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Tight Shell

“Goodbye Mommy.”

I waved as my dad’s small red car I had grown to know pulled away from my temporary home. I didn’t bother to pay much attention to the features of the house as the distance between the car and the house grew, because it meant nothing to me. I had simply learned to deal with it on the weeks my younger brother and I visited my mom. I didn’t know it at the time, but going to Daddy’s was a blessing. Things were starting to look better for him; he came home every day with a more positive attitude and, thanks to the newest member of the house, Andrea, my soon-to-be step-mother, the place stayed clean and gave off positive vibes suitable for learning and functioning as a family.


Before Andrea entered our lives, taking a trip to Mom’s or Dad’s house wasn’t always the best. Although they were both loving and devoted to taking care of my brother, Landon, and I, they, just like any other human being, had their flaws. Going to Mom’s meant spending days cleaning and wondering what mood she would take on. She was dangerous and unpredictable, either extremely happy or angry at anything I did, big or small. The latter, unfortunately, was what I dealt with most of the time. Going to Dad’s was always fun. Daddy would usually come home from work and not talk much, the common case of exhausted plainly scrolled across his face. Despite this minor flaw, he didn’t really care if I wanted to make a little more noise or go outside and explore; as long as I was safe. After a long week at Dad’s, I was always a little hungry, since he often failed to make regular trips to the grocery store, and when he did he only came back with crinkly Safeway bags of TV dinners and packages of bologna that always seemed to be the last thing in the refrigerator. In spite of this, I always looked past his inconsistent grocery trips and knew that his love for us was unconditional.


From the moment I was introduced to Andrea, things began to change on both parent’s accounts. While I noticed Dad’s attitude improve as he became less focused on work and more focused on himself and his kids, Mom was the opposite. She spent more time angry at my father, taking most of this anger out on what she had available to do so: me. She used the most powerful weapon she could. This weapon never inflicted noticeable scars or bruises along my skin, but it dug into the depths of my body, touching my heart in ways that weren’t so pleasurable. Mom’s weapon, in fact, wasn’t even made to be a weapon at all, but the influence of boyfriends and drugs shaped this essentially harmless gift into something negative. It was word after word, sentence after sentence that struck me down and drained my confidence. I drifted further away from my mom, and as I got more comfortable with Andrea, I thought it would be a good idea to start calling her “mom” as well. My mom didn’t think that was such a grand idea and immediately ordered me to pack up my stuff and wait outside for my dad to get off work. Fear of losing my mother was always tucked away somewhere inside of my mind, and the emotions that would follow if this did happen were always a fear of mine in itself. I thought I had blown it, caused my own mother to want to get rid of me. Although after a few hours she let me come back inside, the event scared me enough to break my newborn habit. I haven’t called Andrea “mom” since.


This dark attitude continued to overpower my mom’s once bright self. Now, instead of yelling at me all of the time, she would lock herself in her room and pay no attention to me at all. I was young but I was mature for my age; my brother too young to notice what was happening. I found myself making his meals and doing his laundry when Mom wouldn’t, which seemed to me like all of the time.


The more time that passed, the worse things got. The apartment we lived in took on a permanent fragrance of smoke and other drugs as well as spilled alcohol that never got cleaned up. We eventually moved into another house but since she lost her job, we ended up moving into her boyfriend’s mom’s house. My brother and I were practically banished from that house. It didn’t matter that we were living in someone else’s home, the way of life that my mom had adopted had transformed her completely, and this was brought with her. I was often left responsible for young Landon, who was only four. I took him with me to the library during the day, the closest place that I knew. If we got hungry, we would walk back home, but normally wouldn’t be allowed in, so I would have to find money and buy something for us to share at Burger King, another familiar place nearby.


This became our way of life while at Mom’s house, but things at Dad’s were looking even brighter. My dad and Andrea bought their first house for us and my step-sister, Maren, to live in. Our dog, Jasmine soon joined. They were also engaged and would be getting married in 2009. A year of joy this was to be. This was also going to be the year my biggest nightmare came to life.


At the time, I had no clue. I had said my goodbyes and my dad pulled away. I went about my life at my dad’s house, which I enjoyed very much. The house we lived in was bigger than any house I had lived in before and I didn’t have to clean too much. I could be somewhat of a kid in Daddy’s home, and for once it felt like my home too. A home that I could live in forever and never get tired of. We already had family photos lining the walls and I got a chalkboard in my room since I always wanted to be a teacher. I had become a crab, hiding away inside of what looked like a happy self, but keeping inside what was really hurting me. After all, I could never tell my dad what happened at Mom’s house. This new place was a new layer of my shell, protecting me from my problems, holding everything that could comfort me. This layer was the only layer that positively affected me.
“Your mom went to jail,” my dad explained to me although I never could really understand. These five words would shape my life forever. “She will probably be there for a long time.”


A long time was right. After running away from the police and committing countless crimes, she was arrested around November 2011. That goodbye was my last goodbye, those words the last words I remember saying to her, all the other conversations blurred together and becoming forgotten. The mom that I grew up with and loved no matter what had abandoned me. This, I will never understand, and neither will the people in my life. “She made bad decisions that led to other bad decisions,” some say, but, in my opinion, she could have gotten help. She chose not to. She chose a life of pain and regret for her and for those who loved her. In that moment, I couldn’t bear the fear and confusion boiling inside me, poisoning my memories that were acquired when I was a young girl, leaving me lonely.


Living with her left both Landon and I with a gap of misguidance that to this day takes a toll on the both of us, but through it all, I feel that I have grown more mature and responsible. I have learned to judge people based on their actions and to trust my instincts. If somebody makes bad decisions, it is best to distance yourself from them until they choose to get help. There is only so much one can do for another person and there is no way to force someone to change. The past is the past, but if they continue to behave the same way and make poor decisions, they may get sucked into an inescapable vicious cycle caused by their own personal struggle, whether that be addiction or depression, or whether it’s deeper than that. My mom became one of many victims of this tragic reality.


Day after day, month after month, year after year I deal with the scars inside of me. It is hard for me to accept the fact that my mother is a sick person, a person I can’t become. Now, instead of the fear of losing her, I deal with the fear of becoming her. I look down on myself, my own punishment for an unexplainable occurrence. Maybe one day I will come to peace, tell myself what everyone else tells me: it’s not my fault. And maybe it isn’t. Until I find my own way in life, I must stay inside of my shell, even if it’s getting too small for me, and endure the challenges I will have to face in the years to come. Eventually, the shell will fall off, and the pain will go away, and this fact keeps me going. Despite what does happen, I know I will always have my family and friends and I will never have to face these challenges alone.




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