Part 4. Past.

Childhood is a holy time. The child’s mind cannot absorb all that is wrong, and certainly not to the fullest. At the same time, the children have so much love, faith, and trust that they are cared for and loved. Even if no one cares, they believe that everything will be fine.

My childhood was mostly spent with my grandparents. There I had a peaceful home, always warm food on the table and a grandmother who was always there. With my mother I spent a small part of my kindergarten time, 3rd grade and 6th grade. Despite the chaotic life with my mother, it was also a rather interesting time.

I didn’t remember much about time when I went to kindergarten, but I later heard stories here and there about it. I was told stories of how my mother could take me out of kindergarten for half a day to introduce me to her new loved one while my grandmother was preparing dinner at home because she had no idea that I was picked up by my mom. Also, stories about how a few days later my mother brought me back to my grandparents because she no longer needed me to impress her new lover. I even fondly remember some of these lovers. I went fishing with one, I remember. Another came to pick me up from kindergarten at times, and I remember he was very impatient with me because he thought I spent too long time on dressing up.

I remember much better when I went to live at my mother’s place in third grade. By that time, she had moved to another city with my older brother. Although no of my mother’s lovers lived directly in our home, I later learned that she still had many of them. In fact, many years later, I learned that she met them for money. But as a child, I had no idea, and I didn’t remember it being somehow directly visible in my childhood.

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My mother was an incredibly talented woman. She could sew, draw, and craft. She had her own sewing studio at some point, and she sewed clothes by order. She painted pictures that sometimes were exhibit in gallery’s and that she constantly tried to sell, but which no one wanted to buy with the price which she wanted for them. When I went to third grade, she had her own studio where she made billboards and advertising posters for companies. She had golden hands. But despite that, it was all wasted because of her illness.

People often told me in my childhood that my mother had schizophrenia. Later, when I was able to gather information and research myself, I realized that there were many different types and levels of schizophrenia. Severe chronic depression may also have similar symptoms as some cases of schizophrenia. I never knew for sure what my mother’s problem was. I only became more and more convinced over the years that there was a disease behind her behavior. What bothered me the most was the question of how much that illness took responsibility for her actions. Because it seemed to me that she knew exactly what she was doing.

IN ORDER TO MOVE ON WITH OUR LIVES AND BE HAPPY, WE SHOULD LEARN TO UNDERSTAND AND LET GO OF OUR PAIN. BUT UNDERSTANDING WHY SOMEONE DID WHAT THEY DID CAN SOMETIMES BE A JOURNEY THAT TAKES A LIFETIME.

The time I lived with my mother was full of different incidents. It was simply not possible to live with my mother in such way that nothing happened there. One of the reasons for that was my older brother. When I tried to go to school and conscientiously do schoolwork at home, he tried to avoid school and home whenever possible. He always knew how to serve me lies that made me drop to go to school. For example, that my mother had said that we had to go somewhere else instead of school. I didn’t believe it, because my mother had just sent us to school, but he could convince me that my mother had said something else at the last minute without me hearing it, and if I didn’t do as my mother said, I could get in trouble. Unfortunately, I knew exactly what an angry mother meant, and perhaps the fear of it was the reason I often believed my brother.

In the days I spent with my older brother instead of going to school, all sorts of things could happen. On one occasion he stole a car and he needed my help. He was the one who started the car and I had to open the gates. We took this car from a car-repairshop that was closed that day, but there were probably some cars staying there with keys. When my brother drove out of the gate, I jumped into the car on the move because he didn’t dare to brake, thinking the car would stop and he wouldn’t be able to start it again. Soon happened exactly this, the car stopped, and we left it there where it had stopped. We got caught because someone saw us. My brother was a seventh-grade student at the time. When the police questioned us, I honestly confessed to everything. I almost always did that. My grandmother etched into my memory the truth I carried with me as a child and throughout my life — we may be poor, but we are honest people. My mom was really angry at me, because like she said, if I hadn’t confessed, she wouldn’t have to pay a fine.

One of the hiding places my brother used was the tree next to my mother’s studio that we sometimes climbed. The brother always said it was necessary and I had to wait there. Sometimes I waited there alone, sometimes together with him. Thiskind of waiting at the top of the tree also happened a lot in the wintertime, and sometimes I could freeze there for several hours because my brother had told me to. But when it happened that my mother went to the store or to do other things, my brother told me to go through the small kitchen window, which couldn’t be closed all the way, climb into the kitchen and bring us some food. It was also common to steal in a shop. I remember very clearly one incident where I was more afraid of getting caught than usual because my brother wanted me to steal some smoke for him.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SIBLINGS IS AN EXTRAORDINARLY STRONG BOND. NO MATTER HOW WRONG LIFE CAN TURN, IT IS EXCEEDINGLY DIFFICULT, IF NOT IMPOSSIBLE, TO CUT IT LOOSE.

I was a younger sister who was enormously proud to have an older brother. In addition to the constant longing for my mother, I always carried with me the longing for my older brother. But not just that. I also felt much guilt over that I had the opportunity to live with my grandparents and had access to a better life than the life my older brother had to accept. He also had grandparents he visited often, but it wasn’t much better than at our mother’s place.

My mother had a constant lack of money, and it was noticeably clear in almost every conversation. It could also be seen in food and clothing. For example, it was quite common for my brother to have different socks on his feet and sometimes even different shoes because the pair was broken. I, on the contrary, was like a character identified as a princess who showed up from the world of fairy tales. I wasn’t allowed to clean because it was my older brother’s job. I had to be treated with respect and everyone had to be careful with me because I was a guest. That’s what my mother said when she was in a good mood. However, I felt that my brother was underestimated, and I had a great desire to fill that gap. Maybe that’s why I always went with him and why I tried to help him in his ventures.

I clearly remember another case from that time. It must have been early fall, because not long before I had come from my grandparents. My grandmother and aunt were always immensely proud of my long hair and a lot of effort was put into growing them. At that time, we did not have hair conditioners, only one standard shampoo for everyone, so natural remedies were used to keep the hair growing well and thick.

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It was one of those days when I went with my older brother instead of going to school. This time we didn’t hide near our mother’s work studio, but on the roof of our home. We lived in a five-story stone house with a flat roof and there was more than enough space to hide. But we also had to keep an eye on when my mother left home so that we could go home after that. So, I looked down over the edge of the roof and soon saw my mother leaving the stairwell. But instead of going straight to work, for some inexplicable reason, she stopped and looked up, and the only thing she saw was my long hair hanging over the edge of the roof. She panicked. She shouted that we had to go down immediately, and when she finally got to us and we went into the room, my older brother was beaten. I call it beating because my mother didn’t punish him, she always took the first thing that happened to be nearest and whipped with it. It could be a table lamp, a pan, or whatever. When she was ready with my brother, she turned to me, but instead of hitting, she picked up scissors and cut off my long hair short in anger. They couldn’t even be called cut, they looked more like chewed. She then took me by the hand and rushed through the city to her workplace. I remember this journey very well. I was wearing a long, green gypsy skirt with big red flowers, and I was extremely ashamed to show myself among the people with chewed short hair.

Later, when my mother calmed down, she trimmed my hair to be a nice short cut. My frustration of losing my long hair was great, but my grandmother was much more frustrated. Another reason to hate my mother. At the same time, the short hair was quite practical, because I always came from my mother with lice and getting rid of them was extremely annoying at that time when it came to long hair. I tried to grow them again later, but again and again they were cut short. This time by my own choice.

SOMETIMES WHAT BREAKS IN ONE CHILD DOES NOT BECOME VISIBLE UNTIL THAT CHILD IS AN ADULT. ALTHOUGH HE OR SHE DID NOT REALIZE IT AT THE TIME, IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE HAD ALREADY BEEN DONE.

My third grade was also the time I first got drunk. It was the day my older brother went fishing with a friend and I asked to come along. Strangely, my mother allowed me to go, even though the trip was overnight. We set up a tent by a small river by the forest, a brother made a fire, and we played cards. Of course, the boys had also organized alcohol. Somewhere, they had stolen a ten-liter home-made drink and no one knew how big percentage of alcohol it had. And so, we sat there, played the cards, and drank. My older brother and his friend started to get drunk, but it didn’t seem to affect me. That’s until the moment I straightened up too sharply and fell into the river like a ball, and only my feet stood out in the water. After that moment, I remember truly little and only in small peaces. I remember I had to undress because my clothes had to dry. I remember my brother and his friend started to blow the frogs with reeds and throw them into the fire, because then the frogs made a funny bang, and that was the reason I fled to the forest. Naked, only in panties, drunk, angry nine-year-old girl. I don’t know how long I wandered in the woods, but I remember that I finally started to go towards the light I noticed through the trees. When I finally arrived, I found myself at our camping place across the river. None of us understood how I got there, but in the end I got to the tent and went to sleep. The next day, when I had the first hangover of my life, and everyone who has gone through it knows exactly how painful it is, the three of us agreed that last night’s adventures were staying just between us. And so it did.

Later, when I was an adult, I learned in how much poverty my mother lived at the time. Of course, there were several different versions about it. For example, one of the versions said that my mom collected money and spent it for herself and did not want to spend it on the children. But only my mother knows what really happened there. I later learned that my mother was also a thief and sometimes she asked my older brother to help her. I also found out how much my mother liked to hit my brother. But I later felt it on my own skin as well.

I know my older brother was bitter. He may have realized that it wasn’t my fault, but in his heart, he was definitely bitter over that he had been forgotten at our mother’s place, that he didn’t have grandparents who cared so much as my grandparents did. He certainly overcame it later, but the journey to get there was awfully long and bumpy. Usually, we spend the first half of our lives fixing our parents’ mistakes and making our own. And if we are lucky, maybe the other half of life can live for ourselves.