“There can be only one.”

I finally made it home for the first time in 10 years. My partner, our three kids, and I spent a week camping in the hills of my childhood and visiting my enormous extended family. I got to see siblings that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid, meet nieces and nephews, and hug and love on some of my favorite humans. It was a gift and I am only beginning to make sense of it as I sink back into myself.

I am sure that I will do a lot of writing to process this trip but for now I have been content to slowly share photos on my social media and let it trickle out of me. Tonight though, I tried to make a post that needed more than just a quick photo and a few words. I need to get some of this out! I have been so filled with gratitude but the truth is that just under that has been this pulsing trauma that of course got jostled a little bit from our trip.

When I get triggered like this, it looks like an increase in my anxiety which means a decrease in my patience. It means I talk too fast and too much. It means I laugh too loud and cry too quick. I hate it. At 35 years old, I have lived with it long enough to know that I will move through this and get back to my baseline. I know I will be ok eventually, but I need a little calm for my soul right now. Tonight. My family needs it too.

One of the ways that I move through my trauma is to talk it out. Writing is a huge release for me and so tonight I am here on the living room floor in the dark typing on the computer that is dying because I let the 4 year old watch too many Cocomelon videos before bed.

First of all, can I just tell you that I wanted this story to be funny. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to talk about the goddamn sword in the back of my car, but for the life of me, I can no longer remember what the hell was so funny about it. I hope by the end of this piece, I can find the humor again for all of our sakes. Please bear with me.

The sword belonged to my mother. Apparently it cost her $250 and it is an exact replica of the Highlander sword. If you aren’t old enough to remember the tv show, go watch the theme song. I will share a link to the video at the end of this story. I grew up watching it with my mom and step-dad but I had pretty much forgotten about it until my Uncle Buddy handed me the sword and said, “There can be only one.” He had been holding it for me all these years since my mom died. Anyway, now I am old enough and so it has been driving around with me to basketball practice, the grocery store and the playground because I am not ready to bring it into my house. I am not ready to have such a physical reminder of the violent parts of my childhood inside my home with my own children.

This is when it stopped feeling funny I guess. For a week, my partner and children sat with rapt attention to story after story about my mama, my father, and all of my people on both sides. The stories were beautiful but also incredibly violent. Which I know. I still feel that violence take my breath away when I hear a sudden loud sound or anytime I am startled by an unexpected person entering any room. At this point, I can feel it and release it, but it still lingers within me haunting me forever I guess.

On one particular visit, my children sat wide eyed while a relative told a story about my mama (their grandmother who they never met) landing a punch in a glass window because she missed when she swung at her own dad. The stories continued to my mom chasing one of her sisters with a knife and throwing another knife at another sibling but “THANK GOD your mama had such terrible aim! It’s hard sayin’ how many of us wouldn’t be alive to this day if she could aim worth a shit! Oop! hahahahahhahah” My children and partner laughed on cue and I laughed too for a second before realizing this relative thought they were telling me something I didn’t know about my mama.

“You know I lived with that woman for 17 years, right? Trust me I KNOW how bad her aim was. I know how bad her temper was too. You don’t honestly think I lived with her for all those years and didn’t see that side of her did you?”

Here is the thing. I don’t talk about my mama’s violence too much. I love her and I forgive her and I understand that she beat on me because she was beat on so much and I was smaller and that is just how it was. But the truth is my mama made me fear for my life too. It wasn’t just my step-dad chasing me with knives or stabbing holes in beds where bodies just rolled out of reach. Every once in a while, not even once a year, but maybe once every few years, I will have a dream memory where my mama is chasing me through the halls of our old trailer or jumping over the coffee table with a knife pulled up ready to launch it at me. I would fly over the couch, duck and run always aiming for the door, a window or any escape. It wasn’t good enough to just hide. Survival meant getting out of the house. Mama would not chase me out of the house. She was willing to throw lethal weapons at me, but she was not willing to risk Children’s Services getting called. If I got outside, I was safe. That is just the way it was. Thank God, I always did make it outside. She did connect her fists and feet to my flesh but never a blade or a bullet. I know how lucky I am and I am tired of covering all that up. So I told my relative who was laughing about it.

I wasn’t hurt that he was laughing because here is the thing; Sometimes traumatized people just have to laugh. It feels good to laugh. It is also a form of release. I had been laughing all week about the violence too. I had laughed about the time my cousin was over and we made a big mess with the Barbies even though the social worker was on her way over and mama told us to clean up. When she got out of the shower and saw that mess, she threatened to kill us and sure as hell she grabbed a kitchen knife and went after us. My cousin was scared out of her mind and even called her own mama to come to her rescue. I didn’t have anyone to call, but the social worker showed up and we all just sat there and smiled and acted like nothing at all. We laughed about that because my mama is gone. The threat is gone and because we love her still despite it all. We all laughed about it. What else are you going to do?

But now I am here with this sword and I need to get it out of the car, because is it even legal to be driving around with a weapon like that? I can’t just give it away because even though it does not conjure up my favorite memories of her, it is something that she physically touched and now it is back in my hands and that is enough for me to want it more than I do not want it. Plus, my 11 year old son loves it and I basically told him it’s his. Someday. When he is older.

Tonight this all came to a head because I decided it had to be removed from the trunk. The children and I were headed to the public swimming pool and I needed to climb into the back anyway to find my sandals so why not just bite the bullet and get it out of there. So I did. My son immediately started in with, “Can I hold it? Can I take it out of it’s sheath? Whoa! It’s heavy!”

Phew. Breathe. Crystal Fawn. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Keep this light. The children do not need to feel this trauma that is now pouring out of every cell. Let them have this memory of their grandmother liking some ridiculous tv show and owning this silly little memorabilia about it. but WAIT! “STOP! NO! I said, don’t open it!” My impulsive boy can not have this type of thing around. He just can not resist and wanted to feel the blade. He is endlessly curious. It had seemed ok to let him hold the sword with it safely secured inside the red case. He uses tools and weapons that could be dangerous all the time when he goes to archery or fishing. He knows a lot about knife safety because he has a knife for wood carving. but when the sliver of shiny silver started to appear, my stomach bottomed out and I couldn’t deal anymore. I had agreed to take some photos with it and to let them take some too. We were going to keep it in it’s sheath for safety but take a couple of photos posing like the Highlander. But I just couldn’t fake it. I was anxious and grumpy and this wasn’t funny anymore. We took a couple of photos which did look silly because we were all in our swimming suits ready for the pool, but the energy just wasn’t there. When I looked at the photos tonight it is clear that I was in no condition to pose like a badass with a sword or to make jokes. My face is grief in every pose.

I’m not gonna mince words with you tonight. I had a rough day with my kids. I thought I could joke with them about the Highlander and keep it away from feeling personal, but I failed. Trauma sucks. Anxiety sucks. Today, I wasn’t as patient as I usually am. I was overprotective with my teenager and I yelled at my tween. I wasn’t the best version of myself and I hate that. But it’s real. I am not a perfect mother or a perfect person. I hate that my trauma finds its way to my children like this. I hate it. But I forgive myself.

Hearing all of those stories of generations of violence on both sides of my family, I am reminded that I broke that cycle. I did that. I work hard to be the best mother I can be. I make mistakes, I apologize and I work hard to do better. I know that my children feel my trauma and anxiety, I see that it has been passed down to them in many ways, but I also see that tonight when they fell asleep, they were safe. They know that they are loved. They will never have to fear that I will beat them or shoot at them or stab them. They know that they are safe here with their dad and I. We get a lot wrong as all parents do, but we do not get this part wrong. and I am proud of that. and grateful. and finally crying. Release.

Tonight the sword is hidden away in a secret location where children can not reach it and I am finally going to sleep.

Okay, here is the trailer to the show. This story wasn’t funny, but this trailer definitely is!

4 thoughts on ““There can be only one.”

  1. Crystal I met you when your daughter was 5 years old. You were the sweetest mom I have ever met. I was able to feel the connection between you and your daughter, and I can say it was so special. Feel proud of yourself. You are a GOOD mom!

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    1. I always love to hear from you and appreciate your kind words. Thank you for being a wonderful teacher and person. I hope that our paths cross again. ❤ ❤ I am forever grateful that you were my child's first teacher. She would have struggled so much without you that year, but you made the transition from home to school so smooth for her.

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  2. Crystal, I read your story from the beginning. I am full of admiration that after what you have been through, you are such a strong, mature person and a wonderful mother. I admire that you write so warmly about your mother, despite the fact that life with her was not easy. You deserve the best.

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