They were moving again.
She sat on the front stoop as Daddy folded up the louvered flaps over the engine and peered into the hot, dark cavern that contained the rattling beast that made the car go. Mommy was fussing about something in the back of the car while she was supposed to be watching Brother who, blessedly, seemed to be very engaged in tormenting a line of ants that were attempting to march up the sidewalk to the house. The ants would find easy pickings in just a few minutes, she mused, because once the car pulled away from the cracked and grass-studded driveway, Mommy would no longer be there to stomp and spray them with the Flit.
She wondered what the new house would be like, thinking back to the places she had already lived in her four short years. She liked the wide open spaces at Gramma Janssen’s farm. She liked the chickens and Mike, the dog that never barked except when something was really wrong…you could trust Mike, Gramma said…and she liked the little goats and that her cousins lived just across the field and that they were all girls so they could play dolls all day, once the chores were done. She didn’t like going outside to go to the toilet, though…the outhouse was stinky and scary…she was always afraid she was going to lose her balance and fall through the hole into the dark and smelly pit. She didn’t like going to the woods, either, unless Daddy or Grampa was with her. Mommy said there were bears in those woods, and bears eat little girls. The shack at Gramma’s was very cold, even when there was a fire in the stove, and she hoped the chickens that lived there now had enough blankets to be warm.
She had liked living at Nana’s house. Nana had a big back yard where she could play all day, just as long as she stayed out of the flower beds. But that was OK. Nana had planted a flower bed just for her where she could pick all the flowers if she wanted, and she got to choose what had been planted there. She had pansies that looked like they had little faces, and snap dragons that had “jaws” that moved if you pinched the blooms just right. And she had fragrant tiger lilies, her favourite, and buttercups that would leave bits of yellow on your chin when you played with them. She liked living with Nana…Mommy came to visit once in a while but Nana never left them alone together and Daddy came to visit and took her out for ice cream. Nana let her pick the quince and the blueberries and Grandpa let her pull carrots and radishes from his vegetable garden for a snack if she was hungry. She was never hungry at Nana’s. She absently rubbed her grumbling stomach. It had been a long time since breakfast.
She thought she had lived some other places, but her memories were hazy, just out of grasp. Nana said she should forget about those things, but it bothered her that she could not recall. Remembering was very important. Forgetting things got you in trouble, and Mommy always had a shoe or a hairbrush or a stick nearby to “help you remember.” She had a vague notion of a dark place with a powdery smelling lady standing silhouetted in a doorway, and a tantalizing glimpse of a large room full of wood desks and chairs and brusque, businesslike people whispering words like “abandoned” and “adoption,” but she didn’t know what those words meant. She thought they were bad things, from the way people glanced at her and tried to keep her from hearing, the way grownups often did.
Then there was this house. She didn’t like it. It was creaky and smelled old. Mommy didn’t like the red and white linoleum floors, or the old stove in the kitchen or the sand pile at the side of the house, which she thought was silly because the sand pile was the best part of the house. Her lower lip quivered as she thought of Blackie and how she loved burying him in the sand and how still he would lay for her. Nana was taking Blackie to her house so he would be OK, but she missed him already.
“What in God’s name are you blubbering about now?” Mommy snapped at her from the car. “Get your brother and get in the car. It’s time to leave.”
…*… …*… …*…
She was hot. She was tired. Her back ached and her bottom hurt from sitting on the hard little wooden chair in the back of the car where the back seat should have been. Brother was sprawled out on a pallet of blankets on the floor beside her, his flushed, chubby little face glistening with a sheen of fine perspiration. They were stuck and Mommy was mad.
The old car that someone had painted green with a paintbrush so the brush strokes still showed, had overheated. She wasn’t surprised because she felt overheated. Who would have believed it could be so hot so high up on a mountain?
Daddy was hurt but Mommy was too mad at him to do anything but yell about “this old piece of shit,” and “if you were any kind of a man,” and something about Godforsaken places, but she wasn’t sure if Mommy meant this place or the house with the sand pile. When the car had clattered to a rattling, shuddering stop, Daddy had set the handbrake and jumped out to put the rock behind a tire just to make sure the car stayed in place on the incline. He went to the front of the car while Mommy sat in the front seat, eating an apple and reading a movie magazine. But by standing on her little wooden chair in the back of the car and looking over the front seat, she could see through the windshield and watch Daddy try to fix the car. He put a rag over the top of the cap on the front of the car and the next thing she knew pink water was spewing up into the air like a fountain and Daddy was backing away shaking his right hand and cursing like the devil himself. She sat back down in her chair and picked up her doll when Mommy got out of the car and started cursing, too, and hollering at Daddy. It was best to be very busy doing something else at such times.
Daddy climbed down the hillside into the ravine below carrying a little trash can with him. He was going for water, he said, but as soon as he was out of sight, she became frightened. What if he got lost? What if he ran away because Mommy was hollering at him? What if he got more hurt? She bit her lower lip to stop its quivering and sniffed as quietly as she could, but she was not quiet enough.
Mommy’s head swivelled around as if it was on a pivot. “What in the name of Christ are you blubbering about now?" she yelled. “Jesus, aren’t things bad enough without you bawling your head off?”
“There’s something in my eye,” she lied, inspired by the dustmotes dancing in the hot shaft of sunlight that filled the back of the car. “It’s making me water.”
Mommy grabbed her chin roughly and tilted her face up to the light, then thrust her away. “I don’t see anything,” she said suspiciously, her eyes becoming mere slits. She blinked rapidly and reached up to rub, but Mommy struck her hand away. “Keep your dirty paws away from your eyes! All I need now is a doctor bill on top of everything else!’
Daddy’s face appeared suddenly in the window. The oval-shaped tin trash can, painted pink with brilliant red roses on it, was in his hand, one of the sharper curves of the oval somewhat smashed into a point to provide a pouring spout. Obviously, Daddy had found water and he set about pouring it into the car. He made several more trips down the steep slope, sliding with the dirt the whole way and working his way back up carefully so as not to spill a precious drop. When the car was full again and the engine started, she heaved a sigh of relief and sat back down in her little wooden chair.
“You stink,” Mommy said from the front seat and she looked up, sniffing the air slightly. Had Brother done a nasty in his pants while he slept? Mommy was talking to Daddy. “For Chrissake, Eddie, the least you could do is rinse off a little and dust yourself off. Now I have to ride with your stink for another…what?...four hours?”
Four hours? They would be there in four hours? She felt her stomach knot with anticipation and dread as the old car clattered and banged its way back on to the highway and began its slow chugging ascent of the long hill ahead.
“I’m hot,” she whined from the back of the car, the sun beating down through the open window. “Can I have a drink of water?”
“Well, la-de-dah!” Mommy snapped from the front seat. “Like the rest of us aren’t hot, too. No, Miss Princess, you can’t have a drink of water. If the radiator blows again, we’ll need every drop of water we have to get us out of this Godforsaken place! Now find yourself something to do and knock off that whining!”
She sat back down on the little chair, the sun-baked seat scorching the tender backs of her thighs. She couldn’t see anything to use to wipe the sweat from her face, so she surreptitiously lifted a corner of her hem and blotted her brow and upper lip, watching to make sure Mommy didn’t catch her. But Mommy was busy yelling at Daddy again. She wondered briefly why Mommy yelled so much, why she didn’t just talk.
She looked down at the floor of the car by her feet. Brother was still sleeping…he could sleep through anything…a damp halo darkened the blanket beneath his head. She wished she could sleep, but once awake in the morning, she was unable to sleep again until it was dark…unless she was sick. But the motion of the car was making her drowsy…she blotted her face with the hem again. Her stomach was a little queasy…but she never got carsick like her stupid cousin Sally…except that one time in Nana’s car. Her face reddened with remembered humiliation. She slid off the hard little chair and lay down beside Brother, hoping he would not kick or punch one of her bruises in his sleep…they were sore enough already. She closed her eyes, thinking about the cold glass of water she would ask for…in four hours…when they got there…wherever “there” was.
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.