Rule #1: It Never Looks Like it Should

My Mother: Flyer of the Blue Flag

In the mid 1960s a little girl was born. From outside the family looked normal. The father was career Air Force and the mother did a good impression of a stay-at-home mom. A dark secret lay hidden under a blanket of Catholicism and disinformation. It was a secret that Air Force counsellors passed over when the children came back from the hospital with one too many broken bones. 

My mother told it to me when I was eleven. It was supposed to be this 'coming of age' trip where I learned the truth about her past and my own body. It was horrifying listening to her memories of her childhood. What she spoke about scared me. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Her mothers tacit acceptance of the situation. 

Only when I was much older did I realize the extent of the trauma inflicted. I thought of a scared eleven-year-old girl forced to bear burdens that should have sat on an adult’s shoulders. I was sorry for her. I cried for hours for her, for the loss of her innocence and for the pain. She smiled as I cried. 

She was the victim of child abuse. My mother waved the blue flag, the blue ribbon. After all, April is child abuse prevention month. I thought the blue ribbon meant something to her. It meant that she survived and got out. But our family too held a dark secret. So secret my father didn't even know. 

All the time she flew the blue flag and drove around town with it waving in the wind, tied to the antenna of her car, she was abusing her own children. Oh, but she was smart. There weren't any trips to the emergency room. We did well in school. We were well behaved. But we were tortured. She knew how to buck the system that deserted her.

We never knew when she might blow up. We never knew when the time was ripe for one of her rages. We were always on high alert. It happened once while working on the ranch, she nearly dislocated my hip with the tractor she was driving.

We were terrified. But we loved her. She could be nice and good when it suited her and you wanted to please her, wanted to be good so the pain and suffering would be end. So we could all be happy. 

Part 2 Coming Wednesday