Laughter: Mother’s Medicine

“I’m so mad!”  My nine-year-old self slammed the front door and stomped down the hallway to the kitchen, where my mother was constantly positioned.  My little sister sat at the table, her legs swinging contentedly as she finished off a fresh baked cookie and glass of milk.

“Well, hello!” my mother responded.  “Not a good day?”

“That Chet Tesney makes me so mad, I want to kill him.”

Mom looked me up and down.  “Looks like you already did.”

“Not today.  I got in a scuffle with some kids at the bus stop.”

My mother sighed.  “There are cookies or muffins, but you are not to touch the pie until after dinner.  I’d wash up first if I were you.”

Catching myself in the mirror, I saw that I was a real sight.  I pulled a twig and a piece of leaf out of my matted hair, and washed the muddy scrape on my cheek.  Both hands, caked brown, were red beneath.  Looking down, I saw the stockings I had put on this morning now had a big hole in one knee, and mud was caking on more than one place on my clothes.  Stripping off the dirty clothes, I ran upstairs to change.

“How was school today?” My mother asked cheerfully as I helped myself to a warm cookie and pulled up a chair.  My sister had wandered off.

“Okay, I guess.  We were picking parts for the class play and that Lesley Mann got the main role again.  I hate her, it’s not fair!  Mom!  Jane has my favourite Barbie!  Put that down you little brat!”

“Girls!  Play nice.”  Mom seldom skipped a beat from her dinner prep.  She wouldn’t intervene.  I sighed.

“School is so unfair!  Miss P. said we’d be able to pick our topics for the history project, but Michael and David picked the same as me, so now I have to choose something else.  I hate school!  Now, she has my Barbie car, too!  Moooommm!  She’s going to break it!”

“Shreeeeeeaaaakkkkk! my sister screamed as I tried to retrieve my treasures.

“She won’t hurt it.  Let her play.  Why don’t you play with her?”

“It’s not fair!  You always take her side.  Why don’t you support me for once?!”  I could feel the rage inside me boiling over.  I wanted to hit someone and fast.

“Tee hee.  Ha ha.  Ho ho.”

“Don’t you start, Mother!”

“Ha ha, ho ho, he he, ha ha ha.”

“Mom, I mean it!”

“Ho, ho, ho, ho, ha ha ha ha ha ha, he he he he he he, ho, ho.”

Giggle.  “Mom, don’t make me!  He, he.”

“Heeee, heeee, hoooo, hoooo”  The laughter was so contagious I couldn’t help but join in.  Soon we were laughing so hard we could hardly catch our breath.

“What’s so sunny?” my four-year-old sister couldn’t say her ‘f’s, sending us into another howl, until the tears rolled down our cheeks.

“It’s not sunny!”  But it was!

“Oh, I’m going to pee my pants!”  Doubled over, my mother ran for the bathroom.

We laughed some more.  By the time the laughter subsided, I couldn’t remember what I had been angry about.

This is the gift of my mother.

 

Mickey Mouse Meets Gestalt

Looking out from under the big white wooden chair, I can see Mickey Mouse approaching with a kettle of boiling water.  He’s going to pour the water on me, and even though my family are all around, and I am screaming, no one notices. 

“I had this dream repeatedly as a child, from about the age of five.”

“What is the significance of the white chair?”

“My father used that chair to teach us how to skate.  We had to push it around the rink until we learned to stay up on our own.  I remember being very frightened, because my father wasn’t a patient man and I didn’t want to upset him.”

“What would happen if you upset him?”

“He would yell, call us names, tell us how stupid and incompetent we were.”

“Why Mickey Mouse?”

“I don’t know.  I’ve often wondered about that.  Mickey Mouse would have been the prominent cartoon character back then, and I loved watching the Mickey Mouse Club on TV.  I really wanted to be a Mouseketeer.”

“In Gestalt therapy, the belief is that each aspect of the dream represents a part of you.  Would you be willing to try something with me?”

I nod.

“I want you to put yourself back in the dream and let me guide you.  Imagine you are five years old again, and let me know when you can picture the scene.”

I close my eyes and remember.  “Okay.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Frightened, very frightened.”

“Tell me what’s happening. Talk it out.”

“Mickey Mouse has a kettle of boiling water and he’s going to pour it on me.  I scream, but no one is paying attention.  I can see my Dad and my sister Joanne, but they are not looking my way.”

“What do you want to say to them?”

“Help me!  Help me!  Can’t you see I’m in trouble?  Somebody stop this from happening!”

“Tell them what’s happening.”

“He’s going to hurt me.  That man is going to hurt me.  Please, somebody stop it!  Listen to me!”

“Tell them what you need.”

“I need you to hear me.  I need you to see what’s happening. I need you to see me.  Nobody sees me….”  I break off crying.

“Tell me why you are crying.”

“My childhood home was very chaotic.  There was always lots of fighting going on, and although I don’t remember much of the early years, my mother says I was always tossed over the fence to the neighbour’s house, so they could look after me. ”

“Why do you think this dream has stayed with you?”

“I never felt like I mattered in my family growing up.  There was so much going on that I felt insignificant.”

“In every family there is a rivalry for attention.  How did that play out for you?”

“Well my oldest sister was always sick, so she got most of the attention, and my next sister withdrew into herself, and later we found out she was schizophrenic.  My youngest sister was a handful, throwing tantrums and being difficult to get along with.  I tried to stay out of the way, and not cause any more trouble.”

“So what did you try to do to get noticed?”

“Achieve.  I tried to be the smartest and the most successful?”

“How did that work for you?”

“It didn’t.  I never felt like I could be good enough, and when I did do something worthwhile I got shot down for bragging about it.”

“Do you still feel that way?”

“Not so much.  I’ve struggled with not feeling good enough, but I don’t need the glory anymore.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Maturity.  Life experience.  When I first learned how to do Therapeutic Touch I did a lot of volunteer work, and I soon realized that there were many people whose lives were worse off than mine, and that by giving a little bit of my time, I could make a difference.  It felt so amazingly rewarding to help another, that I realized how unimportant everything else was.”

“So what would you tell that little girl today?”

“Well, first of all, I’d reach in under that chair and offer her my hand; then I’d pull her to me and give her a great big hug and tell her that I love her.”

“Tell her as if she is here.”

Come on, Sweetheart, lets walk away from all this commotion.  You are okay now.  I am here, and I can see you, and I’m not going to let that man hurt you. 

Why doesn’t anyone see me?

Because they can’t right now, Honey.  They can only see their own pain, but that doesn’t mean you’re not important.  You matter very much. 

Are things going to get better?

Eventually, but not for a long time.  But I want you know that you will be okay.  You will be better than okay. 

Why are you here?

Because I think it’s important that you know you are perfect just the way you are. 

“Do you feel better?”

“I feel like I have had a breakthrough.”

“How so?”

“I understand now that the little girl in me sought attention for a long, long time, and I don’t need to do that anymore.  It feels lighter.  Achievement is good in and of itself.  The need for glory only taints it.”

“And Mickey Mouse?”

“Well that’s just what we become when we seek out fame and fortune, I guess.  Burned.”