I stir the ice cream, there in that bowl.
Over and over, spoon to side, and back again. The grinding sound is creating the milky masterpiece that I love so much.
Often the act begins with scoops of Cookies & Cream, the one which will remain a lifelong favorite. Most often though, they consist of French Vanilla, what I remember to be your favorite and a flavor I simply cannot stand.
The grinding, noise of metal spoon against glass, annoys you. This isn’t why I love to do it, but it doesn’t seem to deter me from my mission either.
As long as I can make that ice cream last, fading from firm scoop to sweet cream, the more of a victory I seem to feel I have won… I never questioned why, or why I stopped playing with the treat once I no longer lived under that roof. Have I ever done that as an adult? I’ll have to ask my husband. If I have, it was more from habit than intent.
As a girl, it was deliberate- thought out. It took serious concentration and I was committed to the act as if humanity’s survival depended on it…
Whenever something prompts me to reflect on my childhood, and the sorts of things I loved, liked and found interesting, that silly little ice cream habit is always towards the top of my list. I would shrug it off internally, chalking up to one of those dumb things I did to be weird. Today, suddenly, in this adult moment I am simply not sure…
We only had ice cream when you were there. We only did a lot of things when you were there. Movie nights, game nights, real dinners, actual dialogue and verbal interaction that didn’t involve yelling or verbal abuse. Which, I guess, isn’t entirely true. There were manic moments which included late night dance parties between her and I, or crazy drives in the dark where she’d sing and dance in the car and I would try to force myself to absorb how incredibly fun my mom could be. It would be well into my own adulthood when I would realize my mom’s manic habits really weren’t fun, but to a child those were the best versions of her that I saw.
On the nights when you were there, after the evening meal, after the kitchen was clean and the ice cream was eaten- this is when I was encouraged to sit on the couch beside you. This is when the bad things which I had always known, would happen. She would turn slightly, towards the light and away from us, and there- with a movie on the television, my little soul would fragment again and again.
Of course we were quite a group, the three of us. There was me, the girl who really hadn’t a clue what was happening as I disappeared catatonic, to a dark place deep within. There she sat knitting, in the role of my mother, choosing not to see it because then she could convince herself of innocence. And lastly, you. I don’t know why you did it, I don’t know how you could hear the word Daddy, be the keeper of my more stable childhood moments, be the teacher or my board game and bicycle skills and still be the monster with his body parts between my little girl legs…
I will never know the full extent of what happened.
I will certainly never understand.
I do know that I don’t hate you. It’s a complicated place to arrive, but I have. It was. It happened. It’s over.
I’ve found myself in the repeating situation, as of late, of hearing another share their own abuse story. I have found myself in awe of the quilted fabric we survivors lay across this earth, together connected by stitches not visible to the human eye, yet very real and binding. We are each so different, yet it is often in the connection of together which makes it the most beautiful…
It is beautiful.
This scrap of fabric, the fragment which remains after the use and abuse of the rest of a once shiny and new linen- it becomes something heavy with warmth and stitched with love. Something which will cradle a newborn, nurture the sick, protect our children from the elements and splay so much hope and beauty on this fragmented world.
Four sat around a table today, talking about life and motherhood, about marriage and technology, about childhoods and dark things like this. Of the four, only one had not known such darkness. Only one… I saw it then- this quilt protects the babies so that the one can one day become three– and some glorious day- four. I long for a day when four women can come together and not one of them will know the unwanted sexual touch of another.
I am a part of an often faceless sisterhood, and while I cannot be glad for what took me there, I am grateful for the banding together of something bold and beautiful, sprouted from the ugly it was born.
I am not what you did to me, but I am forever changed because of it. It may have felt otherwise, and it might still I guess, but the reality is that the only victim in our exchange is you…
I think of you, of that favorite bowl and that flatware spoon every time I eat ice cream. Woven into my soul, you’re there. You are there in the small green Monopoly houses, in the 1980’s horror movies, in tall sweaty glasses of iced tea, even in the smell of grilled steak… You are everywhere, somehow in almost everything. It is both complicated and simple. Hating you, I finally see, would mean hating me. So, instead, I’ll roll the dice and keep my fingers crossed that I get to own the Orange and the Greens. I’ll savor bites of ice cream and I’ll occasionally enjoy a steak and iced tea- I can not let the memory of a man, both father figure and monster, ruin things I love- just like you didn’t ruin me.