I finally got my push mower. Every year I ask my husband for one as a gift, mother’s day, Christmas, my birthday. I could buy it myself but needed not only the machine but the acknowledgment that I would step into his space. He mows on his rider with a headset on, listening to music, getting lost in making beautiful golf course designs, as much as possible in our dog destroyed yard. I, on the other hand, wanted my mower in order to be walking those lines, to create order from chaos, to be in charge.
As an adolescent, I often got to mow even though I had two brothers who were supposed to handle this chore. They avoided it, I jumped at the chance. I realize now the anxiety was stilled as I pushed the mower and followed the lines, knowing exactly where to go, progress evident. My need for safety screamed out as I diligently pushed on, daring not miss a blade. Tires in the track of the last row, perfect. Controlling my world, for the moment.
I experienced horrific sexual abuse as a child. My earliest memory, a 3 year old, laying on the bed, while my father molested my body. I was watching from above. The abuse would these days make national headlines if detected, a ring of men who shared their little girls. It was the 60’s though and no one talked. My mother either didn’t know or couldn’t see. She married an alcoholic, like her father, her troubles were great. She worked constantly in order to keep us clothed and fed. Finally, after catching him in affair, She had enough. It was okay to cheat with your child, other peoples children, just not another adult. Something broke through her denial.
After my parents divorced, my abuse stopped and I was safe, for about a year. Mom moved us into a smaller house, I loved it. My little brother and I got roller skates and new hooded jackets, sliding down the driveway carefree. The greatest year of my childhood.
Then they remarried. He joined us in our tiny home. As the only girl, I had my own bedroom while the boys shared. I remember vividly my father coming into my room to store his stuff in my closet. My room was no longer safe. My new home was now a place of fear. He always had an excuse to be in there, should anyone bother to ask. I don’t think they did. I remember thinking that I had everything exactly as I wanted it in my closet, there was no room for him. I was a child who kept her room spotless, no messes ever. I couldn’t handle the clutter, everything always had to be perfect. One of my father’s favorite things to do was hide somewhere in the house and jump out at me as I passed by, scaring me. He thought it was hilarious. I was terrified. He destroyed my sanctuary, my sense of control. I remember little else from that home, after he intruded. We moved to a bigger home at some point, he died when I was 14.
I wasn’t free from him for many years, still carry the scars of his abuse. I continue to avoid clutter, I search for perfection. I seek to control my environment to avoid surprises. I mow the yard in straight lines, pushing forward, creating beauty, stilling the inner voice that asks, “what is right around the corner?” I can see where I have been, where I need to go. For the moment, it is enough.