I don't picture eye contact when reminiscing my youth. I just don't, I don't recall it. Maybe it was there. I recall my mother's eyes were dark brown, like mine and my siblings. So, I must have looked. But, I doubt any of us saw past the pigmentation of the others' irises.
From the time around the kitchen table of my youth, what I do remember is disconnect, empty space, and vast distance. Inches were miles. Visibility was low. Like the gap between the kitchen table and the sink, where you couldn't look at both at the same time, being on opposite sides of the kitchen, so was the gap between our souls. We couldn't see each other and be seen at the same time.
In our family, we often had our backs facing each other, largely because we were busy being self-absorbed. It was all we knew. We seldom faced each other. Not that we were angry. We just had nothing to say. Even if we did, we had no skills with which to say it. Silence, we knew well, and talking to strangers. Even the strangers in our home.
If some family member were to blurt out, heaven forbid, "I love you," or something senseless like that, it wouldn't bridge the gap. Not even close. It'd be like trying to skip a pebble to the opposite shore of Lake Michigan. Why? There was no one there who would believe the pronouncement. Not I. It wouldn't fit our family dynamic at all. Besides, as far as I could tell, no one knew what it meant.
I perceived my mother's soul, her heart, was as cold as that porcelain sink once full of ice. Only, the ice had melted leaving it cold and empty.
No, that's too harsh. I'm certain she was a child at one time, too, though she never spoke of it. Surely, nurture had something to do with her nature.
"My mother did the best she could," I tell myself. Others nod. Though she has died years ago, 21 to be exact, I give her this excuse to deliver to me. She didn't ask for it. But if I don't give it to her, I will have to take responsibility for my experience of the parenting transaction. Yet, I want it to be done.
"Isn't it over already?" No, I answer myself, afraid of the truth. "Why does this past cling to me? Didn't I grow up and out of it, like my childhood asthma?" Another negative response comes to mind.
The truth is, so long as I deny it, such childhood trauma will live like a parasite in my heart, sucking the warmth from it, until I acknowledge its damaging existence and agree to open heart surgery. I didn't come up with this awareness by my lonesome; it needed to be rubbed in my face by a person I could trust, until I cried.
I realized someone had been filling the porcelain sink of my heart with chips and chunks of ice. That someone was me. I was doing it myself. Someone else I trusted pointed that out to me, gently guiding me. I didn't want to believe the hurtful gap in the kitchen, in my youth, was now the gap between my soul and another's. And unless I intentionally did the emotional work to heal that gap, it would only grow worse. Fellowship is a 2-way street. I had skills to learn and triggers to disarm.
I longed to bridge that gap by hearing the rich and meaningful sound of, "I love you." I longed to say such words and understand I wasn't merely lusting after attention I could die for.
I learned it's never too late to have a wonderful childhood.
It was time to grow up for the first time.