All Mixed Up at ccMixter

Sunday, November 12, 2006

One Of The Stones In My Foundation Of Guilt

When I was about four years old my mother got into a car accident and I thought it was my fault. At that time we lived in Fountain Valley which is in Orange County, south of Los Angeles. In the early 1960's Fountain Valley was a sprawling developing land of contained townhomes and track houses. We lived in a small house that had no living grass that I could recall. There was a metal swing set in the backyard. I hated going into the backyard because the dirt was hard, the grass was dry and there were gopher holes every where. I did not know that a gopher was just a small rodent. To me a gopher was a monster that lived under the ground and made the swing set a dangerous place so I rarely went into the backyard.

I went to nursery school which I don’t really remember too well. My mother told me that I loved nursery school and that the teachers loved me. I was a charming little girl with big round deep brown eyes, an easy smile. I was bright, learning easily and participating readily in any activity that presented itself to me. I was a good girl too. I did not make many demands, I listened to the adults and did what I was told to do. I still have my nursery school diploma pasted in my baby book. I always did well in school – even nursery school, I guess.

The day of the accident, my mother brought me a gift when she picked me up from nursery school. She brought me a porcelain figurine. The figurine had a little booklet attached that explained who she was. We were driving home in my mother’s pale blue station wagon. I was sitting in the front seat next to my mother. I asked her to read to me what the booklet said. She read to me as she drove. We approached a cross-walk where a woman was crossing the street. My mother somehow noticed the woman, even though she was reading to me, and she hit the brakes but there was not enough time for the car to stop before it struck the woman. The woman made it to the sidewalk where she sat on the corner crying, a rag wrapped around her bleeding ankle. My mother was shaking. I was shaking. We later learned the woman was a nurse and she was okay.

For years I thought the accident was my fault because my mother was reading to me as she drove. It was not until I was an adult that I learned that the brakes went out on the car and that it was the car did not stop. By then however, guilt was the foundation upon which my personality was formed and the knowledge didn’t really help to absolve me.

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