I could write a book, and I likely will, about the harsh, inhumane treatment that I suffered under my parents, but there were things that they did that taught me there is good in the world, despite how near evil can be.
Despite the near daily beatings, the sexual assaults, and the extreme verbal abuse, there was a side of my parents that occasionally came out that usually contradicted their vicious sides.
My father was a carpenter. He was really good at making furniture. We had tables and beds in our home, that held up for years, that my father made in our garage with his bare hands. His creativity was passed down to me as, over the years, I have been able to cobble together my own creations, including a cabinet that I built from scratch for my old karaoke business.
My mother was a good seamstress. She taught me how to sew and use a sewing machine. She used to let me make clothes for my Barbies out of old scraps of fabric from her own sewing projects. I haven’t sewn in a long time, but using a sewing machine is a lot like riding a bike.
They were generous to strangers, at least to my young eyes. We were traveling across the country and my parents picked up a hitch-hiking family; a mother and father and child. They appeared down on their luck and for one day, my parents lent them a hand with food and clothing. When we dropped them off, they left with smiles on their faces. I’ll never forget that good feeling that I had that day. I still try to show that kind of compassion when I meet people who are down on their luck.
My parents were both talented singers. I got the stage-bug from them. In fact, the first show that I ever did was while they were on the stage. It was just a bit part, but I remember it fondly.
My father was a gifted cook. He could make amazing things out of next to nothing. I learned that skill from him. My mother was creative in the kitchen, too. She was not always successful with her concoctions, but when she was, it was memorable, like when she created pizza macaroni with mac and cheese, mozzarella cheese, and pizza sauce. Yum. She did this taco pasta thing that was pretty good, too.
I got my sense of humor from my mother. She used to tell us clean, dirty jokes, that still make me laugh, today. She used to have sayings that I still use today, like, “My name is fess and I ain’t in this mess!,” whenever there was a problem that belonged to someone else that she didn’t want any part of or, “I’m going to see a man about a dog,” when we’d ask her where she was going.
My parents loved movies and between my parents I was raised on musicals, westerns, sci-fi, Bruce Lee Kung-Fu movies, and horror flicks, all movies I still enjoy today. According to my mother, the first movie that I ever saw in a theater was “Jesus Christ Superstar”, which probably set me on my life-long musical path and obsession for even the campiest musical movies.
I learned time management. My father was a cruel and strict task master, but his system of order is a similar system that I use, today to keep my life orderly and peaceful.
I will never be able to forgive my parents for their toxic child-rearing and abuse, but, in a round-about way, I can thank them for helping me turn out to be a compassionate, industrious, kind, orderly, and talented woman.