Let sleeping dogs lie*

I wasn’t raised by my mother. She turned legal guardianship of me over to my grandparents when I was two years old, and they had been raising me long before that. For all of my childhood and most of my adolescence she lived thousands of miles from me and I called her by her first name. She never called to speak to me, she rarely visited, and gifts were few and far in between. She wrote me a letter once, when I was eleven, after my grandmother had told her I’d been getting in trouble at school. I read it up until the line that said “You will not be 12 years old forever…” then I immediately crumpled it up and threw it away, thinking she doesn’t even know how old I am.

Today, she has this habit of telling me how I was when I was a little girl.

We talk about potty training and she reminisces about how I was potty trained quickly and never had an accident. I wet the bed until I was about ten years old. She goes on and on about how my brother was behaviorally difficult from the time he entered preschool but I never was that way. I was kicked out of preschool for being such a terror. She talks to me about discussions she had with me, lessons she taught me, and none of it happened. The only memories I have of her from when I was a child are of her fighting my brother’s father and the time she came to North Carolina to visit with a bunch of our family and acted like she wanted nothing to do with me.

I don’t argue with her, I usually just nod or stare incredulously at her. I wonder if she has really convinced herself that these things actually happened. I wonder if all parents do this, if they claim memories that don’t really exist. On more than one occasion I’ve wanted to say “um, I think you are confused. I can count how many times I saw you when I was growing up on one hand.” but I don’t. I ignore it, or I talk to my grandparents and they shake their heads and mutter things like “delusional” and “crazy” and “off her rocker“. I think the three of us find it more amusing than anything else.

I asked her once, when I was a teenager, about her giving me up but keeping my younger brother and sister. She spouted off some nonsense like “you wanted to live with them, I asked you and you told me and they poisoned your mind against me“. She’ll never admit anything that would make her look like anything but a victim, and I had a wonderful childhood – much better than the one she could or would have given me – so what purpose would dredging up the past serve? I leave it be. That dog’s not just sleeping – it’s dead.

I’m grateful that unlike my mother, when my children are older, I won’t have to make up any stories about them. I’ll have real ones.

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