#3. The Psychic Toll Lasts for Years
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My mom was so desperate for friendship with these people that she agreed to be in a pornographic film, took Ecstasy, took her 10-year-old daughter with her to create an alibi for their unspecified (at the time) crimes, and even agreed to help them hide the murder weapon.
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My mother was a model of what I was supposed to aspire to, but all I saw were her mistakes. She trusted people too readily, so I ended up with some pretty serious problems trusting people. I suspected that friends just wanted something from me and lived every day waiting for the other shoe to drop ... and to be devoured by man-eating dogs. I'm really fun at parties.
Put anyone under the kind of pressure my mother endured and they don't exactly turn into diamonds. To this day, my mother occasionally speaks to "spirits" that she believes the trio (well, duo now) send to her. She once told me I wasn't allowed to open the blinds because Russian satellites would be able to see inside. I probably would have cracked up, too, if I hadn't been too busy dealing with my mother's descent into semi-functional insanity. Hey, silver lining!
Oops, nope. Turns out that silver lining was just one of MI6's orbiting telescopes.
Before her best friends went on a murder spree, my mother practiced and taught Wicca. The power of suggestion was right up her gullible little alley. She believed in Wicca because it indirectly allowed her to believe in herself. After everything that happened, my mother didn't have anything to do with Wicca for several years because she believed she was tainted. She put away her healing crystals and obsessively watched any Harry Potter movie that was on TV because it inspired her to be a "good witch." Pretty strange, but ultimately innocent stuff, until you bring in the media.
#2. The Media Will Distort Everything
Is being a self-described witch more or less crazy than having someone else call you a witch?
Is that weird? Yeah, duh. My mom was and remains excruciatingly insecure, latching onto anything that comes along that might give her strength. If throwing some herbs in a pot and calling it an attraction potion gives her confidence for a date, great. If burning sage in the house makes her feel less anxious, awesome!
But hey, you can't expect the media to see the word "witch" and not seize on that sucker like a pit bull. What really pissed me off was when the news at the time made a big deal about my "eccentric" mom wearing a sewer company sweater to court.
Clearly, the ferret with a weird name is a contributing factor to this tragedy.
"That was her boyfriend's sweater!" I say to the article. She was terrified, going on a witness stand in front of three murderers who had threatened her life. She wanted something comforting to take with her. It's actually the least crazy thing she ever did. But none of the reporters ever bothered to dig into humanizing details like that, because a witch who offered to participate in porn on behalf of murderers is all the headline you can technically handle, lest the font itself explode.
#1. You Will Find a Way to Blame Yourself
A day after our great migration from southern California to northern California, my mom asked me, "Do you want to go to grandma's church or the Maughns' [our neighbors] church?" This took me about half a second to decide. My grandmother is a beautiful, wonderful, inspiring woman, and her presence feels like home. That said, the thought of going to church with my grandma felt lame, because hello, I'm 5 years old and this is serious business. I can't be seen sitting next to an old person whose job is to shush me by patting my thigh. What would the other 5-year-olds think? By contrast, the Maughns were a party. They'd color with me at church, and nobody ever did the shut-up-you-gremlin thigh pat.
"The Maughns'." That's it. Those are the words that laid the groundwork for the rest of my life.
So, we joined the Mormon Church. My mother frequently attended the church's singles mixers (can you think of a sadder thing, besides, uh ... everything else in this story?), and in December 1997, she met Dawn Godman, one of the killers. My mother loved how much Dawn liked her. And the only reason why my mom met Dawn is because I wanted to go to the Maughns' church after we moved to northern California, and the only reason we moved to northern California was so I could be closer to my dad. You see where this is going: I never bashed anybody's head in with a hammer or threw bags full of body parts into a river, but I obviously still have a lot to feel guilty about.
Editor's Note: No, you really don't. The greatest responsibility we ever had as kindergartners was to watch Raphael, the class turtle. He escaped. The turtle. Escaped. That one was on us, because even as 5-year-olds, we probably could have caught that turtle. But that would have been the extent of our 5-year-old abilities. We could not have prevented a mass murder with our tiny, Popsicle-sticky fingers. You're totally in the clear on this one, Talia.
Robert Evans is Cracked's head of personal experience articles, and you can find him here.
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