Angry Letters to My Mom (and other tales from a terrible daughter) is my current project. It is a memoir collection revolving around the tumultuous and erratic relationship between a mother and daughter. The collection will touch upon family abuse, foster care, and mental illness, as well as growing up in a dysfunctional and under-achieving family.
I found Stephen King in the 80’s when I was around ten years old. A small bookcase sat in the hallway at my friend’s house, and the glossy hardbacks crammed on its shelves called to me. I’d already worked my way through the Sweet Valley Highs and Nancy Drews and the sad stories of young girls losing their fathers to Alzheimer’s. These books—adult books—seemed different. They were thick with dense text, and they all promised nightmares. One title especially jumped out at me: Night Shift. “Excursions Into Horror,” the caption read under the author’s name. A large, gauze-wrapped hand sprouting eyeballs along the finger lines filled the entire front cover. I pulled the book out, holding my breath like it was something illicit: a gun or a knife, a rabid animal.
“Those are for adults,” my friend informed me, bored. I nodded, flipping through the pages. Playing with anything that belonged to grown-ups was taboo. Even for me, the kid whose Mom smoked pot and whose first movie in a movie theater was Heavy Metal. My mom may have taken me to see the R-rated cartoon full of rotting skeletons and giant breasts, but I still knew not to touch Her Things.
Compared to the other children in my small town of Lafayette, Colorado, my life hadn’t been a sheltered one. And in some ways, it was a good thing. Like, at six, I asked my mom what fuck meant, and she replied after the shortest of pauses: “intercourse,” which of course made me laugh, because why would anyone say that to anyone else? How absurd. Thus began the recurring bouts of telling everyone around me to “intercourse off.”
Even before that, around four, I awoke before dawn on Easter morning to find the Easter bunny hadn’t left me any candy or chocolate bunnies or sugar-coated marshmallows molded into the shape of little yellow chicks. I wandered through the shadowy house until I found my mother asleep in the living room. Her arms and legs hung off the sides of the couch, her face looked smeared, and a raspy breath escaped her lungs in a rhythm similar to an irregular heartbeat. I pushed her hair around her face and nudged her cheek until she came to, sniffling the whole time about how the bunny had forgotten me.
Maybe out of revenge, or maybe just out of drug-induced weariness, my mom told me there was no Easter bunny. She started talking about a lot of confusing things, like bodies on crosses and a being called Jesus and how she forgot to buy candy to make Easter baskets for me.
“Listen, kiddo,” she said, trying to hold her head up, looking like our frumpy brown couch might swallow her whole, “Easter and Christmas? Not real, and not really about gifts at all. Actually, those are religious celebrations revolving around a well-spoken man who was loved by a lot of people. He ended up being “crucified,” which means he was tied to a cross to starve and then left for dead. The people who believed in what he had to say think he was the son of God, and his death a sacrifice to save all the sinners.” She smirked and sank even deeper into the depths of faded tan pleather. “Before the Jesus believers came and converted everyone, the pagans celebrated other gods, by reveling in the coming of spring and then harvest. That’s where the eggs and wicker come from. One religion erased for another. Got it? It’s all made up.”
“So…” I stopped. Visions of crosses on a hillside where bloody bodies swung danced inside my head. Men slaughtered other men in a field below, where colorful eggs dotted the green grass and a giant Peter Cottontail gathered them up and placed them in candy-filled wicker baskets to deliver to deserving children everywhere. Sinners cried in a cemetery, eating yellow Peeps, waiting for a dead man to crawl from his grave.
“So… you’re the Easter Bunny?” I asked.
“You’re damn right,” she agreed, “Now let me sleep.”