My mother had a particular quirk which used to drive me nuts. She never listened to a word I spoke, that was normal, she never listened to anything anyone said unless what they were saying was what she wanted to hear, and even then, listening would not be the right term for what she did. She didn’t listen to anything she said either, or she would have had some realisation that she spoke an awful lot of drivel, and that every other sentence contradicted the previous one.
She did love talking, on and on and on, because she loved the sound of her own voice. She had trained to be an opera singer because she believed that her voice was angelic, magnificent, and must be shared with the world. Something like that. It was a very strident voice, eardrum shattering and hard to zone out. She never forgave me for that one time I fell asleep on the phone with her… I wonder how long it took her to realise that I had fallen asleep. The fact that there was a huge time difference, made no difference to her. The fact that I was recovering from an operation, was a trifling detail. She wanted to talk and I was the ear into which she had chosen to pour her endless stream of words, that was an honour I had to bow down to. But none of this is relevant really to the quirk… well it is, but it isn’t.
The quirk was that every now and then, quite regularly in fact, out of her mouth would come words which were incredibly familiar to me. They seemed this way because I had spoken them only minutes before. The first few times she did this, I foolishly thought that she was acknowledging my words. I was a bit shocked that she had actually heard something I had said. This should have been a warning to me that I was wrong.
When I pointed out to her that she had just repeated what I had just said, she looked at me utterly perplexed. Then her face took on that familiar expression of condescension, a favourite of Narcissists, and she informed me that not only was I very mistaken, but I had obviously not been listening to her. Big sigh of exasperation, what a saint she was to put up with such insolence. She would never take my words and claim them as her own, what nonsense, no such thing had ever happened or would ever happen, her words were all freshly brewed by her mind. Sometimes the levels of my idiocy were unbearably annoying to her. Poor, poor, put upon mamma!
Truth is, she really did not have a clue that she had just absorbed my words and made them her own. She could have easily passed a polygraph test.
I used to write poetry when I was a teenager. Existential angst ridden stuff mostly, but occasionally something lighter. Of course my mother found out about my poems, – which I hadn’t been hiding from her, but I hadn’t shown them to her either – because a teacher of mine wanted to enter one of them into a local competition. This was one of those teachers who liked to invest themselves in their pupils, find a spark and fan the flames. She did it with all of us and we all loved her for it. Problem is, she didn’t know my parents, even though she had briefly met my mother. When my mother discovered that her child had poetic delusion, she did her usual feigning interest in the idiot spawn. Small things please little minds. And besides, you never knew, maybe one day the idiot would turn into a genius as was always hoped, and then my mother could finally claim credit for her creation. As it stood, the child was rather an embarrassment. I reluctantly showed her a few of my poems. She critiqued them, told me they could be so much better if I made an effort, she could generously help me improve them. She took some of my poems to do exactly that, and to show them to her friends – Look how cute, the idiot is trying to be a poet! Haha! Adorable isn’t it! What a darling!
Some time passed, and lo and behold my mother suddenly found she had a passion for poetry. Just a few scribbles from her oh so humble self, written from the heart so no one must judge such things. She had collected her grand creations together and had them bound into a book. I was given the book as a special gift, and expected to receive it with grateful admiration. I was also expected to read and provide suitable, exaggerated applause. I did my duty. I read the book of poetry. And found that every poem was one I had written. My words, tweaked a little to suit her, but not tweaked enough to hide the fact that they were mine… well… exactly that… they WERE mine, and now they were hers.
I didn’t bother to point that out to her. There was no point in pointing out. She was mistress of her illusion and no one would ever pop that bubble because it was ultra-reinforced, completely unpoppable. Besides… she did that all the time with everything. There was nothing I had which she didn’t take and make hers. If she could. If she couldn’t actually take it from me, then she would own it by proxy. My hair, my teeth, my skin, my body. They belonged to her, I was borrowing them because she was wonderful and generous like that. But she didn’t approve of how I treated what she had so kindly given me on loan.
So, has something like this happened to you?