Midnight Raids

Imagine being fast asleep and abruptly pulled out of bed by an angry woman who is crying and shouting. “I’m sick of this. I’m sick of this.”

She smacks your rear and pushes you to the ground. “Now clean it up.” She shouts through tears.

Imagine being the reason your mother hates her life.

This didn’t happen often but often enough that my brother and sisters gave the episodes a name. We called them the midnight raids. And I don’t know why they happened at night but they did. Hateful and vindictive, my mother became another person, a predator who waited until we were at our most vulnerable to strike.

Our house was squeezed into a row of homes all connected by thin walls. A village built of desperation, a small fortress of despair. She tried to make our home more appealing, pretending for a short time that we didn’t live on government money. She planted sweet peas one summer and they grew along strings she tied up the side of the house. She played gospel music and sang along in her falsetto voice. She baked bread, sewed clothes for us, cut our hair into uneven bowl shapes, and she made jokes. If I called for her, she’d shout back. “I can’t come right now, I have a bone in my leg.” Or they way she told us she was 99 years old whenever we asked. She’d poke her finger into my arm and when I protested she’d say “I’m not poking you, I’m just resting my finger.” And that time we cut open a pineapple but it smelled like wine and tasted like syrup. It made us a little tipsy but she let us eat it anyway until we were giggling clowns. We had food three times a day and presents every Christmas. Poverty in Canada is different than other countries but it’s still poverty. We still felt the sting of what others had and what we didn’t. We felt the wall between us and all that we wanted as a barrier too high to surmount.

I think most times, my mother was neutral about her life. Most times she did what she had to for our care. But rarely, maybe once every couple of months, our destitution became too much for her and she burst like a blood clot dislodged and malignant searching for a place to burrow.

As children, small and lacking in understanding, we did what we could during the midnight raids. We crawled around on the floor gathering toys, avoiding eye contact, not really sure what she wanted. Not really sure what we could do to make her happy. Just certain that we were the center of all her regrets, the very reason she gave up happiness the day we slipped into the world. Silently, we crawled around picking up broken toys and clothing to show that we were doing something but we didn’t really know what she wanted. Sorry for causing such pain but not knowing how to help. We crawled aimlessly on the floor until her door slammed shut and we heard her weeping from her room.

And the next morning, it was like nothing happened.

As adults, my siblings refuse to acknowledge the presence of the midnight raids in our childhood. Only one sister talks about them and she usually shouts the information to my elderly mother over the phone at two in the morning, swear words mixed with accusations. She makes midnight raids of her own, violations designed to attack when our mother is at her most vulnerable. I understand her desire to make my mother responsible for what she did. But three decades has passed since we suffered and how long can she wait to forgive a desperate woman who found herself lacking?

There are four of us. My older brother who never had a long term relationship with any woman. He suffers from depression and anxiety and anger issues and has to be medicated. There’s me who stayed in an unhappy marriage for 23 years even when I should have left, desperate to prove to the world that I’m loved by someone. Then my sister, sickly all her life and still is. During her illness, she had her only positive attention from our mother so she got sick-a lot. Then there’s the baby. My youngest sister who says she doesn’t remember the midnight raids although she was part of them. I can picture her crawling over the floor in silent bewilderment just like I did. But she’s also 200 pounds overweight. She turned to food, eating her unhappiness, eating her own self destruction. Part of her must be a remnant of those frightening nights where we were made to feel like the culprits for everything, the broad end of my mother’s dissatisfaction, the sharp side of her resentment.

I remember those nights even if I hated her for them at the time. How angry can I stay at a woman who is kind to my own children though she wasn’t kind to me?

She’s older now, my mother, and she smiles all the time. Age has given her happiness that she never had as a young woman. She still lives in her deluded world, the world where she’s right all the time and everyone else is wrong. Where she’s better than everyone else even if she had bastard children raised on welfare and couldn’t live with the man she loved without violence.

When I look at her now, I see a woman crippled in body as much as she was crippled in spirit. As if she became the physical equivalent of her own unfulfilled desires. And though I understand her angry moments, I vowed never to become her. But with a flourish of poetic irony, I did just that. I became my mother and I see now how it happened. I see the years of worry and hard living and being unappreciated and forgotten. I see how it happened with the arms pulling on me, the love gone awry, the husband with a bottle, the smell of vomit and the taste of time gone bad. Aspirations rotting in the sun, underbellies exposed to the ravages of time.

This is the reality of who we are. Each day slipping away from us like beads off a string and falling away into nothing. We try and hold on so we can find the truth of the truth and the why of the why. We carry baggage that should be left behind. We storm when we should float. We push away when we should embrace. And we hold onto things that hurt only ourselves. Why do we spend so much of our precious time with our arms wrapped so tightly around dissatisfaction? And why is it that children wear the skin of their parents unhappiness?

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146 thoughts on “Midnight Raids

    1. My initial thoughts too. I do, though, wholeheartedly wish that you and your siblings find the elusive joy that you are looking for. You decided to share your painful past/present so unhesitantly…well, you deserve happiness more than just about anybody. God bless!

      Liked by 4 people

  1. Through both joy and pain, we could all transcend , love and gain…

    Live in the now present here . Your past does not define you .
    Let go , forgive , love regardless and find inner peace and joy regardless through meditation, return to nature from time to time , reading , doing activities that help others …

    Liked by 7 people

  2. Find peace in the now because the past does not define you …
    If thoughts of resentment arise , allow them to pop up from the unconscious to the conscious mind and let go …
    Transmute sadness into peace , joy and unconditional love …
    Be present in the moment in the now here through calming your mind to stop overthinking , simplfying things and relaxing …
    This is what I am doing and being the best I can now …
    Peace and love from Lebanon, the country of Cedars of God as the Bible mentions…

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Tough story but refreshingly honest. There are many, it seems, who do take the time to understand their past, to better avoid any conditioned pitfalls. Sadly, there are too many who blindly repeat the mistakes of their parents, continuing the vicious cycle. Good to know, Dalegreenearts, that you are one of the former.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. how wonderful a post, so outstanding, so much a mirror of parts of myself. Truly you have achieved a mastery here, the combination of that which we feel, painted into being with candour and not a word used unnecessarily.
    Thankyou for existing, peace and love to you and yours.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Thank you for sharing this post. I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. Thinking and writing about childhood can be cathartic and painful. I have no other words but your post evoked feeling and memories. Sending you digital blessings.

    Liked by 7 people

  6. Your last phrase rings so true….children do wear the skin of their parents unhappiness ….but they can also have the cloak of some of their parents more positive attributes. The mother in your writing did not take the easy way out and abandon the children she resented, she stuck it out and showed loyalty and grit in difficult circumstances.
    My own sister had a difficult relationship with our mother and remembers being dragged out of bed one night and beaten with a hairbrush while she was told that she was a dirty wicked girl. She never knew what she had done. Years later in a chance conversation with our older brother she discovered that he had gone through our mothers drawers in our parents bedroom and filled her contraceptive cap with glue. He never admitted his guilt and let Sue take the blame for all our mothers’ life. But like her mother Sue is resilient and determined and has overcome many difficulties including anorexia and bulimia caused by wearing the skin of the troubled relationship with her mother.
    As we grow older we understand so much more about our childhoods and our parents. Thank you for your powerful writing.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Raw and honest writing that for many of us can relate to. Our mothers’ pains often become our own, …their shortcomings, ours. It’s like a deadly cycle we have to try and break. Thank you for sharing this powerful post with us.

    Liked by 6 people

  8. I relate to this a lot. I have found it so hard to make peace with my past when I have to deal with my mother and her abuse as an adult. But I’m working on it and I am better. I think you are, too.

    Liked by 7 people

  9. It might not be a midnight raid, but I suspect every mother has lost it with her kids at some point. None of us is up to the task of life. But, God is able to heal, deliver and fill in all the gaps. We are weak but He is strong. Blessings, Dale!!

    Liked by 5 people

  10. as a poor single mother of four who struggles with anger & depression…this hit a little too close to home for me. i am trying to change…to grow & heal & to not damage my children with my own damage. but it is a struggle, & i do a lot of things i deeply regret.
    i remember the anger & hostility of my own childhood & cringe that i haven’t traveled so far from it as i thought when i was a new mother.
    thank you for posting this. as uncomfortable as it is, it is something i need to remember–how much my own despair effects my children & how i cannot let them believe that they are the cause of my unhappiness.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. i feel like it was something i needed to hear. i am working through my grief of being a single mom & trying not to resent my children for my situation…and your post was something i needed to hear to keep me from getting lost in that grief (as i tend to do) & to remember my commitment to being a mother. hearing the perspective of an adult child helped me to get out of my own head. thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m so happy. We all need reminders to get out of our own way at times. I’m glad I was that reminder for you. I haven’t always been the best mother but it’s important to try to be better than yesterday.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. That must have been so difficult to work through – how do you put a sensible explanation to insensible behavior? My father worked away for months at a time and my mom would start to fall apart before he came back – erratic and some what crazy behaviors that would signal his upcoming return and she too would wake us in the middle of the night in a frenzy – he solution to everything was housework and suddenly we’d find ourselves scrubbing the basement floor at 2:00 am or cleaning cupboards while she raged around. They know not what they do – that’s what I chalked it up to If they could they would and that sort of things but it changed who I was – I believe I subconsciously became a teen parent to get away, to feel like I had some control over my own life because running away and being sent home was exhausting and scary. What ever you experienced it certainly contributed to your resilience and so glad you pursued your gift of art and writing as a means to healing those wounds and realizing how special and talented you are. I still think you’re a Canadian treasure because you are!

    Liked by 5 people

  12. It’s pretty hard to figure out what “normal” is when your childhood normal has been uncertainty, chaos, and/or violence. Some people never do, some get there only part way, and a lucky few manage to rearrange their brains enough to leave the old interpretations behind. I’m thinking I see all three outcomes in your family. Going back to the old nature/nurture discussion, I think it’s a meld of both that forms us.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. This is actually a true story and it happened to so many out there but still we must learn how to transmit love and affection at all times to our children.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. The way you write transports me to almost being in the room when the raids occur. I am sorry for you and your siblings going through all that as children, you are an extremely talented writer, perhaps you should consider writing an autobiography, it could help people. xx

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That has been suggested before and I think this blog is the beginning of that journey. It started as a way of plugging my art and has changed into a way of discussing things that have happened in my past. And even though I had a difficult past with my mother, I would like to say that we have a very loving relationship now and I see her all the time. A lot of people seem concerned about that.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Man. I don’t have many more ways to praise your writing and how it touches all emotions. This phrase, “desperate to prove to the world that I’m loved by someone” really resonates, unfortunately. My blog answer to your rhetorical question is energy. We cannot escape the energy that our parents pass on to us. It develops in the womb, and then, of course continues to attach to us as we live with them. That’s my $.02 about it.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. “We try and hold on so we can find the truth of the truth and the why of the why. We carry baggage that should be left behind. We storm when we should float. We push away when we should embrace. And we hold onto things that hurt only ourselves. ”

    ❤ Much love for you and your knowledge – hard-won but knowledge – and your skills of how to get rid of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I thought it was a positive story about how we can all make mistakes and recover from them. Some people think it;s a negative story but it’s not. The message at the end is the most important and you got that.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. It is good you have a better relationship with your mother now. There are many ‘Mother’ issues in life and overcoming them is probably what we have come here for, to forgive and not to hang on to the negative, a difficult and possibly lifetime task, but ultimately freeing.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Soul crushing…I am sorry you went through this, you and your siblings. And that you all suffer still on some level. I understand all this, the raids, the anger, the ‘not knowing what to do,’ the staying in a marriage for far too long… It’s why I craft my poetry the way I do. You have a huge heart, forgiving your mother, pushing ego aside to allow love through. Good for you. It’s not easy. And it’s not easy sharing such a thing. I’m glad I read this xo

    Liked by 4 people

  19. You are a miracle for surviving your childhood. The way you convey the images of that time is unforgettable. Keep writing — through the writing, you heal. You speak for everyone who has unhealed wounds from childhood. Your writing shows an awareness of the ravages you’ve undergone as a result of your experiences. I will send your family healing energy. Every day you share, another layer of healing takes place. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Circumstances at that time may have left your mum rather disconnected, but that certainly doesn’t define who you are.
    I admit it’s terribly hard to witness stuff like you did, and not come away with some scars. Glad you’re dealing with all the trauma so well!

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Hugs to you dear Dale… I admire the way transformed to what you are now. May you and your siblings be fully healed from the past memories. Prayers and love for you all and your mother too. May lord’s blessings be always with you 😊🕊

    Liked by 2 people

  22. You are a fantastic writer. You exhibit an amazing grace probably because you have accepted an amazing grace. Not many can be so forgiving of such behavior. Your description of the children gathering stuff up in order to please but not believing they could is so heart rending. Makes me question things I do sometimes. Do the children really understand. They want so much to please. Precious little ones. God takes note and justice will come to those who abuse the children. Meanwhile it is up to us (men, women) to touch them in love and acceptance.

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Well-written, but truly sad. Your opening sentence really got me reading because it was so unthinkable that any child should suffer this abuse; I’ve never heard of anyone going through that. Perhaps your mother is nice to her grandchildren to try to make up for her mean outbursts. Forgiveness is the word that comes to my mind, and I’m glad you have let go of the past.

    We can’t change the past, but we can make a better future! 🙂
    ❤️carmen

    Liked by 4 people

  24. What I love about your writings is how it shows the depth of healing you have experienced because you able to write from a place of love and forgiveness. You are a great testimony of spiritual healing and growth! Thank you for sharing Dale! ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  25. What is it, we as parents often say to our children…..When you get older, you will understand… We see parents as our safe harbour and are shocked that they are very real normal human beings with human frailties, baggage, worries and fears. After we grow up a bit, we start to see life (and our parents) a bit differently and realize things were not always as black and white as we thought they were. With time, we can again be a family and with luck, we can forgive. Thanks for sharing and hugs to you, as well. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

  26. There are many of us who grew up in highly dysfunctional families. It took a few decades to resolve most of the major issues, but there are still traces of mental and behavioral residue that will probably remain for the rest of my life. All things considered, I’m glad to be a survivor.

    Liked by 4 people

  27. Thank you, Dale, for such a beautiful and in-depth sharing of a truly emotional and traumatic experience in your life with such grace and truth. I want to see your writing turn into a book, and I want to be on the list to buy one of the first copies. Your writing has the potential to turn into an award-winning book and movie. Please do it and continue to write. You have a very rare talent of turning small details into great adventures and stories, with the words drawing emotions out of even the coldest heart. This book would have the potential to heal a lot of misery that so many children live through and go on to become wounded adults. Thank you for sharing in such a healing and incredible way. When I think of your writing, it is like a painting that comes straight from the heart.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow. What a compliment. I was thinking of entering some of the stories into short story contests. I’m not sure what to do beyond that. But I’ll definitely look into my next move. Thank you for the encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You have an amazing gift beyond – way beyond the normal. I hope for you that you will put the tales into a book, for the book deserves to be read by the many. It is honestly just about the most beautifully emotionally and well painted writing I have ever read. This is not meant to be just flattery; it is truth.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I would consider self publishing. I don
        t feel the same pressure as I feel thinking about a big publishing house. There’s something very immediate about telling stories to a audience that is one degree away from me. And thank you again.

        Liked by 1 person

  28. Awesome post, Dale!!! So moving, powerful and raw!! I so appreciate you sharing with us, baring your soul and the memories!! Thank you for that! It really moved me, My Dear!! Especially, loved your last paragraph, oh my, what a diamond mine of inspiration you left there!! I would really love it if you might be willing to parse that into a poetry format as a separate piece or better yet take some of those individual phrases and make poems from them?? Please? Try it, you might like it? I can’t tell you how much your views, comments and support mean to me!!!
    I always smile seeing your alerts in my email!!! Have a blessed day, Dale!!
    xoxoxo

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Not sure. If you check my contact page it has a form that I didn’t find on yours? So, did you click on your contact page and see the form there? If not, you should be able to chat with WP?
        xoxoxo

        Liked by 1 person

  29. I grew up with an abusive dad who became such a gentle person in his old age. My kids have fond memories of their sweet grandfather — so different from the hostile father I knew as a kid. It’s hard to reconcile the two. Thanks for sharing. You’re a great writer.

    Liked by 2 people

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