Layer(ed) Cake

I  looked back on the last blog that I wrote about my son and chocolate cake.  Something struck me mid week and today while doing my own work I stumbled upon a couple stark realizations.

I was penning a new blog where I opened with the admission that I was a thief.  It was matter-of-fact and final.  It was wrong and judgmental and I directed  it precisely at me.  I was unapologetic and fully willing to take the blame and I’ve done that for the last 41 years.

There was something in that last blog that did not sit right with me.  It was the image of me as kid,  sitting at a classroom desk waiting for birthday treats that did not come my way because of allergies.  I wrote out of what I knew to be truth at the time.  It was truth until I peeled back some layers of the cake and revealed a crumbly center.

You see, at that time I wrote that my parents had forgotten to send to the school treats that I could eat.  I trumped up every excuse in my mind, or truths that I  told myself over  41 years, so much so that any other reality was inconceivable.  I never thought to question it, it was my reality.  Then I  discovered there was nothing accidental or forgetful in their actions.  Nothing.

I have 2 children, and my job as a parent is to make smooth the road to adult independence.  It is my job to advocate, support, cheerlead, mourn, celebrate, and “be” in it with and for them.  It is my obligation to do all I can to arm them with the tools they need to be successful citizens, husbands, and God willing, fathers.  Forgetfulness happens and can be forgiven.  Intentional neglect does not.

It nearly guts me to type those words, believe me, it broke me to utter them today.  Even though I was in a trusted and safe place, the amount of pain I encountered is something I will have to muck around in for awhile.  Even in the midst of that safe space I fought like hell the tears that ekked out, revealing my vulnerability.

Intentional neglect.  That is quite an accusation and one I do not entertain lightly.  But, if I examine the facts, it is the only conclusion.  In this day and age, peanut and gluten allergies are as commonplace as uttering the phrase Common Core. (not getting into that debate)  There are whole tables dedicated to the “non” peanut eater and special menu considerations exist for those with gluten allergies.  It is a given that if one child is affected, the whole class is made aware; every effort is made to ensure that all children feel like they belong and no one is left out.

I did not have that luxury and now I am beginning to feel the full impact of that alienation.  While we did not have the internet or smart phones when I was young, the invention of the telephone DID exist…even if we had to use a rotary dial to make the call.  Parent-teacher communication was available.  There was still snail mail, teacher conferences still happened, a stop in to the school was always welcome.  The fact remains that those measures were not utilized.  That intentional inaction led to my feeling even more ostracized and alone, lonely and afraid in a time when perceptions of school were just beginning to take shape.  I learned at an early age that I did not fit, that there was something “wrong” with me, that I was not like the others.

Edward Kleban, lyricist for “A Chorus Line” provided some words that resonate with me

“Diff’rent” is nice, but it sure isn’t pretty.
“Pretty” is what it’s about.
I never met anyone who was “diff’rent”
Who couldn’t figure that out.
So beautiful, I’d never live to see.

Without knowing it, I adopted this philosophy and claimed it as truth.  It’s wrong and it kills me to type that.

Why?  Because what the hell do you do when you put A and B together (and I don’t do math) and discover the truth you thought you knew and what you had constructed your whole outlook on is incorrect?  Worse yet,  that truth is destructive and unhealthy?  What do you do when you realize that people who were charged with your care intentionally neglected to follow through?  What do you do when you peel back a layer and find that there is no excuse for their actions?

They could have picked up the phone to check in every once in awhile.  They could have brought items in during teacher conferences.  They had a whole host of options.  They chose not to.

My mother told me once that because I was such a difficult child, that I was reluctant to embrace her as my adopted mother, and show her love, she quit.   She quit trying.  I never forgot those words and they ring a different tune now.  They quit–they intentionally quit.

Even now I am rolling that around my head and beginning to question 41 years of beliefs I have and finding myself at ground zero.  I don’t know what to do, and I usually have an intellectual analysis, or at the very least, a smart ass comment to diffuse the situation.  I have none.  When I wrote the words, “I was a thief”, I was writing out of a truth that I believed wholeheartedly and called myself.  I was a thief because I used to take sweets from locations in the house, hide them, eat them, and try to smuggle out the evidence.  Sometimes I got away with it, often I did not.  Each time I was caught I was punished for stealing and sneaking around and taking things that did not belong to me.

You know what?  Oreo cookies rocked then, and they rock now.  I know that because I took them, ate them, and liked them.  Maybe instead of stealing, I was surviving.  Maybe instead of looking at the situation and swallowing that I was a bad kid who stole and lied, I was someone who was resourceful and just sassy enough to buck a system I could not control.  Maybe.

That’s a hefty piece of cake.  But, I think it’s important to pick apart all the layers and see what they’re made of.  I think I owe it to myself.  Because what I’m finding that while the cake is chocolate, and appears to be chocolate throughout, there are pockets and whole layers that are bitter like baker’s chocolate.  I know it’s bitter because in one of my sweets’ forays, I took what I thought to be chocolate from the refrigerator and well, let’s just say, baker’s chocolate should be left for its intended purpose…..for baking.

I’ve thought about this understanding all day today and tried to put it in perspective as I parent my children.  I watched my son inhale a  slice of cake for breakfast and I grabbed a piece too.  I smiled at him as he took his first bite and I smile now remembering how his eyes rolled back into his head.  You know what?  Chocolate cake is flippin awesome—it tastes amazing.  It tastes even more amazing when you know someone made it for you, out of love.  Scratch that. Chocolate cake is FREAKIN awesome (insert the intended expletive if you choose)  You know what else?  I am a flippin good mom……I got to share in this moment with my son and I will never forget it.  My son may, but what I hope he remembers is how he felt when he expressed his needs or desires and they were met.

I thought about my mother in those terms today and for a split second I felt sad; sad for both my parents.  I could try to justify this whole blog by saying I was willful, difficult, unruly, and that I did not get those moments with my parents.  Today, a new layer revealed that THEY did not get those moments with ME.  They chose not to.  They quit, intentionally.

God, I wish I could explain the pain that admitting that brings.  I wish I could walk someone through what it feels like to sit and watch 41 years  begin to tumble as jenga block by block is removed.  I wish I could describe the fear of what happens as each block displacement sets the structure to swaying, wondering if the next removal causes it to topple.  I wish I could articulate the confusion I am encountering as I twist and turn this Rubik’s cube, trying to make sense of a reality and truth that is without explanation.  Worse yet, that that truth is wrong.  I wish I could say that this is easy and there is an instant resolution to the 24 minute “Full House” episode where everyone hugs. wipes away tears, promises, and forgives.

It’s not Lifetime movie night.  It’s not easy, it is the hardest work I’ve done because it requires vulnerable honesty, brutal admissions, and concentrated courage.  And, I’m not sure that I’ve got it.  I’m not sure I’m up for the challenge.

All I know is that today, my fork ran into a layer that I did not expect.  Does it cause me to gag, retch, spit out the piece, throw out the rest of the cake; rendering it worthless?  I don’t know.   Do I look deeper into the piece to find out how much of the cake is affected and do I go back to the recipe to determine what happened?  Do I take the information I discover and apply it to my next recipe?  Do I have the guts to enter into the  original story and create a new reality?  Do I have the balls to allow others to join me in baking a new cake?

Tonight, I iust don’t know.  Ask me tomorrow, I may have a different answer.

shalom,

cahl

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