Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Memories that hit you in the gut.

I was in my late twenties when a memory suddenly came back - so fast and so strong that it felt like getting knocked in the gut.  Took my breath away.

I was small, maybe 8 or 9 or so . . . and we lived in an old house that had vents in the floor for heat?  I'm guessing.  They were rectangular, maybe a foot wide, 2 foot long . . .

I was little, so I'm just going off what it seemed like to me.  Anyway - the memory was me, sitting on top of that vent to keep it down, since a bunch of kitty faces where trying to push their way out.

Why those kitty's were in the heating vents?  Why so many that I had to SIT on the vent to keep them down - I'm talking about 15 or 20 cats - because my mom loves animals.

It's an unhealthy, hoarding, love.  Take, keep, and hold so close that it suffocates 'em.

This house had a basement, and that's where she kept the cats.  She thought kittens were wonderful and that it was cruel (not to mention would cost money) to fix em, so she didn't.  And the cats were allowed to multiply in the basement.

The basement already was at hoarder state, you didn't walk around the floor . . . you walked over stuff - but after a while, with all the cats, we didn't even go down there.  Mom didn't keep a litter box.  Every now and again she would send one of us kids down with dirt in a box down there for them.  We never removed the other ones.

The smell was so bad that you could taste it on the way down.  That had to be pretty extreme because, the house where we did our daily living already smelled super bad!  So, the basement smelled stronger than our  already bad smelling house that I was used to as a child.

And to feed them we'd buy a large bag of cat food, open it and just throw it down there.  I don't remember anything about water.

But there had to be water, because there were all those cats alive, and trying to push their way out through the vents.

And it hurt me so much to be sitting on those vents to hold them down, but that's what I had to do.

To this day I HATE it when I hear she has an animal with her.  My heart breaks for the animal, and I often felt relieved when I heard that one died - so the torture would be over.

And I've always been bothered by birds in cages, fishes in small bowls, etc.  They make me uncomfortable and sad.

And yet I never remembered this until my late 20's.  There is a lot I don't remember of my childhood.

Scary - isn't it.


Anonymous said...

The hoarders in my family weren't hoarders of animals, but I completely understand physically revisiting those memories.

My heart feels for your younger self. Publicly displaying your story is ridiculously brave, and it's something I continue to struggle with.

I like the phrase you used describing memories as ones that "hit you in the gut." Your shared memory caused a blow in my own recollecting gut.

I think back to the numerous times where my dad became emotionally distraught at my suggestions to throw away my grandmother's personal things. She was deceased, and he lived in her home exactly as she left it.

There was no discussion allowed. Immediately, he closed up and wouldn't acknowledge the truth of his sadness and attachment. To this day, he lives in Noni's world, content with what is around him, but unaware of its damaging effects.

Sharing hoarding experiences is the foundation necessary to keep our hoarding from controlling our lives. I also believe laughing at life's problems is the key to overcoming them, so try to see the humor in your worries. It helps!

Anyway, thank you for sharing your story and for listening to mine!

Rebecca said...

I am glad I found your blog and can read about your experiences. My own mother didn't hoard animals. She did bring the occasional one home, though. After a couple of days she wouldn't allow it in the house because it messed everywhere. She didn't have the patience to housebreak anything. So it would get tossed outside. Growing up, I must have had 15 dogs throughout the years. I lost every one of them to people stealing them, them running away, or them getting hit by cars. My mom always liked the idea of things (animals, her daughter) but once she got them she didn't want to take the time and effort to deal with them. Much like the stuff she accumulated.

Lucretia Heart said...

When my mother reached a point where she started to bring more and more strays home (and began to hoard animals) I took a bunch of them to the ASPCA no-kill shelter and then told her if she brought any more home (besides her 2 trained cats) I would remove them as well. Too bad if she didn't like it.

She really didn't like me much, as you can imagine! This was a woman so oddly calm you'd think she was a saint. But she'd yell at ME.

When I was a kid, I kept the litter box up because no one else would, and I made it a point to train all our cats (we always had them, from 2 to 6 adult cats, and sometimes kittens-- but she WOULD get them fixed once we had the money.) After I left home, though--? Oh god. Caked used litter in layers with newspaper (her solution was to lay newspaper ON TOP OF the litter, rather than to clean the litter.)