Love Too Much

Author’s Note: This was written Sunday night, but posted today…

Last night, nightmares tunneled up out of me from some doorless room within me, some unnamed place, some dirt cellar. Up they came, spiraling out of my throat in a tornado of a scream.

In the dreams, I am dropped into a bath of hands all over me. I am drowning in fingers. Yours. Your friend’s. You pieces of shit. You kidfuckers. I try to push you off…but you push me down into the chair and you hold me there as long as a broken promise…It’s just long enough for your friend to pull baling twine out from the blue bucket near the foot of your bed. Insurance and Bonds. Wrists and ankles tied to a wooden chair, hard as a pew. And then you fucking leave me with him. I call out and tearfully beg for you to come back, even though I know you are no knight. He unzips his jeans and advances on me. Somewhere, St. Germaine weeps. 

I woke up from the nightmare this morning, with my body in a slick sheen of sweat…my hair wild from trying to twist my head away from your dirtbag friend. My only coping mechanism on days like these is to escape like I couldn’t back then. I tell Mike I’m leaving & take off in the car. I buy an iced coffee and some cigarettes and drive off to some back country roads, roads that calm me when I drive them. I chain smoke, as I swoop like a barn swallow over the hills in my old rustbucket, banking curves and leaning fast into them…My sunglasses prematurely turn the endless rows of cornstalks amber. I tap embers and ashes off the end of my cigarette absentmindedly, as I pass farmhouses and fields under blue skies, God’s favor.

I keep replaying this one goofy song by Keane, that feels both timely and anthemic. My brain tumbling the lyrics around till they’re polished to shine:

Then we love too much
Or we push too hard
Or we fly too high
Or we go too far
For a moment I was all that you could see
For a moment I was all that I could be
Nothing can take that away from me
Nothing can take that away from me

As I drive aimlessly, I find a fishing spot and pull off to watch the water. The creek is angry, the rushing water a remembrance of the rainy, downtrodden past few weeks. I take a few pictures to catalogue my day.

   

After regulating myself, proving I can escape if I need to, I returned home. I am dismayed to see Mike has left his son with the kids. His son made he & his girlfriend some pizzas. My kids were not fed, besides a few saltines. It’s well past lunch. I feel a deeply sucking guilt that this is what was going on while I was out driving. When Mike returns home, I tell him we are taking the kids to this retro amusement park from the 50’s about 40 minutes away. Per usual, he has no interest in doing anything with our kids. He argues that it might thunderstorm around 5. I tell him that is still plenty of time to take them. I force the issue. I am trying to give the kids something. I am trying to make it up to them. Not just the lunch…their father, me. It’s like if the carousel can just spin fast enough, their father & I will blur together…a cohesive family unit. The kids, realizing Mike is outmanned & outmaneuvered if we all push, start badgering him with the annoying relentlessness of a smoker’s cough. Irritated & beleaguered, he finally gives in.

As we get about halfway to the amusement park, the sky shakes the rain loose from the clouds. Mike angrily flicks the wipers on and, even though he doesn’t say it, I can feel the I Told You So over on the passenger’s side of the car. Oh look what time it is, facepalm o’clock. Mike asks if we should turn around. I point at the clearing off in the distance, “Maybe it’s not so bad there—we’re already halfway, let’s just do it.” We get to the amusement park to find the grounds are underwater in parts, but it is open. The rain has also abated. For now.

Bridget has her heart set on riding the rollercoaster. My little lioness. All roar and fang.  I tell her that she might be too short to ride it…but she is determined. We head to the ticket booth. $1.50 per ticket & the rides take multiple tickets. Oof. Take a girl to dinner before you try to fuck her up the ass, but…ok. I have $25.00 on me…I buy 16 tickets. I feel a brief gut twist thinking about how that money could be put to better use. But…passé riff on the Mastercard commercial coming up: Tickets? $25….Gas for angry ex’s car? $15….Happy kids? Priceless…Then I realize that if Bridget rides the rollercoaster, she will have to have an adult with her and that means ½ the tickets will be gone. Mike & I finesse her over to the kiddie section with Jedi mind tricks and Svengalian skill.

The kiddie section is made up of tame circular-going rides that I rode as a child 30 years ago. Mike admits he rode some of them as a child, as well. Looking at the rides, I can almost picture my older sister and me in the boats together as children, trailing our hands in the water till the staff yelled. The rides are painted in retro bright colors that I imagine wouldn’t be anomalous for old Miami or Havana. The loud pumping organ music from the indoor carousel competes with the cheap electronic sounds from the arcade & the deep, rolling bass sound of the heavy wooden balls used to play the antique skee-ball games in Playland. For a minute I am lost in sentimentality…picturing my Great-Aunt Rosemary off to the side of the turtle ride in her polo shirt and Bermuda shorts, stubbing a Virginia Slim out on the bottom of her sandal. She used to take my older sister & I to the amusement park in the summer. I never thought much about it as a kid—but see now she probably realized we wouldn’t have gone otherwise, my parents couldn’t afford it. Other thoughts start to catch up to me, as I revisit my past. I shake my head to etch-a-sketch to a blank slate of the present.

I let Bridget & Rowan loose to pick their rides…As the staff hopscotch their way around puddles to let my kids on rides, they seem less than thrilled to be assisting us. There are droplets of rain starting to fall, but I fought with my ex and I paid $25—the kids are going on the rides. I. Am. Trying. To. Make. Fucking. Good. Memories. Goddammit.

The kids, for what it’s worth, were thrilled. Even when the sky completely dumped on us all, they shrieked and laughed in their canary colored Ferris wheel cage. Once they got off the Ferris wheel, they had used their tickets up anyway—so we grabbed their hands and headed for the parking lot. It’s at this point that Bridget loses her shit. She begins to cry, scream and dig her heels in because she wants to ride the rollercoaster. I try to be patient as she refuses to move. Our dresses are clinging to us. My makeup is running. My feet are soaked. I try to reason. I try to comfort. Nothing doing. She is pissed & determinedly so. Finally, with her little pointy cat-like chin angrily jutting out, she turns to me and says sarcastically, “Nice job, Mom. Thanks for picking a day it was raining to bring us to the amusement park.”

It is then that I also lose my ever-loving shit.

In between the Tilt-a-Whirl & the Scrambler, I start yelling at her, “You are so ungrateful. I did this for you. I wanted you to be happy. If this is the thanks I get, I am just not going to try anymore.” It is a narcissistic and ugly thing to yell at a child. I want to suck the words back into my mouth, even as I’m saying them. She’s crying. I’m close to tears…and, with my makeup running, I look like a member of Insane Clown Posse…or at least someone that attends the Gathering of the Juggalos. Mike is pissed at all of us. Rowan is puddlejumping…my oblivious, happy, little frog. On the car ride home, no one talks. Every time I look back at Bridget, she “hmphs” me and turns away. I am not sure if I am more angry or sad how the day ended. I try again to tell her that it is ok to feel sad & disappointed that we had to leave without riding the rollercoaster, but that she can still be grateful for what she did get to do. She thanks Mike for driving us in the bad weather… but says nothing to me…which hurts more than I want to admit.

In the silence of the car ride home, I think about how my day started out with memories of a childhood mostly bereft of anything actually resembling a childhood…and how I tried to turn that into an afternoon of doing better for my own children…but how I couldn’t even get that quite right. I hear those fucking Keane lyrics in my head again. “Then we love too much/Or we push too hard/Or we fly too high/Or we go too far…” Sigh. I know it is not Bridget’s job to see how much I struggle, but I am afraid that someday she won’t understand the amount of love I had for her, if she doesn’t understand how hard I have tried to make her happy…especially if she grows up to be the opposite.

Instead, maybe someday I will write her a story that starts out: The mother stood at the base of the Ferris wheel and watched the little girl that looked just like her when she was that age… only the girl looked much happier than her mother ever was. The other main difference between the two of them at that age being that the little girl’s mother was actually present & watching her, lovingly… As the yellow mesh cage ascended towards clouds pregnant with rain, the little girl shrieked with delighted laughter…And the little girl’s mother found herself contradictorily wishing that the ride would never end for the little girl, but also that her daughter was already wrapped safely in the warmth of her yearning arms. 

Nothing can take that away from me.

               

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August 20, 2019

Ugh, I’m sorry. This is hard because I’m not a parent. All I have is from observing others. To me, and I know this is easier said than done, but this happens with almost every parent, so try not to dwell too hard. Doesn’t make it better or okay, I guess, but I think it’s something everyone makes. I dunno. I hope you have patched things up with your daughter. I hope you’re doing okay. I worry about you.

I’m sorry if I said something. But I’m not a parent, so I don’t know what I’m talking about.

August 20, 2019

@heffay you do not need to worry about offending me ☺ you never do and your notes are always reassuring.

I have a lot of issues with confidence in regards to my parenting….I feel like I probably dwell and second guess myself a lot in that area. I’m not sure it’s even about current state of affairs, sometimes I think I torture myself out of guilt that their father is who he is.

Bridget had already moved on by the time I wrote that…I was the one holding on.

Why do you worry? I can’t go anywhere….bc my kids

I always see your entries when you’re struggling and hope for those spells of difficulty to be brief.

August 20, 2019

@thecriticsdarling I worry because I’m a worrier. People have literally told me to stop checking on them because I worry about them.

Here’s my thinking and you can tell me if I’m way off. I think you’re trying so hard to give your kids a different childhood than yours was. So I think you put a lot of extra pressure on yourself because you’re trying to be a perfect parent, in a way. I think that gives you more stress. That’s just my view.

August 20, 2019

@heffay I would mostly agree with your observation. You’re correct in saying I put pressure on myself because of my childhood, wanting them to have something better. I don’t believe there is such thing as a perfect parent, so I don’t think I’m trying to be that…but I do think that I’m afraid of leaving them behind when they’re young bc of my suicidal ideation and drinking issues….and I’m trying to leave them something good to remember me by, in case it happens. I know it’s irrational but I can’t shake it.

August 20, 2019

@thecriticsdarling I don’t think it’s irrational at all. I mean, I don’t have any kids. So for me, I worry about when my nieces and nephews are old enough to realize that I have some struggles. I fear going from favorite uncle to broken uncle in their minds. I know it’s not the same. I just don’t think it’s irrational. I think it’s very rational and a very loving move

August 20, 2019

*huge huge hugs*

I’m so sorry you had a night like that. I can relate and have tears in my eyes leaving this note. I just wish things were easier.

Try not to be hard on yourself about the Bridget situation every parent has been there. She will remember the good times Gavin still brings up things we did together when he was younger. Sometimes I wonder how he can remember them I thought he would be too young. I promise you are a wonderful mother and she loves you and will appreciate all you have done ❤😘

August 20, 2019

@dancingthrough thanks, Boo. It really helped yesterday when you reminded me that if she’s acting out like that, it’s because she feels safe enough with me to do so…so thanks.

I need to dial down the guilt and remember, as a mother, I’m not incarcerated by my past…

Huge, huge fuckballiest hugs back

August 23, 2019

These pictures are so cute! I’m sorry things turned out that way. You can’t beat yourself up for a child’s tantrum. You remember you described doing something similar at a store with your parents. It’s crazy how things affect us, but most parents really are trying their best. The yelling at them is also soooo very human. No, it’s not something you should just do, but it’s just something that is gonna happen from time to time, because again, you’re human. Kudos to you for trying to give them a good time, no matter how things turned out in the end. They clearly had fun.

My niece tends to get pouty randomly. She’s an amazing lil gal until she doesn’t get what she wants, then she loses it. I realized the most effective thing is to completely ignore her until I find the way back in, but anything else I’d try, like trying to calm her down, or getting mad, or trying to make her laugh… It all turned to shit. The ignoring worked every time. My sister, on the other hand, is an amazing mother, and yet yells at her kids when she just can’t handle it. It’s easier to be the aunt who sees them sometimes, in that sense, you know what I mean?

August 25, 2019

If this had been a wordless, pictures-only entry, I would’ve thought, “With the exception of the little boy seeming to have received a foreboding fortune from Zoltar, it looks like the fam had a perfectly splendid time at the amusement park or carnival.” But that’s just it. Almost every time I get on Facebook, I’m likely to see similar such photos of my friends/acquaintances enjoying quality time with their kids — with nary a hint of there being any “behind the scenes” family dysfunction or other drama. With only brief, cheerful captions provided, they always present the image of a picture-perfect family. Yet I absolutely KNOW that, more often than not, the photos do not capture the temper tantrums/hissy fits, ungrateful sentiments/back sass, and resulting parental reprisals that more than likely accompanied those “perfect” outings. Thus I commend your brave honesty in candidly revealing how, despite the best of intentions, a family fun day can leave a parent feeling utterly defeated. But of course that is also to emphasize that almost every parent sometimes feels as though they just can’t win when trying to provide their kids with an ideal childhood.

I could almost hear the organ of the carousel as I read this vivid entry. The retro amusement park description did, however, seem just a little too similar to what I’ve seen in some scary movies. I would be hesitant to enter a fun house/house of mirrors at such a place (especially not if there were any creepy clowns lurking about!).