IN OTHER WORDS | White Rabbit

Growing up, I listened to a lot of Jefferson Airplane. My favorite song was White Rabbit played at full blast—some might say “eleven”—as I sang along fantasizing that I was Grace Slick, a sexy, hippie rock star rather than a chubby, lonely child living amid dysfunction that would make the dormouse shudder. I also spun a lot of Beatles, Rolling Stones and Dylan, even Frank Zappa. Those albums were in the house; that was my parents’ music. I felt grown up and cool. But I was just a kid. I was just a kid, and music aside, I had to act like a grown up.

I didn’t feed my head. That came later, but at a young age, I learned to take care of myself. My Dad left when I was five; my sister just an infant. The split was unclean, confusing and in retrospect must have put my mother into such a tailspin it’s a wonder she’s come out of it.  At the time, she was a mess. So I couldn’t be. In early years, before my teens, I was my caretaker and my sister’s. Yes, it was a different time. Kids were safer in the world on their own. But, what I did was beyond living in a simpler time.

We moved a lot. A commune for a time sleeping on couches in the living room, eating communal dinners; I was lost among activists against the man, planning their next anti-war protest. There was no stability; a couch is no bed for a child. We then moved next door to start our own commune. One day, my mother sent me and my sister to the store and I was sexually assaulted by a young teen on the way. The neighborhood was marginal at best; we shouldn’t have been on our own. Perhaps my mother thought that sending me with my sister would mitigate the danger. It didn’t. I didn’t tell her, believing somehow I’d invited the attack. I was ashamed and scared. Somehow I got away. We got away, and continued along to the store. I couldn’t go home empty handed.

I took trains and busses to school across the city, back and forth to two households—I had train schedules memorized. I waited, sometimes hours, to be picked up after school. I was left. I grocery shopped on foot.  I was far too young to drive, but I knew we needed fresh milk. I kept track of clothing allotments at each house so I’d have something to wear the next day. These were the things I thought about. These were my worries. I was a kid. I had adult thoughts. As a result, I became very self-sufficient. I also became a worrier.

At night, I would lay in bed exhausted but unable to turn off my mind. Worry consumed me. I’d get up, check my backpack for the next day, making sure I had everything in order. It was too much. It was unfair. But, I learned to take care of myself. There is a huge distinction between taking care and nurturing. Nurturing was not an option; it was all about survival. And, I did. But, I missed so much. I needed so much.

That music, that stoner, psychedelic music was my escape. I will always love that music, in part because it’s good, but also because it reminds me that I’m a survivor. I did it. I made it through and did the work. For a long time, I was convinced I’d never be a parent. I couldn’t repeat that. I couldn’t risk another child living that life. But I worked through that fear and I am a mother now. I have a loving, invested partner. I am a nurturer and a caretaker and my sons are thriving.  They know a safe, consistent, nurturing environment. They feel secure and trust I will never leave them waiting at bus stops, or risk their safety, or make them be the adult. And, I am home to them and home to myself.

You’ll see a new post from me, every day in November as part of National Blog Posting Month, NaBloPoMo. Join in for an entire month dedicated to writing. See BlogHer for all the information you need to get started.

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Comments

  1. June Gabriel says:

    I’ve been reading your blogs and I can’t decide which one I like best. It seems you have the ability to touch us, remind us, reveal us to ourselves. You have a simple style (which is the hardest to do well) that is also strong and gentle at the same time! I don’t know how you do it, but please keep it up. I just love your writing. Thanks for sharing your life with us.

    Like

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