I wanted to expound a little upon my mother’s story since what I posted two days ago was written over a year ago. My mother is a hard subject for me because she was such a hard person to love. I had to forgive her in order to heal. In order to forgive her I had to understand her. In order to understand her I probably had to become the mother of my own children.
When my mom wrote her own story, she began with the moment her mother was not at school to pick her up. Deep in what was the USSR in 1941, there was an enclave of immigrants, primarily from Germany. Many were running from Hitler; the lives of their children and family members were directly threatened by the Nazi regime. In 1941 Hitler broke the non-aggression pact, Stalin was betrayed and turned on his German residents. He labeled them all political enemies and locked them up. For an innocent 7 year old girl, her mother was there one minute, gone the next.
This innocent, bewildered child walked herself home and was unable to even enter her home. The door was sealed. The kindness of a neighbor was all that saved her from sleeping on the streets and going hungry. Eventually she was transported to an orphanage in the bitter frozen wasteland of Siberia. No comfort, barely enough food, daily labor with punishment for not reaching quotas, and cruel caretakers. All for the “crime” of having been born in another country where she would have died in a concentration camp if she had stayed.
My mother learned that nothing comes without a price. She learned no love is given without taking. She learned that everyone is out to get you or get the most of you they can. She learned to walk through the world with her defenses up and to fight at the drop of a hat. She assumed abandonment, rejection, lack of love when anyone said no, turned away, behaved angry or selfish. She looked at her daughter, a little girl of 6 who asserted her childlike independence, and she saw villainy.
Because she lost all stability and safety at such a young age she saw danger everywhere. Because she was emotionally wounded and no one gave her a soft place to land she lashed out with emotional abuse at the slightest affront, believing that offense is the best defense, if you will. My mother attacked, accused, labeled, pathologized and abused me for being a normal child in a normal stage of defining myself, a normal stage of asserting my independence, or a normal stage of pubescent rebellion. To her it was all abandonment, rejection and emotionally terrifying.
She knew her mother didn’t leave her on purpose, that didn’t matter. When you learn so young that no one can promise to be there with you forever you become a grasper. You suck as much love and care out of whomever you have around you as you can because they may soon be gone. She was an emotional vampire. She was a child desperate to be held by her mother again. She was a victim of the world teaching her nothing is safe and love can disappear in an instant.
To make matters worse, after a 14 year separation, her reunion with her mother was devastating. Her mother, who had gone through horrific years herself no longer knew this person. Her 7 year old girl was gone and replaced by a 21 year old angry hurting woman. My grandmother literally said “I don’t know you so I can not love you.” This, of course, is a terrible thing for a mother to say even if she feels it but who created this chasm between a mother and child?
My mother never again found a safe place to land. She never even understood that a child’s love of their mother is unconditional. It had to be proven again and again and still in the moments in between it was doubted. So what did she teach that child? The same fear of abandonment, the same terror of love lost, and the most basic fact: that I can never be enough. Because one paranoid dictator felt threatened by a group of refugees running from a horrific, deadly homeland, I was raised by a broken person.
Watching toddlers weeping with loss and confusion, watching seemingly rational adults justify this abuse, I am enraged. I am back in my own devastating childhood being devastated by my mother’s inability to love me, I am seeing generations and generations of people who have lost what it means to love unconditionally, who have lost the ability to parent because they were ripped from their own parents. The waves of mental illness and abuse that will emanate from this crisis are unmeasurable.
I CAN NOT SIT QUIETLY. This is inhuman. This is vicious and intentionally brutal. This is racist and fascist and heartbreaking. Fuck this shit. Fuck anyone who doesn’t want to stop it. Fuck anyone who is “just following orders.” I wish you could have had my childhood. Maybe you’d be more human.