Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mother

My mother taught me how to lie.

I don't think she realized she was doing it. I don't think she realizes, to this day, how frequently she lies. I think it's as natural to her as breathing or sleeping, and she doesn't even think about it. But I saw her do it time and again, and learned, by her example, that the easiest way to get out of certain situations was to "tweak" the truth just enough to dispel doubt or encourage sympathy.

When I was in elementary school, I was having difficulty with another student -- an imposing, outspoken, African-American girl with a posse of supporters. This girl was picking fights with me simply because she could. I was shy and quiet, but smarter than her, and that made me a target. As her bullying got worse, I brought it to my mother's attention. I recounted some of the hateful things the girl had said to me, and my mother made an appointment with my teacher. Afterward, the teacher met with me, because what my mother had told her seemed a bit off. My mother, it seems, had decided that the issue would be taken more seriously if it were a racial one, so she made use of my small amount of Native blood and turned the girl's statements into slurs. She accused the girl of calling me "squaw girl," among other things, and threatened to bring the issue to the school board.

I don't remember how the issue was ultimately resolved. I do remember that teacher being in a difficult position -- on the one had she had a bright but underperforming student (I had just changed schools and was no longer in gifted classes, so I was bored and didn't do the work), and on the other, she had an overbearing, accusatory parent. Following my mother's example, I unintentionally made the teacher's job even more difficult. Every time I failed to turn in a homework assignment, I told the teacher that my mother cared more about my 4-H projects and forced me to work on them rather than my homework. I told my mother that my teacher kept "losing" my assignments because she didn't like me and/or Mom. Both believed me, or at least didn't express doubts in my presence, and went to war with each other. My teacher thought she was protecting a vulnerable child, and my mother thought she was working to improve the school system by rooting out a bad teacher.

Given this sort of history, I shouldn't be surprised at any discovery of another lie my mother has told. She never had the epiphany that I did (brought on by, of all people, my abusive stalker ex) about the toll lying takes on a person's life. I put myself on a new path, but in doing so, my relationship with my mother changed. After our catastrophic trip to Florida last year, I thought it was about as bad as it could be, but I was wrong.

My grandfather passed away last week, and when Grandma sent me the obituary, I was confused. Mom had told me about my great-grandparents many times, how their names were Axel and Ingrid and they came from Denmark (where they were distantly related to the royal family) to settle in New Jersey where Axel was a doctor. In talking with my grandmother about the information in the obituary, I found out that their names were Matthew and Sophia, they came from Poland, and Matthew worked in a textile mill after they emigrated.

To me, this is a whole new class of lie. This isn't exaggeration to make a story more interesting, it's not a little tweak to make things sound better, it's outright fabrication, and it's about something I care very deeply about -- family history. I'm livid, and hurt, that my mother would take such liberties with our family tree. Both my sister and I are named for our Danish "ancestors," I have a set of Christmas ornaments that depict the Danish royal guards... and it's all a lie. And for what? Because my mother is embarrassed to be half-Polish? Because she wanted to make herself feel important by being distantly related to royalty?

Before this, I was disappointed in my mother, sad for her, because she grew up with psychological issues in an era when they couldn't be properly addressed, but then failed to address them when the opportunity arose. Now? I'm ashamed of her, and terribly worried that her issues may be far deeper and more damaging than anyone thought. A teenager inventing that kind of story to cope with feeling worthless is one thing, but an adult, not only telling the story but passing it onto her children, knowing that the right question to the right person could bring it all crashing down... I can't wrap my head around it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

When Needs Must

"Witching-hour diesel run" makes it sound almost charming, but having to go out at 3am because you've run out of heating oil, and discovering that the gas station you thought was open 24 hours wasn't, making the trip twice as long as it should've been, is no fun at all. It's especially not fun when the alarm clock will be going off at 6:30am because the handyman's coming over "at some point," which means any time between 7am and 6pm.

It's enough to make this hermit long for a housemate.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

This Just In

Kira's new favorite thing in the whole wide world is licking out a bowl that Beef-A-Roni has been in.

Worry

You know your anxiety is through the roof when you wake up with numb hands because you were sleeping so tightly-wound that they couldn't get circulation.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Word To The Wise

Going to Target, on a weekend, a week before Christmas... is a bad idea.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Shipping Clerk Thoughts

I can spell Schenectady, Canandaigua, Poquonock, and Worcester without even thinking about them... but Albuquerque takes a little work.

I can't abide loose boxes or flappy tape. Tight, flat, and ready to be hurled across a room is the only way to go. Pack your boxes as if they're going to be angrily thrown on the floor and then have an air conditioner dropped on them, because that's more likely to happen than you might think.

Street (ST), Road (RD), Avenue (AVE), Boulevard (BLVD), Terrace (TER), Circle (CIR), Cove (CV), and Apartment (APT) (among others) get abbreviated, but Way, Route, and Unit  generally don't, nor do compass directions (North, South, etc.) in town names (N MAIN ST, SOUTH BOSTON, MA, for example). USPS standard is all caps, all the time, and as little punctuation as possible.

Labels with scannable codes should be placed such that a code section isn't over a seam. Zebra barcodes can wrap around an edge as long as the edge is perpendicular to the stripes. Human-readable information can be over seams or around corners if necessary, because humans, unlike most code scanners, can read across lumps, ditches, and edges.

I love some of Massachusetts's zip codes, because they're a zero followed by a year, and I get to spend a few seconds thinking about what might've happened in that year every time I type in one of those codes. North Hatfield (01066) is the Battle of Hastings, Sudbury (01776) is American independence, Nutting Lake (01865) is the end of the Civil War, and Ipswitch (01938) is my father's birth.

There are some strange street names out there. Cool Lilac Avenue, Turkeysag Trail, East 4 1/2 Street, High Barney Road, and Calmer Ernst Boulevard have all been destinations for packages I've packed.

Some people don't know the proper format for their own addresses.

There are good packing tape dispensers and bad ones. May the gods have mercy on your soul if you take one of my good ones.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Newsflash!

This just in!

White politicians and pundits are throwing temper tantrums because black athletes quietly draw attention to disproportionately high number of deaths among their brethren at the hands of law enforcement. White politicians claim they don't want sport to be politicized, while simultaneously politicizing everything else.

Oh, wait... this isn't news. This is business as usual in this administration. God help us.