Surviving My Parents: A Golem’s Painful Memories of Childhood Abuse
In her new memoir, Donna Minkowitz recalls being torn between her mother’s overbearing fantasies and her father’s cruel games
Whatever I said to inspire him is lost in the fog that always overcame me at such moments, which has made me remember them utterly differently from all other events in my long life. Not as discrete happenings, but as one long, never-fading, continually present moment of getting hit (like a robot programmed to see a giant fist coming down on its head every nanosecond, so it must scurry to come up with a million strategies of avoidance, as long as its power is on).
I did frequently call him stupid. But so did he call me. He never acted like my father, not remotely. We were always equals in the Minkowitz Family Consortium, except that he was four times my size and had a vastly stronger arm. My mother treated him like just another child in the family, albeit the one who was supposed to be hated.
I was seven when he started, and he always hit my head.
It hurt. And reader, it made me terrified in a peculiar way, of everything under the sun, and all creatures that flew in the air, and ones that crept on the earth, of all people and, of course, games engaged in by the arms.
For years, the sound of keys disturbed me, I had no idea why. I think now that it was the sound of his keys in the door. I do know I was frightened whenever he was home, and felt safe when he was not.
My plasticity came in handy, I think, because it made it easier for me to assume the roles as the equipment in the ballgames than a non-goblin individual would have found it. I was made of Things, after all, reader, a variety of largely inorganic and inhuman Things, and being treated as a thing could not have made as big an impression on me as it would have on a biological girl. Soil and paper and nails do not feel as much as humans do, and have never done. Not even muffin batter, the nearest thing I have to human flesh, and which I have only in a very small amount, feels anything like what human beings feel. This is the reason Rabbi Judah Loew was allowed to make a golem in the first place, and the reason he was allowed to destroy it, as Abraham was not allowed to destroy his son.
Adapted from Growing Up Golem: Learning to Survive My Mother, Brooklyn, and Some Really Bad Dates. Published by Magnus Books, a division of Riverdale Avenue Books. Copyright 2013. Used with permission.
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