The Skittle Car

Megan Schumacher
3 min readOct 20, 2022
A photo of my mother and I. Sadly, no pictures of the green car are to be found.

The car was skittle green and ailing, a ridiculous little monstrosity missing, among other things, the entire back seat. My mom drove this vehicle for much longer than you would believe a $300 car could function and she did so with a great deal of humor and, it seemed to me, a tremendous level of self respect. Recalling the whole situation with a hearty laugh when she told stories of what else “just broke off, the dumb thing.” She had promptly put some aggressively feminine pillows and blankets down to soften the blow of our poverty. To remind the world that no, we did not have any money, but we still had an eye for beauty.

At that time, I don’t remember her feeling any sense of visible shame around the various ways her dreams kept crumbling around her. She just kept creating new realities. Singing louder. Devoting more time to the town theatre. But that was my mom, impressive in a way that I didn’t fully understand until after she had died. Unique in her refusal to apologize for her creativity in a small rural town that seemed constantly irritated by her presence. She noticed it. She heard the whispers and giggles. But she was too often busy trying to make art out of the mundane so that she could breathe.

I quickly learned to hold all of the worry and shame for both of us. A skill I carried well into adulthood. Turning in my sketchbook for a magnifying glass, I developed an eagle eye focus on any potential opportunity for criticism. Priding myself as I expertly exposed even a whiff of attack. Launching myself behind desks or trees so I could avoid the horror of exposure. That constant tension of wanting to be seen, valued, but rendered frozen by the cloak of protection invisibility offered me.

I didn’t understand poverty. I didn’t have a concept then of what it means to solider on, carrying around your many unprocessed traumas and recirculating them as rage, resentment, anxiety and depression. I didn’t understand at the time that being poor is expensive and time consuming. I didn’t understand what living with an alcoholic father, someone who drank it all away, leaving his family with nothing was like because she made sure that I didn’t have to.

It turns out that what I really wanted was to be seen by a mother who wasn’t invested in fantasy and loved by a father who could look up from his woes and fight to know me. I didn’t want to be “normal” it turned out, just protected. Seen. Safe.

Sometimes I would wonder if I existed. If I was a ghost. A manifestation of one of my mother’s visions. Something that terrified and enraged me. I lived in a lot of peoples shadows. Trying to impress all of the other sad and self loathing people I could find, hoping they would affirm my existence. It didn’t work. And I let my own fire die out for a while. Trying to extinguish myself. Hoping to snuff myself out completely. Because I didn’t recognize that flame inside yet as belonging to me.

Normal indeed. What an odd thing to aspire to.

--

--

Megan Schumacher

Toddler mama. Born again creative. Former people pleaser. Working out the fumbles of life on the page.