Escaping Hell: The Demon that Lived in my Narcissist Mother
STORY THREE: EASTER WREATH
It was Easter. My mother loved every holiday, even the ridiculous ones like Valentine’s Day. She not only insisted on seeing me for every one of them, she insisted on cards to represent each holiday with fabricated notes of daughterly love scribed into each one. I played along because it meant less abuse from her, less carving away at my soul; collected carvings to take with her to her deathbed.
It was Easter and she had her home in perfect condition with every pastel pink and yellow decoration out of Better Homes and Gardens. Garlands hung across her mantel, hanging over a large, white wicker basket which sat on the fireplace bricks at the bottom. Blue, pink, and yellow plastic eggs covered in glitter sat in a bowl on her kitchen table. She staged her home like she staged her life, one that looked like perfection to everyone who watched or came around. Better Homes and Gardens. Better Things Mask Little Personalities was more like it.
I had spent the previous week working on a handmade Easter wreath for her. It took a few nights, about 3 hours each night. Careful research and pinning across Pinterest made the gift a success measured in likes and retweets. Since I could remember, that feeling of excitement in presenting my mother with a gift, hoping it would be the one to win over her heart, never ceased. When I was five, I brought home a picture frame that I decorated for her as a Mother’s Day gift. All she had to say was, “Cute. I’ll add this to the rest of the frames I have too many of.”
I knew it would never be enough but something inside me wanted to win, wanted to beat whatever it was that lived inside of her. But there’s no beating the darkness when it comes. You can’t stop darkness but you can escape to another dark place in the hopes that it won’t be worse.
I walked into her house with her gift, a large pink and purple gift bag adorned with Easter illustrations. Crumpled tissues of white, pink, and yellow poked out of the top and a card lay snug between them. I placed it on her kitchen table but she acted like she didn’t notice.
“Happy Easter,” I said as I went to hug her.
“Thanks. You too,” she said.
“This is for you,” I pointed to the gift bag.
“For me? Oh, thank you,” she gave a small smile.
“I’ll open it in a bit,” she returned to the stove to stir the corn.
“Do you need help with anything?” I asked.
“No, I’m good. It’s almost done. Do you want anything to drink? I have wine,” she said.
She poured me a glass of wine and one for herself and then we cheersed. As we let the food cool off, she opened her gift.
“Wow, this is pretty. Where did you find this?”
“I made it.”
“You did?” She emphasized the word “did” and looked up at me with surprise. “I didn’t know you made things.”
I couldn’t pin down what it was in her voice, her tone, but now I know. It was jealousy. Jealousy of her own gift that I made by hand for her.
“I wanted to make something for you,” I said.
“Thank you. I’ll hang it up now,” she said.
The rest of the afternoon went fine. We sat and we ate dinner. I washed all the dishes since she had cooked. By the time we were done cleaning, it was close to seven at night and I needed to get home for work the next day. I said my goodbyes and drove home with a smile. Maybe the wreath was the gift that won her over. I was wrong.
The next day I received two large paragraph text messages from her. They expressed her devastated disappointment with my behavior during Easter. Her list spelled everything out clearly: I didn’t help her cook anything because I arrived at three in the afternoon when I should’ve arrived earlier, I left in a hurry and didn’t even stay after cleaning up, I drank too much wine, I didn’t help her put the leftovers away, and most of all, she felt that my gift was me throwing my creativity in her face to show her how much free time I had; time I could be using to come over and visit her more often.
I was at work when I received her texts and I had to leave to go home. Why? I had been dealing with this my entire life and now it was becoming more frequent, almost weekly. Deep inside the pit of my stomach lived my childhood, trapped and never allowed out. Everything from anger and resentment to sorrow and confusion, stacked up inside of me, building an explosive volcano that wanted to erupt in that very moment.
I went home and cried. I didn’t know what to do but I knew I needed it to stop. I needed to escape it forever, one way or another. It wouldn’t be easy but I knew it would be worth it.
“Conway. Lights out,” the prisoner guard said.
I turned out the lights and lay in my cell, staring up at the ceiling. I smiled because at least I was finally at peace.