The wasted years
Waiting to escape my mother
She once stormed into my room demanding to know what I was doing.
“Reading a book,” I said.
“You never ask me before you do anything,” she said, her face tight with anger.
“I didn’t realize I had to ask you to read a book.”
It escalated from there, and before I knew it things were very bad and she was calling my father to come take me away. My father did not believe me. Who would? I have played these moments in my head many times. I can only understand them in retrospect, in the context of what I know about my mother now.
I lived with my father for a few months. He lived several towns away which made attending my high school very difficult. I relied on his girlfriend to take me to and from school as I was not yet old enough to drive.
My stubbornness saved me. No one can treat me this way, I told myself, even if the person is my mother. I clung to my pride like a raft as I floated through the wasted years.
Like others, I was bored in school, just waiting until I was old enough to go to college so my life could begin. I mourned the years that I could be learning and living while the years were happening. Helpless, only able to escape the years by living through them. Just coast through and wait to grow older, I told myself.
In the meantime, I was tethered to a small town where there was nothing to do besides drive around the nuclear power plant cooling towers that sprung like tubular sea sponges on the landscape. At school, we had nuclear meltdown evacuation practice in which we would calmly walk down to the auditorium and wait for the buses to gather us, despite our protests that we would all die before the buses arrived. “It’s better to have a plan that won’t work than no plan at all,” our teacher said. We disagreed.
On the weekends, my friends and I drove through the wooded area around the cooling towers, an area we called Hobbitland. We drank our wine coolers and blared our music, car windows down as we watched the towers churn white clouds into the air. Nothing to do except sink into the anger of music, music about death, angst and exclusion. Death as a beautiful thing. Music that was oxygen in the stifling small, dying town, its main street with stores half-abandoned and a steel industry that had left many years before. We drove up and down the broken main street until the police called it illegal to do even that.
The wasted years, somehow necessary to becoming who I am. When I finally was old enough to go to college, I vowed I would get over the state line, get away from the crumbling mother, the crumbling situation, the crumbling town. It was fire under my heels that sent me running for years.
I carry them with me as models from negative examples.
A stamp of recognition, in myself and others.
Ah, yes, you made it out too.