I’ve always loved the color red

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A snowy afternoon
by the time of Christmas.
The heaven is dark, but
millions of lights are glittering
from every street,
every building,
in the city

I’m twelve,
or maybe even fourteen,
a most sensitive age for a girl,
who still hadn’t been kissed
or looked for.

“Ah”, I said,
and stopped in front of
the large store-window
“Look, mom, what a beautiful red coat!”

I could hear her frown when she said:
“You, who are so gray and insignificant, shall not wear red.”

Later on I got a new winter coat,
a gray one, with a collar buttoned up to the chin.

And I can still feel the pain.

Thea by Me – from “Down Memory Lane”

I forgot to tell you

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Shaun Tan

You might have read, and may remember, that I not long ago wrote about the moment when I said “I love you, Mom”, then started to cry and after that felt so much better in my relationship with her.

This could have been kind of an awkward thing to say, considering Mom has been dead for a long, long time. For me, these kind of things aren’t awkward at all, but what do you say about the following?

A couple of days later… it is late afternoon and I’m preparing dinner. Suddenly, while chopping the veggies, I hear a voice in my head.
– Hi, it says.
– Mom???
– Yes. Does it feel very uncomfortable for you, that I’m here talking to you?

I understand she doesn’t mean the voice in my head per se, I’m pretty used to that, but that she is concerned since I earlier have found it very distressing even to think about her.

I reach inside and search for such a feeling.
– No, I say. I’m good.
I can feel she is smiling, and then she says:
– I just wanted to tell you, I’ve always loved you very, very much. And I still do.
– I love you too, Mom!
Then she is gone.

I can’t tell you how I knew it was Mom. It was not the voice, which was just like a thought in my head. It was something else. A feeling! A knowing!

Yes! I just knew it was her, and it felt divinely good.

Painting by Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan

I love you, Mom!

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Just the other day, when I was on my way home from the grocery store with a load of fresh fruit and vegetables, my thoughts were mingling along this blog. I had planned to write about my childhood, the abuse and so on, when suddenly – there was no more to write about! I felt emptied, though not in a bad way.

So the thoughts glided over to my Mom, and suddenly I (silently) bursted out: I love you, Mom! And started to cry. Luckily not so heavy that anyone saw or heard me. It was a deep feeling, though! A good feeling.

This is the first time in my entire life, as far as I know and remember, that I’ve said those words to her. I haven’t even been able to think them, or even remotely let myself come near those feelings. Thinking of Mom always made me feel very awkward, uncomfortable, strained even.

And now – just the other day – I said “I love you, Mom!” and felt okay with that. More than okay!

Then I thought: “Why on earth don’t I continue to write about my childhood and my family?” I may not remember much, but all of it wasn’t about abuse in different ways, or other bad things. There were a lot of good things as well!

And I might remember more, when I start going down Memory Lane.

One thing I’ve realized while writing and thinking about this topic, is how all this has affected my grown up life. How fearful I’ve been to express love, afraid of being rejected. I’ve sometimes been called “cold” or “reserved”. I do have feelings! I do love, and care, feel compassion and more. But obviously haven’t been able to express them. And then I have drawn myself back.

I don’t want that any more!

I now let all that go, I don’t need that behavior any longer.
It proctected my as a child, but that was a long time ago.
I now love both the child I once was,
and the mature woman I’m now.

 

Painting by Shaun Tan

Grandma

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When I was little I used to be at my Grandma´s while Mom was working. I don’t know how old I was when she first started to take care of me, I just know I was there during the years before I began school. There was once a photo of me from the summer I was four, standing outside the building she lived in. But I have some random memories from before that.

Though I can hardly remember what Granny looked like. She was round, well – obese, and she always had her hair in a thin bun in the neck. I guess she looked like my mom did when she got older, and probably as I will look when I get old. Though I won’t be that round-figured! I promise! Even though I share the same genes. I eat better and love to ride the bike. At my age now, Mom was both obese and had diabetes 2 – I am not and I have not.

I have also decided I won’t die at 72-73 something like Granny and Mom – and Dad! I’ll be at least 104! And at that time I’ll have written several novels, made a lot of images based on my photos, been traveling around the world at least once and live in a nice cottage in some wilderness, having cats and a dog and a nice male-friend. 30-40 years younger than I. (I can settle for 7 years younger…) An artist of some kind. Also a writer, perhaps?

A girl can dream, can’t she?

No! Now! Back to Grandma!
As I said, I remember very little about her. Just bits and pieces here and there. But I remember some from her apartment! She had a kitchen and one room. Literally one room!  And a bathroom. And a hallway.

The kitchen was quite big. She had her bed there, which to me was huge. Like up to my armpits. At first I couldn’t climb up there by my own, but I grew on it! So to speak.
There was also a table in front of the window, and I remember she used to sit at the table, facing the window with the tree and the street outside when she was baking. She used to give me a piece of dough, but I just played with it until it was impossible to form into a bun. Then she took the piece, blended it into her much larger lump of dough, and gave me a new small one. Big enough to make one bun. It tasted very good when it came warm out from the oven, eaten with a glass of milk.

Once in a while the whole family came for dinner. At least my two uncles and someone else were there and I remember us eating vegetable soup with brothboiled meat and dumplings. We had one dumpling each, it was quite big, and I hated it. I hated the look of it, the texture of it, and that she used to seasoning it with some bitter almond.  “It’s supposed to be that way”, she said when I grumbled about it and refused to eat.
I didn’t have to eat the dumpling.
At those times, the table was moved in front of the bed, and three of us had to sit there. It was fun to eat sitting in the bed.

I have absolutely no idea what the dumplings were made of. Wheat flour I guess, but there might have been some mashed potato in there as well. I just saw her form the dough to pieces and then drop them into the broth to boil.

Or did she??? The dumplings had certainly not the texture like bread, they were sticky! Icky-sticky! Now when I think of it, they had more like the texture of polenta or grits, but even stickier. Nowadays I like polenta, real polenta, very much.

She had a big cupboard where she kept her groceries. The most odd there were jars with cow-berry jam, (lingonberries) and in each jar was a whole, peeled, pear. It was like magic when she opened the jar, and suddenly pulled out a dark-red colored pear! Like – Oooops!!!

Over the sink, under the cupboards on the wall, was a row with small containers attached. They were made of china, had a handle also of china, withe – of course – and with blue flowers painted on the front. In those containers she kept wheat flour, sugar, salt and in some smaller ones she had spices. I remember the cinnamon sticks.

This was before the plastic era!

The room was big and had a large window. Along one of the walls she had a bed sofa with an oldfashion bedspread and a rather big handmade cushion which had tassels attached at all four corners. (You know about “tofsar”, don’t you?) I loved tht cushion and used to play with it. Let the tassels dance…

There was a… no, there must have been two armchairs, and a three armed floor lamp. On the other side of the room there was a chest of drawers, and I imagine some kind of dinner table with chairs, and perhaps a small book shelf. The whereabouts of these items are more or less a guessing from my part, then actually remembering

My youngest uncle slept there at nights, he had a fiancée somewhere, but at that time he wasn’t married yet. He must have been around 37-38 then, so not exactly the youngest fiancé ever.  But he was very nice and I loved him deeply. Once in a while I was allowed to sleep over at grandma’s, and that was really funny. The sofa became a bed, one of the lamps was lit, we brushed our teeth together, put our clothes off and pyjamas on – and to make this very clear – we didn’t do THAT together! Everyone back then was more or less prudent. Mostly more… The whole era was prudent!

Then uncle put the two armchairs together for me to sleep in. Yes! The armrests was all around me, and the whole thing was soooo cosy!

Uncle had once bought me a Christmas present, and long before the time was due, grandma blabbed and told me what he had bought for me. She had said something about a small doll which was dancing. And I of course asked uncle about it. He got so angry with Granny that she had revealed what was supposed to be a secret for a while longer, but then he fetched the package and gave it to me. Inside was a small bed for my doll, with cover, a cushion and all. Then, hidden in the bed was also a small music box, with a ballerina dancing round and round on top of it. Wish I could remember what music it was. Some waltz from Wienna??? Maybe rather Twinkle, twinkle little star!

At that time in my life I had an invisible friend called “Icke”. Pronounced like “beek,” whith an “e” at the end. Not that that matters much… and isn’t icky…
The word means, by the way, something like “no” or “non” in a somewhat posh-y meaning. Not in the normal talking-way. So there we also have the stiff upper-ip, again. LOL

So what about “Icke” then? Well. Nothing really. I played with her, talked with her. I had no playmates my own age as I was little, so… Thus, I have a three year older cousin, but didn’t get to meet her particularly often. She stumbled on a branch in the wood once, all the blueberries fell out of her little basket and GOSH how she screamed.

Photo & Editing: ©Thea by Me

Reposing

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After I had finished the “Part four – Conclusion” the other day (last night),  some kind of “nothingness” fell over me. Nothing bad, really. Not at all. I just didn’t do anything.

Other then my usual tour on the bike, I read some, spent time at the sofa as long as it was too warm to be on the patio, slept there for a while, and was doing some Jigsaw puzzles on the iPad.

I think I browsed iBooks too that day, for a while. Found this book “Loving yourself to great health” written by Louise Hay which I later bought, by the way. Very interesting! Very recommendable!

When bearable temperature at the patio again, I sat there reading until late. A “real” book now. “Eva Luna” by Isabel Allende.

Since “part four” I’ve also been thinking a lot. About life as such, about mom, dad… cried some… been hoping to feel some anger…

Been thinking about my former husband who also is the father of my three daughters. Now they’re grown-ups with kids of their own, and he is old and sick. What about him? He had also a peculiar childhood, but he told me very little about it.

My sister suffered from Psoriasis since very young, and later Multiple Sclerosis (MS). How was her upbringing? What did she feel when she was little and growing up? I know she had at least one experience of mom almost the same as I have. Mom didn’t care about us. She neglected us, and pushed us away. Sis always heard: You’re big, you can do it yourself! I heard: You’re so small. You can’t do it.

Sis got Psoriasis and MS. Anything else that I don’t know of?
I got anxiety, fibromyalgia and food allergies. Was also over-eating. Yes! It can very well be labeled as an addiction or eating disorder! Food is very good at soothing at anxiety attacks, you know. It doesn’t even have to be sugar or junk, ”just” eating too much, too often. I’m still not quite over it. Mostly but not to 100%

I realize I also almost my entire life have withdrawn myself from social encounters. Not as much as young, just a bit shy, but more and more the older I’ve become. Especially after those years with severe anxiety. As teenager, I went out dancing… 😀

My brother? What about him? Was he “mammy’s little boy” as my sister once said? I know he sucked his thumb until he was a grown-up and had a work as mechanic to go to. Later (?) he started smoking. Both he and I kept our smoking habits hidden to our mom and dad. The first time I saw him smoking, was at mom’s funeral. And still he walked away a bit, and turned his back to us. But he couldn’t fool his sisters. 😀

My grandparents? I know absolutely nothing about any of them. The only one still alive when I was born, was my mothers mother.
Her father, my Mom once told me, had died just a short while before I was born. One night she woke up and saw him standing by my bed, looking at me. When he realized she had awoken, he just said he wanted to see me since he hadn’t been able to do so before – then he vanished.

And Dad? What about him? How strong he must have been, my wonderful, caring Father! Did he suffer? Or was he able to bear it all?

There must have been love between my Mom and Dad, after all. Sis told me, that after Dad’s death, Mom, who at that time already had suffered from a couple of minor heart attacks and at least one small stroke, used to go to his grave, sitting there crying and screaming for him. “Come and fetch me! Bring me to you”

Almost exactly two years after his death, she got a major heart attack in her sleep, and finally reconnected with him.

Looking back – Part Four – Conclusion

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When I started to write here just a couple of weeks ago, it was of course not the first time I reflected over these memories of mom hurting my feelings so deeply. But the reflections earlier was of an other kind, more just: “Ok! So it was! She was not always nice, but she was my mom, and the best thing to do is to forgive and let go!”

Already some 20 years ago or so, I had this “vision”. In my mind I saw her standing in front of a house. I saw her like from a long distance, she appeared very small and the house was a huge four-story building. What I saw was not as much the physical appearance as… her mental self. It was more a feeling of her I saw.

At first I saw her as I had seen her during all the years. Self-righteous, rigid, prudent etc. Maybe not with a stiff upper-lip, but without doubt with a stiff neck. Suddenly there was a shift in my perception. Everything looked the same, though. The huge house, the small woman, her posture, how she held her head. But the feeling of her was changed! Now she looked vulnerable, tired and sad, like if the whole world lay upon her shoulders.

I understood! I finally understood she was a victim! Of her time, of her upbringing, of her society, of all the demands she had on her. Both from within herself, inherited over generations, and from the outer world.

I felt a little bit more comfortable after this, and in a way I forgave her. At least tried to. There were still feelings inside me that popped up now and then. And as times passed by, I got more and more pain and stiffness in my body. Which I, by the way, blamed on other events and experiences.

If I imagined her watching me from some other realm – I felt very uneasy. I had a friend some ten years ago that had the gift of seeing and hearing spirits. She once sad my mom was present, and told me mom said she loved me and were very proud of me. I felt extremely uneasy. To think she was present and watched me!!! Boohhh!


About a month ago, I suddenly got the urge to reread this book, and got it from the library. “Thunder at Twilight – Vienna 1913/1914” written by Frederic Morton. It’s European history, a very interesting and well written chronicle of the events which led to the brake out of World War 1.

The reader, among other events, also meets a lot of still today very well-known people. One of them – Hitler. This made me recall that the psychoanalysist Alice Miller had written a book where she in one chapter went into his childhood and upbringing, and what kind of man he had become due to all the physical and psychological abuse he had suffered. So I turned to the library again, borrowed and read…

… and became aware of that I had been abused as a child. Never physically! “Only” neglect, deminish, belittle… shall I go on?
I remembered lots of it, but never realized this actually was abusive behavior. Never came to think of how wrong it was.

These writings now, have made me see that more clearly! Even though I only have written about some of the events and kept many others left in my mind, I don’t feel the need of wallow myself in this any more. I can still think about it and write about it – but not wallow! I got the picture! I got the lesson!

I had anticipated, though, and hoped for, that I should experience great anger and sadness. Yes! I have cried quite a lot these last weeks, for different reasons. Missing Dad is one. But I can’t find any anger within me! I thought I might have wanted to hit something, scream, hate her! But no. I can’t.

In all the memories I have dwelled in I have felt and experienced the situations almost as if I were there again. Both as a participator and as a spectator. And I came to see her as a couple of different personalities.

One persona is mean, egocentric, self-rigtheous, manipulative, and playing other people with feelings. But there is also a persona that is deeply, deeply wounded! The more I was thinking, reliving, writing – the more I felt sorry for her. Say! How can I be angry at that little girl inside her, who only wants to be loved and accepted?

No! No anger!

I don’t doubt that she loved me. She just didn’t have the ability to show it, or act like it. I know she loved dad, even though she terrorized also him from time to time. I am sure she loved my brother and sister as well. She just had a huge knot inside her!

I think I can truly forgive her now. And feel the love for her, that I have been hiding as a knot inside me for so long. But I’ll still work on this, since it’s very possible that the anger might lie deeper in me and needs more time to show itself. And I’ll still be writing about me, mom and the rest of my family. Among other thing.

 

Painting:  Salvador Dali – Time exploding

Salvador Dali

Looking back – Part Three

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I never liked the good-night kisses Mom gave me. She pouted her lips – and not in a cute way – they became like a small hard beak, with which she pecked my forehead. Very quick, and very “let’s get this done. I have other things to do”.

The only other times she kissed me, or tried to, was when she was very sad. Over what, I’ve absolutely no idea. She was crying, tears wet her cheeks and mouth. She  was usually sitting on a kitchen chair when she saw me and begged me to come nearer. Reluctantly I approached her, she hugged me and kissed me and burst out while sobbing: “OH! You’re the only one I have, my little sunshine!”

Those wet kisses and the sobbing made me feel very uncomfortable and I just wanted to go away. The words and something in her voice! So needy, so… I don’t know what! It’s hard to find the words to describe my feelings there and then, but I hated it. It was just so icky!!!

Awkward! I don’t remember any time when she hugged me and kissed me, and seemed happy about it! And made me happy… 😦

Mom also had the habit of threatening to leave us. I guess she and Dad had quarreled, they often did, and she reacted by putting on her coat and hat, taking her purse, handbag, luggage-something, and then sat down on a chair as close to the front door as possible. She cried and said she should go away, because no one cared for her. “No one will ever miss me!”

She did that over and over again, during my childhood, my adolescents and further on. Until her death. I guess.

Now when I compile these memories, I realize that the crying-kissing-part occurred when she was alone with me as a little girl. The “go-away”-part occurred when at least Dad was around too.

Naturally she never did “leave us forever”. My eight years older brother got irritated when she got these tantrums, and went up to his room. And so did I, when I got older and had a room of my own upstairs.
But mostly she actually did go – out for a walk – and Dad went out after her. Later they came back together. Seemingly everything sorted out between them.

Some courage I still must have had as a child. I remember once she sat there in the hallway sobbing and feeling sorry for herself, threatening to leave. I might have been four or five.

I looked at her, opened my mouth and spoke: “Well go then! You always say you’re going, but you never do it!”

She just stared at me. As in chock.

Wish I could surely remember what happened next. I have a faint memory, of how she without saying a word, went to the kitchen and started to do the dishes or something. Did it loudly…

However, I might be totally wrong about that. Can’t see her going out for a walk that time, though.

Much later, during the period Dad was sick in cancer, before he died, we had the possibility to talk with each other a couple of times without her with us, and also wrote some letters to each other. We were both totally honest and therefore able to talk about things, events, feelings we had kept as secrets, and sort of straighten some things out.

One thing he told me, was exactly the same I had experienced! Namely! If she had a quarrel with Dad, she was always asking me who I thought was right. Herself or Dad. And I had to answer that she was. Even though I actually thought that Dad was right. Otherwise things would be a lot worse. She would be furious at me as well. And if she quarreled over me – not “with” this time – she asked Dad who he thought was right. He had to say she was, for the same reason. Things would be a lot worse, and he got it afterwards.

One or the other of us always got it afterwards…

Painting: Picasso – Bullfight 1934