Category Archives: Victoria Tulacro

Forgiving Myself

Image I almost killed my daughter after she was born.  She wasn’t a colicky baby; she slept most of the night.  She ate so well, I swelled with parental pride.  She had big blue eyes with flecks of gold and her face lit up every time I walked in the room.  Never in my life had someone loved me so unconditionally—without words.  Walk out of the room—tears, screams, agony.  Walk into the room—a smile pinched upward, blue eyes rimmed with red.  It was difficult to be so loved.

It was a scary time in my life.  I was only twenty-two.  The pregnancy and delivery had been enough to kill me.  My husband was drinking more than ever.  I wasn’t the kind of person who particularly liked staying home.  Even in high school, I spent many summers in summer school because I had simply wanted to.  Staying at home with a new baby, having just quit a job I had had for five years, having a marriage that seemed to be reeling away from me, was solitude I wasn’t prepared for.


It had been a summer day—maybe like a day like this one.  Not too hot but sunny, stifling heat in the car with the windows rolled up.  Bella would have been a few months old.  And because I no longer worked, I now felt resigned to clean all day: feed baby, scrub grout lines, feed baby, wash the coffee pot, feed baby and serve my husband something hot with two sides and buttered bread and a cracked-open beer when he got home.  (This is not to say that he expected this of me.  This was what I felt was my role since I was not working.  To be perfectly honest, we were both under a lot of stress.  He felt the enormous pressure of supporting three people on one income.  I felt depressed having given up my life—my dreams of a PhD, of writing books and traveling Europe, of having white carpet—yes, I know how vapid that sounds—to raise a baby I never wanted.  But we didn’t talk about this. )  I wanted out.

I strapped her into the car seat, tucked her chubby little arms under each shoulder strap, clicked the button at the bottom.  The car seat dropped into the latched base with a snap.  I shut the door.

Had the garage been empty, I might have pulled in, left the car running, watched the windows slide down.  But it wasn’t, so I stood in the glare of the sun, let my head go heavy. Having moved from Bella’s view, she started to scream.  I could have walked away.  I could have gone into the house.  Dan had just bought a gun (having a baby was a very intense experience for us–we were young and unprepared), but it was a shotgun.  I didn’t want to kill Bella, that I knew, but I wanted out.  I didn’t want to be the me I had become with her.  Call it selfish or immaturity—I wanted nothing to do with it.  It was my life I wanted to end–not hers.

So I got in the car and I drove.  I had no agenda; I might have listened to music, in fact, I probably did.  I drove aimless around the desert for a while, meandering down long stretches of highway, going just slightly above the speed limit, pumping the brakes softly when necessary so as not to wake Bella, who had dozed off in the lull of forward motion. As I crested Mt. Top off Highway 138, it occurred to me that I could drive us straight into the other lane of traffic.  Just swerve ever so slightly into any number of tractor-trailers lumbering up the steep hill and just like that it’d be over.  I pressed my foot down.

The riveted bumps that divided the two sides of traffic hummed with our intrusion.  A warning put there years before to help weary drivers stay alert on the dangerous mountain roads.  But Bella didn’t stir.  I watched a big white tractor-trailer plod around the bend at the bottom of the hill.  He tooted the horn giving me fair warning, but again, I pressed my foot down.

I didn’t fantasize about my death—what my family or friends would or wouldn’t say—I didn’t dream up all the compliments that would be given in my absence—how my parents would be devastated—Dan, a crushed shell of a man.  Had I considered all that, I wouldn’t have done it.  I loved my family.  I loved my friends.  I loved Dan.  I loved my daughter.  Who I didn’t love was me.

I was barreling toward the truck, hurtling right towards it.  The truck now honking violently, its lights a panicky Morse code.  I couldn’t look anywhere but the grill—that front silver piece, the slats like tiny windows.  I knew I’d chicken out if I looked away.

But then, without cause, Bella cried, wailed.  A shrill so piercing, I couldn’t help but to feel that hook of mothering—the one that makes your breasts hurt, the one that stirs your battered body hurtling through the dark to shush tears, the one that makes you steer your car back into your lane of traffic.

I remember the driver’s face, his wide eyes, locked on me in horror—his mouth a perfect Oh shit.  I remember the smell of Bella’s hair when I pulled her out of the car seat, her back damp and warm.  I remember telling Dan that I needed help while we tucked clean sheets around the corners of our mattress days later.  I remember the look on his face—his forehead without a wrinkle, without a judgment, his green eyes gone gray—how a broken heart looks behind eyes you have loved for years–how scared he looked, the sheets loose in corners, taut in others.


I had severe post-partum depression.  They gave me meds; they made me talk.  I learned to say what I had to so that the doctor could feel like I was progressing.  I buried my guilt in the deepest part of my soul.  I have tried to tell myself that since that moment I have been a perfect mother–or rather a better mother.  I have made it all up to my two beautiful children by tickling them every night to tears, by kissing them so often they ask me to stop (especially now that they’re older). But sometimes, on a day like today, when there’s not a cloud in the sky, not a task on our agenda, I might raise my voice too loudly, might sigh too heavily at their bickering voices—their arguments over books, remotes, who was using the bathroom first—and I feel the smallest little lump of guilt start to form—for all the dark, dark times; for all the things I said too harshly at them or too hastily; for all the times I didn’t or did (INSERT MISTAKE HERE).  And then I swallow.


Bella & Mommy Mother Daughter 2009



There Should Be a Greeting Card for That

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am too young for a hearing aid.  I am also too blonde and too tall for a hearing aid.  Maybe I am too pretty for one too but not likely.  Mostly, I am too stubborn.

Being hearing impaired is not something I share with a lot of people.  In fact, many of my friends and co-workers probably do not know this about me.  It’s hard to say.  I am not totally deaf; I just struggle to hear out of one of my perfectly normal-looking ears.  The right one.  And my hearing is not totally gone—it’s like I have a thumb jammed in there or maybe a big toe.  I can hear sound, mumbles, tones.  If you stood on my right side and spoke to me, and we were in a quiet place, I would have no trouble at all.  But if we were in a restaurant and you sat to my right and asked me how my day was, I could hear your voice, but I would struggle to make sense of the words.

Sometimes, I can fake this moment.  Guess at what I should say.  Take context clues and answer appropriately.  This is how I navigate many of my non-hearing moments.  But if I cannot do this, I might smile at you and hope the moment passes—that maybe our waiter will ask if we’re ready to order.  Mostly though I just listen to the noise—and see what sense I can make of it all.  The clatter of plates, the murmur of fuzzy conversations nearby, a song overhead that I can almost hear the pitch of a note here and there.

Believe it or not, it is a hard thing to tell people, especially people who I have known for quite some time.  First, there is the occasion.  I feel like the right time never comes up.  Hey, Vicki.  How are the kids?  Hey you, I might reply, maybe even give a hug depending on the nature of our relationship.  By the way, I can’t hear you.  Oh, I’m. . uh. . . well, I’m hearing impaired.  How long?  Um, jeez, since birth, I guess. . . I didn’t tell you because uh. . . uh. . .

Second, there are the questions.  Why can’t I hear?  I don’t know.  Have I been tested?  Yes, a couple dozen times.  Is there anything the doctors can do?  Yes, if I want a hearing aid.  Why don’t I get one?  Oh, because it’s $5,000, and then there’s the thing about being too young and pretty or prideful or whatever.

Sometimes I wish there were greeting cards for this kind of announcement.

Dear Friend,

Ever wonder why I look at off into space when you are talking?  No, really—it’s me.  Surprise!  I’m hearing impaired!



Sometimes I wish there was a T-shirt that announced such things to the general, unsuspecting public.  A disclaimer so that I didn’t have to explain what I thought I heard.  Something so that I didn’t have to feel like I needed to justify my actions and/or lack thereof.

Take, for example, the grocery store last week when a hollowed out, dusty man approached me while I was pitching my goods into my car.  I could sense him approaching.  (Sadly, there are far too many older, dried-up desert men floating around the Stater Bros’ parking lot.  Most of them want money.  Some of them want rides or food for their animals or food for their families.)  And then, he started to talk.  At first, I continued with the task of chucking the heavy bags into the trunk.  Because I can’t hear well, I often approach the world in this manner—ignore.  But then he spoke again, this time, closer.  I could hear his voice, but the words were gravelly.  I could hear the tone—a question, so  I turned and said, Sorry.  I don’t have any cash.

Of course, this was not what he had asked, as evidenced by his souring grin.  I had guessed wrong and this angered him.  Then I noticed the squeegee.

“I didn’t ask you for a handout,” he shouted; the squeegee pumped up and down with the spit in his words.  “I asked you if you wanted your windows cleaned!  I ain’t no charity case!”

What was I to say?  Sorry, I didn’t hear you and I just assumed. . . It didn’t matter.  I was a jerk either way.  The man stormed off, shouting to the resting of the parking lot how he wasn’t asking for no charity—he was asking for work, goddamnit.

My mother-in-law recently got a hearing aid.  She hears everything now—right down to the cat drinking water from the toilet two rooms away.  But in exchange, whenever she talks, she hears her own voice blast across the room.  As a corrective measure, she has taken to mumbling.  But sadly, where she now hears, I can’t hear her.  I sat across her at dinner a few weeks ago and never once realized she was talking to me until my husband drove an elbow into my ribs.  I had been staring into space, taking in the architecture, the patrons, the closeness of one red-haired waitress and the bar tender with too much gel in his hair.

And that’s the other thing not hearing has done for me.  Oh sure, it gets me out of conversations I don’t want to hear, but it has allowed for a lifetime of retreat.  Growing up, when friends were hard to come by, I could always sit behind a tree and watch lips move, mouths burst open with laughter.  I filled the vacuum of their words and noises with my own.  I made up their lies and their jokes, their playground alliances and betrayals.

So when I think about hearing—really hearing the world—for all its nuance and crackle, I can’t help but to stick to my understanding of it.  So I can’t sing a song off the radio without mis-hearing most of the lyrics, but who cares if “sunset” isn’t actually “bun lift”?  (You’d be surprised how many songs containing “sunset” that “bun lift” is a surprising contextual equivalent.)  So what if I can’t hear my kids shouting across the house that so-and-so ruined their Lego House of Awesomeness?  So what if I can’t hear my husband calling me from the next room to hurry up they’re felling another tree on Ax Men?  There are some things not worth hearing.  The rest—well, the rest I’ll just have to make-do.  Or make-up.

Frankly, Virginia, It’s Complicated

*Warning: This post discusses the existence of Santa Claus.

I hate the idea of Santa Claus. No really. Despite all the Christmas crap I have—candy cane mugs, snowmen candy dishes, Christmas tree dining set for sixteen, bath towels, door mats, nutcracker butter knives, Santas that sing, Santas that laugh, penguins that ring bells, and garland that sparkles in every single room—I hate it.

Before I had kids I always thought that I wouldn’t perpetuate such a myth. Likewise, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny were out. I decided my kids would be somewhat alone among their peers but would be better for it. They wouldn’t run around believing that a kindly old guy breaks into our house once a year and sneaks around so quietly that neither dogs nor mom would hear it. As an added bonus, they wouldn’t fall prey to believing that this same old guy is “watching” them at all times—which as an adult is, honestly, creepy. We could also steer away from sitting on mall Santas’ laps and writing letters that I “mail” (which I don’t) and hide in my underwear drawer where I can pull it out and refer to the list. No, my kids were going to be so above all that.

And then I had kids and it was hard to ignore the enormity of this myth. He was everywhere. On Coke bottles and M&M bags, in TV commercials selling cars and toys and even in our home: soap dishes, music boxes, cookie cutters. Not only that, but wherever my kids went between November and December 26th, people would engage my children in Santa-driven conversation: So, what are you going to ask Santa for this year? Did you get what you asked for? I tried not to roll my eyes.

Early on in our kids’ lives, my husband and I were up late one Christmas Eve wrapping presents when I labeled one, To: Bella From: Santa. My husband was upset. “Why should Santa get all the credit for these presents? I want to give her the one she really wants. Santa can give her the clothes.” I hesitated; he had a point. Why did we work so hard saving up, sneaking around shopping, and hiding boxes in trash bags in our garage only to fork over the good deed to an old man who seemed to have a secret relationship with our kids? Not cool.

And yet, each year, as Halloween rolls around, and the Christmas tinsel starts lining the aisles of Target, my kids start to glow with the buzz of Christmas. They sing holiday carols in the car at full volume. They start drafting their letters to Santa: one edit, two edits, Mom, can you proofread this for me before I send it off? I want to be sure it’s right. They love to make holiday cards and turn on all the music boxes and snow globes at once. They love making peanut blossom cookies and rum balls, sugar cookies with way, way too much frosting and globs of dark green sprinkles. They drink lots of eggnog and enjoy way too many Christmas-centered movies where everything always ends up with the kid getting what they desperately wanted, divorced parents suddenly reuniting, and kids being privy to something that adults can’t seem to understand.

Just recently my nine-year-old asked me if it seemed odd that the Tooth Fairy was real but that monsters were not. I was thankful my back was to her. How was I to respond? Hadn’t I been preparing her to question everything in her life? Never talk to strangers. Don’t trust anyone but your family. Never ever sit on a man’s lap in the food court of the mall even if he’s wearing a suit. Adults aren’t always right.

I know, right, was all I could come up with.

This might be her last year—maybe two if we’re lucky. Her brother is two years younger, and I imagine that if she doesn’t tell him once she finds out, then she will sit arms crossed by the Christmas tree tired and scornful—angry that her brother woke her up at six in the morning for not-magic.

Like many parents last week I hugged my kids until they squirmed from my arms. I tried not to let them see me cry every time I thought of the families of the victims of Newtown, Connecticut. I obsessively worried about my kids at school; I took them late one day this week because I couldn’t bear to let them go. At some point I had to tell them what had happened. My daughter was saddened by this, but my son simply replied that it was sad but couldn’t Santa bring them back to life. He would ask Santa. After all, he’s magic, Mom.

And this is where I have to ask myself if I did the right thing. Was it a good thing that I allowed them to believe in magic? In the kindness of a goodly old man? In non-unionized elves and flying reindeer? Things that will seem all too silly when they know. And the answer I come up with again and again is yes. Yes, Virginia it is okay to believe in something that isn’t real.

I am glad that my son believes those kids in Newtown can run back into the arms of their mommies and daddies. That, in his mind, they will get up while it is still dark and shake their parents awake. Look, Mom. Santa came! That those families will sit around their trees, happy and complete, ripping open gifts, shrieking and crying, kissing and hugging as though there would never be a day more joyous. I am thankful that this is what he believes. Believing in it makes it real, and isn’t that what childhood is about?

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