There are fundamental pieces of me. Parts of an overall structure that form the foundations that hold up the bulky and malleable essence of my recognizable likeness. Those pieces are the identifier, hammered into the surface of the essence.
A metaphor. Marble is the essence. The shaped surface of the marble is the identifier. The individual blocks of marble are the pieces. The circumstance is the shaping mechanism.
This identifier that I'm trying to explain is a single, simple thing. Just a feeling associated with a memory. It's not anything about myself that helped to form the essence of what it felt like for me to be a kid, this piece of me I want to describe. It was the circumstance that I happened to be imbedded in, and everything that gave form to it was stuck right in there with me. It was the soundtrack of the senses for those awful years.
I guess I'll go into it. When I was a kid, from about 6 to 12 years old, it was like... I always felt afraid. I was grief stricken every day, because my parents were dead. My mom and dad were dead. I can't explain... of course, they were alive, but that's not how it felt to me. To me it felt like they were dead, because I didn't feel safe. I didn't feel stable. I didn't feel protected.
And every day I was filled up with guilt and fear. Guilt, because I knew kids were supposed to have parents, but I couldn't see past myself to explain their absence... and fear. The fear of not knowing if the next moment, or hour, or evening, or day, week, summer, year, or forever would be ok. I think that's the main thing about being a kid, and growing up and developing, and becoming who I am that really poleaxed my development. I never knew if it would be ok. There was never a moment in my childhood that I could just take for granted that it would be ok. I was always scared. Never secure. Always afraid.
When I was a kid, it was never ever just ok or all right. It just never, ever was, ever. I know those were important, formative years, because I remember how awful they were, and nothing else about them.
I was ten years old. I remember my mom going to work, and when I try to examine those memories, I can't see my dad anywhere. I remember the feeling of being intolerably lonely, and lost, and horribly, irrevocably hopeless. Lost inside loneliness and sadness, and guilt. Guilt that I'd never be able to tell my mom I loved her ever again, because she'd always have to be gone, working swing shift, swing shift, swing shift, how I hated those words. Swing. Shift. The alive part of the day. Mom would be gone during the part of the day that contained all of the life, but which for me instead contained all of the fear and grief.
I felt like she was dead. That my mom was dead when she worked swing shift. I grieved every day when she left... the kind of grief of knowing I'd never see her again. And I hated myself because I could never tell her how sorry I was that she had to be gone, and that I missed her so much... and that I was so sorry for missing her, and for being a hurt thing.
What I just described is the first time I've ever tried to put the essence of my childhood into words that someone else might understand. It's because I heard a snippet of music that reminded me of then, and the memory of feelings has to be fleshed out, I guess. It was a kind of spur-of-the-moment thing.
They're the memories which define my childhood.