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When home is not the place to be a child

27 Sep

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “When Childhood Ends.”

With him recovered (recovering?) and me having lived abroad for more than two years now, it is sometimes easy to forget (pretend to forget?) that I grew up with an alcoholic father and a depressive mother. When I see them laughing together when we skype, or hear them ask me what could I possibly not be happy about given everything they offered me, it is easy to wonder whether it had really been that bad, or whether I had simply been imagining it.

But then, holidays come around and I go back to visit home, and get to see the mark on the wall left by a glass he threw in a fit some years ago, and get to look at the cards I gathered from these foreign places we were at for Christmas and New Years Eve, where instead of dancing or being out celebrating, I was in was room, comforting my sister, as we listened to our mother cry. I also see the fridge that I still shudder to open, dreading to hear the clinking of dozens of beer bottles and am still uncomfortable going in the basement for fear of seeing cases of alcohol. Then I remember not having ever had friends over, because I never knew if he was going to be awake or not, embarrass me, or worse and recall setting up longer practice hours and more tutoring session just so I wouldn’t have a reason to come home before nighttime, when I would sneak past his room and lock myself in mine.

I remember my sister crying herself to sleep every night and me not being able to stop her; I remember the screaming matches and the fear I felt for my mother and me not being able to protect her; I remember the pain in my grandmother eyes when mother would come home from working overtime to cover for him and me not being able to ease her; I remember me, sitting on the ledge of my balcony, thinking it would end if i were to move an inch and not being able to do it because then who would sit with my sister and play piano for my mother and help in the kitchen my grandmother? And then I remember the day he raised his hand and me, an 11 year old blond, blue-eyed girl blocking it.

That girl cried herself to sleep that night but vowed to never do so again. Crying never helped anyone. It caused headaches, and puffy eyes, that would raise questions in class next day, and would make it hard to focus. No, crying would not do it; working hard in class and on the court, getting ahead of everyone else, and being accepted in a college abroad more than eight years in the future, that was the way out. That girl never cried because of him or because of home ever again. But that girl, she was not a child anymore.

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