I guess I never knew what normal was growing up. I thought I was a normal kid with a normal life and normal friends, but that changed as I began to grow older.
At night, my father and I would have a ritual of watching television together, usually around 7 or 8 PM and before my bed time. Some nights though my mother would come quite literally out of nowhere, screaming at both my father and I about how I loved him more than her, how I never spent any time with her, how she did all the work and he did nothing. I must’ve been around six or seven years of age then and I had no idea what was going on.
“Daddy, what’s wrong with Mommy?” I remember asking. “She’s just had a long day,” he would tell me, “Don’t worry, she’ll be okay tomorrow.” That would be the end of the conversation and we would continue watching the Twilight Zone together. I never understood that this behavior wasn’t normal; I thought everyone’s mommy got like that several times per week. It was just what mommies did.
On the way home from elementary school, I loved it when Mom picked me up because it meant we were going to a store and I could get a treat. “You get one thing,” she would tell me, and I would go to the candy aisle and pick out my chosen treat. She would always buy a bottle of wine or two and then we would be headed home. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal for someone to stop almost every day at a liquor store to purchase alcohol. I didn’t mind because I got a treat out of it, and because I didn’t know any better.
By the time I was in middle school, I knew that I could only invite my friends over when it was earlier in the evening, before my mom started drinking which was usually anywhere from 5 – 8 PM and would go until she passed out. We had a nice house and people liked to come over, but I didn’t want them to spend the night because I didn’t want Mom to yell at my friends.
Sometimes she’d be okay. Sometimes she’d take us to the mall or the zoo, or even out to dinner at a fast food place. As soon as the evening rolled around, I tried to usher my friends out. I thought it was normal, that many mothers had a time at night where they were angry or sad or screaming. Again I asked my father what was wrong with her and he said that she was just a bit stressed from her job. That seemed to make sense and I accepted that.
It wasn’t until high school that I really began to understand that our family wasn’t normal, that she wasn’t normal, that something was seriously wrong. Although I recall only a few incidents from my middle and elementary school years, I remember many more throughout high school, especially as I visited my friends’ houses and saw what real normal was.
My family wasn’t normal. Something was wrong, but it would take me years to figure it out.