Lake Nostalgia

From soggy memories...

Anna Voy

Anna Voy
December 31
My name is Anna Voy and these are my stories. I grew up, the youngest of four, in a small lake community in East Texas. My family wasn’t like yours and I can guarantee that. I’m not implying that my family has the market cornered when it comes to being weird. We all have dysfunctional families, but no one’s is dysfunctional in the same way. I feel I can pretty safely assume that my family’s weirdness is unique and is fully responsible for shaping me into what I’ve become. I’ve grown up to be somewhat adjusted, however I keep my quirks intact, fully aware that they are a product of a strange and warped childhood. Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: I don’t consider myself abused; rather I view my childhood as a series of strange adventures played out in unconventional ways and perceived through the layers of conditioning that we all inevitably pick up from those who raise us. On sunny days my mind trails back to these soggy memories and I almost swear I can smell the moss of the lake and hear the sounds of the motor boats as they speed rebelliously by the “Caution” buoy. These are the stories I remember…


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SEPTEMBER 20, 2010 11:03AM

So Does That Mean I’m Not Crazy?

Rate: 37 Flag

My family’s motto was strangely very similar to that one of Las Vegas: What happens in our family stays in our family. My mother said this dozens of times throughout the years urging us to not go around spreading our secrets to the small population in which we lived. However, looking back I think it was probably a bit naïve of any of us to think that the town’s people were ignorant to some of the strange and unorthodox things that went on within our house.

One such example of this was the excuses we would give when one of my siblings disappeared to the mental institution for an unspecified amount of time. Invariably people would start wondering where Katie, Ronald, or Lauren had disappeared to and we always told them the same thing: visiting friends in the city. This was actually true usually since one does tend to make a fair amount of friends when forced to live, eat, and divulge your secrets with complete strangers. I, of course, am speaking from second hand since I’m the only person from my family who was never a resident of the state mental house. This facility was in Terrill, Texas and so the expression and my mother’s threat was always, “Don’t make me take you to Terrill.”

The first time Ronald went to rehab was for throwing a paint scraper at my sister Lauren. I’m sure he only meant to throw it toward her, thereby scaring her and ceasing whatever antagonizing behavior she was currently doing. However, my brother’s aim was off, or maybe it was on, and the sharp paint scrapper hit my sister in the leg, sticking deep into the flesh. When my mother and step-father came home there was an ambulance in the driveway, because to our credit at least we knew how to handle emergencies.

I stayed home with my older sister Katie watching Baywatch while the ambulance rushed Lauren to the hospital for stitches and a tetanus shot and my parents took Ronald “away.” Later that evening I would learn that “away” meant that Ronald had scored himself in a boy’s home where he could learn how to “behave like a normal person.” My mother explained this to Katie and me when she brought Lauren home, with new stitches and her ears freshly pierced. For years I would think that getting one’s ears pierced was a very involved procedure which could only be done at a hospital. Later I learned that Mom and my step-father, Murray, had taken Lauren to get her ears pierced after the hospital in hopes of raising her spirits.

Katie was 15 when she took her first vacation to sunny and sterile Terrill. The love of her life had broken up with her and so she’d taken a bottle of aspirin since the pain was unbearable.  Each Sunday we’d take the drive out to the state mental hospital to visit Katie and hear about her progress. She was pasty and lethargic, and she’d changed her name to Cat because that’s what all the other inmates enjoyed calling her.

By the time I was nine years old I was completely terrified to do anything, so afraid that if I got out of line then I’d be shipped off to a padded room and endless hours of therapy. I’ve always been the confrontational type and so I took this fear and put it out there to the one person I believed to be behind it, my mother.

“Mom, if I do something wrong, are you going to send me away?” I asked my mother one day when Oprah had gone to commercial.

She was lying in her bed, smoking a cigarette. “No, honey, why would you think that?” she asked twirling her hair round and round her finger until it twisted into a tangled knot.

“Well, cuz, you send everyone else away when they’re bad,” I reasoned.

My mother laughed, which didn’t make me feel any better since I didn’t think it was funny. “Oh, that’s because they’re crazy.” She explained this like it was common knowledge.

As a rule, most children do not know that the people close to them are crazy. In fact people in a child’s life during those formative years are defining what they will consider “normal” for years to come. It is only once we are all released from childhood and start interacting with others that we realize that either everyone’s idea of normal is off or that we were raised by lunatics. There’s no objectivity on this matter and therefore I’ve stopped the escapade of trying to define normal behavior.

Given my mother’s logic I had a follow up question, “So does that mean I’m not crazy?” I asked.

            Oprah had returned from the commercial break and my mother had only seconds to answer my question before she’d miss something, “No honey, you’re not crazy.”

Whew, what a relief, I thought. Momentarily I felt invincible, believing that the crazy gene had somehow skipped me ensuring that I’d never have to lie to my friends about where I’d disappear to for weeks on end. Then my mother decided to add one little comment to the mix and my heart sank with dread, “Of course, you’re not a teenage yet either…so we’ll just wait and see.”

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I lived in a family like yours but they admitted I was..:)
Style wise anyways hahah
rated with hugs
As a rule, most children do not know that the people close to them are crazy. In fact people in a child’s life during those formative years are defining what they will consider “normal” for years to come. It is only once we are all released from childhood and start interacting with others that we realize that either everyone’s idea of normal is off or that we were raised by lunatics. There’s no objectivity on this matter and therefore I’ve stopped the escapade of trying to define normal behavior.

Ain't that the truth! I like the way you structured the story around that concept, beginning with what you saw happening, and ending with how the question of "crazy" impacted you and your behavior. I suspect there is a lot which is unsaid in this post, but as a standalone piece of work, this really holds up.

Well done - and glad you're here!
I love your writing so much. Even the painful stuff is impossible not to like in some weird way. I suppose that is your gift. To make us love the characters anyway and especially the one telling the story.
"It is only once we are all released from childhood and start interacting with others that we realize that either everyone’s idea of normal is off or that we were raised by lunatics."
Truer word was never spoken.~r
When my parents broke up, I became incredibly withdrawn, and they made an appointment for me to see a psychiatrist. They never explained why I was going to this appointment, so naturally I assumed I was crazy. My parents should have not ever been parents.
All of us and our families are a bit nutty. great piece
@Except even as a child I was pretty damn sure I was living among lunatics.
Linda, that must be why I like you so much.

Owl, I'm glad the structure works. And how observant of you. Thank you!

Joan, I love your writing tons and so I'm honored by the compliment.

OEsheepdog, gosh how many people out there that are raising people shouldn't be? It is a weird cycle.

Caroline, so true and thank you.
I had no idea it was that easy to ship a child off. Wish I had known this sooner!

Ditto on Owlie's comment.
Wow, that's got to be the ultimate threat a parent can hang over his or her child's head. Weren't you relieved when you finally moved out? I understand seeking help for your kid is one thing, but threatening to ship her off—that's another. Glad you made it out of there!
interesting and told in a matter of fact way that makes it seem even sadder. well done.
That any of us survive childhood is a miracle. Well done.
O'Really, we are invariably tougher than we think or sometimes are willing to give ourselves credit for.

Rita, thanks and matter of fact is just my desensitized perception. Not sad really, just the way it is.

Reflections, I've since learned that shipping a kid off was the way many parents in the 8o's dealt with bad behavior. I think it was the pop psychology of the time that inspired it.

Gabby, lol! Thanks!

Joan, that's very intuitive of you to know.
Your writing hit home, and was funny as hell. What a great combination.
i love to peek into the lives of others.....and i love the way you told this, so matter-of-factly.

weren't all of our families a little nutty, tho?
I imagine that last sentence struck fear in your heart!
mypsyche, it did indeed.

Bethy, all families are crazy, some more than others. Just think, you are raising a family and all familes are crazy...

hyblaean, thanks so much. I love being funny!
Good heavens, Anna, you must have spent your entire childhood terrified. That you can write about this with such clear-headedness and with a little touch of levity is nothing short of amazing. Just know, however, that there are hordes of us out here who know exactly how you must have felt. Well-deserved EP, my dear.

Most of us don't realize how dysfunctional our parents are until we leave the confines of the real Nuthouse - the house we grew up in.
This is so heartbreaking and beatifully told. I'm amazed to survived. You must be full of such stories. If you tell them, I will read them.

I have to say, I'm really surprised that so many of you find this story sad. I didn't intend for it to be that way. This is one thing I really love about sharing my stories on OS, I get these different perspectives.

bluestocking, I'm full of these stories and I'm honored that you'd read them.

littlewillie, so true, so true. Thank you!

Lezlie, thanks so much! I do love knowing there are others out there that can relate.
Oh God. Deep down scary. My own mother was an undiagnosed manic/depressive while I was growing up and she constantly transferred her craziness onto me whenever she felt like it. So if I didn't put a dirty glass in the dishwasher? I was crazy. When she met my boyfriend, she tried to infer I was crazy. It was awful!! Brave post.
Ah yes. A fellow member of a dysfunctional family. I felt your pain.
They really were sent to a "facility?" And all the while I was thinking my brother and my antics were way worse (though he never stuck me with a paint shiv) and we were just darling. Unless you were a screaming crying babysitter, running from our devilish little hands!
Deborah, I feel for you.

Lea, we're all one big family, aren't we.

Weighing, they really were sent to the nut house. No kidding. All my stories are 100% true for good or for bad. It sounds like you and your brother were a pretty big handful too.
she was an expert at the blinding, confusing answer
right after the answer that made it all ok...
ok for a few seconds...then dread..
then reflection, endless
childish reflection of
adult psychology..

same kinda family, me: appearance is the only reality.
reality isnt reality, it can be
changed according to
a whim
I love your writing. I always thought everyone in my family was crazy...I was the only sane one.
No, I don't think you are crazy - you are just you. Smile - Jali Girl.
Fay, that's hilarious. I thought I was the one holding all the marbles too. Now I know better, I'm just as crazy as them, I just hide it better.

Mr. sunshine, that's beautiful. Thanks.

Jali, that's a nice way of putting it.
My brother hit me in the head with a hammer one time. Knocked me out cold. Is there anyway we can "Grandfather" those rules of your parents back to where I can ship him off to a padded room. He's still crazy as a shithouse rat!
My mother's threat was always that if I didn't become happier they would make me go to the, not Dr. Daftary, another kind of doctor. A head doctor.

Ironically, the fear they put in me of therapists can probably only be cured by years of therapy.

Though, unlike you, I figured out that my folks were both batshit insane pretty early on.

Some people just shouldn't have children.

I always joked that there were no skeletons in our family closet, they were all walking around in plain sight for all to see! Know how you feel about siblings being in the mental hospital. My brother was a frequent flyer at various times in his life! R
You've managed to make this piece feel both whimsical and tragic. That's quite a feat! I like to think that if you can still type out the word c-r-a-z-y -- you ain't crazy. It's a test of sorts. I do it every morning, liking brushing my teeth and flossing my toes.
Anna, getting a compliment from Bellwether Vance on this amazing piece is recognition from the master of dry, subtley bizarre tragi-comic family chronicles. I hope you two never find yourselves in competition, with me having to vote for one or the other. I did have to check your tags to make sure comedy was included, because my first reaction was to suggest that Con Chapman had stretched his form a tad and conjured up this piece himself, using Anna Voy as a pseudonym. I suppose it's still entirely possible, but I'm inclined to lean toward you being a real person and one helluva captivating writer. I hafta add that your mother was (is?) one of those unforgettable characters usually only novelists can dream up.
I think the only function most families perform is putting more children on the planet. If the children are lucky, they figure out how to find friends and have fun -- two things nobody can teach.
Scanner, lol, maybe we could drug him and get him to self admit himself. That must have been a serious blow!

Leeandra, these threats parents make have such serious residual effects. It would serve parents-to-be to remember this stuff and not scar future generations.

Libmomrn, that's funny about the skeletons walking around. I think most families are too, but their just in denial about what everyone else knows. We were...

Bell, thank you so much! I'm honored. My mother could be the champion of just about every spelling bee in the nation and she's certifiably crazy.

ClarkK, thank you for the wonderful comment. I do consider myself honored to get such a wonderful compliment from Bell. She's fantastic!I am indeed a real person, although at times I have to pinch myself. All of your words are so encouraging and I'm so grateful to you for expressing them. I only hope to continue captivating audiences. No one that has ever met my mother would call her forgetable...she is by far the strangest person most people have ever known.

geezerchick, I second that. Thanks for the comment.

Ronald, I'll let you in on a little secret. My brother's name isn't really Ronald. All names have been changed in order to protect the weird...
What a great post. I'm new here so I'm trying to find my "clique" or places where I can relate.
I can't say anyone was every shipped off anywhere, but I can very much say that I wished some of my siblings had been or even my dad. I always thought he was crazy - actually I thought my mom was crazy for being with someone who was as crazy as my dad. I was happy when they divorced. I can remember being very young and suggesting that they seperate. My mom would tell me that I didn't understand... She was crazy now that i think about it. But maybe I didn't understand....
hm I feel a post coming on...

Regardless great post.
Crazy or not, you're a great writer. I hope you'll write a book about your experiences growing up. You have an amazing voice, and I always look forward to your next post with huge anticipation. Thanks for yet another great read.
Yeah, it's definitely true that most people don't realize how crazy their families are until they are older. I didn't. Rated.
I remember this time of life. It used to be a lot easier to commit a child to a psychiatric ward. I remember it happening to a couple of my friends. Awful. I rescued one friend when her mother was throwing everything out of the house threatening to commit her. Eventually, her mother got her committed. Sad time. I worked in mental health. It is not that easy these days.
Amanda, welcome and I hope you find that place. Thanks for sharing.

Alysa, thanks so much! You know, you've got me figured out. That's exactly what I had in mind. Can't let all this good material go to waste!

Caroline, that makes me feel better. I was starting to think I was pretty disconnected.

Sheba, yeah, lucky that it's not that easy anymore, otherwise I might have been carted off already.

S.ophie, I hope that's a good "wow."
Hahahah!!! I loved that. Great last line!