Shades of the Past (part 1)

Here is the expanded post I referred to earlier about Deona’s family. It is incredibly long, I think because writing this became my therapy for issues long unresolved, and closure to a situation that has never truly had its ending. I need to make it clear- while some of the relationships mentioned were/are dysfunctional, they were in no way abusive, and no one was physically harmed.
Matria and Lendel were in my life pretty much from the time I was born. Deona was the first child I ever babysat, starting when I was ten and she was a year old (this was the 80s and you could still do that, and her parents were at a party within walking distance if anything went wrong), and I watched the Pigchild from the time she was born. And in the time that I was around their house a lot I knew all four off them- Matria, Lendel, Deona and the Pigchild-extremely well.
Those girls were practically my sisters. A lot of people thought they were my daughters (an amazing feat since I was nine when Deona was born, and fifteen when they had the Pigchild). And I loved them. I loved them a lot.
They were very different, these two little girls. Deona was forever the tomboy with straight black hair she liked kept short, this pale skin and these thin gangly limbs, refusing to wear dress, ruffle or bow practically from birth. The Pigchild, back in the sunny days when I called her Gem, was this adorable moppet with wavy brown hair, a robust child with sun browned skin who wouldn’t wear anything that wasn’t a dress, with ruffles, and bows. She was the spoiled princess of the family to be sure, but still an incredibly sweet child. She used to let me dress her up, like a living breathing doll.
I was young, and innocent, and naïve; blissfully unaware of the real goings on among the adult members of that household- Matria, Lendel, and several of their friends. My parents must also have been unaware, else I don’t think I’d have been allowed to spend so much time there. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Matria and Lendel too, in those days. They were like a second set of parents. But unlike parents they let me get away with a lot, and frankly, they encouraged it. I had my first drink over there, had my first overnight with a boy over there (though nothing really happened between us), and it was over there that I had my first indirect exposure to alternative sexual behaviors. I found some things in a box that left little question about the types of things they were into.
Around the time I turned sixteen, Matria started to flirt with me. Little things, things I didn’t recognize as flirting until I was older. That went on for almost three years, and then, when I was almost 19, I made a decision that changed everything. My life took a complete 180 – from atheist to Christian. And while I was still perfectly okay with them as they were, believing differently than I did (Pagan/Druid), to Matria, and Lendel too to some extent I’m sure, I became something repulsive. She spread lies about me to a lot of the people in their circle of friends. Well, not lies exactly, but her perception and version of the truth. People I had known and loved since I was a child, all of whom I thought would have known me better than that. She told everyone that I now thought I was better than everyone else and that I was judging them. I was too shocked that she would do such a thing to be hurt.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, knowing that she had lied to my face on more than one occasion, in one instance forcing me to ruin a friendship with the aforementioned boy that otherwise would have been fine (which in the end turned out to be a good thing because he grew up and became a freak, but the point is that she lied).
But that, combined with the fact that she was still hitting on me, and much more overtly now that I was of age, was the final straw. I refused to go over there, or talk to the mother at all. Looking back, I may not have chosen the best way to handle it, but really, I was 19, and all I really knew was that the separation was what was best for me. I also knew at the time I wasn’t the first to sever ties with them, and I have come to learn that I wasn’t the last either.
In the years that followed, Matria would tell my mom she missed me and ask my mom to have me call her, but I never would. I should clarify that I never said anything to her about breaking ties; I just stopped talking to her. The not talking to her went on for four years. And in those four years, I missed my girls. I knew, with them being 4 and 10 when I left, they had no idea where I had gone or why, but didn’t miss their parents at all.
There was originally supposed to be a “more” link here but there’s a glitch somewhere, so here is even more on this subject…
They used to have a lot of parties, and my parents would usually attend. My mom wanted a ride to one, so I just decided I would go with her. I pulled into their driveway, in my junktastic car, and I know everyone heard us coming because of the noise coming from the cracked tailpipe, so of course everyone was looking to see who was going to get out of this monstrosity. I don’t know who saw me first, but from the other side of the screen door someone shouted “Judy is here!” and I heard this whoop of joy.
I walked into the house and was hugged from every imaginable direction, and suddenly the throng parted and there she was. Matria, with her arms spread wide to hug me. I gave her a halfhearted hug, but she wasn’t settling for that as she nearly squeezed all the breath from my body. Then she took my hand and led me over to the place she had been sitting and proceeded to ask me how I was, where the hell I’d been for four years, yadda yadda. And I sat there with a fake smile on my face, remembering why I didn’t like it there. She makes my skin crawl.
But I managed to say what I needed to say. I was able to tell her why I left, and said in no uncertain terms that if she ever did that to me again I would be gone again, and that would be it. I was leaving and I wasn’t looking back. I said nothing of the flirting because my mother was in earshot and to the best of my knowledge she knows nothing about what goes on under the surface.
I finally escaped her by asking where Deona was. She was upstairs in her room. I walked up there as quietly as I could, and stood in her doorway just watching her for a minute. The gangly ten-year-old she was the last time I’d seen her had been replaced by a fourteen-year-old young woman with curves and a face that seemed older than its years. I only said one word to her-
She turned, looking at me with a face blank with non-recognition, and I could actually see the memory come into her eyes, and with a voice full of disbelief she answered me with a single word of her own;
As I swallowed the lump in my throat she jumped up and came to hug me. This time, my hug wasn’t halfhearted. We held onto each other for dear life, or so it seemed. I asked Deona where her sister was. She wasn’t in her bedroom, so we walked through the party trying to find her. And it was in the next five minutes my Gem became the Pigchild.
My memories of a beautiful preschooler, and my hopes for an equally beautiful little girl who still sparkled like the gems she was named for, were vastly disappointed at the sight of a stocky 8 year old with a fat dirty face and uncombed hair, ordering someone to get her something. As much as I wanted to love her, she repulsed me. Every time I have seen her since that day, which admittedly has only been a handful of times, I’ve had the same reaction. Please don’t misunderstand; it had nothing to do with her looks. A chubby, good-natured kid covered in dirt? Bring ‘em on. But that wasn’t what I saw in her that day. She was still the spoiled princess she had been at four, but she was no longer sweet. The fact that my mom can’t stand the Pigchild either allows me to believe my opinions are valid.
The Pigchild pretty much ignored me once she had said hi, but then her attachment to me wasn’t as strong as Deona’s, having been so young when I left, but the rest of that day, Deona stuck to my side like Velcro. I know she was afraid to let me go for fear I would leave her again.. Which, I hate to say, I did. I just couldn’t be a part of that world anymore, and I had to close that door.
I’ve seen Deona a few more times- I helped her get into the chain mail bikini her mother gave her for her 16th birthday- and she comes to SCA events sometimes, but our relationship is forever changed by my leaving. She doesn’t trust me anymore. I don’t blame her at all, but it’s hard, because she used to trust me, truth be told, she adored me. That may sound cocky, but it’s the truth.
In the not too distant past, I had a conversation with a friend I knew from that circle of friends. We were talking about the girls, and I told him my reactions to the way they are, and how I wished they had turned out differently, but I’m not their mother. And he said one of the most hurtful things anyone has ever said to me. He said a lot of how they turned out was my fault. That I was their one positive and stable influence, and when I left and they didn’t have that anymore, their influences had to change. Deona, being older, took it harder and became mildly self destructive, and had I stayed around she would be different. I remember staring at him in disbelief and then just walking away.
How dare he, and I refuse to take the blame. They’re not my kids. I was a kid myself. It wasn’t my job to raise them properly. Do I have regrets? I guess I do. I regret that doing what was best for me had a negative effect on them, but I can’t regret doing what I needed to do.

One thought on “Shades of the Past (part 1)

  1. Almost Lucid (Brad)

    Geez, Judy. What a heart-wrenching story. I think you have your brain wrapped around it pretty well though. As sad as it is that the kids had parents like that, I’d hate to see how you might have turned out if you were forced/lured into their world at such an impressionable age.
    I’m glad you did what you did. Maybe as adults, you can talk with Deona about it.

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