My mother passed away when I was 10 and it all went downhill from there. I often wonder what she might think of me if this whole thing turned out to be a hoax and she is still alive, meeting me in my doorway after 20 years to ask how I’m doing. All things considered, how would she react when hearing what I’m up to these days?
I would describe my teenage years loosely as “a shitstorm”. 2 boarding schools, 4 schools, dozens of teachers, over 100 classmates all came and went. I went from one loveless place to another and while there was always my own home, I strongly felt like the people there had given up on me and sent me away into someone else’s care as an act of desperation.
It doesn’t need much illustration to explain how this would shape a growing person. Even 2 decades later, I am still a cynical bastard who feels more at ease when the world is on fire, than at a breakfast table with a family. I readily blame my youth for many of my issues while at the same time, trying to outgrow the habits I picked up there- such as blaming circumstances for my failures.
It is both convenient and logical. It explains my temper, my moods, my way of communicating. Probably not how I never managed to bring up the will to grow up after that, but luckily I’ve got other events to point the finger at.
What I do often forget to mention though, are the first 10 years of my life. Mostly because I don’t remember them, they are easy to forget when trying to piece together the origins of my character traits. But they definitely happened, and despite things that left their mark, it was a happy time.
I can safely assume that I was loved as a baby, and felt it. I don’t remember a second of it but it’s a fact that the foundation of my character was forged then and there. Whatever happened then, shaped my core and echoes in the things I did from then on.
We had a family: My parents, my sister and I. My mother was often unhappy but I was too naive to see it, and she managed to hide it well. Me, I was an oblivious, happy child. And again, day after day, I was put together.
How I wish I remember those times. Truth is, I don’t think I would immediately recognize my own mother if I met her, even if she’d look the way she did then. I remember some things she said but those snippets are distorted by emotion and poor memory- there’s a reasonable chance I made them up altogether. There is precious little left from that era in my conscious mind.
But it did happen, and when things went tits-up, that’s who I was. My starting position in the race.
I got into contact with violence, drugs, and exclusion. What constituted as “fun” these days involved breaking things. I smashed the school’s holy relic, stole large amounts of money raised by the kids, and utterly trashed a kindergarten classroom and holy shit did it feel good. I was made of anger.
When I left, age 18, I was told that I was useless because I didn’t have a degree, and should consider myself lucky if I could make it to standard factory worker. Not only was car assembly the job I would be doing for the rest of my life, I was expected to be grateful for it.
I joined the army. Learned how to shoot people with a bullet designed to kill slowly- so that the victim’s wailing would demotivate his countrymen.
Shortly after, my girlfriend dropped me like a bad habit and I sank into depression. I clawed out of there by the skin of my teeth.
And here I am. Free of drugs, of alcohol, of any criminal record. Working, paying rent, buying a car. A father, working on the first 10 years of my son’s life.
It’s painfully obvious what went wrong, but the real question is, what went right?
I always assumed it was my own strength that pulled me through. There was some core inside of me that no one, not even me, managed to stop from going the direction it was going. Some inert bullet that carried me through the storm, to emerge on the other side, scarred but very much alive. Without guidance or emotional support, I managed to find my way.
I had never even considered it, until my friend pointed it out to me: It just might be that this core has some origins of its own. She explained that with her, she strongly felt like her mother’s love had pulled her through very difficult times. That she felt like she had something inside her, pulling her through. Her words rang a few bells.
So yeah, that got me thinking. Those 10 years kind of went missing behind a blind spot in my memory, but at the same time I’m trying to form a bond with my 6 months old son in hopes of laying the foundation for our relationship in the future, wondering if he recognizes me already and something sticks in his little head. It raises the question, did something stick in my little head, then?
I’ll assume that it did. That the thing that pushed me forward, was in fact, my mother’s care. And the things that I am teaching my son today, consequently seeing him every month, are her legacy, the book that I quote from without realizing.
And I think she would be proud, knowing that through all the layers of mud, her love shines through. Even if she arguably failed to raise me, she gets a second chance today, through me, to raise this boy in a warm, safe environment from where he can tackle the world.
It’s got a poetic flavor to it, and perfectly illustrates the perceived magnitude of the things that happen regarding my little boy.
I think I’ll roll with it.