Just like a great movie, there are books that suck you in because the story line is so intriguing you are curious how it is going to end. It might be a novel, and it might be a memoir that showcases all the shit that happened to someone throughout their life. I am a fan of memoirs. While I read about the author, I learn about myself in the process.
I recently finished reading: “Pieces of My Mother” by Melissa Cistaro. A story about an adult woman who takes you through her childhood years while staying at her mother’s bedside as she dies. A mother who was not present in her life, and yet Cistaro has hope that in her mother’s final hours she will finally grab a glimpse of what she was missing all those years.
“A sitter, who is not our mom, comes to live at our house so our dad can go back to work. And when that sitter gets tired of us, a new one arrives. Everyone says that I am too young to remember what’s happened and that children my age simply don’t remember the details. I can’t blame them for saying that. But I am as quiet as a cat, watching everyone and everything.” Page 5-6
That last line was the kicker for me. I am nowhere near quiet now, but as a kid I would hide and listen. I was quiet when I needed to be. Invisible even. In my house you did not even have to be quiet, there was already a lot of noise. I could sit in my bedroom and through the heat vents hear the fighting and yelling coming from my parents room. They thought by having their door shut, we were not privy to their arguments. While I have never had the best hearing it was not hard to find out what words were passed between them. I knew at those moments when to hide and nestle up with a book. No good was ever going to come from being around after those fights.
My mom would often leave the house and get in the car angry. I was always scared that she would never come home. There was some sort of intuition that grew in me in a young age that her anger made her reckless, not enough to hurt someone else, but just enough to maybe not make the best choice. That never happened, but it did not make me feel any less scared. We knew to just leave my dad alone, or else be the next one that got yelled at that day.
I have at times been teased for being a “starer” but I think that happened because I spent so much of my time watching the world. I watched anything and everything. Trying to make sense of a world that often my parents did not know how to explain to me, either because they were just trying to survive and keep food in the house and the lights and heat on, or because they themselves did not have the answers for me. As with Cistaro, writing was my way of processing the world, and I am still doing it today.
“Like my mom, I write to understand myself and lure the voice inside me out of hiding…I want to set the words free, unearth what has been buried for so long…I had to get the memories and stories down on paper, and if I didn’t this history would be lost or—an even worse thought—repeated. Sometimes all I have is instinctual, obsessive need to put pen to paper—to set fire to something inside me that may or may not save me.” Page 285-286
I too feel that fire. To lure my voice, to find it when it feels lost, to document the memories I sometimes do not know were inside me. I am my history. Without my parents around, my writing is what helps me retrace it.