Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Subscribe to our RSS feed:
The aggression will not stand

Archive for the ‘Childhood’ Category

Sarah Maizes

My Child Has Autism and it’s Awesome!

December 2nd, 2009
by Sarah Maizes

LOS ANGELES, CA-  As the mother of a child with autism…

I don’t have anything else to add to that, but I got your attention didn’t I?  Don’t feel like a sucker.  You’re not the only one.

It has come to my attention that whenever I say “As the mother of a child with autism…” people instantly pay attention.  They presume I’m wise and sagely, and they’ll take virtually anything I say as gospel.  It’s quite fabulous really.

The statement could be followed with something as simple as “…I like kids chewable vitamins” and people will take this into serious consideration.  “Hmmm…maybe chewables ARE better for kids than gummies.  I mean, she would know, her child has autism.”

I didn’t ask for this.  I didn’t plan on having a child with autism.  I didn’t want to have a child with autism, but lo and behold, I do.  And it sucks.  But when you have a child with special needs and you’ve put in the hours and years of dedication to the process of helping that child as I have, shouldn’t I enjoy a few of the perks?

Well, people thinking I am really smart is one of them.

When I say “As the mother of a child with autism, I buy mostly organic fruit.”  It is met with a collective “Oooooooooooo.”

When I say “As the mother of a child with autism, I have my kids ride their bikes at least twice a week.”  I hear a united “Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.”

Believe me, I don’t actually think I’m saying anything interesting or even noteworthy.  I’m usually not.  And God knows, whatever I’m yapping about is almost always unsubstantiated.  I’m a busy woman.  Sure my kid has autism, but that doesn’t mean I know any more than the average bear.

But people can’t help but think I have something valuable to say.  It appears to be a natural gut reaction to think “Oh, she’s the mother of a child with autism.  She must know a lot about child development.”  Or, “Wow, her kid has autism.  That sucks.  Even if I don’t agree with her, I feel sorry for her and I’m going to give her whatever she wants.”

I’d love to say I’m above it, but I’m not.

It’s wonderful.  If I’m at school and I want my daughter to have a better seat in class, I just say “As the mother of an autistic child, I think mine should sit in front.”  If I’m out with friends at a movie I can say with great authority, “As the mother of an autistic child, I think the characters were extremely well-drawn.”  Or, let’s say we’re driving to the valley and I just don’t want to be stuck on side streets.  I’ll say “As the mother of an autistic child, I think we should take the highway.”

I suppose I shouldn’t expose myself to the world and tell people I’ve figured this out, and I certainly shouldn’t use my own family’s misfortune to take advantage of others when I can get away with it.

But I did, and I do.  And now, I’m headed out to dinner with some friends.  I’d like to have a couple of cocktails, so I’m thinking I’ll casually ask “who wants to be the designated driver?”  We’ll all look at each other and then I’ll point to one of them and say “As the mother of an autistic child, I really think you should be the one driving.”

And it will work.

At long last, I’ve found my silver lining.


D.R. Haney

The Dark Undone

November 6th, 2009
by D.R. Haney

LOS ANGELES—

The thought came to me when I was fifteen and trying to sleep on New Year’s Eve. Nothing I recall had happened to incite it. I’d spent the night babysitting my younger siblings while my mother attended a party, and she returned home around one in the morning and everyone went to bed. (My parents had divorced, though they continued to quarrel as if married.) My brother was sleeping in the bunk below mine, and as I stared at the ceiling and listened to the house settle, I thought: Why don’t you go into the kitchen and get a knife and stab your family to death?

(more…)


Paul A. Toth

My Siamese Twin

November 6th, 2009
by Paul A. Toth

SARASOTA, FL-

This has been what I call the Year of Ice. Colder than a shaved polar bear. Sayonara 2009. It’s been a year of pills, pills and more pills, until finally I seem to have reached some kind of treaty with bipolar disorder, which barely warrants discussion given that virtually everyone is now diagnosed as bipolar. Still, it’s important to note that when I write “ice,” I mean anxiety, yet when I write “anxiety,” I do not describe all attributes of “ice.” (more…)


Zara Potts

Fraidy Cat

November 2nd, 2009
by Zara Potts

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND -

My very first teacher was Mrs. Brady. She was a tall and handsome woman with a severe haircut and coke-bottle glasses. She wore modest calf length skirts with comfortable cardigans and she taught numbers and letters in a furious cloud of chalk dust that was at odds with her restrained, no-nonsense attitude.

(more…)


Jessica Anya Blau

Before My Father Was a Voluntary Mute

November 2nd, 2009
by Jessica Anya Blau

BALTIMORE, MD-

When I was growing up in California, my parents had a fairly loose policy of not driving me, my sister, or my brother around town. We biked to the dentist and doctor. To go anywhere else—school, the beach, the movies—we walked, rode the bus, roller skated, and hitch-hiked (the method of choice in high school).

The no driving policy was cemented sometime before my sister, Becca, went away to college, when we were both in high school together.

On that particular day, the rain was coming down like an unbroken wall of water. Becca had whined and complained, cajoling our dad to drive us to school so we wouldn’t have to walk through the rain to the bus stop (where we’d stick out our thumbs to hitch-hike). My father relented, grumbling and moaning as he picked up his car keys from the kitchen counter and walked out to the garage. He was barefoot in his threadbare blue bathrobe that reminded me of an overused, shredded tissue.

Becca pushed the garage door open from the inside, then quickly got into the front seat of the old station wagon. I sat in the back. My sister was relentlessly bossy when it came to priority seating in the car. I always thought she acted as if the family owed her for her having to put up with bird shit (from my brother’s un-caged bird who lived in our family room), clutter (covering every flat surface in the house), overflowing ashtrays (cigarettes and pot), nudity (my parents didn’t own bathing suits and always swam naked), moldy food in the refrigerator (cheeses that smelled like butt-holes) and moths flying out of the cereal boxes in the cupboard (which resulted in the aromatic branches from bay trees in the cupboards as a form of organic insecticide). What I didn’t understand in this equation was why Josh and I were owed nothing for putting up with it all.

Dad drove us all the way into school—the rain was so thick, I didn’t worry about anyone peering into the window of the station wagon and seeing that he was in his ratty bathrobe.

That afternoon when Becca and I got home from school, Dad came bounding down the stairs still in his bathrobe, hollering, “I WILL NEVER DRIVE YOU GIRLS ANYWHERE AGAIN, YOU HEAR?!” Oddly, my father often seemed inured to the little things that drove most people mad (traffic lights, rude sales clerks, finding a parking spot) but could be outraged at the things that most people didn’t think about (an orange that wasn’t perfectly ripe, the movie Fiddler on the Roof, a dog shit on the lawn). So it didn’t seem surprising that he would be ranting about having driven us to school.

“Do you know that I ran out of gas!” He bellowed.

“Where?” Becca snarled. Of course she was wondering exactly what I was wondering, and that was if our father had run out of gas near the school and if he got out of the car in the raggedy bathrobe under which he was completely naked.

“On Cathedral Oaks Road, just after I dropped you off!”

“Dad! Come on!” Becca said. I imagined my friends driving to school and passing my father loping down the road, his penis probably flopping out into the rain through the sheer flaps of his robe.

“Do you know how far I had to walk for gas!?”

The only thing between the house and the high school was acres and acres of lemon, orange, and avocado orchards. He would have had to walk toward the school, then past it, to get to a gas station.

“About a mile?” I guessed.

“Dad!” Becca said. “Did you see any of my friends? Did anyone see you walking to the gas station?” Her face was a dark stain of worry.

“How the hell do I know! It was fucking raining out! I was fucking naked under my robe!”

“We know,” I said, quietly. I was worried about my latest crush having seen my father. We had gone on only one date and I was hoping for a second.

“Dad!” My sister’s body was clenched as if she were trying to contract her entire being into one tiny, dark lump. “Why don’t you get dressed before you leave the house!? Most people do this—they put on clothes before they walk out the door.”

“I didn’t even go to work today, I was so outraged!” My father was pacing the entrance hall.

“Why didn’t you take off the wet robe?” I asked.

“I took it off and put it in the dryer, but then I was so fucking pissed off, that I just put it back on when it was dry.”

“You were too mad to get dressed?” I imagined my father working naked while he waited for the robe to dry. Would he have answered the door naked? Who knows.

“What is wrong with you!” Becca pushed past Dad and walked down the hall toward the kitchen, her giant backpack sitting on her like someone riding piggyback. I followed.

“Never again!” Dad shouted down the hall at us. “Find your own rides from now on!” I could hear his footsteps thumping up the stairs.

“It’s not like you’ve ever driven us anywhere before!” Becca shouted to the ceiling. Dad must have heard her, but he said nothing and simply slammed shut the bedroom door.

My father stuck to his promise and didn’t drive us anywhere again. It wasn’t a huge inconvenience—I only thought of it when I rode in the backseat of someone else’s parents’ car, the mothers who would pick us up from the movies at night, the dads who would drive us to the County Bowl for concerts. In fact, when I rank the oddities of my childhood this one comes out normal compared the period when my father was a voluntary mute and only communicated with us by scrawling notes on a yellow legal pad that he always carried in one hand.


Irene Zion

Halloween at the Hospital

November 2nd, 2009
by Irene Zion

MIAMI BEACH, FL-

My friend, Melissa, and I dressed up to look silly when we went to the hospital on Halloween. We do it every year because the kids get a kick out of it and we really are up for anything to spice up the day.

(One time I really blew it dressing up on Halloween to go to the old folks home with Brooklyn, my Therapy Dog. I dressed to the nines as Raggedy Ann. I had it all, down to the red and white horizontal striped tights and red shoes. The residents at the home are four-fifths from Cuba and one fifth from Russia. Not a soul had any idea who I was supposed to be. It turns out that Raggedy Ann is an American phenomenon. It had always seemed so universal to me. They thought I was nuts, but they didn’t care, because Brooklyn was with me.)

(more…)


Richard Cox

He who controls the past, controls the future

October 30th, 2009
by Richard Cox

TULSA, OK-

A while back I drove to Texas and attended a high school reunion. Events like these are surreal for most everyone, but as I approached Wichita Falls on a cold and still Friday evening, the intensity of it all was overwhelming—the color of the sky, the emptiness of the prairie, the quiet roar of my tires on interstate asphalt. I felt like I was driving into someone else’s dream.

(more…)


Ducky Wilson

Possession Is No Laughing Matter

October 28th, 2009
by Ducky Wilson

BFE, TEXAS - 

A bead of sweat pools on the tip of my nose. I want to wipe it, but I can’t move. Light pinwheels around my eyes like a kaleidoscope at a carnival. I hear my breath quickening, but I don’t know why. Other sounds morph into a distant drone punctuated by organ interludes.

Am I in church?

Yes.

Through pinholes in my delirium, I can see Father Tassio talking behind the pulpit, his hands working the sermon like a potter would clay on a wheel. Behind him, I can see the cross where Jesus bleeds, the holes in his hands pulsing dark tunnels to another dimension. I look away so I’m not sucked into them.

(more…)


Robin Antalek

Ghosts

October 20th, 2009
by Robin Antalek

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY-

My childhood was a combination of magic and terror.

I come from a loud, sprawling clan of first generation Italian Americans who, for the most part, resided within walking distance of each other in the hamlet of Pelham, New York, a suburb of Manhattan.

They loved food, God, their newly adopted country, baseball and their family with fervent yet equal abandon. My earliest memories are of the wrap around porch of my grandparents’ home overflowing with cousins and aunts and uncles eating, drinking and talking all at once, of my older cousins wearing teased bouffant hair styles, and white lipstick, their hemlines inching way above the knee, of my grandfather and his brothers drinking homemade wine and smoking hand rolled cigars beneath the grape arbors in the backyard, of going into Manhattan, my hand held firmly in my grandfather’s, to watch the circus elephants arrive in town linked trunk to tail, of Jones Beach, of Coney Island, of rambling village parades where nearly half of those marching were related to me. Of holidays: of Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter, Halloween and the Fourth of July where the house was always full of people who had known me since I was born.

(more…)


Aaron Dietz

7 Mysteries from My Life I’d Like Solved

October 18th, 2009
by Aaron Dietz

SEATTLE, WA-

1. There was this time I got some water out of the faucet, turned the faucet off, left the room, and then came back five minutes later and the faucet was on. I’d sure like to know what happened there.

(No one else in the house had been anywhere near the kitchen, and I distinctly remember turning that faucet off.)

2. I saw a light in the sky in New Mexico that I can’t explain. I was sleeping in a guest bedroom in pitch black darkness when all of a sudden it wasn’t dark anymore. (more…)


Irene Zion

The Flying Pedestal

October 17th, 2009
by Irene Zion

MIAMI BEACH,FL-

When my family moved to The Free Territory of Trieste, it was a time when people did not fly across the ocean. Flying was prohibitively expensive and rare. No one really believed that airplanes made with all that heavy metal could actually fly safely when they were full of people. It was counterintuitive. I personally still have trouble believing that those enormous things get off the ground at all. (And don’t even get me started on those helicopters from the mosquito family!)  Back then, everyone had the same reservations. We sailed across the ocean to FTT on the Saturnia. I suppose that if I had thought about it, I also would have questioned how a ship made out of metal that should obviously sink, could float. I’m glad I didn’t think about that at the time, or I would have worried my way all across the ocean.

(more…)


Jeremy Resnick

Mamarazza!

October 15th, 2009
by Jeremy Resnick

LOS ANGELES, CA-

My mother has a photography addiction. She just has to take pictures of her family, or, if we’re unavailable, other people’s families. It’s been going on all our lives. She says she takes so many pictures of us because she loves us so much that she just has to capture any moment in which we’re all together, and she takes pictures of other people’s families because they’re always happy when they get them from her afterward. But I think it’s more of a compulsion. Whenever her mind is allowed to rest, whenever she doesn’t have something pressing to do, she thinks, I must take a picture! I must capture this, whatever it is!

(more…)


Thomas Wood

“The Domino Fort”

October 14th, 2009
by Thomas Wood

SAN FRANCISCO, CA-

Marty couldn’t hear my father. Historically, all the men in my family seem to have a difficult time relating to some children. Nobody has ever quite figured it out, either. Some say it’s the baritone voice, others say it’s because we tend to talk to children like adults, rarely raising the pitch of our voice, and never dumbing things down. Marty, the younger brother of my best friend, Reed, was just such a child; it’s like he didn’t even know my father was in the room. We were on this dual family trip at our desert lake-house on Lake Mead, Reed’s family and my own, and one morning, before we all loaded up and headed out on the lake, my father tried to get Marty’s attention. It became the biggest inside joke of our two families, that everyone heard my father except for Marty. (more…)


Laura Waldon

Comic Book Hero: A Case of Mistaken Identity

October 14th, 2009
by Laura Waldon

SALEM, MA-

When we were kids, we thought that our cousin Mike was the Incredible Hulk.

I can’t recall if Mike “suggested” to my brother Chad and me that he was the mean green man, or if Chad simply saw the resemblance and thought that he had uncovered the Hulk’s plain-guy identity, but we thought we were related to a comic book hero.

At the very least, we figured that Mike was Lou Forigno’s body double: he was a short, sculpted bodybuilder with a massive, muscular chest and arms, and he had that signature Lou Forigno/Patrick Swayze feathered hair. Certainly they wouldn’t overlook him as Forigno’s wingman to take a stunt-beating on-film.

We were maybe six and seven—Chad my elder by a year—when Chad charged the neighbor kids a nickel

(more…)


Greg Olear

And Some Get Rained Out

October 13th, 2009
by Greg Olear

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. —

“You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out—but you have to dress for all of ‘em.” —Satchell Paige

I remember the moment when I decided, quite deliberately, to care about baseball.

I was maybe twelve years old, I was at my grandparents’ house, and I was seized by a sudden need to avail myself of the bathroom. Then as now, I hate it when I have to do Number Two and there’s nothing to read. So I grabbed the only printed matter in the house that looked remotely appealing—the sports section of the Morristown (N.J.) Daily Record—and barricaded myself in the can.

(more…)


D.R. Haney

Saved by Demon Song

October 11th, 2009
by D.R. Haney

I’m hungry. I have no money at all, none is expected soon, and there’s no one from whom I can borrow. I pace all night, wondering how to come by a few dollars to eat.

Finally, slowly, a plan unfolds: I can walk down the street to an ATM, fill out a deposit slip for a phantom check, feed the slip to the ATM, and request a cash advance. The bank, of course, will quickly discover that no check accompanied the deposit slip, but once I’m contacted, I’ll simply say that, being in a hurry, I forgot. By then I hope to have thought of someone who’s willing to cut me a bona fide check.

(more…)


Mary Richert

Anxiety Paints a Self Portrait

October 11th, 2009
by Mary Richert

ARNOLD, MD -

The windows around the front door look like aliens. I seem to be the only one who recognizes it, but it’s so obvious. They are tall, skinny aliens with arms that reach down to their knees. Their bug-eyed heads are elongated just like the aliens on TV, except that the top comes to a little point like a dollop of whipped cream. As a kid, I ran up the stairs feeling their noodle arms reaching out to grab me and pull me out of my world and into theirs. I always felt them just an inch behind me

Standing in the laundry room, if I tapped unexpectedly on the metal surface of the washer or dryer, the noise might be startling, and suddenly I was thinking, “What if that’s the signal?” The signal for ghosts or aliens or whatever might be waiting in the ether for its moment, its chance to come abduct me or just to show itself, thereby ruining the reality on which I had an already tenuous grasp. I would do it again to disrupt the signal — rap on the washer once quickly, try to make the exact same noise — was it once for yes and two for no? I don’t remember. Do it again just in case. What if I have said something I don’t even understand in their alien language? Tap out a complicated rhythm to indicate a scratching out of what has inadvertently been written on the paper of time-space continuum. If all else fails, run out of the room and all is forgotten.

(more…)


Peter Gajdics

What I Wanted To Be When I Grew Up: Me, My Gender and I

October 10th, 2009
by Peter Gajdics

VANCOUVER, BC-

One day in grade six, Teacher asked us all to say aloud what we wanted to be when we grew up. “I’m going to be a doctor,” one boy announced as we all sat cross-legged in a circle. “I’m going to be a teacher!” a ponytailed girl called out with a raised hand. Another boy with red hair and freckles said he wanted to be a fire engine: a big, loud, red, fire engine. Teacher, a kind, grey-haired woman who always wore a blue, pleated skirt and held a piece of new, white chalk, corrected him by saying, “Don’t you mean you want to be a fireman?” “No,” the boy said, shaking his head. “I want to be a fire engine. A big, loud, red, fire engine.” Everyone laughed, but secretly I was scared that Teacher would ask me what I wanted to be. I was scared because I didn’t know what I wanted to be. There was no profession I could imagine myself becoming when I grew up. Would I even grow up? That was like imagining myself outside a forest when all around me it was dark and I was alone and really, if I’d been honest, although I already knew well enough not to be, all I wanted was to be at peace. Not a doctor or a priest or a football player—at peace. (more…)


D.R. Haney

What Child Is This?

October 5th, 2009
by D.R. Haney

LOS ANGELES—

A relative is apparently angry at me, or so I was told by another relative. Fortunately, it has nothing to do with my contributions to The Nervous Breakdown (though this piece may well compound the situation). Rather, in his (erroneous) view, I slighted still another relative, so, on the relative’s unrequested behalf, I’m being given the silent treatment.

Meantime, last week, while in the middle of what might be described as extremely trying financial circumstances (including the death of my car), a friend texted to ask why I’d been “talking shit” about him. I could only guess as to his meaning. I’d recently discussed him with a mutual acquaintance, specifically regarding what I considered a pattern of rudeness. I should’ve spoken to my friend, as opposed to about him, but I did so because I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. However, our acquaintance seems to have decided a big deal was in order, and tattled.

(more…)


Lenore Zion

Sunday Morning/The Party’s Over

October 4th, 2009
by Lenore Zion

LOS ANGELES, CA-

I call it the “Sunday Morning/The Party’s Over Depression.”

When I was a kid, my parents let me have birthday parties. An entire gaggle of prepubescent girls would swarm my house and play stupid games on Saturday. Most of these games don’t have official names. There was the one where we pretended to put each other into some sort of supernatural spell, a possession of some kind, and even though we all faked it, we also all thought it was real when another girl was possessed. This always made me think there was something wrong with me. Why can’t I become possessed? All the other girls can.

(more…)