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Remember when you were a kid and every day you were off to explore a new adventure?
Now, as adults we can go back and re-explore old things to see the new that is part of them.
I was the middle of five girls. As I was approaching my seventh birthday the only boy in our family was born. And died within a month.
My memories of Johnny are limited – both due to my age and changes that followed in our family.
One of our mother’s ways to deal with the pain of her loss was to add alcohol to her daily life. The form changed over the years. I remember a lot of martinis as I was growing up. Later she shifted to vodka with a splash of grapefruit juice. And even later to wine. My reality remained constant.
An outcome for me was to learn the basic rules of survival as a child of an alcoholic.
- Don’t talk.
- Don’t trust.
- Don’t feel.
For me, the easiest way to handle all of this was to add my own rule:
- Don’t remember.
It’s just been in recent years that I have allowed myself to open the portal to my memories. If you can’t remember anything you can’t talk about it.
I became focused on the facts of what took place [and only remembered some of those]. The feelings associated with them were buried deep.
Sisters get to know each other as people
In recent years my sisters have gotten to know each other as people. It has been amazing the things we have learned.
My two older sisters moved into our newly completed house as youngsters. For the rest of us, this was the house we were brought home to. And our parents lived there long after we all had moved into other parts of our lives.
Yet we describe home lives that were so different for each of us as children and young women.
My older sisters had the young mother who baked and gardened and sewed dresses and costumes for them.
I had the early alcoholic mother who was either gone or asleep on the couch when I got home from school.
My younger sisters report feeling more and more abandoned as the older sisters moved out.
For the longest time I shut down memories of home and had a distorted sense of my sisters’ lives. Mom shared what was happening in long letters with duplicates made with carbon paper. (You could tell how long it had been since you wrote by how clear your copy was.) We each recognized that what she was sharing about our life was far from what we remembered telling her. Yet, for some reason I tended to believe everything she told me about the others.
Now, with email groups and basically free long distance calls, we share directly with each other and there are fewer miscommunications.
We can, and do, reach out to each other and ask for explanations of things that don’t make sense.
We have explored different times in our lives, such as planning for our weddings and the birth of our first child and, as Paul Harvey used to say, learned “the rest of the story.”
Past and future explorations
Exploring can mean a trip to a new land for new experiences.
It can also mean going back in our minds and hearts to past experiences to discover things and feelings that eluded us the first time around.
I’d love it if you were to share areas you enjoy exploring in the comments below.
This article was written by Mary Lou Stark.
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