Anne Lamott, Being Human At Electric Speed, Brenda Lane Richardson, Broken Jaw, Chicago, Child Abuse, Dentist, Jane Friedman, Journals, Meditation, Memoir, Neil Gaiman, Regina Brooks, Two Deadly Sins of Memoir Writing, University of Hawaii/Manoa, Wisdom Teeth, You Should Really Write A Book
Memoir Mondays are a flash back to the past to examine my writerly roots. People, places and events that shaped me and influence my world and how I write about it.
The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision.
So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.
How can I forget a broken jaw?
But I did. Ask me if I had any fractures to my body growing up, and I would have answered with what I would have thought was honesty, “no.”
Press me further, and I would have said that I recall my mother explaining to my childhood dentist that I must have gotten the break when they removed my wisdom teeth.
Oh, yes, and she told me that the jaw harness that he wanted me to wear was just some newfangled snake oil to pad his billing to pay for his new boat.
Oh, and she also told my aunt who was concerned that I might need medical care that there wasn’t anything they could do for a broken jaw.
Disjointed memories. Floating around without context but somehow they were colored bright enough to remain in view just beneath the surface of my consciousness.
The aging body that betrays.
The past 30 years has been a replay of health issues that eventually trace back to my early years. My back-to-back high-risk pregnancies highlighted a blood disorder I had had nearly my entire life. Explains a lot of trips to the doctors with mysterious allergies. I am Rh negative, and somehow I was shot up with a vial full of my adoptive mother’s Rh positive blood. One of many times I should have died.
But I have too much force in my soul to go down so easily.
Like the blow-up clown that you punch in the nose sending him to the floor, but bounces right back up smiling and grinning, humans are resilient, especially the young.
Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.
An abused child wants neither pity nor vengeance. What the child wants above all is control over her life. More control equals more peace.
That is the understanding I bring to helping the little girl that is me, the little girls that are my daughters, and all of the little girls and boys whether or not they are still young of age. Don’t pity, don’t blame, don’t excuse, don’t sugar-coat with platitudes.
Empower them in their lives. Help them gain mastery of their environments, of their subjects in school, and in themselves.
Hint: (Self-Pity & Vengeance)
A recent guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog, Being Human At Electric Speed, addressed the two deadly sins of memoir writing. I urge you to click the link to the article. i haven’t yet bought Brooks & Richardson’s book, You Should Really Write a Book, but it is on my Amazon Wish List.
So how did my jaw get broken?
When some one asked me that recently, I answered that my adoptive father had been in three wars including 6 tours in Viet Nam. My questioner raised an eye brow. I went on, “Because hitting my mother was not an option.”
Say that again?
How many versions would you like? There are, in fact, so many ways to tell and not to tell. So many details to fill in and leave out. Much of the back-story that I would now consider essential, I did not connect up at the time. The full of this event is critical to understanding why my parents didn’t pay for my college. Why they did not attend my high school graduation. (My mother being the senior class adviser didn’t miss many in the 30+ years she taught there) Why a myriad of other incongruities. But my parents were known for their unconventional ways as much as for their forceful wills. No one questioned…out loud…within my earshot.
Almost no one.
The next day in first period gym class, my teacher who had known me since I had been in grade school pulled me aside. I had a large welt and a rainbow of unnatural colors across the entire right side of my face. I had bruised imprints of a man’s hands on my forearms. You could make out the individual fingers in the bruises where he had grabbed me and shook me. “Tell me something that doesn’t make your mother look like a liar.” That was an all too familiar refrain. But I had had no clues to start with, so I was at loss where this fanciful narrative was supposed to begin. I had a clump of hair missing from my scalp from having been dragged down the staircase caveman-style. And finally hit with so much force it not only broke my jaw but dislocated it as well.
Doctors since had speculated that the force was nearly enough to have killed me.
Truth is it didn’t hurt as much as it should have. Nerve damage from being hit more than a few times before.
My father never spoke of it, ever. I think he had blocked it from his consciousness.
My mother? After I had spent first hour gym class begging the teachers not to report it, I walked into her second period honors class. “What happened to your face?”
We are three generations of thespians. Hot-seat improv experts. “Karla swung open her locker, and I got nailed by her boyfriend’s class ring.”
My journals, four decades worth.
For high school graduation, my parents gave me two suitcases. I cleaned out my room and prepared to go to University of Hawaii. It was actually cheaper than junior college in Illinois at the time. I had thrown away my journals and yearbooks as part of my purge. When I was recalled home 6 months later, many of the things I thought were lost had been retrieved by my father and placed in my old room, including more than a decade of old journals.
Over on the right-hand column is a new feature. I added a donation button. I will write more on this in bits and pieces. I did this for several reasons. I am giving folks a chance to donate to fund a self-constructed 10-day meditation retreat. Suggested donation: $1. More on this later. Now tell me of your forgotten secrets. Your aha moments. Your unexpected blasts from the past.