Mr. Sensitive

July 23, 2010

Operation Immortal Coil Underway

Going through the contents of my office I found this box:

The writing on the upper left corner of the box is my mother’s and reads “EURE $ HOLDERS CHRISTMAS.”  It’s an entire box of unopened plastic puzzle/maze contraptions designed to torture people to whom you are giving cash as a present.  This box was stashed under the desk in the office, and I guess she left it here when she moved out last fall.  We all hated these things.  For several years at Christmas she would put some cash in one of them–a new one every year–for each of her kids (and Katie) and then watch us spend ten minutes trying to move a stupid ball bearing around a maze to trigger the release mechanism.  This is one of those things that was maddening at the time but is really pretty funny when I think about it now.  I clearly remember one particular Christmas when I thought Charlotte was going to kill Mom over one of these stupid plastic money traps that none of us could figure out how to open.  Charlotte was one who always tried to smooth things over with Mom even if she needed a power sander to do it.  Not this time, though.  After all the crap that Charlotte put up with from Mom for years and years, the money trap was the one affront she couldn’t accept.  Every year we would all complain about how much we hated these things and the next year Mom would use them again.  I didn’t understand why she would insist on flagrantly pissing everyone off (except Katie), but I think I get it now.  She never got any of us to debase ourselves on a large scale for money in the way that her own mother managed to do with her children, and I think the experience of watching us struggle with these things once a year for a few bills must have been a tiny but satisfying release for her.  Her parenting impulses and instincts were all wrong, and I don’t begrudge her giving herself over to that on a small scale.  It’s the large scale indulgence I resented, but it’s all over now one way or the other.

When I found this box–an entire box full of torture devices–I smiled.  My mother hadn’t made me smile in a long time, except perhaps ruefully.  But now I think I’ve come to the point where I can focus on remembering the good things about her rather than perfecting a defense against the bad.  I couldn’t do that when she was here because it made me vulnerable to attack.  Mom sensed weakness, as her mother taught her to, and it brought out the worst in her.  As I think back on it, the things she did to me that I never forgave or forgot all took place when I had a moment of weakness and I made the mistake of looking to her for emotional support.  I don’t know what she thought she was doing, or if she thought about it all, but when she saw a weak point in my armor she stabbed when she should have shielded.  She did that viciously, aggressively, and repeatedly, and I never forgave any of it.  But this box is different.  This box leads me to think that I might be able to forgive her now, because I don’t need to keep the pain in focus.  To lose focus would have been stupid in the extreme while she could still do more harm.  I couldn’t stop her from wanting to hurt her children like that, to hurt me like that, but through emotional vigilance and control of conditions I could take away her ability to do so.  I did that for years and I would have done it forever if I had to.  But I don’t have to anymore.  Now I can smile at that stupid box of money traps, because it is pretty funny, and it can’t hurt me.  It’s out of Mom’s hands now, all of it, and it’s safe for those of us who remember her to decide how we want to remember her.  We get to decide, out of all of it, what lives on.  It’s already started.



  1. This post makes me happy.

    Comment by Katie — July 23, 2010 @ 13:06 | Reply

    • Then I’ve finally accomplished something.

      Comment by lbej — July 23, 2010 @ 15:31 | Reply

  2. Right on.

    Comment by Charlotte — July 23, 2010 @ 21:54 | Reply

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