The Owl

For as long as I can remember, my mother loves Owls. She is a bookworm, introspective and wise, and my favorite picture of her in my head is in her giant bed, four tall wooden posts rise to the ceiling like trees, with her buried in books, curlers in hair.

Along with the Hummingbird, she would point them out to me from her hammock at night or in a gift shop, a member of the Owl posse, which all Owl discoveries I frankly smiled with a nod or “Wow!” look, not wanting to reveal my Owl boredom, which is just the proper thing to do when one’s mom hunts a daughter down, in Michaels, dangling a Owl ornament from two aisles over, on sale.

Not to mention, with double thumbs up and a text to check out the coupons for extra savings on uh, Owl ornaments, I fake excitement sometimes because I appreciate it being faked for me.

It’s why we all smile at baby Picts being shoved from wallets into our faces, the person waiting for your delightful praise over their he/she child whose head is so big and odd shaped, you look in panic for the first adorable truth you can gather.

“I love Elmo!” is not the best distraction, especially if the one paying the check is an offended mom who was expecting something spectacular about her bald headed beady eyed fetus,

I will admit mom is to Owls as I am with fairies. Not the cutesy butterfly kind but the bad ass ones with attitude and tube socks, drawn on cards and obviously not happy about it.

After getting knicked in the heels in Walmart by old people pushing carts and fat people sitting and driving them, the right fairy reminds me im not alone in this insanity. I see that angry fairy and feel connected, validated, a non comformist if you will. She tells me every year I’m an idiot to have not shopped online. She never bullshits and I respect that.

Mother once had a dream i argued with her in Kroger for purchasing an owl in which she proceeded to cut off it’s head for a centerpiece during the Holidays. I stand behind my dream argument she relayed for it made perfect sense to me, the awake me. I am not Joseph but it seemed she were the owl, always cutting her own head off in sacrifice for family, anything to make four bratty kids happy, her own self the living sacrifice.

If Maury were to film her at Christmas, I doubt he could ever convince her what we have tried.

She brought the joy not her Holiday gifts, traditions, and unreachable expectations.

She was Christmas, just her, and I doubt she’ll ever see it the way I did, awake, dead, or decapitated.

It’s too bad Owls and Fairies can’t see more eye to eye on these things.

I bought her a huge Owl during summer, not on sale.
an Antique shop and bought it for that next Christmas, contemplating the perfect hiding space, delighted I were going to make this the gift under the tree the gift she wouldn’t stop talking about for 10 Christmas years to come, I had it double wrapped and hid it in my trunk. It was the Owl no brother could top. I had won best gift.

Unfortunately, I called her on the way home and told her all about it.
I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for happy gift reactions.

It was more than a hit. She squealed, hugged and did a circle dance move, some sort of Owl ritual perhaps. I looked away. Not even The Who would appreciate those moves.
Get it. The Who – Hoo Hooo.

She paced the house with this enormous fake creature with a “What the hell am I going to do with this?” look on her face, not that she uses the word hell, but I secretly hopes she does sometimes say something crazy, despite herself. I always found it nonsense growing up she didn’t like “sucks,” as if Jesus died on the cross for those who say “sucks,” “blows” and “sharted,” which is a fart and shit combined, which she didn’t even realize.

I digress.

She decided on the outdoors, a tree stump once hit by lighting, where she placed the freakishly large Owl and announced to me and her doggies, “Perfect. It is the symbol of my protection.”

On this one particular nasty day where she cried a lot, falling into a painful day of grieving life and loss, she looked out the window the next day and sighed.

“No wonder. The Owl fell and so did I.”

She marched her determined little self into the wet woods to put that Owl back on post.
It was between them two, but I smiled at their resolve.

When I started school, I had to do table top special assignments to shoot interesting objects with our new knowledge of studio lighting, so I took her Owl with permission to photograph.

And so, we haven’t spoken since and her Owl was away when her things were taken out and moved, the Owl never mentioned or requested. I had forgotten too, or blocked it out, the two seem eerily the same these days.

Until I found it in my boyfriend’s closet.

I screamed bloody murder, covering my mouth and pointing, just pointing to the linen closet.

“What is THAT? some kind of sick joke?”
My face was white and ghastly but it didn’t make him smarter.

“Uuh, I hid it in there cause I don’t fold towels.”

I demanded it be gone the next day, the thought of it again made me hurt, in places I don’t know how to stop, the hurt that stupid Owl brought from his closet could never be fixed, not even by Christmas, or fairies or all the curse words I could say out loud or math camps I could remove.

That Owl must be dealt with.

He agreed.

Or so I thought, running into the damn thing AGAIN but this time in the basement but with cobwebs in the dark, the village idiot must not watch too many gangster movies.

Who doesn’t know what “Get rid of it means?”

And how I paced, it seemed too creepy to chop it up, too mean to toss, too hurtful to display, so I put a note and left it in the street, facing my neighbor so he hopefully would be pegged as the nut.

Judge me but I did want it to have a nice home.

I have learned a lot about myself, about grief, over the torture of this Owl.
What to do with it, what it all meant, where it all belonged, how to make it not hurt me, the projections, delusions, compromises. The final goodbye.

I feel the eyes, beady scary eyes following me, ready to peck out my heart with that beak and its predator claws.

It wasn’t until Kat, my preteen with a perma scowl surprised me saying in sarcasm, “Whats up with nana? Is she dead or something, what’s the deal?”
She rolled her eyes and bit into pancakes bitterly.

I didn’t answer. I did the rational move instead of course, grabbed scissors out of the drawer and ran outside.

Yes, I understand this is dangerous, but I never claimed to be trained or certified in matters of devastation, especially when confronted with my biggest judge, a very scary creature to have not developed breasts yet.

It was time to meet my Nemasis, the last owl remaining.

I suppose it is cute, hanging with intention from a tree outside, made of pottery and painted in the shape of an Owl. I cut the rope, on my tippy toes, watching it dissemble before hitting the ground, the head broke in half, rolling under my car and stopping under my wheel, broken glass side up.

“Damnit,” I cursed, belly on ground, shoving inch by inch to it as I broke, straight to the ugly cry.

Grabbing a stick and hitting it made it roll to the other tire, my tears now making strange contortions in my body. My mother could see my girls whenever she liked, provided I was there, and so how was I to tell my preteen who didn’t like much about me as it were that there was something so bad, so flawed that my own mother couldn’t even bear it, not even to see her girls, who I know she loves.

She’d hate me and I didn’t blame her, or the damn Owl for that matter, so with a concrete face and smeared mascara, I was a sight rolling from under my car, the cursing and crying to a God I liked as much as Darth Vadar didn’t make for a proud moment.

How I wish this ended in a rehab story, but instead I got the head, chucked it and all I heard was “pink, pink, pink,” and the damn thing landed in direct position of passing vehicles, certain to cause a flat if hit, so I screamed profanities and told it to go back to the G-damn Goodwill and other seriously deranged statements a lunatic might say to a piece of Owl pottery.

I kicked it until satisfied, slipping a little, my hurt pounding like bread dough in a Southern biscuit special, I felt I got it out, whatever it was, until I turned.

My baby, my nine year old with her big serious brown grey eyes were open as wide as they could go.

I had lost all account as how long ago I had gone crazy or filthy mouthed, beating the shit out of an Owl qualifies for therapy, if it were not too late. Every horrific site of her in paIn, pulling out hair, every Dr. Phil show where parents remove all furniture for their own safety flashed in segments. I had nothing.

She was traumatized for life.

Here it came. I closed my eyes and from the child who rolled her eyes like she were presenter for the “eye roller” child of the year award, who did not want me to call her Kat, a new horror I am guilty of constantly, looked at me, paused, and so i sat in a dramatic suffocating moment of sick remorse.

She grabbed my hands, in our yard, the actual Public, tears filling and not because i said no computer, but real tears. She threw her teeny body in a hug I haven’t seen since she found friends and sleepovers.

I think I was in shock.

“I want to be the mom that you are,” she said forcing my chin down to look through me.

I was either shocked or disassociating, I’m unsure.

“because, she finished, all you ever want is for your kids to be free.”

She pointed in serious gesture to me. “You mom, you know what it means to let me be free.”
She pointed to the ground now, arching her back straight, to finish her thought.
“and that’s what I’ll be too…”

She patted me now, easing out of the embrace, and if I could tell you what the hell that has to do with me pulverizing a poor pottery Owl while crying like a lunatic, I may be qualified for this mothering job, which obviously I am not.

Maybe she thought I went nutso over her comment over the pancakes and has been trained to diffuse highly emotional moms.

Maybe she is really the Owl, wise and old her soul came here, light years ahead of my evolution, sometimes I feel I evolve slower than a chicken in a crock pot not turned on, and even if she stopped our special handshake and gave away all her dolls and criticizes my cooking, she really sees me.
To be seen is all I ever hoped for and Owls even at night, have the perfect radar vision.

Maybe she really just wants that Xbox 360 for Christmas.
Maybe she is part fairy, part owl, a mix of my mother and I combined, and she understands that my broken Owl holds a truth I just can’t see yet.

Or maybe she saw no broken owl, just her mothers broken heart, a thought I hate.

Maybe in unknowingly letting her see me flawed and wrong and insane, she saw my mess and loved me the more for it.

Owls can see perfectly at night, the only creature who flies with precision and beauty and purpose in the midst of complete and utter darkness.

And perhaps, so can my Kat.

Annihilation

If words were a weapon, I just got dropped the nuclear bomb, the big daddy, the one our government would never let us know about, certain it is for our own safety.
A childhood friend and I are trying to reconcile our distant relationship, for the sake of our kids. She has always been everything I am not, or ever been. She runs her home like a well oiled machine, never forgets appointments, runs late, cancels plans, or forgets to send out a warm Thank You note.
She is Anne Taylor but without a clearance rack, something I marvel at with amazement, my dollars land on the Goodwill counter, the thrill of my life is finding the girls a steal with tags.
She is the woman who had so many clothes for her child they all lined the closet as big as my room, hanging, the tags I touched in amazement, her baby could never wear them all, even if she changed him ten times a day.
She is neat, orderly, and cooks according to her little weight watchers booklet, the teeny book she holds as she counts points, remembering with perfect accuracy what she has to do to maintain her perfect health, my mind blank in trying to recount breakfast, if I had it, a book that tiny would have been lost in seconds in my possession.
Ever since I have known her, I have wanted to be her.

She is the example of what a good wife, hard worker, and ideal mother represent.

Her child was in school at two, has had swim lessons and been passed around more adoring hands than I have known to exist in one country, much less one room, and he is so lovable and adored, especially by Kat and Lola, but most by me.

The things that she said to me were all true, Divorcee and I on conference call, both wanting to fight for the relationships we believe matter, for nothing is more thrilling than knowing your kids have people in life who love them.

She said I was a bad mother, and it is true. They have never deserved to witness divorce, have never been given the things they deserve. I never know if I am doing things the right way, feel guilt over all they have missed in my own search for wholeness.
I sob thinking of how I promised Disneyworld, a trip I starve hoping to save for, a fact I am 90 pounds, which is not true, but I am too prideful to admit my weight loss is from overworking my body, her child has seen the ocean more than I have seen bank account draft fees, which is a lot.

She said that I am selfish, leave the children so that Divorcee can’t leave if he wanted to, something he assures me is not the case but I did have a boyfriend that smoked pot, have been up for days and manic, and no one more than me wishes I knew how to manage life without becoming depressed or afraid, my regrets are bigger than my self help book shelf, all wrapped in every truth she gave, pointed out in exasperation.

She has never in her life woke up and wondered if she had been loved, her Daddy is at more functions of my own family than my sorry excuse for DNA, her parents are in 30 ish years of marriage, regular attendees of weddings, bearing gifts and kindness wherever they land.
I hear of her shopping trips with them and cringe, wondering if I can ever make it up to my own babies, who literally have no one but the tight circle in which we hold on to, for dear life.
She met the man she is married to in college and I doubt she has even loved anyone else. I doubt she goes to bed alone ever, her times away from him shake her, and I only dream of having a relationship, divorce and abandonment have never shaped her thoughts, a life I could only dream.
She has never had the threads of life ripped from beneath her, and how I am glad, to date with such fear and tread such waters of loss and destruction make me sure she is right. I can not know what she has always had without question.
She said she knows plenty of single mothers who do it better.
She says she does not use anxiety as an excuse for poor choices.

I have darkness lurking wherever I turn, and no one I can fully trust, am imbalanced, forgetful, late, selfish, and at the best imperfect.
What I am not is my father, a claim she said several times, in addressing my sick impulsive behaviors, a point I did get props for is in pursuing counseling, no doubt I need.
My father did not work at Chilis and slave all night to buy her Coach bags at Christmas, Divorcee shaking his head, my heart only desiring to see her light up, her face a sunbeam when she is given a gift she loves, my purest joy.
I see now that in doing this, what I have asked for is love.

“Please love me,” I scream.
“Please accept me,” I fall on my face in my offerings, a place I want in my deepest cracks to believe she does, but maybe if not, a Coach bag is what she really wanted, with her favorite color lined.

I was too ashamed to tell her I could not afford 30 dollar shoes for her child when given Christmas gifts, so I worked harder, and maybe, just maybe, one day she will see the symbols of love, to forgive all the mistakes, and I was certain my latest success, a job that would lead to real independence would impress her.
I hoped, like a child wishing to be adopted does, waiting for the right family to love and see them.
I see now adoption papers come to those who are doing it better, and I wonder if she knows I don’t want to be this, that I know I am broken, she doesn’t have to point it out to me. Just in being her, I am aware of all that I am.

I don’t understand why her husband can leave for days to do work in the world, important work, and he is a hero. Divorcee is the stable nurturer at home, a man who loves his children and keeps them in perfect regulation, cooks and cleans, but to be me, it is not acceptable because I am their mother.

That is considered selfish, unloving and unnatural, when I am just the same as her husband, the flip side of the same coin, but to be a woman, it is selfish and wrong. He throws his child in the air and is admired.

I throw mine and Divorcee is felt sorry for, praised and marveled at, his work in doing the laundry and setting up play dates makes him appear selfless.
But the truth is, we are in the roles we belong, just without the fish bowl, eyes looking in and judging, the two of us want what everyone else wants.

She regularly attends church, and I do not, but I must say, if anyone knows they are lost, guilty, or broken, it is me.
I AM the woman who threw herself at Jesus’s feet, asking to be healed.
I AM the woman who would adorn him with my most expensive cologne, in hope to be healed.
I wish this so deeply my heart might just break in half, and to be the seeker I am, I ask God to show up, to tell me, to reveal himself and I will go. I just haven’t found him, or at least she does not see that I have. I realize today, in my sorrow and tears, my shame is the very thing she does not carry, but real love is not conditional, is given times 70, is not earned, is not deserved. Loving people is what I do, no matter how they behave, and I only live by falling on my face and asking for grace.
I wept like a child in my bed last night and prayed that angels be posted to the doors of my mind. A little girl woke up, a little redhead named Lola, her fingers ran down my back scratching, her little intuition must have seen and felt me grieving, her love so big, the ocean can not contain it.

I want to love like the ocean too, like the man named Jesus claimed, but mostly, I want to be loved not because I did anything to deserve it. I want to be loved simply because I am.
I will go to the ends of the world to give my children the things they deserve but the only gift I know to be priceless is to love with compassion and mercy, that every mistake they make is already forgiven, that love and worth are not ever proven or earned.

It is free.

Now if only I can find it for myself….
Everything that matters in life is.

Introducing “The Other Woman”

I just received a comment from a reader beneath a blog I wrote about my father, one in which I expose my hurt, my pain, the loss and destruction of being his child.

I am not one to like my personal truth being read, much less on such public display, my idea as a writer was to heal my wounds.

Little did I know it would become material read by over 10,000 strangers, a thought that makes me want to vomit, but I write to heal me, and if in any way

possible it helps others not feel so alone on this journey, I am grateful.

I also know that to expose myself comes with consequences, some good, some bad, and I do not publish anything without thought to the people affected, a reality that weighs heavy on my heart. I am indifferent to most comments, try my best not to think of them, never wanting to write for an audience, always striving to focus on my art, my truth. I feel my writing is just a projection, that a computer screen is capturing one moment of emotion or thought, so to be loved or hated, I do not feel personally attached to either thought. I write not because I want to, but because I must, and I let the readers do or say as they will. It is their right.

However, in this case, I have decided it is my right to reply in anyway I please, not in spite, but in addressing the child within, the outrageous injustice that she has endured will be heard and if it comes out politically incorrect or even a tad sarcastic or angry, so be it.
She has been through enough.

And here, is what this stranger had to say:

lea hickman
lhickman3158@gmail.com
71.236.12.232
Submitted on 2011/04/01 at 12:03 pm

“Katie, You are certainly entitled to your opinion about your father; however you are his daughter and he loves you. Reaching out is never easy, especially after a divorce, but your dad wants a relationship with his kids and granchildren, and you should consider his feelings. STOP being selfish!”

And this is my reply, of course, in Dear Abby blog form, but just in a more “OBVIOUS”
fashion.

“Wow. Lea Hickman. You certainly know how to make an appearance. I suppose introductions don’t seem to be needed here since my letters never received a reply, but I guess you know that. I never really thought my personal blog would be the place for a mistress to have a platform, but you are not just any mistress, but one who actually gives advice as well? I should be so honored.
Well, here is your moment and so lets just open up this can of worms shall we?
First off, please don’t be offended that I have not included you in any of my blogs or invited you over to personally say hello because it has been my impression since I was a small child that you were the psychotic ex girlfriend of my father, imagine that?
Yes, he said many times that you were prone to jealous rages over his adoration of my mother, that you could never be one to recover from his rejection.
I never knew he was such a stud.
Lucky girl, you are.
I wondered many times if all those calls and appearances in my childhood and adult life were fatal attraction, and funny thing about a woman’s intuition, I truly did give you the benefit of the doubt.
Perhaps he was just in denial.
It just seemed strange that my mother, who was of course, “THE love of my Dad’s LIFE, and THE ONLY love he EVER had,” normal gross announcements he made to her almost daily, was not apart from him even a day for my entire life.
I just didn’t know how to prove you, understand?
I will say I never thought about electronics, like say, computers, the one thing my mother doesn’t know much about, so I apologize for not connecting sooner.
I think it is lovely that you care about his relationships so deeply, I mean really, to reach out to me in his name is well, so kind of you, and effective for sure.
What daughter doesn’t want to run to Daddy when his ex girlfriend psycho perhaps mistress appears on her blog to defend him?
It is romance at it’s best.
I know. Maybe you can come by, the two of you, the reunion will be just beautiful, and I’ll be sure to vacuum. We shall all hug and cry and sing with joy, my two daughters love any excuse to eat cake, but it might want to be in secret you know, just in case, our party were to “get out” and upset family members.
People are so sensitive about these types of things.
Did you know my Dad and Mom ate a lot of cake, together, like 34 years of cake, gosh, that adds up to how many cakes a year for how many special occasions?
Wow. That is a lot of cake.
And I do appreciate that call to not being selfish, and I know I struggle here, I certainly do.
What do I call you again? Oh, Lea.
There I go again, being selfish. Maybe Grammy could be a pet name, just between us?
I am working on that selfish thing. My father certainly could have used more help in raising me. He told me what love is, but maybe you have a better view.
You are a fine example of exactly what my mother should have been you know, to get and “keep” a man as kind, selfless, loyal, and honest as my father.
Oh, but I would keep an eye on the credit card when desert comes.
Between us, he may have stolen it, so just proceed with caution, perhaps take your purse with you to the restroom, and lock it in your home if he accompanies you.
He is known to have 38 aliases and prone to using other people’s social security numbers. Whew, what a handful he is!
But listen, I do want to congratulate you on defending him, and perhaps you also are aware of the 22 page hate mails, mostly stripping my mom of all her dignity in outrageous lies meant to hurt her, not us. I mean who can blame him, right?
Oh and how he loves his grandchildren.
I think he met, no, not sure about my precious nephew, but he did get my little girl a train set one year. Kind of confusing to them, this overwhelming love.
Perhaps it overwhelms them, I don’t exactly know.
I suppose it is hard to blame him, even though he is definitely responsible for years of therapy, and along with the stalking, broken promises, and forgotten boundaries, you may need to give him a loan to help him with this healing Lea!
Not to mention the occasional run from the IRS, abandoning his family over a car, a nice one, the one in his mommy’s driveway? I know I am just his little girl, but really, that car smells brand new, don’t you think?
He used to love to joy ride with mom and I in that thing, and we would go to Bruster’s and get ice cream, and this funny thing happened once, he played this song by Chris Isaac, “Somebody’s Lying,” and I just poked him on the side of his arm, while we just laughed. He always thought I was just hilarious.

But, not to put a damper on anything, cause I am uncertain to your status, on facebook you see, the status of your relationship is what makes it official, anyways, keep this one little thing in mind. If it does go a little sour, don’t be surprised to find dead roses in your mailbox, surround your entire family for holidays with weapons, but use bats so the children aren’t nervous, and always tell him how selfless and wonderful he is, that he did the BEST he KNEW to do, over and over until your eyeballs fall out and every bit of life force has been drained out of your ever loving soul.

Oh, and do tell your daughter I said hello. In high school, she once told me we could be sisters but I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, not until today that is.
Maybe you should mother her since I do have one of my own.
You should meet her one day, or I believe you have.
She is not perfect, but she did love my father very much, as we all did.
He just never saw the value of real love, a perfect offering even in all his failures, until it was way too late.
I’m not sure how any love is more pure than a child for her own father, especially mine, because I wanted to die before I lived one day believing my daddy, the man who hung the moon, could become this. This is the unspeakable crime to a child, this is not the man I remember nor he is the man I ever wish to know.
But perhaps I am just selfish. Perhaps you can give him the love he never had. Perhaps you are the perfect woman to show him love, for trust me, every woman till now, his own daughter, can not. Perhaps you were the only one he loved all along? Perhaps he doesn’t know what love even means? Perhaps you can teach him.
Perhaps.”