I’m drowning in the reality that I’m not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, kind enough, or thoughtful enough. I thought I was a little girl but they tell me I’m a “late bloomer?” There’s even a book they read me. It makes me angry and sad at bed time. So every day I struggle to be more…. If I can become more then I can feel ok. I can bloom. But when I’m messy, stupid, or outspoken, or hungry, then she notices. She is my Mother and my Mother is a Goddess. I’ve seen her put Daddy down like an old dog, and burn our world to scorched earth with a look. Goddesses are tricky creatures. Please them and they’ll ignore you. Upset them and you’ll see how quickly everything you thought you were gets singed to ash.
I’m not enough. Daddy isn’t enough either. Together we let the team down and that makes us embarrassing. I’m his because I have his hair, his eyes, and his shape while Sis is hers because she is thin, red haired, pale, and universally adored. Sis is a Goddess in training. I am a late bloomer!
This reality divides our house into the reds vs. browns, thins vs. fats, petted vs. rebuked. In Mother’s corner is Sis and a tenuous, uncertain me – wishing to please and be accepted. In Daddy’s corner is Daddy, looking alone, sad, confused, goofy and often outright obnoxious. I drift to his side now and again but scorned Goddesses are never merciful.
Daddy has always been the odd man out. He wears his constant rejection like an old sweater that is too shabby to bring comfort, yet too familiar to be taken off. So he says and does things that make everything harder, needing to be loved while he gives us reasons to push him farther away. I feel his need to be loved like I feel his need to be accepted. I want him to be loved and accepted; to be better, thinner, smart, and funny in a way that will please her, but he doesn’t try like I do, so I, too, am ashamed. In being ashamed of him, I become ashamed of me, ashamed of us.
So here we are! It’s a hot, sunny summer day and my uncle is complaining that the meat we bought for the barbeque is too cheap a cut for him to eat. Mother makes food and ignores him, while wearing a tee-shirt two sizes too small; her low cut bell bottom jeans flaring in all the right places. Sis is in her bikini looking equally radiant, while I wear my one piece, the only kind of swimming suit this round bloomless girl is allowed to wear.
Daddy fills the paddle pool. Then he fills up water balloons and before we know it a neighborhood-wide water fight has begun. Hoses reach under boxelder trees, are pulled across M St., while buckets are filled and balloons smashed. Pop! We shriek, laugh, scream and run but not fast enough as buckets of water are dumped over our heads. In minutes we’re all soaked, laughing and happy.
Cold water turns to steam that rises off hundred degree concrete, filling the air with that most succulent of urban scents: hot wet sidewalk. It’s a memory scent that makes me happy every time I smell it. I’m lost in the scent, in being happy, in the sparkle of puddles on scorched brown lawn. It’s the yells of men that makes me look up. Daddy has the hose but Uncle and another man have hold of Daddy. In a second he’s dragged across the lawn and thrown down in the paddle pool face first with Uncle and this other man landing on top. Daddy is pinned to the bottom of the baby pool and the fight is over.
Everybody laughs. It’s funny? It doesn’t feel funny! It feels mean! When they let him up Daddy’s half drowned and defeated. He is again the youngest brother of five, the boy who never wins. I feel mad because they took the game too seriously. Like the water disappearing into the ground, all the fun’s leached out of the day.
I go in the backyard and sit alone, the sound of laughter still ringing in the air. There is no way to fix this thing I feel but can’t express. No way to take sides in this invisible battle that no one ever talks about. All I can do is try to be better, to be kinder, to be a lady, to be enough. If I can be enough then maybe I’ll bloom.