Coming of Age Fiction Teens & Young Adult

As always, the dog let me know with his ridiculous huffing that the Amazon guy had visited the porch. I heard the beep of the “proof I was here” machine, and listened to his footsteps receding. One thing I gotta say about COVID - I love never having to speak to delivery men, whether mail, food or otherwise.

After he’d gone, I stepped out onto the porch to see a huge box with my name and address on it. But I hadn’t ordered anything. I double checked my Amazon account on my phone to make sure that Drunk Me didn’t order anything either.

Nope. Nothing since that last completely unnecessary set of silk pillowcases.

I thought for a moment, maybe Dad and Mom had surprised me with something. But that would be a tad silly because they live down the road.

And then my curiosity developed into a stomach drop. My biological mother. Fuck. I brought the package inside, mostly because it was really cold outside and I didn’t have on a coat or shoes. I carefully set it on the kitchen floor like something muddy and disgusting. Because, honestly, if it really is from her, it is muddy and disgusting.

I sat across the room from the box on the kitchen floor, my back against the refrigerator. Gifts are rarely gifts, and never with her. I texted my Mom - the one that counted - to make sure she was available if I opened this and needed to cry… or have a panic attack. Honestly, the mere existence of this box in my house felt like a physical violation of my space. My biological mother - if the box was from her, which I just felt in my bones it was - that woman does not know or respect me. And that’s why she’s no longer “Mom” - my dad’s wife, Ivy, is.

“Fuck it,” I said to myself and the dog. “I’m gonna open it.”

Immediate regrets.

Trinkets I didn’t need, cat-themed stuff I didn’t want, and some really creepy coasters with pictures of me and my biological mother printed on them. In every picture, she looked pretty and I looked…

And it triggered me. I knew it would; I wondered why I had opened it at all. But it was too late - my mind left me and started replaying all the reasons this box was filled with anything but gifts.


Growing up, my biological mother was never around. She and my dad were married for 16 years, and for all the ones my brother and I weren’t literal infants, she was out doing whatever she wanted. Doing whoever she wanted. Meanwhile, my dad was raising us, forgetting himself, building her the houses she demanded and the careers she wanted.

She didn’t think about us. When we took pictures, we felt like trophies. When my dad got depressed, which looking back was always, he just did more renovations. She would want to move again soon, anyway. Nothing mattered.

Now, as I remember my childhood, I timeline everything by which house we lived in. We moved every two years, for no other reason than she just wanted to.

She used to call my dad selfish, and blamed all her infidelity on him. So he threw himself solely into raising my brother and I. I imagine he hoped that by becoming something more than just a dad, he could make up for the fact that our mom was a disaster.

And then one day, he just couldn’t stand it anymore. He’d found her in bed with another man and another woman. Again. And he told her he was leaving.

She became completely unraveled.

While my dad built us a new home, my mom began crafting the story of how none of this was her fault and she was just a victim. She had always loved the fairytales of her own victimhood. Dad was a monster, I was an ungrateful bully, etc. But the absolutely deranged tale she spun once she knew my dad was serious and it was really over - it was her masterpiece - her Opus. Main plot points:

  • Dad was abusive, emotionally and physically.
  • Dad never showed her love, which is why she had to cheat all the time.
  • Dad never supported her choices or her dreams.
  • Dad beat me and my brother.
  • After he left, Dad spied on her and her new boyfriend.
  • When he started dating the woman I now call Mom, he was a pedophile and she was a slut.
  • Together, they brainwashed my brother and I to hate our biological mom.

I think anyone with a toxic parent knows this story is an archetype for a narcissist’s apologia. She’d never done a thing wrong, and we were all out to get her. And all the months she spent crafting this tale and spreading it around town like some sort of travelling bard, well, she expected her friends to take her side. She expected me and my brother too, as well.

But we’re not idiots.

After her temper tantrums ruined my first ever art exhibit, my high school graduation, and my graduation party, I started to wonder why I was doing any of this at all. For awhile, Ivy tried really hard to help me fix things with my biological mom, even though she really took a lot of the abuse from my bio mom at those events. It was hard to watch.

But Ivy’s not an idiot either, and once she realized I was only hurting myself, she reminded me that blood does not trump boundaries. And I slowly started to pull myself out of the mire that is my biological mother.

I slowly started to realize I was beautiful the way I am. That being tall is powerful, not threatening. That my cheekbones are distinct, not wide. That my clothes are unique, not trashy. Things I never had the space to know about myself came flooding in as I breathed more and more clean air.

Dad and Ivy became Dad and Mom, and my biological mother became something akin to a virus I did my best to stay away from.

Wear a mask, everyone.


Anyway, it’s been a year since I’ve spoken to my biological mother. Since I reached my breaking point. Blocked her on all social media. Blocked her phone number. Everything. But there are still new texts in my “Blocked” folder every day. I have people asking me questions they shouldn’t be asking every day. I hear things about myself, my Dad, my Mom - every day. This town is too small.

And now, the creature that used to be my mother has made her way into my home. Via a box.

All I could feel was violation and disrespect. She’ll never apologize for anything. She never has. She’ll never respect me. She never did.

I felt myself spiraling. And then I felt like my back was against her bathroom door, her screaming outside about Ivy and me wondering if anyone was real. My biological mother is the queen of gaslighting, and my Mom is my tether. I remember sobbing, calling her, and asking her to tell me if I was crazy or not. I remember breathing too fast. I remember wishing the snow would melt so I could drive home. To my actual home, where my actual Dad and Mom would be waiting for me with my favorite dinner on the table.

When the largest of the waves of panicked flashback had waned, the box across the kitchen floor from me came back into focus. And I called Mom. She was at my side in mere moments.

She looked at the open box and mess of things I had created with the same surprise and disdain I imagined had also been on my face when I’d opened it. And for a moment, she just kept repeating, “I’m so sorry.” And I didn’t understand why.

She looked at me, angry and sad. “This is a complete violation of your space. It’s harassment and it’s disrespectful to what she knows are your wishes.”

We were way past the point of step-daughter and step-mom-who-respects-bio-mom’s-place. My mom - the one that counts - is fiercely protective of me… of my brother and my dad, too. She doesn’t talk a lot about what her life was like before us, but I know she understood what it was like to be dismantled by a monster, because she always knows just what to say to remind me of who I am and what I deserve.

“What do you want to do right now?” she asked.

“I want this away from me. I need it to not be in my house anymore.”

Over the years, Mom had always taken away the things I could not keep. Her attic was filled with other muddy, disgusting boxes of gifts from my biological mother. Mom knew I wasn’t ready to get rid of them, but I needed them away from me.

But this muddy and disgusting box was the last one.

“I need this to be gone. All of it.”

And so I went up to my room and down through the house and gathered all the things that my biological mother had given me over the years. And Mom went back to her house and got the pile of spoiled gifts from her attic. And together, we made a stack of gift boxes. Literal baggage soaked with the blood of all the things my biological mother had put me through. Had put my mom and my dad and my brother through. And then Mom and I drove to her home and left it all on her porch. 

And as we drove away, something happened in my stomach and my heart. Adrenaline. Chains breaking. Self realization? Whatever it was, it was a feeling unmatched by any other good feeling I’ve ever had. And I rolled the window down and put my arm in the wind and I just laughed. And so did Mom. We were not angry; we were done. And it felt amazing.

December 01, 2021 16:08

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