This is a memoir piece by Carol Es, who is a very talented woman and is well known in the artistic circles of Los Angeles, where she was born and raised. Carol has quite a portfolio of writing, painting, and musical accomplishments. I’ve had the pleasure of exchanging a few email conversations with her – she’s a neat lady.
We’re proud to have Carol as part of the Two Drops family. This short memoir piece was re-written especially for submission to our site. Carol is in the process of publishing her memoir, and we’d like to direct you to her website about her upcoming book, and the writing journey she’s been on. Let’s do what we do best here at Two Drops, let’s visit and share her blog about this adventure: shrapnelinthesanfernandovalley.com
By Carol Es
At seven, my mom enrolled me into the Junior Campfire Girls. It was cruel of her I thought. She knew I had crippling social anxiety, but that was exactly why she did it.
By now, the honeymoon period of moving into the big fancy house with the view in Granada Hills had passed. Sooner than later, we were going to lose it. We couldn’t afford it on my dad’s salary. I don’t know what they were thinking.
While the money was running out, my parents fighting was revving up again. Things got volatile, and Mom was having more manic episodes than ever before. She was now fighting with my brother, Mike, too, who was beginning to take my father’s side of the arguments. But Dad was brainwashing Mike, on Sundays mostly. They’d sit parked inside of his Dodge Dart in front of the house for hours. Soon enough, Mike started to disrespect her, calling her crazy, and calling her names. It only made her obsessed with winning back his love — a sick game that was very upsetting to watch.
It was around this time when my dad quit smoking. This meant everyone else had to quit smoking too. He put a lot of pressure on Mom. And my brother always hated the smell of smoke, so Mom made many attempts to quit. But I’ll never forget when she made Mike hide her cigarettes from her. It was truly a bad idea. Because when the hour struck and her cravings came into hyper focus, Mike wouldn’t tell her where they were. That was when I saw her first psychotic break.
She completely flipped out and broke everything in the house – every dish, every glass and even destroyed her own meaningful possessions — bowling trophies, secretarial plaques, and even took a steak knife to her favorite painting: a piece she had for many years and kept over the fireplace of a Spanish dancer. Now it was cut into shreds of canvas all over the floor.
And it seemed she really lost it when she began to tear apart the couch cushions thinking cigarettes were stashed somewhere inside. She even tried cutting through the sofa with knives while screaming things that didn’t even make sense. She made absurd noises like she was having a stroke. I remember pleading with Mike to just give her a fucking cigarette to make it all stop, but he wouldn’t.
When Dad came home and walked in on the scene, he didn’t have much time to beat the shit out of my brother. He had to first snap my mom out of her state, and so he threw her into the pool. It worked. She just stood there in the shallow end, quietly crying and watching her nightgown float above the water, surrounding her like a baby blue cloud. After we had wrapped her in a big towel, she seemed to finally calm down. She seemed exhausted actually. By then, she certainly deserved a cigarette, so after she had got into a clean, dry nightgown, I sat with her on the shredded couch and rubbed her feet as she silently smoked in front of the TV. She took some days off work after that.
But shortly after this, Mike pretended to run away. Really, he was just hiding in the closet of his bedroom. For days, he did this. He was ditching school too, and my parents were worried sick. Although, we knew he was coming back into the house in the mornings when no one was home. Mom picked me up from school after her morning shifts; we’d come back to the house around lunch time and see the tornado-like evidence. Mike had been systematically trashing the house in a similar fashion as Mom would during her manic episodes, only he was leaving quaint little notes all over the place, like “Fuck you, Mom,” and “I hate you forever!” He’d leave them on the mirror of the medicine cabinet in lipstick, on the back of a card taped to the sink in the kitchen, or wherever he thought she might show up. She’d come home to this and wonder where the hell he was and why he hated her so much. It got to be too much for her.
Then, one day, while I was at my Campfire Girls meeting, the lady who supervised it told me I needed to go home in a hurry after receiving a phone call. She said my mom was going to the hospital. In a panic, I ran up the hill to my house as fast as I could, so fast, in fact, that I lost my footing and fell onto the hot Valley sidewalk, right smack on my bare knees. Of course, I was wearing my stupid Campfire Girls uniform. I skinned both knees pretty good and opened them bloody. I got up and kept running up to my house and cried about the unknown. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening or why she was going to the hospital – or if I would be too late by the time I got there. I was freaked out, so I just ran as fast as I could.
When I got to the pathway of my fancy midcentury house, I whimpered, “Mommy Mommy!” And there she was, standing at the door. I could see her through the screen. But as I went towards her with blood dripping down my legs, all she saw was a four-foot problem. One that made crying noises. I could see the panic on her face while she turned the other way and ran to the back of the house. She slammed her bedroom door and barricaded herself, completely unable to deal with the situation.
I guess Mike’s little stunt was over, because there he was with worried tears in his eyes, leading me by the hand into the bathroom. He propped me up onto the sink and tried to console me by explaining what was going on. That’s when he cleaned my knees by squirting a whole bottle of Bactine on them. He placed Snoopy band-aids all over the cuts and told me that Mom was going away to the mental hospital for a while. We didn’t know for how long, but they were going to fix her there. She would come home and be all better. But all I heard was that Mom was leaving. I didn’t care that my knees were burning. I didn’t care about Snoopy. I didn’t care about anything else.
Carol Es is a self-taught visual artist, writer, and musician who was born and raised in Los Angeles. Known for creating narrative paintings and Artists’ books, she has used past experience as the fuel for her subject matter, transforming a broken history into a positive and spiritual resolve. Candid experiences are laid bare and forged directly into her paintings, video installations, writings, and handmade books.
Carol’s works are featured in numerous private and public collections, including the Getty Research Library, Brooklyn Museum, UCLA Library Special Collections, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. She has exhibited at the Riverside Art Museum, Torrance Art Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, and Zimmer Children’s Museum. She is also a two-time recipient of the ARC Grant from the Durfee Foundation, awarded a Pollock-Krasner Fellowship in 2010, and the Wynn Newhouse Award in 2015. She was recently nominated for a 2017 Fellows of Contemporary Art Award.
As for publications, Carol has been published by small presses such as Bottle of Smoke Press, NY; Pig Ear Press in the UK, Chance Press, Berkeley, CA, MWE Press, NC, and Islands Fold in British Columbia. She has also written feature articles for Coagula Art Journal, Whitehot Magazine, Art Thought Journal, Art Collector Magazine and the Huffington Post. She is currently finishing up a memoir about growing up on the streets of Los Angeles entitled, Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley.
Carol Es is represented by Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica, CA and her Artists’ books can be purchased through Vamp & Tramp, Birmingham, AL.
Carol’s Blog/website: http://esart.com/blog/
Her Memoir: http://shrapnelinthesanfernandovalley.com/
Full CV available upon request.
Brooklyn Art Library, Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Centre Pompidou, Bibliotheque Kandinsky, Paris, France
Cowles Memorial Library, Whitworth University, Spokane, WA
J. Paul Getty Trust, Research Institute Library, Los Angeles, CA
The Arthur and Mata Jaffe Collection, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC
Otis College of Art & Design Library, Artists’ Books Collection, Los Angeles, CA
UC Irvine Library Special Collections, Irvine, CA
UCLA Library, Special Collections, Los Angeles, CA
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