and laughed quietly--like some maniac about to destroy everything in sight. Being 6' 8," he carried himself with an air of authority.
When my man showed up, I knew I was safe. The guy couldn't get out of the area fast enough--slipping on rocks covered with algae, and dangling, most amusingly.
I liked the feeling of safety. I had a lover and protector. My knight in shining armor, which was actually a colorful tropical print swim trunks, had rescued me from the perils of the wicked world.
But now, three months later, my knight had turned on me.
His first duty in life was to protect his child. One night,of emotionally charged discipline,I became the enemy.
Neither could I trust him, because he attacked me--as any parent sensing endangerment of their child would.
But I didn't see myself as the bad guy.
I had grown up with no brothers or sisters to back me up, or take care of the bullies for me. Being an only child, I learned at a young age that I had to take care of myself.
My mother has always shown that protective furor that only a parent can procure. Over-protection can cause infuriation.
She liked my man, until she saw the dark blue bruise, the size of a softball, on my inner upper thigh. I told her how Dawn's crying turned into my undoing.
My man was so tall, dark, and handsome. We became romantically involved quickly after we first met. We met in March, and married the first of August. It was all perfect. It was very fast, but our love felt so perfect.
Then, his 10 year-old daughter was beaten with a frying pan by her step-father (who was seldon with Dawn and her mother, since he was a merchant marine). Instead of my new husband being an every other weekend daddy, he became the guardian--the parent who Dawn lived with.
Married one month, I had a good job, a husband who loved me, AND a little girl! It seemed that the dreams I had as a child had all come true. The house had a daddy, a kid, and me. I was a mommy!
Then it all fell to shit.
My husband had been a "fun weekend daddy." Now, someone in the house had to maintain some semblence of discipline. Besides, being a teacher, I couldn't help it.
This living situation was new for all of us, becoming an instant family. It wasn't always fun. Soon it became a living hell.
I didn't know I was bipolar then, but in retrospect, I surely displayed all the symptoms.
With drastic mood swings brought on by perhaps just some little thing that irked me, I found myself "losing it" often.
I remember one horrible morning, when I first began to wonder if I could stay married. Dawn and I were home for Christmas vacation, and she got rebellious.
Whatever I wanted, she didn't, and visa versa.
The infamous words, "You're not my mother. You can't tell me anything," became louder, more frequent, and more insistent.
She ran past me out of the house, to play outside in her pajamas, in the damp fifty degree weather.
I called my husband on the phone, and he said he couldn't leave his job to referee between me and his daughter. He had to make money to support us.
I understood the logic of the situation, but it didn't help. Dawn was barefooted, half-dressed out in the cold, and she wouldn't come in.
My husband called his mother, who came over and made everything okay, at least for Dawn.
Glennis, my mother-in-law, came to rule our castle. Because she made sure her son and granddaughter were well cared for, I began to feel like a failure, in everything.
In any big family issue, my husband first considered himself, then Dawn, then his mother, and then me.
Happily married Cinderella was playing fourth fiddle. I was depressed to the point of becoming suicidal.
Before the Christmas day celebration at Glennis's house, I swallowed a large amount of prescription antidepresents. I crashed in the early morning. My man took me home.
I spent our first Christmas day alone, and overdosed. I did what I had to, at the time, to stop the pain.
Dawn hated going to bed a nine o' clock, and she cried as long as twenty minutes after she was tucked in to bed. One evening, when I'd had a particularly loud school day, I couldn't stand it.
I suddenly became my mother, like some weird time-warp flash back.
"If you're not gonna quiet down and stop crying, I'm gonna give you something to cry about!" The words, with a fierce intensity previously unleashed, provoked the situation.
Dawn cried even louder. I went to the bathroom to get the hairbrush, intending to apply it to her behind.
She got a couple of swacks before her father stopped it, physically intervening.
I said, "This is between me and Dawn. Get out of the room and let me settle this situation on my own for once."
I had met my husband at the Tall Club. He measured six foot, seven and three fourths inches, and carried enough weight to not look lanky. I never realized how strong he was.
I never thought he would turn his anger on me physically. He did that night.
He picked up all five foot eleven inches, 175 pounds of me, and threw me out of the room.
He flew me across the room like a paper airplane, and I landed hard, strandling the door jam.
I was momentarily paralyzed in shock and fear. I had never experienced such physical force directed against me.
When I recovered my wits, I grabbed my purse and car keys, and went for a drive--escaping a horror I could never have imagined.
My husband had lost his temper, and his cool. I drove around in the dark of the night for a long time. I was truly afraid to return, to sleep next to this person who loved me, but treated me like a baseball.
That night I slept on the cold floor of the living room, surrounded by my books in my little section of the house. It was my turn to cry myself to sleep.
If he did it once, he might do it again. "They" always say that sort of thing. It's conventional wisdom.
We stayed married for seven more months. I tried to play fourth fiddle, but I couldn't. I didn't want to end what I had thought was the perfect family. I also didn't want to continue in a situation in which I felt oppressed and unneccesary.
I never had a child. I never even got a little bit pregnant once.
Now, I never will have a child--the surgery has already been done, and it can't be taken back. The ovaries and uterus are long gone. Women aren't offered the option men have of vasectomy reversal. When it's done, it's done.
All the missed birth control pills, and long nights of short passion, came to naught.
I'm not alone in being a childless adult. There are other adults without children.
My aunt and uncle were married for as long as I knew them, and they never had kids. I asked my mother why once, and she said she didn't know. I just wonder, now, if it was by choice, or by God's intervention.
So, I have no children. I have no marital mate. I have only me. my two cats, and my big loyal dog. There's really no one to look after me, except myself.
Old habits die hard, maybe even harder than dreams. You can latch your dreams to the stars, but habits are a daily exercise in ambiguity.
After my divorce, I hurt so much that I shut down all my feelings.
All little girls who play with dolls expect to actually be a mommy someday. We all play with dolls to go throught the motions of caretaking, previewing the experiences of motherhood we ALL expect to live one day.
I'm one for which it didn't work out. There are no kids for me.
I blew one chance I had to be a parent, or rather step-parent, because I disciplined in anger.
It destroyed the marriage too. It destroyed all the dreams I had built my existence on. I was lost and alone when I moved out to face the world on my own again. I've had boyfriedns, but been single ever since. Life experiences change people.