“For the love of Christ, Georgia! Get down from there and mind your own damned business!”
She stood just inside the kitchen door, agog. Daddy was yelling at Mommy!
“Shut up, Eddie!” Mommy hissed at him. “They’ll hear you!”
Daddy put his hands around Mommy’s middle and tried to drag her down from the wood and steel milk crate upon which she was standing, but Mommy grabbed on tight to the top panel of the redwood fence and hung on. “Stop it, Eddie!” she hissed at him again. “Keep your hands to yourself!”
“Georgia, what goes on in the neighbour’s house is none of your business, now get down and go in the house! You are making a spectacle…”
“Oh, all right!” Mommy was exasperated. “The whole goddamned neighbourhood has heard you by now…” She stepped down off the milk crate and Daddy moved it back to its normal place by the clothes line pole.
“What in the hell did you think you were doing up there, anyway?” Daddy asked, his voice sounding very annoyed. “You can’t go snooping on the neighbours like that!”
Mommy lit up a cigarette and blew a smoke ring. “Eddie, you should hear the way she lights into those poor kids! Screaming at them like a banshee! And have you seen how skinny they are? I don’t think she ever feeds them!”
“Georgia, it’s none of your business. The kids look fine to me and everybody yells at their kids once in a while. Leave it alone!”
Mommy scowled but didn’t say anything more.
Connie McKenzie and her sister Nellie were big girls…at least sixth graders. They were very tall and very skinny...Nellie said they were going to be models when they grew up...and they got to stay home alone at night because their mother was a nurse and she worked nights like Daddy sometimes did. Nellie was the oldest, she was already big enough to wear a bra…you could see it under her school blouses…and Connie was just a year younger. “My little stair steps,” she had heard Mrs. McKenzie call them. Connie said Mr. McKenzie had died in the war, he was a tail gunner, whatever that was, and that she didn’t remember her father at all. How sad!
She liked Connie and Nellie. They always had some kind of delicious afternoon snacks that their mother made for them and they were always willing the share. And they were nice to her. And they recognized Brother for the annoying little pill that he was, too, which was also very nice. And they had a cute little dog that was more hair than dog, and Connie said Coco even was allowed up on the bed with her and her sister. Life in the McKenzie household seemed a lot more attractive than in her own.
“You stay away from those girls,” Mommy said to her one afternoon after she had been playing with Connie in the front yard. “And I don’t want you in that house, either. The place is unsanitary. It’s a sty.” She nodded her agreement…did she have any other choice?...but puzzled over Mommy’s indictment of the McKenzie household. She’d been there, it was clean enough, as far as she could tell. What was Mommy talking about?
But she stayed away and she didn’t tell Daddy that Mommy got up on the milk crate every evening he was at his second job and watched and listened to what was going on in the McKenzie household. She didn’t tell Daddy that when he was at work on Saturday, sometimes Mommy would actually jump over the fence and peek into the windows of the McKenzie house. And she didn’t tell the McKenzies, either…Mommy was so busy with the McKenzies, Mommy was leaving her alone!
Mommy’s friend, Betty Moran, lived across the road in a small bungalow with a huge, gnarled pepper tree in the front yard. Betty had three kids and a new boyfriend, so she didn’t get out of the house much, but she found time almost every evening to talk with Mommy on the phone. And these days, the talk was always about Mrs. McKenzie and how bad she treated her girls.
“She’s a nurse, you know,” Mommy told Betty one evening over the phone. “I heard she was a drug addict, that she steals stuff from the hospital. No, really! That must explain the bruises I saw on the inside of her arm when I went over to complain about the way she keeps her front lawn. It’s bad enough living next door to her and all her weeds…what an eyesore you have to see through your front window!”
Over the course of several weeks she learned, through Mommy’s conversations with Betty, that Mrs. McKenzie wasn’t really a widow, that her husband had left her for a “cheap chippie,” whatever that was, that Mrs. McKenzie had her water service cut off and the couldn’t flush the toilets so the house was a health hazard, and that she was a nurse so she should know better!, that the dog had had her puppies in the middle of Mrs. McKenzie’s bed and nobody had done anything about it, and that she was starving those poor girls. Having been in the house several times, she was astounded to learn all these things. Why hadn’t she seen any of that?
The final straw came one night when Mrs. McKenzie was yelling at one of her daughters. Mommy picked up the telephone and called the police, reporting Mrs. McKenzie for beating her children. It was a chaotic scene for the next couple of hours, the police parked in the street, Mrs. McKenzie arguing with the police officers, Connie and Nellie begging to not be taken away, and Mommy standing in the shadow of the big Japanese fatsia in the front yard, watching the whole drama unfold.
A week later she saw a “For Sale” sign in the front yard, and when she went to ask Connie why they were moving and where they were going, the girl slammed the door in her face. Surprised…and very hurt…she knocked again. What had she done that Connie was mad at her? This time Nellie answered the door.
“We aren’t supposed to play with you or even talk to you,” Nellie said, a rather sullen look on her face.
She didn’t understand. “Why? What did I do?”
“Our mother went to jail and she almost lost her job and Connie and me had to go to a foster home for a whole week,” Nellie said.
Her eyes were round with surprise and shock. “Why?” she breathed.
“Because of your mother,” Nellie replied. “Your mother has had it in for my mother ever since you moved in.”
She shook her head. “That’s not true!” she said hotly.
“Oh, yes it is,” Nellie said, her curls bobbing. “We just don’t know why. But your mother has been spying on us and snooping and looking in our windows and making up lies about us ever since you guys got here and now my mother is tired of it so we are moving.”
She looked down at the door stoop, shame flooding her. What Nellie said was true…she had seen Mommy snooping on them and heard her telling stories to Betty over the phone. And they were all lies, to make Mrs. McKenzie look bad. But why?
“I’m sorry, Nellie,” she said. “I’m sorry my mother has been bad and is making you move away.”
“It’s OK,” the other girl said, giving her a thin little smile. “It’s not your fault, you’re just a little kid.”
The walls in her house were paper thin and if she lay quietly and breathed softly, she could hear every sound in the living room as if she was actually in there. She could listen to the TV and imagine the pictures playing on the insides of her eyelids. Tonight she could hear Mommy on the telephone with Betty.
“She’s moving!” Mommy was crowing. “The old biddie is moving! Put her house up for sale and is taking those sacks of bones she calls kids and they are getting out of town. I heard she got fired from the hospital for being a drug addict and God only knows how she got those children back from the foster homes…slept with some judge, if you ask me.”
There was a pause while Betty said something, and then Mommy resumed. “Thank you,” Mommy said to her friend. “It feels good to rid the neighbourhood of such a bad influence, you know? With any luck the new people will be decent folks, the kind who will keep the yard kept up and the house maintained so they don’t bring down our property values like that old bitch did…”
Was that what it was all about? she wondered. Mrs. McKenzie had no husband to cut the grass and fix the house up, so it looked kind of shabby…was that what it was all about? Or was there more to it than that? She shuddered, despite the warmth of the evening, wondering what was going to happen now, with the McKenzies no longer there to monopolize her attention.
What was going to be Mommy’s next “project”?
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.