One of the greatest yet most disturbing things I learned growing up was to keep quiet, to not say anything that might upset dad. The funny thing is, nobody taught me that, it was kind of like a fear response. I must say, my sister and I had to grow up and learn pretty quick that the more you were resistant or talking back, the more beatings you would get. When I think back to what my childhood was like, I feel nostalgic- part of me misses some of the freedom we had like playing outside and riding our bikes, going to grandma’s house once in a while, snuggling my mom, the way she touched my face with her hand always comforted me. I always felt a sense of peace with my mom, this overwhelming feeling of calm and safety always came over me when my mom would hug me and pet my head and my face. You can feel the love in her eyes and the pain at the same time. She probably felt helpless, not being able to save her babies and herself. We weren’t wealthy growing up, by far. Mom always had a job, always. In Bulgaria, she worked as a teacher for many years. I remember her taking us on the bus with her to work to drop us off at daycare. I always felt like I would never see her again and I was so scared to leave her and be at daycare with a bunch of other kids and a teacher I didn’t know. I remember always needing my mom and wanting to be with her all the time.
I don’t ever remember feeling like I wanted or needed my dad. I felt afraid of him all the time, afraid I would upset him or that I wasn’t doing what was expected of me. I remember him just being mean all the time, yelling at us and calling us names. He made us feel so small, so irrelevant and like we were disappointments because we didn’t behave the way he wanted us to. Every vacation we ever took, I only remember the good times with my mom and sister.
I remember my mom taking us to get clothes, food, bathing us, ironing our clothes, doing chores and cooking for us. Mom made the BEST birthday cakes ever. She was amazing! She would make these birthday cakes from scratch and would make all kinds of animals and flowers on top of the cake that were edible. I have yet to taste something that delicious. She made our birthdays so special, always. The love and respect I feel for her even today is immeasurable. She was and always will be my rock. Let’s be real, she has always been the rock of the household. Sometimes people tell me “you are so strong Des, you did so much by yourself…” maybe I get my strength from my mom. One thing I will always remember is my mom telling me “Don’t you ever rely on a man to take care of you financially, ever! Go get your education and make sure you have your own money and your own savings.” Man, was she ever right!
My 5th birthday was epic. I loved the blue car toy my mom and dad gave me. It had a string and I can pull it around with me all day. I loved blue. Blue was my favourite colour and I always thought I would have a blue Porsche when I grow up. I loved cars and soccer and I wished I was a boy. My dad would joke with me and say “If you run under the rainbow you will become a boy, hurry run under the rainbow” as he would be holding the hose watering the plants in the sun. I would run under the rainbow and look in my underwear, disappointed that I am still a girl. I guess that was the extent of the funny memories I had with my dad. You know, the discipline he portrayed with us wasn’t always so brutal, at times he was kind and loving, he would hug me when I am scared and let me sleep in and miss school. I always struggled to understand why he is this way, why is he happy and loving one minute and a complete monster the next. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was just the way he was raised, or maybe it was just the way his brain was wired and how he viewed the world. He always wanted to be in control of everyone. We were always wrong and he was always right and if we didn’t do as he said, we would get hit.
Needless to say, I learned to be quiet at a young age. I learned to keep my feelings to myself and not express them too much to my dad or he would get upset. At the same time, I learned this need to be perfect, to have his approval and for him to just love me. Keeping quiet was essential. If you didn’t talk too much, there was nothing you would say that would upset him. I am sure my sister felt the same. I would never ever tell on her because I knew what it was like to get punished. It was such a messed up space that there was no one you can really tell how you feel or what your fears were. I would just cry and hug my mom if I was scared. I can see mom felt bad too when we would get punished and if she ever said anything, she would get punished too. It was such a disrespectful way to treat your kids and your wife. I look at our life back then and I can’t believe we ever lived with someone like my father for as long as we did. One thing this life experience taught me, is that I will never allow any man to treat me the way our dad did, but that wasn’t always the case…
Now that I am 40 and have had a decent amount of therapy, I recognize how much the events in my childhood have influenced all of the decisions I have ever made in my life. One thing is for sure, the scars remained with me for a very long time. It has opened up my eyes to the type of human I’ve been in all of my past and present relationships. I think it is so important to learn and grow from all of your life’s experiences. The events in my childhood have made me the woman I am today- compassionate, loving, flawed but growing, passionate, needy at times, perfectly imperfect and striving to be better.
Until next time, stay safe and enjoy life in the moment.