Memoir Prose Poem: Runaway Princess

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Chocolate milk and cheesecake only for me/pink walls my mother painted all by herself/with a paint roller on a ladder smiling/she was so excited/“I picked the sweetest shade of pink for you”/she never painted anyone else’s room/she gave me all the things that she had wanted as a war torn child/and treated me like a sickly princess/who might die any day/like a fragile privileged invalid/because I was born with a heart condition/she spoiled me with more attention/I was the permanent baby of the family/I had a fluffy lavender shag rug/lace curtains, white vanity dresser with embellished roses/and matching white canopied bed.

Memories are frozen in places that I can’t ever return to/sitting with our dog under the red maple tree/they both sheltered me/with beauty outside my bedroom window/I had luxuries/my own mini b&w tv/a library of gifted books/the moonlight and stars/blinking like fireflies through the leaves/living year round Christmas trees/breathing oxygen in at night with the wind/I wish I could revisit/that place was my home for so long/at the most primary time of my life/that home witnessed/so many tragic and hilarious things/I feel like I’m partially lost/a part of myself stayed like a ghost/there with my abandoned family/my parents especially mourned my departure. I broke the mold/generations of traditions followed/but I changed the course/for better or for worse.

She had to leave me as a baby/and she cried for years waiting to save me/finally bring me home/so she gave me privileges no one else had/she stashed a bag of snickers miniatures in my closet/“Don’t tell your sister” she whispered/she always treated me like special royalty/gave me a tablet eyed stuffed Garfield and baby Garfield/“They’re from Santa,” she said/but I snuck days ahead/and saw them in her closet before it was wrapped/I didn’t appreciate what she gave me/I just pretended to because it made her so happy.

I was father’s favorite and everybody knew/he gave me an orange tabby kitten/a stray who followed him at work/mother conditionally let her stay/but only in my room/or else “she’ll scratch the living room curtains”/Grandma named her Boeppy/she was the smartest cat/slept in my arms/but at times I was abusive/I hit her when she didn’t listen/just like my father did to my siblings and mom/but she remained faithful/I was a volcanic pint sized rager/repeating what was normal in our family/hitting equaled discipline/because of me my cat suffered pain and fear/I regret that deeply/I know now what I didn’t know then/violence solves nothing/it makes everything worse.

I learned violence early/I remember the beautiful victorian doll that got me beaten/when I was 5 or 6/father punished me with a belt/I remember it only slightly/but my sister remembers well/she was 11 or 12/I remember the intense fear I felt/Father had returned from a business trip/he brought us both presents/hers was a small dollhouse with plastic furniture and kitchen/mine was an expensive Victorian doll with blinking long-lashed eyes/loose ringlet curled hair in bangs/she had a black velvet buttoned jacket/with a white frilled layered dress/with pantyhose stockings with seams on the back and soft velvet shoes/she was the more expensive gift/mother said she should be kept safe away on display/and my sister pretended her gift was better/because she was jealous/she wouldn’t let me play with her house/so I got mad and scattered the pieces/and he found out/thought I was being selfish/so he should teach me by hitting me with a belt/because that’s how he learned to discipline/he probably endured much worst/every generation’s curse of abuse/has ripples of effect/that get calmer the farther away from the original explosion.

She apologized to my high school principal/when they caught me cutting classes/entire days I was absent/I went to the movies/took my friends once too/that’s when we were caught/my mother blamed them/but I told her it was all my fault/“Why would you do that?”/“Because I hate school I don’t have close friends”/“They were a bad influence on you!”/“No I was the bad influence/I don’t belong anywhere in any group/and high school is about popularity/I hate it there, but I’m sorry I tricked you.”

When Father found out he hit the roof/I was shocked that he didn’t beat me up/instead he said, “I’m ashamed of you. Your mother begged for you to not be expelled!”/She gave me pizza later although my father said/I should go to bed hungry/She brought it to my room/smiling like a candle/she wasn’t afraid of father/she was always so bravely defiant/my mother lioness/“But Father said I should go hungry as a punishment.”/“No,” she shook her head/smiling from her eyes and heart. I was afraid he’d catch me eating, but he didn’t.

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She couldn’t understand that I could be bad/because she viewed me as innocent always/incapable of rebellion/she assumed I was led astray/she thought I was incredibly naive and therefore weak/but I wasn’t who she thought I was/or maybe I had changed/quiet ones can suddenly surprise you.

I disappointed her by leaving our family home/but I felt I had no other choice/I felt explosive around my family/shell shocked from our violent history/but they could cope codependently/absorb survive transcend/through Jesus to extend forgiveness/but I couldn’t reconcile the hypocrisy/of a good atheist going to hell/while a serial killer could accept Jesus and gain eternal salvation/it made no sense to me.

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I was the madwoman in the wilderness/of immoral San Francisco/the LGBT rainbow fetish-friendly city of liberalism/“What are you doing there?”/“When are you coming home?” they all said/“Never, but it’s not because I don’t love you/I always do and always will/Do you believe me?”

“You could’ve married anyone you wanted to here/handsome doctors and lawyers/all the girls were jealous of you/and were lucky that you left/you were more beautiful than all of them/if only you had stayed.”/“No I wasn’t and you’re not listening, Mom”/“Yes I am”/“You’re not hearing me”/“Yes I do. I know you, you’re my daughter/you come from me so I know you’re smart and special/I see you more clearly than you do”.

Mother wrote this poem to me/“We love you always, your wet eyes are always in my heart, in my heart/she cut out the poem on lined paper in the shape of a butterfly/wrapped around a check/For many years she saved me from poverty/just like she saved her own family/she was a hero when she was just a child/she taught me about goodness by example/but she never knew how much I admired her.

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8 Comments

  1. This is so beautifully written Judy. Thank you for sharing your story. I can relate to many things in your story but mostly the father who did beatings. Your poem is a tender Tribute to your mother who sounds so sweet. Like a blessing that followed wherever you were. I love the strength your mother had and it sounds like you got your strong sense of self from her. Love 💕 and hugs my dear friend. Joni 🌸🌺❤️

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    1. Thank you very much, Joni 💖. My mom has been a treasure in my life, she didn’t understand me completely but she loved me unconditionally. I hope to pass on the best aspects of her to my child. She was funny, forgiving and very cute (childlike) not to mention fiercely strong to survive all that she went through. My father was the anti hero for most of our lives but he has changed dramatically. I love him too. It’s hard to describe but he’s a good person that hurt because he didn’t understand what he was doing, similar to mental illness I think. You’re awesome, Joni. Thanks again for your comment. Love and hugs to you for all that you’ve survived and for the kind person you are.🤗💖🙏🌷

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  2. Thanks for sharing your story Judy and being so vulnerable, always. I can also relate to the family violence and leaving home when I was just 17 after dropping out of school. It was a relief to be out of that environment but it was still hard to find peace. It sticks with you for a long time. Your story resonates with me especially how much we can still love in the midst of pain and abuse. 🌻

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    1. Thank you, Kathy 💖. It’s both comforting and sad to know that you understand about family violence. I know what you mean about the relief of leaving and the effort it takes to find peaceful closure. Violence in the family is very complicated, many conflicted emotions at once. Love and anger, forgiveness and mistrust, many layers to unravel. I appreciate your comment very much. 🌻

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  3. Ms. Kim,
    This is so heart-wrenching and so beautiful. Your mother must have been a strong beautiful woman, and if I may say so, I feel it is the same with you. Hope you and your son are continuing to stay safe, healthy, and well.

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    1. Thank you so much😘. I’m honored by your affirming comment. Your support inspires me to write more and it feels like a hug🙂. You’re wonderful! I hope you stay safe, healthy and well too💖.

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