Friday, September 22, 2006

Mail Call

I received three kinds of interesting mail this week.

First, was an email from my mother. What do I tell you about my mother? How long have you got? I was the third girl of four in my family. I know that my mom was very depressed during my early years. A lot of important people in her life had died during the two years before I was born. She already had two small children. Lynn was three, and Cathy was four when I was born. Motherhood was a huge challenge for her, and those two were never what you could call "easy" children. And...she was married to my dad. I know that my dad was hitting those two pre-schoolers, hitting and yelling and cursing and spanking beyond anything one could call reasonable correction. Cathy had the unfortunate nick-name "Tupe." I called her that for years until I discovered it was her baby way of saying "Stupid," something my dad called her often. And my mom...shy, lonely, disconnected, but sweet in her own way, was a deserter. She tended to disappear when dad was on a rage. Later she would show up and tell us that we shouldn't have...or if we had only...or if we hadn't...

In other words, it was our fault.

She would urge us to apologize to him, make it better for Him. And for his part, he did the same. How could you do this to your mother, he would scream as he lost control of the paddle he used to spank us. We were supposed to take care of her, not burden her with our problems. Hers were certainly more important than ours.

I have written a piece about my parents' marriage. Maybe I'll post it here at some point. In it, I try to come to grips with the fact that they had some very fine qualities alongside some devastating failures and lacks in the parenting department. It has been a tough job to work through a lot of that stuff. But I'm getting there.

Four years ago, I learned that even a lifetime of taking care of my parents' emotional needs, of listening to them, affirming them, helping them feel like good people when everything in their family was falling apart -- a lifetime of mediating between them and my other sisters -- a lifetime of reassuring them that my sister's suicide at age 18, her mental illness, and my other sister's difficulties were not their fault -- a lifetime of being the parent for my youngest sister -- a lifetime of keeping the secrets and holding the line -- could not protect me from their rage when I suddenly had to take care of myself for a change.

I had no choice. I was so sick that even the thought of talking to them on the phone could send me into a paralyzing anxiety attack. I had to learn to break every rule my upbringing had ingrained into me. I had to endure the worst phone calls, the worst letters, the worst second-hand conversations, the worst rumours, and finally the worst. My dad scared my son and hit him when he was visiting them, and they pulled out all the same old bullshit I had grown up with. The way that fell out caused me to cut all ties with them for over a year and a half. It did not stop my mother from sending me a rather damning letter on my 40th birthday.

Believe it or not, I am slowly re-establishing some contact with my parents. I started a year ago last June by asking my mom if she would like to have coffee. We get together once in a while. We email each other once in a while. We do not talk on the phone, and I have phone security to prevent that in any case. She seems to be willing to work within my boundaries, and because of that, I have enjoyed our visits.

But I am not going back to the old family dynamic. I received an email from my mom inviting us to Thanksgiving. Ugh. Thanksgiving has to be the most painful holiday my family celebrates, if the word celebrate can be used. It's all wrapped up in my birthday, my dead sister's birthday, my parents' birthday, and...well...Thanksgiving. No thanks. Even Christmas is easier, though not much. The year I turned 40, one of my sisters told me I was going to be invited to Thanksgiving, and instead I received the letter from hell. This from a woman who left me out of her Christmas newsletter for three years in a row. The first time because she didn't know what to do with me. The second time because, as she told my sister, I had done nothing worthwhile that year. And the third because...well...that was the black hole year.

I used to be my mother's best friend and closest companion. When I finally grew up (four years ago) I realized that what I had needed was a mother. My mother had needed one too, and somehow our roles got switched. I can't be her parent anymore, and I won't be. But once in a while, for an hour or two, I can be her terribly confusing and rebellious daughter.

Just not at Thanksgiving.

The second mail was a letter from the local arts center telling me that I was registered for a creative writing workshop. It's a thirteen week program, and I went for the first session yesterday morning. It turned out to be a group of women who have been meeting this way for years and years. A friend of mine joined last year, and she got me to sign up for this year. These women are really doing it. They're writing and working with each others' writing, and many of them are publishing. One of them just finished a book tour. I am pretty excited about working with them. Maybe I'll finally get off my ass and send some of my work out there to get rejected.

The third kind of mail was the best of all. Parcel post from KPixie, Handpainted Yarns, and Elann.

I got three more skeins of that bulky Blue Sky Alpaca to make more cozy hats and a scarf for me. It's a good deal at 25.00 for the three. I got three skeins of BS Cotton and a pattern (another good deal kit for 25.). And the blue stuff is a worsted weight blend of 60% wool and 40% recycled silk. Generous 100g/160m skeins, and KPixie was clearing them out for five bucks a skein!! Yesterday, they still had some pink, so hurry up and buy it before I change my mind.

This is the orange top kit. Love that pattern, and the orange, and BS Cotton is sooooooo soft.

A close-up of the wool-silk blend.It's a very dark teal. Lookie-see all the pretty colours from the silk. This stuff makes me think of Noro products. Bargain Noro.

Okay...Handpainted Yarns and I are having a lover's fling these days. I can't help myself. I love everything they make. They came out with hand spun and dyed Himilayan cotton in worsted and fingering weights last week, and I had to get some worsted. It is nice stuff. Hmmm...there's that orange again...

Handpainted's lace-weight Merino. You get a billion yards for 100g. I think it's 975 or something like that. I was thinking of two-stranding it, maybe even blending it with another colour.

And finally...a little white box from Elann with just four balls of fuzzy soft Cuzco. I had to see what everyone else was raving about. It is very nice. 100% baby alpaca, soft, light, lofty. Just the thing for a hat/scarf combo. Comfort yarn.

Did all this stop me from ordering some Baby Cashmere at Elann yesterday? It did not. Knitting nurtures me. I didn't get a lot of Knit On!!


LibbyKnitKins said...

Jayne, I'm sooo incredibly proud of you for taking care of you. I know that can be incredibly hard at times. I too have found knitting as a nurturing and creative outlet. I may tell you about it sometime.

Best of luck healing.


benne said...


Sometimes no contact is the healthiest contact of all. It's an ephiphany to realize you have the right to walk away from all the pain and rage in others. Good for you for finding a separate peace. It's hard, hard work.

CatBookMom said...

Jayne, you should be so proud of yourself for becoming you in spite of the boulders in your pathway. Like you, I've learned that you don't have to choose to spend time with family members who hurt you over and over. It has been a joy to get to know you and I'm not the only one who wants to know you better! Peace. (I stole that from Jean, but she won't mind.)

SooZ said...

Jayne, I'm so pleased that you are able to take care of yourself as you do. You are an inspiration to others who struggle. Words such as yours remind us that we don't need to let life defeat us. Life is for living. Stay strong.

knittynicky said...

Jayne I am so moved by your story. You are an incredible writer. I have read your post quite a few time I love your writing sryle, your sense of humor and your wonderful pictures

jayne said...

You people are too supportive. I love it! How am I going to get up the courage to send my work off to an editor (who will be a lot harsher) after this? Actually, I think that it is this kind of public forum that will give me the courage I will need.

Anonymous said...

Jayne, I know firsthand how difficult it is to make the tough choice to remove yourself from family adversity, and then reestablish contact again. It takes an incredible amount of growth, insight, and forgiveness to get to that point, and also to understand how much you are willing to take after that. God bless you.

Suzann said...

I think Jayne you will have an easier time sending in your work then you think. Even if your work gets rejected, it is the work not you. Very different from the abuse you have suffered in the past. I know creative endeavors are so closely intertwined with ourselves. But no publisher will call you stupid or abuse you. And you know dear you might get accepted. Your a very good writer.
You can do anything, wearing an orange sweater. Especially after all you have conquered already.