My sister Margaret was four years older than me. One summer day in 1971 my mother and step-father drove my sixteen-year-old sister into a neighboring state to procure an abortion. My mother always said my sister had a chip on her shoulder. Today we’d diagnose depression but fifty-one years ago, in our family, it was an attitude problem easily remedied with a slap across the face.
I was twelve in 1971 but even then, I knew the best way to survive intact was to be the ‘good girl’ and to stay out of everyone’s way. And that’s what I did. I wasn’t stupid. I knew what had happened but I also knew it was best for me to keep my mouth shut and to not ask questions.
My mother and sister were estranged for most of their adult lives. Now that they are both gone, I regret the choice I made to believe the stories my mother told me about my sister and the impact those stories had on my relationship with her.
I wish I’d known Margaret. I wish we’d spoken like sisters about the day they drove her to New Jersey. I’d tell her about my own abortion fifteen years after hers and we’d celebrate how life had changed for women.
Instead, I’m left with old photographs. In this piece my sister is on the left. My mother took the photograph on the right. I’m standing between two men. My mother’s second husband, the one who sexually abused my sister, is on my left holding a shotgun. My mother’s third husband, the one who made sexually explicit comments about my breasts to me, is on my right.
Margaret and I received wounds. I wish we had the opportunity to help one another heal.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Mimm Patterson is an artist and writer based outside of Charlottesville, Virginia who uses photography, eco-printing, weaving, embroidery and the written word to explore family history and how the past informs our perception of the present. As a yoga therapist and transpersonal coach specializing in senior care and chronic pain Mimm combines yoga informed meditative movements with creative expression in the form of memoir writing and contemplative craft. Mimm works with individuals and groups, supporting her clients’ journey of self-discovery while building physical strength and emotional resilience.
© Mimm Patterson