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How I survived childhood…

My mother was a narcissist. I am very grateful that I was brought up by my Oma and Opa, my maternal grandparents until I was five.

I would not take my mother’s milk, so she handed me to her mother and went to work. My Dad was mainly overseas. I had loving older sister who was already very damaged by my mother but I was unaware of her turmoil until we were young adults.

My Oma and Opa had three other grandchildren when I arrived. My two cousins and sister were part of my world from my start. My grandparents were nurturing, loving, maybe a bit over indulgent, fun, and consistent.

Oma’s food was my nectar. I thrived and became a healthy, happy, carefree little girl and my memories of my mother during those five years are nil. Not one memory of my mother from those early years, though I recall events, my sister, my Dad, and both Oma and Opa clearly as well as neighbours, and dogs, snowy winters, long summers, stealing cherries from the tree, climbing staircases, my Opa’s workshop, the Singer sewing machine, Schroder’s the bakery, my sister having her tonsils removed, wondering what a ‘needle in her arm’ meant and how was that possible.

We moved to England with my Dad’s job. I pined for Oma and Opa. I grew thin. My first memory of my mother is walking to see a doctor about my weight. I have no memory of her until my grandparents were not a permanent nurturing framework.

Eventually we moved to the home we all lived in until my sister left to train as a nurse, and I left soon after because I could not bear living in a house with my mother without my sister.

Once in England, my closeness to my sister began to have chinks. She would report any perceived misdemeanour to my mother. This baffled me. Why would she spoil our play by going to tell our mother silly little details that I could not remember doing? Why was it important to tell my mother I had jumped across and down a terraced flower bed? Had my sister not joined in? And hanging upside down in a tree? Why report that?

So my mother would start a message to me that I was spoilt. It became the background music to any conversation alone with her. At sixteen, it became that I was rebellious. I knew that I wasn’t. I knew I was only being who I was, and that appeared to be irksome to my mother.

My Dad found no fault with me. He and I would walk. Walking was what we did. I learned about birds and their songs from him. I learned how to be downwind of animals so that I could get closer to them. Dad taught me without words, but when he spoke, softly imparting confidences, as though I were the most trustworthy person in the world, it was to impart knowledge that enriched me and gave me such respect for the Earth, Nature, forests, rivers, and all the inhabitants which were not human.

He taught me respect for others, lowly or titled because he could be at ease with all, unchanged. My Dad taught by example, instilled truths and values.

My mother taught me what I did not want to be. Fault finding. Perfectionist. Nagging. Bemoaning living among the British, although Germans liked her no better. I experienced her arguing with every member of my extended family. Notice how I refer to her. I am detached. Not ‘mother’ as that suggests relationship. I need to state which mother. So ‘my’ mother.

My sister was engaged twice, and twice broke them off. At my mother’s instructions. My sister could not assert herself, and trying to back her decisions was soul destroying as she gave up at the word of my mother.

I realise my mother was in my sister’s entire life and she destroyed my sister on the inside. Emotionally and mentally.

I was spared, thanks to being second-born and handed to my Oma and Opa.

By Chrisssie Morris Brady

I've read poetry since I was nine and have written creatively since I was fourteen (probably long before that). After writing book reviews and social comment, I decided I wanted to write poetry. I have no formal training, but I surround myself with poets and their writing. I am honing my craft.
I have two published collections which I don't feel good about, but have been published by madswirl.com and other publications. I live on the south coast of England with my daughter. I am seriously ill.

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