This anonymous guest post is a tough one to read. We continue to be overcome by the brave honesty our Fierce Force of ladies share with us. What do you think?
I grew up in a chaotic household. My older brother was always in trouble. His name was a like a swear word to my ears.
My dad was always disappointed in him. My mom was always trying to repair what my brother broke. My sister and I just tried to stay out of the way.
My brother was mostly just gone. His presence was felt even in his absence. We all missed him, worried about him and wondered whether he was safe.
He smoked weed and eventually moved onto cocaine and finally crystal meth.
For the past few months and for the first time in his adult life, my brother is clean. The problem is that I spent so much feeling frightened, confused and abandoned that I don’t remember how to handle life without the tools I used to survive all those years.
But it wasn’t chaotic when my mom and I baked chocolate chip cookies. Just the two of us in the kitchen, giggling and standing close at the counter. She would push sloppy spoonfuls of cookie dough off a spoon onto the cookie sheet with her fingers. The grooves in her fingerprint left tiny lines on the thin dough layer left on the spoon. She let me lick the beaters. She let me scrape the mixing bowl and eat the last bits of dough. She even licked a bit off my fingers.
I had her full attention. Our moment was over when the cookies went into the oven because she would start cleaning. My mother’s home cannot be unclean.
When the cookies came out of the oven, things were different. My mom would never eat a cookie. “I don’t need that,” she would say with disgust. She said she was fat and she hated her body. She didn’t deserve a fully-baked chocolate chip cookie.
Her job was to clean up the messes. She saved my brother when he got into trouble. She would not let him suffer. She refused to let her son fail.
She smoothed, fixed and cried. She listened to the guidance counselor who told her he was a “smart kid who made dumb decisions.” She nursed him to health when he overdosed after his girlfriend broke up with him. She bailed him out of jail when he got busted. She paid his rent and bought him food. She gave him gas money. She packed him dinner leftovers even though he hadn’t shown up in time to eat with us.
She was his mother first.
When the cookies came out of the oven, I ate them. I love the gooey, just baked interior of a freshly baked cookie. Burning my fingers, hot out of the oven, the chocolate, butter, sugar and vanilla are nearly liquid and fall apart if you don’t get them in your mouth quickly enough. The melted chocolate melds with the melted dough forming a brown chocolaty mess of sweet warm divinity.
I will not eat only one.
Cookies feel good in my mouth. Just like a glass of rich cabernet sauvignon. I love holding a red wine glass in my hand. It’s as big as a fish bowl. The best way to hold it is palm up, my fingers around the bowl, the stem between the ring and middle fingers of my right hand. A gentle tip of the glass against my lips and that luscious dark liquid slides onto my tongue and warms me.
The wine doesn’t yell. It doesn’t show up late for dinner. The wine doesn’t forget my birthday. The tall, soldier-like, green glass bottle with its regal winery logo never stole my allowance or pocketed bills from the church collection basket. Those bottles never shouted at my mom, pushed my dad or said my parents were “Gestapo Parents.” The chocolate chip cookies never shut their bedroom door in my face, called me “little girl” or told me to leave them alone.
My brother did those things.
The boy with the failing grades whose teachers always knew was a bright star. The boy-scout who worshipped and constantly disappointed his Navy-fighter father.
Our father been a 23-year old naval cadet when my mother got pregnant. They got married lied to my grandparents about their elopement date to make the math work for the brother’s birthdate. They spent the first 12 years of their marriage separated by my father’s military commitments.
My brother disappointed our father – just by being born. My mother’s job was to clean up his mess.
The chaos my brother has brought to my life and to that of each member of my family is staggering. Like all real stories, every character is complex and their motives were equal parts right and wrong. Like a frustrating sitcom where the simplest of miscommunications creates a bungled mess, none of the characters in this story could fix it on their own.
Chocolate chip cookies and red wine don’t fix me but the chaos they bring only seems to hurt me on the inside.