I'm concerned about people I will never meet, who might even hate me for what I am, and I go to ridiculous lengths to help people in my personal life, but if you listened to my mother you'd think I was the most self-absorbed person who ever lived. Her every letter carries a subtext of grief and unfairness that I keep her at arms' length. Recently she realized that maybe I don't care about her as a child should care about their mother, and I guess I don't.
I don't remember exactly when my father stopped being around, but by age seven he was an infrequent visitor. My mother worked nights. My day went like this:
Mom wakes me up and takes me to school. I go to school. Mom picks me up from school and takes me to the babysitter. I stay at the babysitter's. Their kids are much older than I am and rarely around anyway. Sometimes the neighbor kids, who are my age, are around. I occupy my own time, mostly by playing in the dirt. I eat dinner there. If I'm especially dirty, I take a bath there, too. I might get to watch a little TV. Then I'm sent to bed. Around midnight, my mother arrives and wakes me up to take me home. We go home, and I return to sleep. Repeat five times a week.
When I was eight and a half, my mother took in this alcoholic from the VA hospital (the guy who got me to touch him). Her idea was that he could keep an eye on me during the day, so I wouldn't have to go to the babysitter. So for a while I got to go home from school, and I got to play with kids from my neighborhood. At least until we moved to Massachusetts and I had to start over again.
But the guy wasn't very good at staying sober. By New Years', after several drunken rages, my mother fled with me to my grandmother's apartment in New York, where we ended up taking residence.
The previous situation continued, with my mother working nights, but now my grandmother took care of me. It was my grandmother who made me breakfast and sent me to school in the morning, and it was she who got home from work first. I had a key and I let myself in and looked after myself. I don't remember when I started to prefer it that way.
Just before I was eleven, my mother decided we would live in Florida. She went down there for a couple of months to get established, while I stayed back in New York with my grandmother. I was pretty upset about my mother going away, but I got used to it. My routine didn't really change, and she wrote a lot of letters.
When I joined her there, she was shacked up with some guy who installed TV antennas for a living, presumably the first slob who would go in with her on half of a duplex. He didn't abuse me, but here was another stranger in my home. I guess they were screwing, since they lived in the same room. I don't know what he thought was going to happen after her kid came down to join her... after a while she tossed him out and convinced my grandmother to move to Florida, and she went back to taking care of me while my mother worked.
That went on until I started high school. After that, my mother got herself switched over to days, and she was actually around other than on the weekend. By then the time to form whatever bond that I was going to with my mother had passed.
When I was almost done with high school, my mother's boyfriend convinced her that she was coddling me too much. So she kept making me get shitty jobs during the summer, and generally pushed me away.
It seems strange that I responded to her instructions so bitterly. I don't think I was especially lazy... I'd gotten small jobs when I needed money. It was that I resented being made to interact with the outside world instead of doing what I wanted with what I saw as my time. I'd built an internal world to occupy myself, and even though everything else in my life was subject to my mother's approval, I had this space and it was not interfered with. That was understood, seeing as I wasn't left with much else. Well, now she was saying that was over, and she was incapable of explaining why it was necessary. She rarely explained anything she wanted me to do, she just told me to do it.
You see, while I'm sure I wanted to love her, like those baby monkeys that choose the soft feeder over the one made of cold wire mesh, after a while my mother became just another authority figure in my life. I confided in her because often there was no one else around, but I had no special attachment to her, because I'd been weaned off of it. It's not something that was obvious until I was no longer dependent upon her.
In retrospect, of course, I'm glad that she insisted that I get all those crap jobs, so that I had some appreciation for the sort of bullshit that real people have to put up with just to make a living. And if I'd stayed entirely inside my own little world I'd still be living with her and doing nothing and knowing nothing, and that isn't good. And the reason she wasn't around when I was little was that she was working to take care of me. But it doesn't change how I feel about her, or rather the lack of feeling. Which is really just another way of saying that I'm a rotten, ungrateful child.
I haven't celebrated Christmas since leaving her house. I sort of did once while I was living with Hatch. That was fun. But I got out of the habit again afterward. When my mother asks me if I want anything for Christmas or says she hopes I'm going to do something nice for the holidays, it's like she's someone from another planet. What is that supposed to mean to me?