Once I got older and started acting out with men and taking a lot of risks, music helped me negotiate the reality of what I was doing. — Marcia Butler
Butler’s emotionally distant mother may have influenced, by nature or nurture, her daughter’s ability to keep secrets. Mrs. Butler, who taught Latin at a local school, suffered from migraines and was unable to make left-hand turns in the car. She spent her afternoons alone in her bedroom and did not believe in comforting her daughters for any reason. Butler’s older sister, Jinx, was rebellious from a young age. Everyone in the family believed this was her particularly objectionable personality and probably not a result of being regularly beaten up by her father. Butler witnessed some of this as a kid and grew up thinking Jinx had it worse than her. She never told her sister about what their father did to her, nor did they discuss what else he might have been doing to Jinx. When Jinx ran away from home for good, Mrs. Butler saw it as an act of betrayal against a loyal and loving family.
In 2000, Butler took a drafting class on a whim, which led to earning a degree in interior design and an eventual career shift. As an interior designer, she started keeping a design blog, though she had never written before. She found herself blogging more about her creativity than her business, which led to more experimental pieces about symbols and patterns in the universe, which led to essays about performing. It was at about this time she realized she was writing a memoir about her life — both the music and her desolate childhood of being abused by one parent while being ignored by the other. Though abuse is at the core of Butler’s existence,
is not really an incest memoir. Nor it is a music autobiography — though those chapters provide gorgeous and compelling respite, and the two strands twist around each other gracefully to form the book’s foundation. The story’s true essence is Butler’s pervasive, persistent longing for a mother who cares. She returns to the well again and again, looking for a little support, if not salvation, but never finds it anything but bone-dry. One day, Butler receives a package in the mail: her mother’s self-published memoir. In it, she discusses her love of teaching and of knitting, but not of her daughters. Neither one appears in the book.