Thursday, December 28, 2006

Another Shot At It

As I mentioned the other day, my family passed around a box of questions, like conversation starters. One of my questions was "what would you change about your childhood if you could?" My mother was in the room, and although it may not have been the case, a I felt as though she were glaring.

I am the youngest of four sisters, quite a bit younger than some in fact. Because of our age difference, we all have different perspectives on certain aspects of our upbringing. For example, my oldest sister remembers living in Alabama and "living hand to mouth," as my mother would say. My father hunted squirrel to put meat on the table, and my sisters picked cotton for so many cents a bushel. I was born into that (and I will post pictures from that time later--yee ha), but I was two years old when we moved to Indiana and to relative prosperity. I was shocked when my grandfather skinned a squirrel in front of me and expected me to deliver it to the kitchen. In my life experience, squirrels were for running the tight rope of power lines, not for eating.

Anyway, despite the varied experiences of my sisters and me, in adulthood, we share some of the same observations about the way we were raised--coldly. There was no affection in our home except between us. There was no hugging or affectionate touching, although there was an occasional fly swatter to the back side and an occasional open-handed whack to the face when my mother determined it was warranted. This week, we were "reminiscing" about the time my mother caught my sister giving me a swirly, so my mother punished her by sticking her head in the toilet. We laugh about it now, but it served no purpose at the time other than to traumatize us all. You would like to think your mother wouldn't do that to you.

So, the other day when we were all sitting kindly around the Christmas tree, and I was given the question--what would I change about my childhood if I could--there wasn't much I could say. While my sisters waited for me to respond, all I wanted to say was that I wish my childhood had been affectionate. I wish I would have felt loved and wanted and liked. Instead, I said that despite our unified complaining, all of the aspects of our childhood serve to make us who we are as adults, and I kind of like myself as an adult. So, I don't know what I would change. While my statement was true, I do wish I had been treated with affection, and I do wish I would have heard the words "I love you" just once.

I also wonder how my life would have been different had I had brothers. Would you change anything about your childhood if you could?

13 comments:

dive said...

Heavy stuff, Robyn. Though, as you say, you have turned out rather well.
A shining example of triumph over adversity.
It makes me feel guilty that my parents were so wonderful, especially as I turned out such a cynical old curmudgeon. Perhaps there's a lesson there.
As for what I'd change? The dreaded outside privy of course; the spider-filled heart of darkness that traumatised my early years. Brr …

And spooky that we've both posted about squirrel skinning.

Robyn said...

It is a little heavy, I guess, but it doesn't have to be. There are people who have survived unspeakable abuses, and I am not one of those. But struggles that seem relative to an observer aren't so relative to the person struggling? Know what I mean?

Gina said...

Hmmm, I'm going to wish that somehow the dynamic with my mother had been different. I was always a Daddy's girl, and in some ways, I think she resented that. I believe she still does to this day.

molly said...

Robyn, what's a swirly?
I would have liked to have been home-schooled throughout my junior high and high school years so that I could have avoided the damage that teenagers do to one another.

Sassy Sundry said...

Ouch. I'm with Dive, it sounds to me as though you have worked on not raising your children that way. I wish that hadn't happened to you.

As for me, I'd change my parents turn to religious fundamentalism and would have kept me in public school instead of the twisted Christian school I went to from fourth grade on. That was my big trauma.

Robyn said...

Gina: there is bound to be some amount of jealousy if a kid takes to one parent more than another, but it's almost inevitable, I think. I was probably more comfortable around my father because he demanded less, but we still weren't close.

Molly: A swirly is when you hold someone's head in the toilet and flush.

Sassy: that would have helped to mold you into a completely different person, I bet. Are your parents concerned that you haven't stuck with their religious fundamentalism?

Sassy Sundry said...

Oh, yeah. They've mellowed out a bit since the early 80s, but it is a bone of contention with us.

sister # one said...

Robyn, I thought you handled that question extremely well, and was so glad I didn't get it. We were all holding our breath for you - we were really proud of how you handled it too.

Robyn said...

Yeah, a sister commented! I wondered what you all thought of my answer. I sensed a sigh of relief.

Old Knudsen said...

A Swirly, you yanks are strange.

Robyn said...

Old Knudson, is a swirly strictly an American form of sibling torture? I was sure it was universal.

molly said...

A swirly -- good heavens, Robyn. I would never have considered giving my little brother a swirly, knowing that one day he'd be bigger than me and reciprocate. Plus, I think my mom would have swirlied me -- just like your mom did your sister -- if she found out about it. There are lines one does not cross.

Babsbitchin said...

This is your life, it made you who you are, right? I too wish there was affection in my home growing up. Instead it often seemed that my Mother took out the frustration of her world on me. It took me years to get over it and become who I am and to not still feel like her daughter but a woman in my own right. We are close now but only because I rose above it. It's not easy, is it?
Good post and Happy New Year!