Difficulty Drives Imagination
When my mother moved us to the mountains of Colorado. I'm sure her hopes were to have a place of freedom. A place to be near a couple of her close friends. A place to start over and forget the hard memories of the past. New people, new surroundings, a new life. The unfortunate truth of running from something is that it will always follow you. No matter how far you run, it will be there with you. When you suffer from the kind of pain my mother suffered from, you can't run from it. You can't hide and just hope that it will go away. At some point, we are all forced to face the difficulties we've been through. The challenge with that is, that life will make you face those realities whether you like it or not.
For my mom, those choices wreaked havoc on her successes in life. Upon moving to Colorado, my mom leveraged our home to start her own restaurant. The Jennie D Family Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor. It was a great little place full of some wonderful memories.
My mom was not a businesswoman. Management was hard for her and her fear of money and fear of success caused her to make very poor decisions. My mom would give away everything she had. Not just out of the kindness of her heart, but out of a fear that hanging onto it was somehow bad. Couple that with the fact that we were very poor, hungry at home, and had no supervision other than my teenage sister Charlie trying to be a mother to us. It was not a great combination for success. Every time we were in that restaurant we would make ourselves at home and eat everything we wanted. A very good reason that we were not there a lot. Eight kids going to town on your business supplies and not giving any monetary return for those supplies can only last so long.
Mom was at that restaurant all of the time. When she was home, she was tired and angry with spurts of kindness. The poor woman was stressed to the max. We often pushed Mom to the limit. My sister Charlie did her best to control us, but if you've ever been around children with no adult supervision, it's pure chaos.
My mom's fuse was about a millimeter long and sometimes, for no reason that we could comprehend, she'd come into our rooms at 2 or 3 am banging pots and pans together shouting for all of us to get out of bed to clean the house. The house that my sister Charlie or my other sisters had diligently cleaned up before going to bed. "Nobody's going back to bed until it's done right!" she would shout.
I remember clearly the fear of being jolted out of bed by the angry voice of my mother and the tremendously loud pots and pans hitting each other. The fear of getting spanked with a wooden spoon, a wet hand on bare butt cheeks, or a leather belt if we didn't get it done, and the fear that it wouldn't be clean enough, which it never was.
Exhausted and in tears we'd all crawl out of bed and try to please my mother. It was impossible. Nothing we ever did was good enough. She would just finally hit a point of her own exhaustion and go crawl back into bed a couple hours later. We'd do the same only to wake up an hour or so later to get ready for school. Being woken up by my sibling to go to school was rough. The memories of the night's waking from our mother would flood back into my little mind and the fear and anxiety would settle in. "What was it going to be like when she got home from work tonight?" I would wonder.
Years of this settled into me and I began to dig deep into myself to find ways to escape Mom's outrage. Make-believe began to be my main coping mechanism. If I could stay in my mind and create my own worlds or places to hide that were happy and fun, I'd be okay. So that's what I did and I got very good at it. I could tune out my mother and just get busy cleaning.
I've learned over the years to be very grateful for the imagination I gained from these moments. Sure they were extremely hard and I'd never want to treat my own kids that way, but those hardships awakened the most powerful creative tool I have. My Imagination. The tool that allows me to take things that were once just ideas and make them real. No longer to be stuck in my imagination. no longer to be used just as a place to hide.