Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a family of five and never felt seen nor heard. Between father-in-rage and mother-at-work, sister-with friends and brother-in-trouble, teachers and librarians and older men provided an anchor in her roller coaster life, simply by paying attention.

After her tumultuous teens and twenties, the girl found true love with a husband and a home and twin babies but though it looked picture perfect, inside, her scarred past kept rising to haunt her.

This is the story of how one Little-Mary-Sunshine hid the dark side until she could keep silent no more.
I got up out of bed, excited about the day, and scrambled to the bathroom in my favorite feet-pajamas. These PJs warmer and cozier to sleep in, but so much harder to get out of when you were in a hurry.  Headed for the bathroom, I was in a hurry. Yawning my way back to my room, I passed my parent’s bedroom door and saw my mother finishing her makeup, already dressed for work.

“Mommy, did you forget?” I asked in an anxious voice. She couldn’t have forgotten. It was all I’d talked about the night before. I’d made sure she knew the time, the place, the importance.

“Honey, I didn’t forget.  I know today’s the play. But yesterday the pressing machine broke down and it still isn’t fixed.  Sam won’t be in and there’s a stack of alterations that need to be finished for pick up and the rest of the cleaning is piling sky high. Is it alright if I don’t come today?”

She was asking for permission. She was asking me to say it was alright to miss the play. 

Alice in Wonderland

Miss Alice in Wonderland where (for the first time) you’d had to try out for the parts and I was Alice!  Even though I was a second-grader with dark brown hair  I was Alice!  I was the star of the second-and-third-grade joint production of Alice in Wonderland  and she wasn't coming.

“That’s alright,” I said in a small voice, “You don’t have to come...”  I trailed off looking down trying hard not to cry or say what I really wanted to scream.

NO NO NO! You HAVE TO come.  You have to be in the AUDIENCE! You can’t go to work! You have to see me in my Alice-in-Wonderland silvery blue dress covered in white diamonds and spades with elastic and lace at the cuffs.  YOU HAVE TO COME!!  At the end of the play when everyone comes out, who will be there clapping just for ME?

But I didn’t say those things. I let her hug me and say how sorry she was and thank me for letting her go; I let her go to what was always more important  to work.

Heart sinking to the feet of my Carter’s, I went back to my room, crawled under the blankets and started to cry.


  1. What bothers me the most about your story is how your mother manipulated you against yourself. That is some serious toxicity. I imagine this isn't the only example.

    I can't change the past, but I can clap for you now. Bravo, Denise! The performance was wonderful!

    1. Oh please don't be so harsh in your assessment of my mother. She was a loving person caught in circumstances beyond her control. She did the best she could. I need to tell MY story, in this space, but that is only one side. I hope in further posts you will see the other facets of my mom and how warm and wonderful she was. Thank you for the is greatly appreciated!

  2. I knew how it would end but I so hoped for a different ending for both of you :-(
    Speaks to the plight of all working moms and the challenges we face and how it plays out on our kids - both in good and maybe not so good ways but that's what makes us who we are!
    I like to think that we all do the best we can with what we have to work with and without mountains to leap how mundane life would be.....