“Oh, no you don’t, Miss Priss,” Mother’s voice stopped her as she was half-way into the passenger seat of the car. “You get your smart ass in the back seat with the dog, where you belong.”
She was beginning to think she was crazy. She had no idea why she was being dragged to the juvenile court…she hadn’t been arrested…she hadn’t gotten in any kind of trouble at school…her grades were good…she didn’t talk back to Mother or defy her rules. What on earth was going on?
“You incorrigible little bitch,” Mother snapped from the driver’s seat. She could see the garish red-lipsticked mouth in the rear-view mirror…almost as if it was dripping blood. “I don’t know what you think you are up to, conspiring with your father against me, but let me tell you, you won’t get away with it! Not this time, not ever!”
“Daddy?” she said. “What does Daddy have to do with this?”
“As if you didn’t know,” Mother sneered, twisting around in the seat to face the back. “You and your precious father…you two think you’re so goddamned smart, but you’re not. He thinks he can run me broke by dragging me back to court for custody but it’s not going to happen because before this day is out, you’ll be out of his reach.”
She must have looked puzzled, because Mother laughed. “I have outsmarted you both, this time! There won’t be any more lawyers and court visits and trouble because you are going up the river, my girl. Up the river!”
“I don’t know what you mean,” she replied, keeping a tight rein on her fear.
“You know, this is all your own fault, don’t you?” Mother said, almost conversationally. “This whole thing centers on you…but then you always did like to be the center of attention, didn’t you?”
She shook her head slightly. Actually, she preferred to be as close to invisible as possible, at least around Mother. It was safer that way.
“Well, you’re going to get your wish, little girl! You are going to be the real main attraction here! This whole hearing centers around you, and when it’s over, your father will have to pay the court fees, my lawyer’s bill, and a whopping monthly maintenance bill.” Mother paused to wipe a tear of laughter from one eye.
“Yessiree! Your father and his pasty-faced little paramour are going to rue the day they crossed me! And you are too!”
She shook her head again, wiping the beads of sweat off her upper lip. It was hot in the backseat, with the windows rolled up tightly. “I don’t understand.”
“Well then let me spell it out for you, Miss Genius,” Mother laughed scornfully. “Your precious father is taking me to court again for custody. But before that hearing, you have a hearing in chambers…I’m having you declared an incorrigible child, the judge is going to send you to reform school, and when your father gets to his custody hearing, all he’ll get from the court is a bill!” Mother’s laugh was triumphantly self-congratulatory.
She paled, sitting immobile in the back of the car. Reform school? Wasn’t that where girls who rob and steal and stab each other get sent? She wracked her brain for even a single transgression sufficient to warrant such a sentence. “What did I do?” she wailed, suddenly overwhelmed with panic.
“Incorrigible child,” her mother said smugly. “The law says I can have you committed as an incorrigible child and that is exactly what I am going to do!”
She wept. “If you don’t want me, why can’t I just go live with Daddy? Why do you have to do this?”
“Because he wants you,” Mother said through thinned, tight lips. “Because he wants you and I will be Goddamned if I will give that man anything he wants!”
“Why?” she said through her tears. “Why?”
Mother lit a cigarette and blew the smoke into the closed interior of the car. “This is all your fault, you know,” Mother said, resuming her conversational tone of earlier. “If you hadn’t been born, none of this would be happening, my life would be different…better. But no, you had to come along and ruin everything!”
Mother blew a couple of smoke rings before continuing. “You know, I had it all figured out. Your grandfather, that rigid, old-fashioned old fart, wouldn’t let me go out or do anything. Oh, Pete and Gary could come and go as they pleased…they were boys, and even though Pete was two years younger than me, Grandpa let him do whatever he wanted while I had to ask permission to do just about anything other than take a pee.”
Sounds familiar, she thought to herself, but held her silence rather than break the spell of Mother’s memories.
“And then one night I was at a high school football game and there was this cute sailor in the stands, home from the war. And I flirted with him and when the game was over we went off on his motorcycle for some ice cream and he took me home.”
Mother took another deep drag off her cigarette, rolled the window down an inch and blew the smoke out the window, then cranked it up tight again.
“I had to sneak out after everyone had gone to bed to see him, Grandpa wouldn’t let me go out with him because he was Hill People…you know, poor dirt farmers who lived in houses with no plumbing or electricity. But I knew he was my ticket to freedom.
“So one night, just after school was out for the summer we sneaked away and got married. He was 21 and I was almost 17. His leave from the Navy was almost up and he was going to be shipped out to China…the Navy was going to send me money every month as his wife for living expenses…and as a married woman I wouldn’t have to answer to Grandpa anymore. I could take that money, move out of the Godforsaken little gossip-ridden hick town, and live my own life, no father…and no husband, either…to tell me what I could or could not do.”
Mother stopped talking and looked out the window, a faraway look in her eyes. “At least that was the plan,” she said softly.
“But things didn’t work out that way,” Mother resumed, her voice tinged with bitterness. “Gramma Janssen wrote to the War Department and told them that he was their only son and they needed him to help out on the farm and the War Department discharged him. There went my freedom…he wasn’t going to go to China and there wasn’t going to be a monthly check from the Navy and before my father could put together an annulment…” Mother turned her hard, embittered face to the backseat, “…guess what happened?”
She shook her head slowly, afraid to hazard a guess.
“I found out I was pregnant. With you. And then it was all over for me.” Mother opened the car window again and flicked out the burning butt. “I swelled up like a poisoned pup. I got stretch marks all over my belly, my boobs, I got so fat I would barely waddle. Then, when I went into labour, you wouldn’t come out. I was in labour for 36 goddamned hours before they finally decided to do a caesarean section…your head was pointed from being crammed against my pelvic bones for so long! And then I almost died. I had to have a live transfusion from Grandpa because that tiny little shit-assed town didn’t have a decent blood bank. I got milk fever. You lost weight because I didn’t have any milk and those blockheaded nurses wouldn’t give you formula.
“And once I got you home, all you did was cry. All day, all night, you cried. Then you got the goddamned eczema and had raw, open sores all over you and I had to keep your diapers and your bedding and your clothes sterilized…but we were living in that drafty old shack next to Gramma Janssen’s house with no electricity or running water. And I couldn’t drive, so I was stuck out there living like a goddamned heathen, only ten miles from town, but I might as well have been in the goddamned middle of nowhere! So there I was, stuck out in the sticks with a screaming baby…it wasn’t at all what I expected, you know. You can’t put a baby back in the closet and close the door when you are tired of playing with it. I was stuck in that horrible little shack with Gramma Janssen always looking over my shoulder and telling me what to do and no way out!”
Mother paused for emphasis, fixing her with an unmistakable glare of enmity. “And all because of you. If you hadn’t come along, I’d have had that annulment and found another way to get away from Grandpa. But you ruined it all.”
“But…” she hesitated.
“What?” Mother snapped.
“But what about Brother? If you hated it so much, why did you have another baby?”
Mother shrugged and lit another cigarette. “When your life is already ruined with one screaming, demanding brat, what the hell difference does two make?”
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.