One summer night years ago I awoke at 2:00 am to glass shattering followed by the horrible sound of metal on metal. The acrid scent of burnt rubber reached me through the opened window I’d gotten up from bed to look out. Parked across the street was my neighbor’s ex-husband’s truck, the side door and panels looking more worse-for-wear than they had when I’d gone to bed. The sudden squeal of tires drew my attention to my next-door neighbor’s driveway where I watched in stunned horror as a green sedan shot across the street and t-boned the truck. The sedan backed up and rammed the truck again. Then again and again until the sedan’s front end crumpled, the bumper scraping the asphalt, the windshield cracking.
My neighbor’s ex-husband charged from the house in boxer shorts and a sleeveless undershirt hollering at the woman behind the wheel to stop. She didn’t, not until she’d pushed his truck up the sidewalk and onto the front lawn. Not until both vehicles were totaled. Not until the police arrived and convinced her to stop. And not until her face was so bloodied from hitting the steering wheel with each impact that she could no longer see. This was before airbags, and her eyes had swollen shut. An ambulance took her away from the scene.
Over the next few days, I learned that the woman behind the wheel was his girlfriend, and she wasn’t the least bit happy he was spending the night at his ex-wife’s house. She’d driven four hours, arriving in the dead of night, to show my neighbor’s ex-husband exactly how unhappy she was. She was also intoxicated. But the real tragedy was his daughter. He’d spent the night at his ex-wife’s house (on her couch) because he’d come to celebrate her eighth-grade graduation. And after the police left and ambulance drove off, I saw her standing on the porch dressed in pajamas, clutching her favorite stuffed animal. She’d witnessed the entire debacle.
I’ve often thought about her, the daughter, that is, wondering how that traumatic event affected her in the long run. There were others too. I wondered how they changed her relationship with her father. Did she pick up his habits as she aged, his boozing and gambling? Did she ever have a chance at a normal life, or did her childhood doom her to live with secrets and pain?
At the heart of the No More series I explore intergenerational trauma through the Carsons, the family featured in the series, and try to answer that exact question: Does a parent’s dysfunction prevent the younger generation from having a normal life, or have circumstances fated them to live with their trauma? From summers of neglect, lies and betrayal, teenage pregnancy, and serving time in juvenile hall, the Carson siblings have their share of baggage, thanks to parents who aren’t ideal. Dwight and Charlotte Carson’s parenting style leaves something to be desired, and of course, their actions lead to the tragic event at the center of the series that splits apart the Carson siblings.
I believe we experience and understand the world through our parents. We mimic their behaviors and habits. And in cases where abuse and neglect are involved, we forge coping mechanisms that aren’t necessarily ideal or healthy. We see this happen with Olivia, the protagonist in No More Words, and the oldest Carson sibling. She is in denial that she and her brother Lucas were treated differently by their parents than their younger sister Lily, who the parents often emotionally abused and neglected. Haunted by her past, betrayed several times over, Olivia has closed off her heart. Her trauma dictates her behavior and actions.
But despite this, I also believe that even though our past experiences can leave us fractured and flawed, we can rise above it, control it rather than letting our past control us. Through therapy, love, and acknowledgement, we can stop the cycle of intergenerational trauma. And we see this happen as Olivia works through her issues, taking ownership of the role she played in her family’s dysfunction and the disappearance of her younger sister Lily who she hasn’t seen since she ran away from home, sixteen and pregnant.
This makes me believe that the thirteen-year-old girl on the porch all those years ago has been living a rich, normal life that isn’t ruled by her childhood.
Find out more about Kerry Lonsdale at https://www.kerrylonsdale.com/