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?

For more about Dale:

182 thoughts on “Midnight Raids

      1. I still feel like a child and I’m almost half a century. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like an adult. Ironically, when I was a child, I felt like an old woman in a young girl’s body. But as I age, my mind gets younger.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Such a poignant exposé of the demons we grow up with and nurture. In my mind, I hear a soft voice tinged with the urgency brought by the specter of remembrance. Your writing is poetic, artful, and full of a reality we often wish to dream away. This is writing one feels with the heart and soul.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. When some of us feel unloved in our lives, we should realize that we are never alone. Others have experienced similar issues, and many have weathered the storm. Others have waged a difficult battle move forward, and the negativity can last a lifetime.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It can last but I hope it doesn’t. It lasted for me for a long time and all I had to do was let go. Like Dorothy, I had to realize that the power to change my own circumstance was in me all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A very moving post. Reminded me of some things in my own childhood which I would rather forget. Sometimes denial is used to hide insecure feelings. Your mother obviously projected her own feelings of unhappiness and insecurity onto you. It is a sad state of affairs when children become victims of a parent’s anger, frustration, and general state of unhappiness.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So true. I have made my peace with my childhood but I’m using the experience to write about which is helpful.


  4. My heart goes out to you Dale. And to your mother and to your siblings. It is so strange that I was thinking about writing about us siblings (we are six) and our parents. And our tale is so different.
    You have told such a poignant and touching part of your life so beautifully.
    I hope and pray that your life doesn’t follow the pattern of your mothers life Dale.
    Lots of love and a big hug 🤗

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow, sounds so familiar, only for me it was my father. You are a powerful writer. Thanks for ‘liking’ some of my articles, it gave me the opportunity to discover yours!
    I have found peace in my Creator, who is able to make all things new:
    “And I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm . . .” Joel2:25
    He takes the rot and he makes it right! Transforming love!
    God’s blessings,

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you. What a lovely blessing. I’m so happy we connected. I too have forgiven my mother for her failings, she did her best.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Gosh its hard to comprehend that your mother did this to you and your siblings. My mother used to say the same thing “I can’t come now I have a bone in my leg” I could never understand why she would say that. Our mother was bitter. Im not sure why she was. Was it because we were poor. Who knows and now she has gone so will never know.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My mother is still here and I’ve found a friendship with her that I didn’t expect to find. I have two sisters as well, and a brother. One of my sisters will not speak to anyone in the family. I see myself in her, the same anger that I used to feel but have gotten past many years ago. My other sister and I are very close, same as my brother and I. I just wish I could have been less angry when I was raising my own kids. I feel like I was just like her.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. So are you. Everyone who has a difficult family member is strong. We have to be. It gave me a temper for many years and I’m now at the point of finding peace that I never knew before. It took losing my husband to finally let go of the resentment I held on to for so long.


  7. You’re such a good writer. I wonder if maybe you could do a post someday (or maybe you already have this post) on how your family responds to your writing if they read it? I’ve always wondered how family members react, and I often ask memoir authors this question when I go to their readings.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. They haven’t read it and if I publish it I would publish under a pseudonym. I don’t think they’d be happy with me airing my dirty laundry for the world to see. But I go by the Anne Lamott quote “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” I’m not going out of my way to bring the writing to their attention but if they happen to find it, I’m not apologizing.


  8. Very very well written! Life is never what we think or what it even should be, but we shouldn’t have the weight of our parents misfortunes as our own. We have scars to remind us but they also push us to be better. We all know right from wrong and we’ve been given free will, the choices in life are ours even though the paths may not be clear all the time there are signs and knowledge of where they may lead us.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Psychologists call it “Repetition”. It’s one of the most common human behaviours. We repeat. Endlessly. Methods that once worked and now don’t. We repeat our parents. What they did or the opposite. Still is repetition. 🙂 Not easy to be free of it but it can happen.
    At least I hope you are happier now than you were. 🙂
    That is a non-repetition that can be done. 🙂
    All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

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