Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Not-Very-Good Development on an Otherwise Fine Day

Every time I go to my mother’s house, she hands me a collection of junk mail that I never need. Airline-affiliated credit card offers, catalogs and crap that you can just tell by the envelope is mass-mailed and worthless. Regardless, I flip through stack, barely looking, and toss the lot in the recycle pile. But this trip, this morning, was a little different. Right on top of the latest pile, conspicuously inconspicuous was something titled “Psychological Evaluation.” It was mine, administered to me when I was in fifth grade. On January 20th, 21st, 24th and 25th, of 1983, to be exact. There was no mention as to why it was there on top of my junk mail stack, or where it even came from, or where this copy has been living for the past almost-thirty years. But there it was, the secret life of dysfunction.

I swear it made my heart skip a beat, this folded up, slightly worn, typed-with-tabs evaluation of my eleven-year-old self. I guess most people would sit down and unfold those old papers and read them and ask their mother questions. It made me nervous and clammy. I felt that lurch in my stomach. Part of me wanted to just leave the house and leave the papers behind. I wanted to run reaaaaaallly fast. Not all people react so histrionically, but what can I say, I have a visceral reaction to evidence of those years. Third, fourth and fifth grade were not good years for my family. Neither were sixth, seventh and eight. The rest weren’t so great either. But fifth grade was a doozy.

So now, naturally, I can’t sleep and am debating if I should use a precious ambien to numb me into a prone position. I am trying to remember being evaluated. And I just can’t. I am trying to remember why I was absent for eleven days (?!) before the evaluation (it stated that under “behavioral observations”). I cannot remember a single thing. I can’t remember my third, fourth or fifth grade teachers’ names. Or what the lunchroom looked like. Or what the playground looked like. All I remember is this: making clay projects in art class, lost in a world of breakfast food, as I was obsessed with making the perfect stack of clay pancakes with a yellow pat of butter on top and little sausages and eggs, sunny side up. I think I remember thinking these would be a huge hit with my parents. I think I was planning on giving it to them as a gift. I think I thought they might keep it together, knowing that I put so much time and effort an thought into it. I have no idea what became of this art project. I can only guess it suffered the same fate as most of my childhood mementoes.

This was the year I also created my “signature” drawing: A picture of a woman holding a baby. Her rudimentary arms came down like two C’s on either side of her body. Inside the arms was a little oval of a baby. The mother’s eyes were little V’s, to indicate that she was looking at the baby, whose eyes were closed. She was smiling. The baby was smiling. To this day, when I doodle, I will doodle that picture, changing only the amount of cleavage I dole out to the mother, as indicated by the length of the line curving out of her neckline.

A courtyard, red culottes, a white shawl. Slate steps, a pond, a darkroom. A station wagon, a gravestone, honeysuckle. The clicking sound of the turn signal in a car late at night. The sound of tires crunching on gravel. Happy leaf. A giant forsythia bush that I turned into a fort. There’s all that.

So now I have a little more information about myself, to help fill in the blank spaces. I know what my IQ is, according to this report. I know statistically, mathematically, how I compared to my peers locally and nationwide. I know that my mother requested this evaluation of me. A little more information; a little more mystery.

Everyone is sleeping but me. It’s almost 11:30. The battery on my laptop is fading fast, but I am still wired. Tomorrow I am making ladybug and bumblebee cupcakes with Avery. For breakfast, Nicole is making French toast and her famous maple sugar bacon, for Madeline, who discovered bacon at the Sugar Shack in Massachusetts and has been talking about it nonstop. Which is to say she has been repeating the word “bacon” over and over again, and becoming almost inconsolable when I tell her that we don’t have any. There is ironing to do, a trip to the fruit market. Emails to respond to. Light bulbs to change. (Five, and counting….why do they always blow out around the same time?) Playground? Or zoo? Maybe a manicure? Life goes on. Despite my emotional upheaval, this was a good Saturday. And I am sure it will be a good Sunday. But this all depends on my ability to, once again, lock away/throw away the key.

I think I am finally getting sleepy.


K J and the kids said...

Why do you do this to me. Now I MUST know what exactly is wrong with you :)
I'm sorry your mother has a lack of...shit...pick a word. I'll say sensitivity for now. I'm also sorry that this sent your day in to a tail spin, the need for a drug induced sleep and all around unrest.

If you need to get it out. talk about it. I'm here for you.
And not just in a, I'm super nosey, kind of way either. Although I might need an ambien myself to stop thinking about this and go to bed ;-)

Sleep tight.

Molly said...


Michelle said...

Did you ever tackle Parenting From the Inside Out? I finally settled for skimming - I was reading before bed, and some of it made my brain hurt to read (ie, the gray pages at the end of each chapter). But I found the part about memory to be particularly interesting, and how we tend to suppress memory from painful periods of our lives. There are whole chunks of my childhood that I cannot remember at all. And I always wondered why that was the case.

Sorry you had to re-live some painful memories. Tossed in with the junk mail, no less. I hope you find peace.