Friday, November 18, 2011


Holding a portrait of the THREE EVIL SISTERS

At this time every year, I go through a morbid depression.  I get so depressed, that I can hardly function.  This goes on from the first day of November to New Year's Eve.  It can't be helped.  It's just there.

It's probably not all that uncommon.  I think that when it comes to Thanksgiving, most of us have been wired to have that reaction from a very young age.  Almost everyone I know hates the holidays. Especially, when it comes to having to tolerate the relatives that they wouldn't otherwise speak to on the street.

1976 was the year that I became 'excused from the table' for the very last time.  The family members were seated at their usual places.  In our family, the seating arrangements were set by one's rank of importance.  I can honestly say, that I wouldn't know the experience of sitting at the same table with those who mattered.

My place was always somewhere in the next room, and I was always expected to supervise all the younger cousins.  That day was certainly no different, even though my life had changed so much from the last time I'd sat down with these people.

I had since the last time, eloped and moved to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, gave birth to my first son, moved to Stuttgart, Germany, gave birth to my second son, and, had my brains beat out almost every day that I was overseas.  I came back to the U.S. and moved to Ft. Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York, and had my brains beat out almost every day that I was there. The last time my husband beat me, he convinced me that he was trying to kill me.  I escaped with my two sons, and with hardly anything else, but my life.

I made the mistake of going home to Ohio, and staying with my parents, and younger brother.  Although I was encouraged to go back to my husband, I made it known that it just wasn't going to happen.  If I did, I wouldn't be alive today.

So, two months after I escaped, it was Thanksgiving day.  It was the first time in six years that I'd sat at the table with all the kids, including my two little boys.  They were three and five years old.  I was back in the situation that I ran away from in the first place. You could say that I'd come full circle.  It was the first time, and the very last.

While everyone was well into eating, I stepped away from my table for a minute, to get something from the kitchen.  My mother's two sisters, Aunt Gale and Aunt Frankie, sprang up from their seats and walked past me, discreetly telling me to follow them.  One of them whispered that they wanted to have a 'word in private' with me.  I walked behind them, down the hallway, into the main bathroom, wondering to myself what this could be about.

After the bathroom door was shut and locked, they stood on both sides of me, like two fat, angry bookends.  In a very rehearsed and planned way, they started telling me that what we were about to discuss was not to leave the room.  I was to listen very carefully to what they had to say, follow their instructions, and not repeat it to anyone.  Ever.  

As Aunt Frankie said, "Katie, this is just between us."

Both of them started talking at the same time, saying pretty much the same words.  Their one-sided conversation went like this:

"Katie, Geraldine is our sister, and we have to protect her!"
"Yeah, Katie!  You're ruining her life!"
"Yeah, Katie!  Your kids are eating her out of house and home!"
"She can't afford to feed your kids!"
"They have their own bills to pay!"
"You have to pack up your kids, and get out of here!"
"Why are you crying? Stop it!"
"You better wash your face and get out there!"  
"They'll think something's wrong!"
"When you get out there, don't tell anyone that we've had this talk."
"It's nobody's business."
"Don't bother your mother with this, she's been through enough!"
"We're going back out there, now."
"You better get yourself straightened up, and get out there."
"Why do you always cry about everything?'  
"You were always such a sensitive kid."
"Stop crying, will you?"
"And you better not tell anyone about this."
"This had to be done!"
"Yeah, Katie!  Don't you say a word!"
"Now hurry up and get yourself together!"
"They're going to think something's wrong!"

Then, they unlocked the door, and went back to the kitchen table, sitting down with those of high rank.

I couldn't stop sobbing!  I could hear them talking on the other side of the wall, and I knew that they were talking about me.  I couldn't come out of the bathroom until I got the swelling down in my eyes.  What was said in the bathroom, after all, was supposed to be private, and I couldn't show that I was upset.  I took a wash rag, ran cold water on it, making a compress to hold against my face for a few minutes.  The swelling just wouldn't go away, and my eyes were blood red.  As hard as I tried, I couldn't stop crying.  I put more make-up on my face, but it was evident that I was upset.  I had to go out there and be among those people.  I couldn't leave my kids alone at the table for long.

I came out of the bathroom, and went past the kitchen table where they were sitting.  I looked at them, first with embarrassment, hoping that no one would notice my face and ask me what was wrong.  I had nothing to worry about, there.  As I was walking past them, the conversation stopped, and they all stared down at their plates.

Seeing how not one person in the room would even look at me, I realized that the 'private talk' I had with Frankie and Gale wasn't exactly private.  It was an intervention.  They appointed themselves to have the chance to quietly throw me out of my parents' house. They did my mother's talking for her.  My feelings of being embarrassed, changed into rage and betrayal.  If she felt that way about me and my kids being there, why didn't she just say it to me, herself?  Why did she involve everyone that I ever loved in my life?  And, on Thanksgiving Day?

I started to make my way to the 'children's table.'  I stopped walking, and turned around to look at all of them, sitting there. They were whispering as I started to walk, but the whispering stopped when I turned around.

I stared at them all, too angry and hurt to utter a word.  I thought to myself, Oh, that's right!  That's why I left in the first place!"

I gave them one final look.  I needed one final image of all of them sitting together, so that I can refer to that memory as a family portrait, titled, "The Last Time I'll Ever Speak To Any Of You."
Geraldine, Aunt Frankie, and Aunt Gale
Thirty-five years later, that image is still very strong in my head.  It will remain there, for the rest of my life.


  1. Wow! I couldn't stop reading this post, Kate! We all have our horrific family stories to tell but this one is way out front! Horrible--I'm glad you left and didn't look back--and I share the feeling of depression with you every year starting around this time...maybe now I'll have the courage to post it on my blog...

  2. Um, I don't know what to say, other than shame on your family. Actually they shouldn't even be called family, they don't deserve it. I don't enjoy the holidays much either, but it's because I wish I was with my family.

  3. Wow....awesome piece Kate.

    The matriarchal a 3-headed monster.

    Great to see a photo too!

  4. I'm at a loss for words. I received similiar treatment from my folks once upon a time but at least it wasn't during Thanksgiving. I couldn't stop shaking with rage over what they'd done to you. It truly was the Three Evil Sisters. Thanks for posting the picture. Now I know what evil looks like.

  5. I'm so sorry to hear that you went through that. Your story really touched me. Every family does have a story of woe -- and you told your eloquently. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. I think that is one of the most horrible memories one could have. Family is supposed to support and help. They should have been loving you and helping you heal. At least you know that your children and grandchildren will never feel that way. What wonderful memories they have missed with your family.

  7. Wow! Damn, Kate, I don't know why I'm writing to you. Oh yes, I do. I was moved by your story. As sad as your tale might be, I found you to be an awesome storyteller. You friended my alter ego, Sal Conte on Twitter (Yes, I am two people). There'a a lot of power in your words. I hope you use that power.

  8. Katie, your post captured me and I couldn't stop reading. I hope the hurt has lessened over the years. I imagine you have a wonderful relationship with your boys and you've done everything in your power to show them how much you love and care for them -- something you never got from your family. Thank you for sharing.

  9. I'm glad you are brave enough to share these things that are so traumatic and scarring. I'll keep my story bottled up for now, until I'm feeling braver. Just know that my thoughts and prayers are with you!

    There are few things we can control in this "real" world. But in the world inside our heads, we reign supreme. We heal and grow through pouring ourselves into something concrete and infallible. We purge poison, one word at a time!

  10. OMG is this true? I am so sorry you had to go through that. Sending hugs your way.

  11. Wow, oh my god. Thanks for writing this. I hope February arrives swiftly for you.

  12. Sometimes the best move is to move on. This comes from a woman whose own mother hasn't spoken to her in 35 years. When my mother decided to "disown" me, I felt the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. However, by being the mother she was, she gave me one of the greatest gifts ever--how to be a good mother to my own daughter by showing me how not to mother.

  13. Katie,

    Having had similar experiences and feelings about the holidays, I fully sympathize with you. For me, the new year does not begin until February birthday!

    As "StoriesAndSweetPotatoes" said: "I hope February arrives swiftly for you" and I'm adding "for us".

    So brave of you to write this.

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. I am so sorry that you had such terrible experiences in your younger life. I hope and pray that your life became wonderful after the experience you endured before and after that Thanksgiving. I have never been able to understand why some men abuse their wives. The laws definitely need to change in order to help the abused. You are a great writer!

  15. Riveting post. You are a hero of character, for not falling to victimhood or letting your kids grow up in that poisonous environment.

    Good on ya, mate!

  16. I think this was part of the era. I grew up in a strong Catholic family and I can tell you right now, all of my mum's sisters were intrusive and judgmental. I think that judging my mum's children (me and my siblings)made them feel better about their own children. Trouble is, I now realise that we were all smarter than our cousins.
    You are strong Kate. You are able to write about this. I wish I could. But hey...maybe now you have given me the courage to do so! Thanks :)