Mom hit us with her fist. Hard.
She also hit me over the head
with 1″ thick broom sticks,
I can still feel the dent–
she striped our legs with lathe
or switches, smacking with
either side of her hand,
hitting me with an iron skillet. Cold.
Anything that was handy really—
if she was mad and I was nearby.
Mom slugged me when I was tiny.
I would fly across the room
and land on the furniture,
arms and legs akimbo, stunned.
Or I’d smash into a wall and drop
to the floor in a shriveled pile.
I don’t remember being hugged
or kissed, or having my hand held
gently, kindly, guidingly.
I remember my arm being jerked
one way or another,
lifted off the ground like a rag doll
My shoulder painful, sore.
I don’t remember being loved,
but I remember loving,
I remember loving each of my
two sisters and two brothers,
and even the one who was sent away—
Adopted by strangers,
not spoken of aloud by the adults
in the room, whispered about
with my sister under the woven bedcover
in the chilly darkness at our grandparents,
or in the wagon wheel bunk beds,
When we were lonely and wished for someone
to love us more than a fist.
You are all so very kind. I heard from so many of you that I was surprised. For many years I didn’t say anything specific or of consequences about the way I grew up. There was far more difficulty than just the beatings. There was sexual abuse at the hand of two of my uncles and a babysitter that my mother brought to our house when I was in first grade. I changed schools 27 times before I dropped out of high school. I didn’t have contact with anyone long enough to develop supportive relationships.
But I didn’t want anyone’s pity. I wanted people to see me, and not just the circum-stances of my childhood. That became something of a habit. Children who go through these hellish childhoods are treated with little respect and a lot of assumptions. Charity and pity are funky, awful things that embarrass children and make them different than the other children. If that wasn’t enough, the last thing I needed as a kid was someone trying to sell me on Jesus’ blood and the salvation of my soul. You’d think I had dragged these circumstances in upon myself into the deep hole folks acted like I was in.
I was much the same as I am now as a child, and when I could escape the darkness of the attitudes that people around me had, the labels that they wanted to put on me, I was able to see something more possible for myself. I was tougher than my sister, more self-contained and self-reliant, but I was the oldest and even in the worst circumstances, being the oldest calls a child to take charge for the benefit of the younger children. I learned at a very young age that folks don’t look very far into things, that they are easy to jump to conclusions and don’t see what is right in front of them.
I consider one of the great accomplishments of my life to be that I am profoundly ordinary. I don’t mean to deny my gifts, or accomplishments, but that the kind of being ‘special’ that draws undue attention for things that were not my doing, well I just didn’t want that kind of attention. I didn’t live my life depending upon my appearance either. I like being appreciated for the things I chose to be. In the end, it is our personal choices that matter. No one wants to be a victim. We either let Spirit in, to act as and through us, or we allow the circumstances of our lives to hog the spotlight and bring attention to ourselves for reasons that are neither of our own making or which simply cannot bring us the true Joy of life itself. I am all for Joy. That is how I am made.