Knowing Myself: The List Part Two

Live Oak Park

Good Things That Happened

  • Picnics at Live Oak Park in Fallbrook
  • Visits to Mount Palomar
  • Food, Grama & Mom were wonderful cooks
  • Pancakes made by Grampa
  • Trips to the Bonsall store in the back of the 37 Chevrolet with no back seat
  • Telling stories to my little sisters
  • Building tiny adobe buildings in the creek bottom
  • Going to the beach in Oceanside
  • Visits from Aunts Aileen & Audra & Uncle Loren, they brought presents
  • Making friends with Jane Rogers in 3rd grade

In addition to all the interior things that we are as human beings, we are also biological creatures.  Just as animals do in the wild, hiding that they are weakened or injured to protect themselves, as a little girl I hid that I was wounded to avoid becoming preyed upon even more.  I learned to recognize when the wolf was at the door.  I became stronger and tougher than the other children I knew.  I had to.  I wouldn’t let anyone see me cry.

The view from high on the hill behind Rancho Monserate

I cried, but I would hike into the sagebrush and live oak covered hills in Southern California somewhere alone, and I would cry by myself until I had let it out and felt some freedom from my sorrows.  And I would collect rocks and bring them home in my pockets, and pick wildflowers to press in books that I would bring along with me to read, sitting out on some granite outcropping, having a life independent of my childhood troubles.  Those were the things my family thought I was doing.  I kept the crying part to myself.

Live Oak Park 

After my father committed suicide, I don’t know exactly how long it was, but I began to talk to my father in my imagination, or like a prayer.  Sometimes I would do it under the covers in my wagon wheel bunk bed, with the covers pulled up over my head where I could be alone.   It was as if I summoned the better judgment I needed from the spirit of my father there, and I would do what this interior father would advise me to do to protect myself and to find some happiness.

Wagon Wheel Bunkbeds

When I was in third grade I had a teacher named Mrs. Conway.  She gave us all composition books, the black speckled ones, and we were assigned writing a story in them once each week to be turned in by Friday.  I wrote a story every day.  When I asked for another composition book she told me I could have as many as I liked.


 Composition Books


Eventually, she wrote a note to my mother in red ink.  You know red ink, it’s scary stuff.  So in the back of the bus on the way home to the ranch, I opened the note to my mother and read it.  Mrs. Conway wrote to my mother that I was one of the best writers she had encountered in all her years teaching school. She said that mom should encourage me to write, that someday I would be able to use my writings skills in whatever I decided I wanted to be when I grew up.   I have no idea how old she was, except that I was pretty sure she was older than my mother, but not as old as my grandmother.  Her note nearly made me cry in front of people.  I stuffed it carefully back in the envelope and gave it to my mother.  She never mentioned it, but I never forgot what my teacher had written.  It buoyed me up in the years to come that someone important to me had admired something personal about me and declared it so good.

About the same time I turned ten, my fourth grade teacher said I lacked self-control in my report card, this in spite of the fact that I was doing all my school work and getting the highest marks on what I was doing.  I finished my work early quite often and we didn’t have assignments for what we ought to do when we had finished our work.  Having a curious mind, I read every book they had for the fourth graders.  I read all the books I could get from the book mobile. Then, I would explore things like aerodynamics.

Paper airplanes were fascinating to me and I would get very involved in trying to cut and fold one that would fly the furthest or the highest, or both. As a result of not waiting to fly my planes until recess, I was beaten in front of the entire class with a paddle, with holes drilled into it, for flying paper airplanes when the other children were struggling with their assignment still.  It was both painful and confusing, and I resolved that she would not see me cry.  She probably kept hitting me longer because I didn’t appear to be remorseful without the tears. There was a lot going on that was painful and confusing.  It was the last time anyone would think I was any kind of trouble maker for a long time.


You Are Always Taking Yourself Along With You!  

There is an old story of a city’s gatekeeper who was sitting outside the city gates, when a person entering the metropolis for the very first time approached him.

“How is this city you live in?” he asked.

“Before I answer that, let me ask you how you found the previous town you visited?” the old gatekeeper asked.

“Oh,” the traveler exclaimed, “the people were incredibly unfriendly and rude.”

The gatekeeper replied, “It is amazing, but those are the exact words I would use to describe this town.  It would be best to continue on to the next town.”

So, the traveler went on his way.

Later in the day, the gatekeeper was approached by another traveler looking for a place to dwell.

“Is this a nice city to stay for a while?” the traveler asked.

“How did you find living in your last town?” the old gatekeeper asked.

“The people were lovely,” the traveler said, “kind, generous, and very friendly.”

“Well, that is amazing, for those are the exact words I would have chosen to describe this town.  Please come and dwell with us awhile,” said the gatekeeper.

The gatekeeper knew, wherever we go, we take ourselves with us.

Knowing Myself: my story in list form up to age 10

Every intelligent individual wants to know what makes him tick, and yet is at once fascinated and frustrated by the fact that oneself is the most difficult of all things to know.”                                            Alan Watts

There are a lot of things that have happened to me in my life that folks who understand psychology, sociology, counseling, philosophy, politics, and spirituality all have a lot of theories and so much to say and write about.  I was there.  The one thing I will say is that each of the things that are on this bullet form list left some mark upon who I know myself to be.  But I am of the school that says there is what happened and then, there is what meaning you give it in your life.  The latter is more important.  So first, I am going to make a list of what happened.  This may take me a few posts to get through.  There was a lot.  In other posts, I will tell you what these things mean to me, or what I learned from these experiences.

  • Born the bastard child of David S. Hall and Peggy Hendricks in Stockton, CA.  Two half brothers from father who was more than a decade older than my 21 year old mother.
  • Moved in Stockton.
  • 15 months later, sister, Sally, also a bastard was born.
  • My mother hit me hard across the face while feeding me in the high chair.  I am wearing corduroy overalls, I can remember touching them and crying really hard.
  • Parents separated when I was about 3 years old, we moved to San Diego County, I think to a little trailer that I remember in Fallbrook.
  • We moved to an apartment in Fallbrook not far from maternal grandparents.  Mom is sleeping with men, names I can’t remember, except Dick.
  • My father comes to visit me and gives me a harmonica.  I never see him again.
  • We moved to San Diego, I remember sleeping in a Quonset hut.  Mom hits me, spanks me, and beats me.
  • We moved into an apartment building near the Quonset hut.
  • I started school at Alice Birney Elementary.
  • I was stalked by a predator and evaded and ran home.
  • I remember a man cutting my mother’s capris off with a pocket knife.
  • We move nearby to a small house and I still attend the same school.
  • The baby sitter shows me his erect penis in the bathroom and takes me in my mother’s bedroom and tries to put it in my mouth.
  • Chicken pox.
  • Little sister Sharon is born.
  • My mother is seen beating me with a stick of lathe and we are taken from her by the courts and sent to live with our grandparents.
  • My uncle is masturbating in front of the TV when I come home from school.  He doesn’t stop.
  • My teenaged uncle humps me between the legs in the egg house on the cold cement floor.
  • My father kills himself.  I am seven.
  • My uncle continues, repeatedly molesting me in different places around the ranch, eventually, though I am 9 years old by the time anyone notices, my grandmother thinks this is somehow my fault.
  • Another uncle, home on leave from the Navy, tries to get me to give him oral sex.  I am not yet ten years old.  I am afraid to tell because they will blame me.
  • We go back to live with my mother, she has a job at a ranch.
  • She gets involved with the horse trainer, he is an alcoholic.  He becomes verbally abusive and acts like he is going to beat my mother.  She is taller & stronger than he is, so he must be drunk!
  • I stick up for her and he says all kinds of awful things about her to me, and about me and the fact that I am a bastard.
  • I think he tells the minister that I am a bastard, because some kids aren’t allowed to play with me, and in the way that adults talk in front of children like they are not in the room, I learn why.
  • I am in third grade and attending my third school.  We are about to move again.

The Father Within Me

california_live_oak

In early 1957, my father committed suicide by driving his car at high speed into an ancient California Live Oak tree in the San Joaquin Valley somewhere between Fresno and Bakersfield. My mother says he died instantly. Because of that night, I’ve spent most of my life fatherless.

My mother did receive Social Security checks for my sister and I. When I was in high school it was $105 each month. As a child I always thought that she got $105 for my getting to live without a father to love me. It made me mad as hell and probably has a good deal to do with why money isn’t the most important thing to me. I was mad at her and I was mad at him. She never said she loved me and he wasn’t around to do it. He was unhappy, but for a kid, that kind of unhappiness is not fathomable. I would have liked to have someone to talk to, someone who wanted to eat breakfast with me at the beginning of the day. I longed for that but it never came.

My stepfather was an alcoholic and I avoided him as much as I could because I was hellbent on stopping him from drinking. I would steal his vodka and pour it into the storm drain on the corner and then throw the bottle in someone else’s trash can.

He tried to kill me once when he was drunk. He wore Acme cowboy boots with the big Spanish heel and spurs because he was a quarterhorse trainer. He came into the house clumping along loudly while the spurs scraped the floor and rang like some kind of weird bell at the same time. He raged and yelled and threw me down on the floor when he knew what I had done and if my mother hadn’t come in he would have stomped my head with his boots and spurs.

So I didn’t really remember what it was like to be loved by my father and my memories were murderously interrupted by the fear and the screaming loud life provided by my mother and her drunken common law husband.

My grandfather did everything for me that could be done. He loved me and tried to teach me what he could about living a good life. He was generous to all of us and it wasn’t until later that I learned that he was my step grandparent. It broke my heart I wanted so much to be his granddaughter, since he was the one who I knew really loved me without trying to make me be different than the self I experienced on the inside.

But I didn’t always live near Grampa and sometimes I needed some fatherly advice. As the years went by I consulted the inner held memory of my father as I remembered him from the last time I saw him. A dim memory from when I was three. He wore a wool felt fedora, he had a harmonica in his pocket and he had clear, blue eyes and sandy hair.

harmonica

I would picture sitting next to him talking, and I would ask him questions, seek advice, and the father I pictured responded to me within myself. He told me to try hard, to do my work, to not give up. He told me not to listen to gossips who said cruel things about me, or about my mother.

fedora

Of course, it was really me advising myself, but as a father I wasn’t half bad in encouraging myself to make it through the perils of a fatherless childhood. Not once have I celebrated Father’s Day for myself. It’s been for my much beloved Grampa, or for my husband the father of four, and now my son-in-law but never has Father’s Day been about fathering myself all alone as a little girl with no one capable of explaining to me why I had to do this thing for myself. Now that I know, there’s no one left to explain it to who was there at the time.