“Whap! Whap! Whap!” Punch’s painted grin and wild-eyes gave him a demonic look as he smacked a stick across the head of his wife Judy, in retaliation for her nasties. Titters erupted from the audience as we approached the stage. I cringed, tucking my scarf and mittens in the pocket of my coat, then took a seat with others for the puppet show.

It was Mother’s annual Christmas treat, followed by a savory lunch in the Missouri Room at Stix Baer Fuller Department Store. Before the streetcar ride home, we would also view the animated Christmas windows, filled with Santa’s elves and workshop, while icy drafts cut my cheeks and blurred my vision.

As a child, such noisy and exhausting outings scrambled my sensibilities. Yet, I went along; it was expected of me. I had no voice, other than what the puppeteer voiced through me, and that, for much of my life. Like Punch and Judy and their entourage, I fashioned my life in pretense. Few seemed to notice or care.

After years of 12-Step recovery and dream work, I discovered my latent voice and began expressing it in speech and in writing, new words surfacing whenever I needed them. Clarity replaced brain fog and indecision. But old habits are deeply ingrained, and the puppeteer still seduces me within anger’s grip.

More than ever, I cry, “Mercy!”