Black Stove, Purple Lamp

More from Vol. 2 of Present Tense


We are standing in the living room. We are moving our belongings out of the house because my parents are fighting again. My brother is now married and lives in a nearby town with his wife. He is helping us move.

My father confronts my brother in the living room with a baseball bat and threatens to hurt each of us if we do not leave the house immediately.
My father swings the bat to show his intention. Lands a blow on the free-standing wood-burning stove. He leaves quite a dent in the black sheet metal exterior. A dent that will live with us for all time.
He then swings again to assert his presence and smashes my mother’s favorite lamp. It was a beautiful purple lamp. Two lights, beautiful hand-painted designs on the glass shades and delicate gold filigree edging. Gone with one blow.
He smashes the lamp, I imagine, to see the pained look of surprise on her face. He wants to see her hurt.

Tiny little shards embedded in the carpet. Gouges torn in the wood of the end table. Hearts shattered at the violence, but not for things. Splinters of feelings scattered and strewn.


This would not be the last time I would see this house. It should have been.
The house is gone now. Swallowed up in time. Rotted with weather and neglect and turmoil. But it housed our violent, chaotic family for nearly 20 years. It existed and so did we. A new house stands in its place.
So long now. But the violence persists in my mind.
Sometimes, I wish my mind or memories would rot, but they are rock solid. The negativity built on unshaken cliffs of time-battered trauma.

Memories can be swept away like sand on the shore, but this bedrock is immovable. Formed in liquid lava and cooled to stone for all time.


We moved back very soon after this incident. Perhaps 1-2 months later. We left several times, but never for very long. Unfortunately.

’66 Chevelle

More from Vol. 2 of Present Tense.


I am 14 or 15 years old. Saturday morning. I’m lying down, but awake. I am in my bedroom with the door closed. There is one loud voice and one scared voice in the next room.
“Where is she?”
He is choking my sister. He is pulling her hair. He is threatening her. He is hurting my sister because my mother isn’t there to hurt.
He leaves her bedroom. I stop moving, thinking, inhaling in the hope that I will not be next. Not quickly enough, I hear the back door bang.
I hear my sister stir. I hear her muffled, wet breaths. She is crying.
I hear my father opening the hood of my sister’s car, the car that she shares with my mother.


’66 Chevelle Malibu. The one with the rusted-out hole in the floor board. The one with white paint and blue vinyl seats. The one with jagged rear window posts that cut your hand when you’re not careful. The one that an old lady drove to church and the store and only had several thousand miles when we bought it almost 20 years after it was made. The classic. The sweet-ass sportster. The muscle car from Malibu. The one that will take a beating.


I look out the window of my bedroom and see my father ripping wires out of the engine. He slams the hood closed and now takes a hammer he must have grabbed on the way out. He pounds the metal repeatedly with quick, powerful blasts and leaves at least two dozen or more marks.
These are not dings. These are not dimples. These are deep, hate-filled holes.
“Get out of here.”
My sister calls my brother and we leave. We wait at the end of our driveway for my brother to pick us up. We don’t speak to one another. I am powerless to change what is happening. I can only follow, obey and relinquish any hope of being normal.


Every time I tell this story, it makes me afraid all over again. But. I lived. So I am thankful for this story. It reminds me that I can survive. And that I never have to live that way again.

Present Tense

Here is a link to the video on Youtube. My daughter made the video when she was 10 yo. Thanks, Lil.


I am four years old.  They are fighting.  I don’t remember the words now, but they are yelling.  Fuzzy scenes, like cloudy dreams, blurring in and out of focus.  Down in the basement, in the laundry room, I hear hot voices and cold words.  I peek around the corner.  He pushes her down on the concrete floor.  She’s weak, flailing, grabbing with desperate hands.  She can’t resist.  She scrambles up when she sees that I’m there.  She stutters a lie through tears, “I’m okay.”  She says it certainly.  Forcefully almost.  But I see the truth in her eyes.  She’s scared and we both think she’s going to die.

My mother has long, dark hair.  She would look like a Native American mother warrior with her tan, lined face and downward-turned eyes/mouth except for her bangs.  She won’t wear her hair without bangs.  She fell out of a moving car when she was just five years old.

Her forehead is scarred from the accident.  It is a terrible mark.  It’s dull purple with blue and yellow streaks, permanently bruised somehow.  It has deep white ridges where the flesh comes together to hold back brains, blood and skull.  It looks as if the bone just under the skin is broken and could spill its contents from the slightest pressure.

I touch it as if it could bite me.  It is tough though, surprisingly and sufficiently.  It’s troubling, remarkable and totally unbelievable that someone could have such a scar and be walking around performing everyday tasks.

I’m staring up at her from the front seat of the car.  She’s seatbeltless.  Hair full of wind and eyes on the road.  Her fingers are wrapped around the thin metallic wheel.  Her forehead is rough, but her cheeks are feathery and thin, soft under my tiny hand.  When I trace her lips, she playfully snarls, bares her teeth and chomps at my fingers.  She has beautiful, somber eyes, full of pain and pensiveness.  She doesn’t often have a smile, but when she does, you know it’s for you and you know it’s for real.

She is five years old.  She is riding quietly in the backseat of the sedan.  She falls asleep.  Her hand, arm or knee gently releases the door latch.  Within a breath, she is inches from the road, ground rushing under her.  My grandmother, from the front seat, is holding her hand or arm so she won’t fall.  My grandfather is braking.  My mother will be crushed by the turning back tire unless Grandma lets go.

Grandma lets go.

Li’l Lil is taken to the hospital and that sickening cut at the top of her sadly-sweet baby face is her rippling flag of salvation.  Her never-ending experiment of bangs begins.  On some level, consciously or not, this must make her feel like a little girl for the rest of her life.  A scared, torn-up little girl who hides her secrets behind those bangs.  I know how she feels.

Dear Reader,

This is an excerpt from my book Present Tense.  It’s a very short, vignette-style memoir. Quick read with lots of imagery.  You can find the rest of my book Present Tense at amazon.com.  Here’s the link: Present Tense.  You can read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Thanks for reading!


This was from Vol. 1. More of Vol. 2 later today!

Vol. 2

The plan was always to release a Vol. 2 of my book Present Tense. But, as with most things, I was unable to complete the final version. I have many stories to publish and I thought, “Life is too short to leave them unread.” So I’m publishing them here. One by one. They are just little snippets of childhood. Sometimes, difficult to read. But all real, all precious. Mainly because they show my heart and where it’s been.


This new house is where I will spend the rest of my adolescence and teenage years. This is the house of sunken tubs and cigarette stains. This is the house of deep divides and dark, fake paneling. This is the house where I decide to kill myself.
I am lying in bed, shaking. I can’t stop shaking. I am some age between 5 and 15. I am scared. For mom and me. My parents are only 10 feet from my bedroom door. The door is shut, but it is cheap and he is screaming.
She is crying. She begs him to leave her alone. He keeps verbally attacking her, calling her a pig, threatening to kill her. I can hear him pushing her down. I can hear her land hard on the sofa. I can hear him hitting her. Spitting words through teeth. Seething, growling, possessed and angry.
I can hear every agonizing detail and only until I am shaking violently do I realize I’m shaking at all. I can’t stand it. I resolve to defend my mother and end the encounter. I walk quickly into the room and I scream at my father to stop. I can’t remember anything that happens after that.

Electric Pace of the Ordinary

Excerpt from Dream:

There are moments in this life where the entire world slows down for just a second. Noises are blurred, images are paused and focused. And for a brief, fluttering instant we can experience a perfect communion with the eternal; a recognition of the divine. This moment hangs on like a perfectly formed raindrop, clinging to the surface of the present, waiting for the next moment to be bumped forward and resume the electric pace of the ordinary.

Read original story

House Full of Hope

Background


I was abused for 19 years by my father and others. Physically and emotionally. Then my dad died in ’92. For 6 more years I would be physically and emotionally abused by my sister. At 25, I moved out, got married and I was free! From almost-daily emotional abuse.

But.

That day, that I was free? I started recovery. Which is just as hard some days. If not more so.

I most likely have complex PTSD. I say most likely because I am undiagnosed and haven’t seen a mental health professional for several years. But in the late 90s and early 2000s when I was seeing mental health professionals, no one ever thought to delve into PTSD, let alone complex PTSD. The first mention of complex PTSD by a professional was in ’92, the year my dad died. (BTW, weird!) But it’s not even widely recognized as a thing yet.

I’m pretty sure I have it. I have alot of the symptoms. Panic attacks, triggers, sensitivity, nightmares, flashbacks. I’m sure that the next decade will reveal that many abuse survivors suffer from complex PTSD.

What is it?

Complex PTSD is not necessarily worse than what a soldier might go through, but complex PTSD indicates that the PTSD comes from ongoing abuse that happens multiple times. A soldier might endure years of traumatic violence in the line of duty, or he might suffer one tragic episode. Either way, he might develop PTSD. But if it’s ongoing exposure, with multiple incidents, he might develop complex PTSD.

Many abuse survivors develop complex PTSD because they suffer daily or almost daily violence for years. YEARS! The complex aspect indicates the severity or frequency of exposure to traumatic events. There are other numerous factors to distinguish complex. I have only just started hearing about complex PTSD. I’m sure more information about C-PTSD will emerge over the next decade. Children can develop PTSD by being forced to live in a chaotic situation. Even if they are never touched or injured, simply by living with out-of-control adults can make them feel unsafe. Even living with abuse, and not being abused, can make it hard to trust.

If you are in an abuse situation: You have to get out. And stay out. For yourself. For your kids. Cut all ties with toxic people and get help. Physical and mental and emotional help.
Don’t stop.

Why? Because your life has worth, value, meaning, importance. You’re strong enough to survive this. And even thrive after this.

Prayer is Powerful


God is real. Prayer works. A better life is waiting and there’s someone nice to love you. Or just a life where you can love yourself.

If you’re wondering if prayer works or you’re sure it doesn’t? A coupla evenings ago, when I was feeling really low and asked for prayer, I got the most wonderful surprise. My family was preparing to move unexpectedly because they found water damage and mold in our ceiling and I was feeling ill. I don’t have a thyroid. They took it out due to cancer last year and my doctors still haven’t figured out my medication levels. Well. Guess what? I was laying on my bed, resting and feeling blue, wondering how to move our entire apartment in just a few days while feeling so sick, when I got a call out of the blue.

It was Hope House. My husband and I tithe to this domestic abuse shelter that helps women and children. To be honest, I thought they might be calling to ask for more money. I am ashamed to admit that. BUT! Cortney said, “Hi, I just started here and I wanted to call and thank you for your generous donations throughout the year.”

Well, I told her through tears…we give because I came from an abuse situation. And I know what it means to those in need, those who are scared and have no place to go, to have peace of mind and a safe place. It’s a question of survival and the most basic human needs, security and shelter. Except, I said it more confused and slobber-y. But that was the gist. LOL

She thanked me again. I wish Guy C. Maggio was there. It’s his hard-earned money that goes to them, he gives for my sake and my history. What a wonderful man. Thank you, Honey. And Cortney thanks you, too. 🙂

Anyway, she said, without me asking, “I’ll say a special little prayer for you tonight.” And I told her the same and for those at Hope House-I would be praying for them. At least, I meant to say that, I said I would pray, but again, I was super blubbery.  It probably came out as a sloshy mumble of something about “me pray too”. LOL

I needed prayer. I had just asked friends on Facebook to pray for me that morning. And out of the blue, God showed me that my messed up life can make a difference for someone else. And he showed me a person who would pray for me, unasked. PTL!

I used to ask God, “Why me? Why did you give me this family? What have I ever done to deserve this?” or “Why am I sick? Why do I have cancer? Is it something I did?”

And the answer is: He didn’t choose this, but He knew I would be strong enough to withstand it, survive it and on top of it all, give back to others like me some day. All with His help. He knew I would find my weary way home and make something good out of something so bad.

Prayer works. A voice in the wild will whisper on the wind, “Thank you, I’m here, don’t give up.”

We just need to be still. And pray.

Thank you for your call and thank you note, Cortney. You helped me. You help alot of people I’m sure. Keep going. After I move and feel better physically, my daughter and I would love to come and visit. I wish my family had access to a place like Hope House when I was a child. That’s why I give. So a child, like me, can get out. And stay out.

Present Tense (Excerpt 1)

I am four years old.  They are fighting.  I don’t remember the words now, but they are yelling.  Fuzzy scenes, like cloudy dreams, blurring in and out of focus.  Down in the basement, in the laundry room, I hear hot voices and cold words.  I peek around the corner.  He pushes her down on the concrete floor.  She’s weak, flailing, grabbing with desperate hands.  She can’t resist.  She scrambles up when she sees that I’m there.  She stutters a lie through tears, “I’m okay.”  She says it certainly.  Forcefully almost.  But I see the truth in her eyes.  She’s scared and we both think she’s going to die.

My mother has long, dark hair.  She would look like a Native American mother warrior with her tan, lined face and downward-turned eyes/mouth except for her bangs.  She won’t wear her hair without bangs.  She fell out of a moving car when she was just five years old.

Her forehead is scarred from the accident.  It is a terrible mark.  It’s dull purple with blue and yellow streaks, permanently bruised somehow.  It has deep white ridges where the flesh comes together to hold back brains, blood and skull.  It looks as if the bone just under the skin is broken and could spill its contents from the slightest pressure.

I touch it as if it could bite me.  It is tough though, surprisingly and sufficiently.  It’s troubling, remarkable and totally unbelievable that someone could have such a scar and be walking around performing everyday tasks.

I’m staring up at her from the front seat of the car.  She’s seatbeltless.  Hair full of wind and eyes on the road.  Her fingers are wrapped around the thin metallic wheel.  Her forehead is rough, but her cheeks are feathery and thin, soft under my tiny hand.  When I trace her lips, she playfully snarls, bares her teeth and chomps at my fingers.  She has beautiful, somber eyes, full of pain and pensiveness.  She doesn’t often have a smile, but when she does, you know it’s for you and you know it’s for real.

She is five years old.  She is riding quietly in the backseat of the sedan.  She falls asleep.  Her hand, arm or knee gently releases the door latch.  Within a breath, she is inches from the road, ground rushing under her.  My grandmother, from the front seat, is holding her hand or arm so she won’t fall.  My grandfather is braking.  My mother will be crushed by the turning back tire unless Grandma lets go.

Grandma lets go.

Li’l Lil is taken to the hospital and that sickening cut at the top of her sadly-sweet baby face is her rippling flag of salvation.  Her never-ending experiment of bangs begins.  On some level, consciously or not, this must make her feel like a little girl for the rest of her life.  A scared, torn-up little girl who hides her secrets behind those bangs.  I know how she feels.

Dear Reader,

This is an excerpt from my book Present Tense.  It’s a very short, vignette-style memoir. Quick read with lots of imagery.  You can find the rest of my book Present Tense at amazon.com.  Here’s the link http://www.amazon.com/Present-Tense-1-Martha-Maggio-ebook/dp/B00N6R7R8C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453328463&sr=8-1&keywords=present+tense+by+martha+maggio.  You can read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Thanks for reading!

Martha Maggio