Friday, August 3, 2012

Getting it down, letting it out.

Jennifer is such a beautiful soul. I met her on facebook and instantly fell in love with her honesty, snarkiness, compassion and her writing. Oh and her photography, how moving and raw.  Here's a story she wrote in 2009 about her childhood and she wanted to share it here.  

 Of course, it makes sense that it is the extraordinary moments that we remember.

I don't recall specifics; I don't know what else happened that day or what the weather was like or what I ate for breakfast.

I see flashes, a mental flip-book of images. I see my mother's face contorting, I hear her anguished wails. I remember the color leaving my father's skin, and in my head I watch him sit down on the couch and put his face in his hands. My mother screams, "I knew it! I KNEW IT!" I can still hear her hysterical cries.

My parents have just found out that John Lennon was killed.

I am almost three and this will be my earliest childhood memory.

Later, I will learn that my mother's insistence that she 'knew it' came from her having a premonition just days before, one she had even told my father about. She felt that something was going to happen to John, that he was in danger. That he would be dead soon.

In my father's study, he has stacks upon stacks of records, the makings of a dilapidated musical city. He has the cover of 'Two Virgins' framed and hanging on the wall and I sit for hours and stare at the naked John and Yoko. My parents aren't uptight about nudity or sex, so I'm not looking because it is forbidden and taboo, but rather because I am so mesmerized by the raw love between them. I will look for so long that my father will eventually say, "Okay, kiddo, that's along."

But I love being in there. As I grow up, my father will tell me more about John. He plays his music constantly. He gets really high and sings his favorite songs and plays guitar for me. The sweet smoke in the air makes me feel tired and silly. My father can't seem to accept the fact that John will never write another song. It's just too much to wrap his mind around. He looks at me evenly and tells me it's a fucking tragedy, a waste. I am maybe five by now.

My mother wears her hair long and straight, directly down the middle. She paints her fingernails rose pink and makes crowns for me out of the tiny white flowers that grow in our front yard. She can charm anyone in her presence if it suits her to do so. I watch her and wonder if I will become her as I get older -- if I might stop men in their tracks and leave them looking after me with unabashed desire, even for long after I've left the room.

Such thoughts about my future woman self keep me awake one night when I am about six years-old, and I soon find my mind wandering to John's nakedness in the next room. I can't stand the idea that he will never be touched again, that all that beautiful flesh and mind and words and heart that changed the world and made my mother sob as though her life were being pulled out of her could somehow just be gone. I cry for him and for us, but I also think more about how his penis looks to me -- foreign and odd yet extremely endearing and fascinating, and I feel like someone is sitting on my chest; I can't catch my breath. And the next day I ask my mother to tell me what sex is all about, and she does. Then it all makes sense, that breath-stealing, crushing feeling. I was never one of those children who was appalled by 'the talk'; on the contrary, I began to look forward to it immediately. To me, it just seemed like another beautiful art form yet to be explored.

From the time I was born until I was about seven years-old, this was my truth: That John Lennon was God, that the Christian God was dead, that art was the essence of true beauty and that war was the height of all evil. Everything you needed to learn in life you could learn through folk music and great works of literature, and also, perhaps most poignantly, that my father was one hell of a fucking pothead.

And then everything changes.

My mother gets angry. She has always been angry, I will hear all about that as I get older; but now I can see it. I can feel it. My father grows resentful of her endless stream of lovers and essentially checks himself out of the relationship.

My mother will break countless hearts and bring crazy men into our lives. One will confront her during a play rehearsal (she did a lot of theater in those days), furious over her inevitable disinterest. I sit on the stage in between acts and talk to the other actors and I see him shaking his finger in her face. His skin is ruby red with fury. "Cunt!" he screams, his voice a siren in the still air. An older man swoops me up, takes me backstage and teaches me how to play poker while the jilted lover is led off the premises. Years later, we will run into the angry man at the mall and have to hide in the bathroom until we are sure he is gone. "He'd probably like to kill me," my mother will tell me, quite matter-of-factly.

My father is tired and his pure idealism takes a beating as a result of my mother's antics. She's a woman we no longer recongize, screaming and tearing the house apart and slamming doors in our faces. She wants to get away from us. I begin to feel like it's me she wants to get away from, that I'm holding her back from a life in which she can pursue her glory and her destruction on her own terms.

My father tries to remedy this by buying her a house. It lasts for approximately two years during which time her rage boils over into a staggering crescendo; the night that she hurls a thick drinking glass at my face and my father has to put up his hand in front of me to stop it is the night they decide to divorce.

They sit me down and ask me with whom I wish to continue living. I love my house, my school, and all of the time I spend with my aunt Debbie and Nana, my mother's sister and mother, and I choose my father. But, really, I choose out of fear. I am scared to death of being whisked away by my mother and made to be continually punished for transgressions I cannot begin to understand.

And this is the first time I will wonder if, when John died, the best parts of her died as well.

When I am nine, my mother willingly leaves her only child to live 200 miles away with a man nearly thirty years her senior, a man who will eventually nearly destroy us all.

My parents will never again be the people they were during the first seven years of my life.

But who they were then is the very foundation for the entire story of who I am now.


"God, Jesus, or whoever the fuck you are - wherever you are - will you please, just once, just tell me what the hell I'm supposed to be doing?" - John Lennon, as read in Mikal Gilmore's book, 'Stories Done.'

Jennifer Summer


  1. Wonderful writing, I'm very intrigued

  2. Wow! Thank you for sharing this.

  3. The early part of this feels like it came from my own life. Fantastic writing.


"Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."
-Mark Twain