This Milltown Called Denial

I guess one of the things that drew me to Tanya is that she talked about the stuff that no one else was saying.  Instead of just enduring the racism of milltown, she called it out.  If she had a problem with someone, she told them. She called herself and Shirley “us colored girls.” All this was the opposite of everything I was–not deep down was–but who I was to survive.  I think deep down I was as feisty as Tanya but to be in my family–white, Commonwealthy, Depression era-tight with a recurring theme of loving drink over all else–I had signed up in a silent and unholy pact to be The Good One.  I’m sure more than a few of you are good ones too. Maybe a lot of good ones grow up to write memoirs, which makes us not-so-good anymore, let me tell you.

Being good meant not making connections between things even in my own mind, let alone in snide remarks the way that Tanya could.  That winter my mom and my stepfather were determined to quit smoking and attended a Smoke Enders meetings every Wednesday night. I don’t remember making a connection between my sister’s cancer and my parents quitting smoking. Every person over the age of 12 in my family smoked and there was a perpetual blue cloud that hovered over the family room.  I never made a connection between whatever drove my family to smoke and to drink and the fact that as soon as my parents drove out of the Spanish-arched carport, I whipped up a batch of brownies, ate them, washed the pan and had everything back in its place by the time my parents returned at 9:30.  If they caught a whiff of warm chocolate when they came in or spotted a splotch of batter on the counter, it was never mentioned.  The weight I put on silently and steadily was our only solid evidence that things were not okay.

It’s always a tenuous position to point back to our upbringings for the answers to the question of who we are.  But, it’s impossible for me to look at that Winter and not see the root of my desire to write, and also why the type of writing I wanted to do would be so long in the coming.  All the things never mentioned seemed to get stored away in an account, expanding with interest, and finally demanding to be spent.

Yep, that’s the one.

About Theo Pauline Nestor

Author of Writing Is My Drink (Simon & Schuster) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed. Learn more about my courses, editing, and coaching at
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