TRIGGER WARNING: childhood abuse
The holidays are coming and I can’t speak for all people who have an abusive past but I can tell you what holidays are like for me.
Up until my mother met my step-father I loved holidays. We would go hang out with family and I’d play with my cousins. I remember it being a fun time. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong or wanting to remember it that way but as far as I know I do remember it being festive and fun. I remember presents (depending on what holiday we are talking about), I remember bowls of nuts and a nutcracker, I remember lots of food and olives…my cousin and I used to eat all of the olives. It was a thing. It was like a competition. We danced around and acted silly and ate candy.
Once she married him holidays became bleak. We saw my family less and less. And when we did I felt like I was outside of it all. Like I knew some big secret (and for a while I suppose I did) and that I couldn’t really tell them. There was a part of me that wanted to ask them for help but I was afraid for myself and for my mother. Then it became where we only went to his mother’s house for holidays. It was always his mother’s house. She was weird. His whole family was weird. They were paranoid, Byzantine Catholic and all about being Slovak. You could almost see where his bizarre personality came from. His mother was always cold and unfriendly and I remember some times on holidays I’d be expected to stay there overnight and his other children would be there too (you know, the one he molested when she was 2? and the other two, who as far as I know he never touched.) His mother was very religious. Religious imagery all over the house. Dead Jesus’ and Last Suppers. She forced us to kneel by our beds to pray each night. I wasn’t raised Catholic so I didn’t know these prayers, The Lord’s Prayer or Hail Mary’s or whatever. So she’s pinch me or shove me and tell me to say them. He did that too..in church. He pinched me for not blessing myself. (The religion issue is good for another blog post. That in itself impacted me quite harshly).
So holidays became something I dreaded. It meant more time off from school (which wasn’t a great place for me but it was better than home) and spending time with his family who couldn’t care less how he treated us in front of them. His mother would even inform us how to act and basically justify how he spoke to us in front of her. We were apparently the problem. I was a problem to her from the start. She accused me once of stealing jewelry from her bedroom. She used to watch me like I was some kind of little thing. Something she didn’t trust at all. I almost assume she knew what he was like and knew what he was doing but didn’t dare interfere.
My mother used to make excuses for his and their behaviour (that whole family was badly behaved and fucked up). “Oh well his mother was abused so she doesn’t see a problem with how he acts.” or “Oh well he was abused by his older brother and two babysitters while he was growing up so that is where he learned this stuff.” Like that makes it all excusable.
Sometimes he would bring certain things up in front of his mother to humiliate me. He’d make fun of something I wore (in fact, when I wore my first pair of heels…trust me they weren’t that high) he and his mother said I looked like a slut. Exact words, “makes you look like a slut”. 12 year old slut here! He’d tell his mother or his family about something that happened to me in school or make comments about me being ugly to them. He’d just make fun of me in front of them and they’d all laugh. No one ever set him straight. He’d make fun of things I wanted to do, play music, write, etc…he’d laugh about it to them and they’d laugh too. Holidays became evil, horrible days for me. I hated them.
Once I had the chance to spend them alone as I got older, I loved that. Spending them doing whatever I wanted. I could watch TV, read, write, sleep if I wanted to.
The only good thing I had going for holidays was that he rarely touched me on holidays. Although he would use the gifts his money bought for me as a reason to touch me later. He’d say, “If you want to keep that (fill in the blank) that I bought you, you’d better behave.” Then he’d proceed to do what he did. Whatever it was that night. Or if he knew I had a favourite thing, like my record collection and I fought him while he was trying to force himself on me, he’d smash my records the next day and tell me I didn’t deserve them. I hated holidays and I never wanted anything he bought for me. I never cared.
I never see family on holidays anymore because to do so would be to look at people that I know knew something was wrong and who never even bothered to ask me what’s going on. Never bothered to see what it was that made me go from a happy little girl to one who would brood in a corner. Never questioned why I no longer acted like a child. Now I spend them alone or with friends. Honestly though, I do love to spend them alone, free. That is exactly how it feels, free.