Forest Deep

Story telling about my daughter's life of 19 short years, I started a recollection thread, a series of posts looking at my life with Angel that ended twenty years ago - May 31, 1989.

The cabin in the Black Forest was our new home for most of 1981. I was on top of the world to be living with my best friend - no more long distance!

The energy in that cabin of the woods was so positive. We had laughter and love and it was real pleasure to not have to edit our passion for sharing ideas. We could be exuberant - Angela and her brother too - with full support.

Just this week I spoke with M about he and Angela hanging out with my friend and I so much of the time. I remember as a parent being so baffled about the kids having a forest to run around in, yet wanting to hang so close to home. M said that it was no wonder with what they had been through. It is true, I think I underestimated how much of the marriage break-up and the move had affected them.

Angela was in heaven to be taking dancing lessons every day at my friend's dance studio. Although she had taken lessons since she was little, she virtually had private tutorials by living with her dance teacher. She grew so much at this time that she was tall for her age and most of that was legs. She also fell in love with modern dance and tap too. She wasn't particularly gifted, but she improved rapidly by taking so many classes.

Also, for her it was a dream to have all the leotards, tights, leg warmers (big fashion fad in '80's if you may recall) at her disposal. My friend and she were about the same height and built. She was so upset that her brother had an almost perfect arch and was given a solo piece in the recital. Fact of life it seemed to me, that boys almost automatically get parts because they are rare in dance classes. On the other hand, the solo parts for the girls were highly competitive and Angela wasn't ready for that yet.

I was going through health things all year (subject for another post at another time) and anxiety was wearing me down. Financial scenarios - especially ones that would allow me to get a degree - were looking really bleak. And almost immediately it was clear that Reagan was set to tear down safety nets. It was a wretched time for liberals in America.

Halfway through the year I started a breakdown that my friend saw coming and I didn't. She had spotted me gripping my thumbs within my fists. I do know I found it harder and harder to cope with any daily interactions with the kids. I would sit out under the trees in the forest for hours - even wrapped in a blanket if it was cold.

Poverty and helplessness dogged my spirit. What I'd been able to do in Omaha without a car or income was crippling in the forest. I look back and marvel at my blind optimism. At the time I thought I was staying on top of it with my frugal ways of shopping and cooking and melding our schedules with my friend's schedule and life.

In July my kids were visiting their dad, with airline tickets paid for out of income from our still jointly owned duplex. Remember that point as it comes up shortly in this memory thread. While they were gone I was gifted with an airline ticket to New York City. This was from another friend I had known since my Iowa high school and consciousness raising group. She had married a German conceptual artist and had visited my home in Omaha and felt I should come visit them in Brooklyn.

I loved New York so very much. But that trip ultimately figured in as a primary catalyst in my breakdown that fall. I was suffering from a cognitive dissonance about who I was and where I fit in my life. I'd made choices based on my heart and my emotions. I was naive about how hostile this country is to single mothers and to women in general. But, most of all I blamed myself for ill health, poverty, lack of transportation to employment opportunities and non-support. I'd made choices that failed to measure the true costs. Once I knew I was headed for a fall I had to turn to my wasbund to get first M and then Angela settled back into the Omaha lifestyle so I could seek help. My younger sister came to the rescue by driving with a friend from Omaha to pick M up and take him back. Angela was going on a long awaited school camping trip, so her trip to return to her dad's home came a week or two later. It was heartbreaking for my children and I was a mess of guilt and confusion. I was only lighly tethered to reality and in a world of hurt and shame. I crashed.


Rosa said...

just the little bit you've talked about mental health issues and suicide in your family - it's really impressive that you were able to give up on what you were doing and get the kids someplace safe, when you started to see things unravel. Not everyone can or will do that.

katecontinued said...

I am grateful for being recognized as conscientious, Rosa. I have always considered it epic fail. Being an absentee mother was a pretty horrific thing in 1981. And I got pretty crap advice from a person dear to me who said it would be better to put the kids in foster care than to let them be with their dad. I have never been able to fathom hating my ex enough to think that was a solution.

Rosa said...

That idea that you have to keep your kids with you even if you're not able to parent well is one of the toxic effects of the pre-feminist cult of motherhood, I think. But it sounds to me like you very conscientous and held it together just long enough to take care of them.

katecontinued said...

I am digging and remembering my train of thought when I first talked of leaving Nebraska. My initial idea was to leave the kids in their home, schools etc. with their dad (the extended families) while I finished my schooling in Colorado. I saw it as a kind of sabbatical.

My mother and others freaked the fuck out. (Remember the movie "Kramer vs Kramer" and how self-ambitious and ambiguous Mrs. Kramer was portrayed? At one point I spoke to the kids a posed the idea and they freaked the fuck out. This was very early in the planning.

So, from then on I planned with the kids being a part of the process. It was just too much. If single mothers have enough money, assistance and release valves can be purchased. Poverty is a voracious hungry roommate that takes inordinate amounts of time and energy.

My best friend was caring, but she had no safety net either. I really believed feminism had changed so much, but the backlash had begun.