Well, I tried to finish, I really did. For two days after taking this picture of the full moon on Wednesday night, I worked on a blog post on the general theme of Thanksgiving (dinners, get-togethers, etc.), believe it or not. The truth is, however, that well before I got out of high school, my mother had become too psycho to do anything but buy fast food! At least that’s how I remember it. (There may have been a resurgence of traditional Thanksgiving dinners after I left home. Doubtful, although we’d have to ask my surviving younger siblings.) I wonder how my father felt about this? Then again, with the exception of a few times when his fear or grief broke through, I wonder how he ever felt about anything at all, other than being mostly angry at the world and wondering where the rest of us had come from.
The holiday killing ground theme intruded into real-time yesterday. In the process of trying to untangle the threads, my wife helpfully inquired about specific family Thanksgivings, which led me somehow to recall the time my mother threw an entire drawer of silverware at me and chased me into my room, returning a moment later to fling an empty suitcase at my feet and scream at me to “Get out!” As I was a junior in high school at the time, there wasn’t much I could do but walk the streets of our neighborhood in Massapequa until well after dark. Where was the old man during all of this? The age-old question, you might say.
Sinking fast, that led me to remember how the family moved from New York to Texas on the very day I graduated from high school, as in thirty minutes after. My parents hadn’t wanted to wait that long at all, as I recall, only relenting several days before so that I could attend the ceremony. They may or may not have been there themselves, what with last-minute packing to attend to. So much for savoring the moment and saying goodbye to my friends.
The rest of that day was a massive fuck-up, as we hurtled off Long Island in two cars. I was driving the old ’58 Volkswagen with my brother Bill, following the rest of the family in the station wagon, but naturally my father drove too fast and we became separated in New Jersey. My brother and I spent the night parked beside the highway somewhere in the Garden State, taking turns to watch for the overloaded Ford that never appeared. This was in the days before cell phones, obviously. Sometime around dawn, I realized that they’d have stopped for the night themselves, and I proceeded south toward Maryland. I didn’t know what their intended destination was, but I did recall some mention of a state park near Hagerstown, so I drove there. No family, of course, but I spied a state police barracks on our way out and had the presence of mind to stop and say tell someone what was going on.
To my great relief, the officer I talked to told me we’d been reported missing and called my father at our grandmother’s house in Chestertown, MD—an obvious choice of destination if the idiots had only told me. (Before we left Massapequa, my only instruction had been to “keep up…”) My brother and I stayed put at the barracks and waited a couple of hours more until my parents showed up. At least the old man cried—the first time I’d ever seen him do so—and I cried yesterday for all their sins.
That was a touching story of your life. Those of us that have suffered through terrible childhoods, get a little nervous during the holidays. Our minds go through horrible flashbacks that make us go a little crazy. I’ve been determined not to have those episodes reappear in my life. As I told one of my grown kids on a previous holiday, “You can do and say whatever after I’m gone, but as for now, you will be respectful and courteous to all family members at all functions”. That’s why so far it’s been peaceful. I guess they want their inheritance. Like you, my inheritance was a lot of bad memories of craziness. I had a revelation the other day, someone on a program said a lot of psycho behaviors come from a high concentration of metals in the body. Of course all that self medicating was a big factor. Most of the the family members are ghosts of the past, just where they need to stay. Writing about it really gets it off your chest, I encourage it. You just can’t make sense of it. Make your holidays special with your honey! We have been known to take a trip on a holiday! How did we become so normal in all the chaos? That’s what this holiday means to me, I am thankful to God I survived.
I agree with everything you say. My wife and I have always made our own holiday rituals and have often taken day trips.
I do love reading these stories. No idea why. Maybe I feel less alone or weird or something.
Thank you. That’s good.
i’ve been reading a lot of H.P. Lovecraft lately, and this picture perfectly captures that dark alien madness-inducing Lovecraft-y vibe (specifically made me think of the short story “Dagon”) – thoroughly appropriate for this time of year!
It was a spooky, spooky night.
Also – this brings to mind a tale told by a previous husband, who dis-embarked from the school bus one winter to find that not only was no one at home (he was probably early elementary age) but that the house was emptied of all household effects. Totally empty. Nada.
How can a parent fail to tell a child that they are planning a move? As I understand it, copious amounts of alcohol were involved on a daily basis.
Good Lord. Have you written more about these things?
Since age 1 6 I was in charge of Thanksgiving and Christmas food. This was all I wanted to have to do with either. Oh yea, dad turned over the Christmas tree to me as soon as I was old enough to learn how to splice wires. I really didn’t like Holidays at all after age 14. My Grandma and I once boycotted Christmas together and just wandered around town doing whatever we wanted. So many people have bad memories of the Holidays. It causes me to wonder why they still make such a big deal out of it. Or, perhaps that’s what the Holiday economy is based on; people trying to have a good time in spite off terrible memories. I love your honesty. On Christmas of my 15th year, I refused to dress up or go to Church with my folks. I sat alone in an old rocker next to the fresh Christmas tree that had been erected and decorated the day before. The living room was dark and grey and I was thinking dark thoughts about life and the stupidity of empty holidays. Suddenly I heard a shower of what sounded like a Rain Stick. I looked at the Christmas tree close to my left shoulder. Every needle had fallen off simultaneously and the branches all pointed downward. When my parents returned they asked me what I had don to the tree. Of course I didn’t know what happened. We spent most of Christmas day vacuuming needles and putting away ornaments.
Whoa! That story about the tree…
I try to focus on the solstice, first and foremost, then the rest is easier. Colored lights are fun, too. Most years we decorate the gazoot out of this place. My wife loves Christmas. We do most of the rituals in our own way with respect for family traditions and awareness of the pagan truth. I’ve been known to have a very good time. It all depends. [koff]