Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Where to Begin?

Where to begin? The kind of question I ask every morning when I wake. I start to look around the house, at my girls, and what I have on my to do list and say, "where do I begin". To quote Rogers and Hammerstein, "lets start at the very beginning, it's a very fine place to start". But which beginning?

We all start life the same, cute and innocent. But as we start to grow our lives diverge in many different directions. The first few lessons we learn will shape our lives for years to come. For me, those lessons would haunt me as I got older.

Obedience, that was the key word in my home. You will be obedient or you would learn to comply.  You may ask yourself, what does comply mean? Just what you think. If you were not obedient the consequences may be as mild as go to your room or as severe as a beating. I don't mean spanking, I have no problem with spanking. I mean beating. But since spankings were normal in most households at that time it never occurred to me that what we were experiencing was not normal. There were other forms of punishment that we will explore at a different time. 

I remember when my husband and I were first married and I started telling him stories of my childhood. Although he never said anything, I know he felt I was exaggerating. Then one year, at a family thanksgiving dinner, he heard all of my sisters telling stories. They were the same stories with no divination. He later apologized and said he could not believe that we really lived that life until he heard it from all of us. 

I can only tell you stories that my sisters have relayed to me and know that they are accurate memories of theirs. We seem to have run in pairs, the oldest and youngest fought to do their own thing regardless of the rules and myself and other middle sister tended to comply to avoid being punished. It was a game, if you knew the rules you could play and win, if winning was possible.

L/J have very vivid memories of being locked out of the house as children. When my mother cleaned she did not want anyone in the house that might make a mess. So, if they needed water, she would shout use the hose or if they need to go to the bathroom, she would say go to the neighbors. The house was far more important than they were. As even smaller children they remember a night that the folks came home late and mom found a dirty glass. She woke them both up, pulled all the dishes out of the cabinets, put chairs in front of the sink for them to stand on and made them wash every dish they owned. The sad part is she does not deny these things. She says "she likes a clean house". This is the stuff movie scripts are made on.

My father, who does not like conflict, did nothing.

My earliest memory? When I was approximately two, my sister was turning cartwheels in the yard and came too close to my stroller. She ended up kicking me in the mouth and knocking my tooth loose. Now we all know that the teeth will reset if the child is taken to the dentist and he braces one tooth to the other. But that would require spending good money and that was not going to happen. So at age two my father took me to the bathroom and twisted my tooth until it broke from the root and came out. I am convinced I remember this only because it was so traumatic at the time. 

My next memory was as traumatic as the first. I was only four at the time. In the sixties, doll houses were made of metal instead of wood or cardboard. The edges were rolled under and not sealed. One day while playing I was startled and jerked my hand out of the doll house. I sliced my hand wide open and blood was everywhere. Again, instead of seeking medical treatment and spending the money, my fathers answer was to take me to the bathroom and pour an entire bottle of alcohol over the wound and wrapping it in gauze. I still have a scar on my right hand. When asked about it today he says, " well, it didn't get infected did it?"

As I grew experiences become less physically traumatic and more of an emotional roller coaster. A roller coaster ride that would leave a lifetime of scars.

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