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Nothing To Fear?

August 3, 2008

Slice of Life Sunday is a meme dedicated to preserving the accounts of events cut out of the lives of average people just like you and me from all over the world. And like having ice cream with your pie, there is more to this meme than meets the eye – it’s a meme a` la mode. I hope you will join me and share a Slice of your Life.

One of this week’s prompts is My Earliest Childhood Memory. I actually started writing this slice of my life many months ago. It has been very difficult to put into words the series of events that happened on a beautiful summer day in my early childhood that created a lifetime of confusion, pain, and heartbreak. I am so thankful for all the Contributing Writer’s of Slice of Life Sunday. Because of their strength to relive tragic times in their lives, I have gained the strength to relive mine. And through all the tears shed in writing this story, I have been cleansed of the guilt I have carried with me. It was not my fault. I did not do anything so terrible to warrant such a horrendous punishment. I even gained a bit of a sense of humor, although some may call it a warped sense of humor, after my writing was done – Stephen King could not have created a more vile location for the most horrendous act ever perpetrated upon a child.   

 

“The only thing we have to fear is fear it’self – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
                                            —- FDR – First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

 

Most people have a few minor irrational fears. Some get nervous at the thought of getting on an airplane while others jump onto the closest chair at the sight of a mouse. I read somewhere it is estimated 10% of all adults have some type of phobia. I will confess I am in that 10%. I have struggled with my phobia for most all of my life. In fact, the cause of my fear is my very first memory, an event that occurred sometime in the summer of my 4th birthday. I only know the approximate time line from discussing the event with my parents many years later. Based upon my recollections of the proceeding event which led to my traumatic experience, my mother was amazed I remembered anything because “you weren’t even four years old!” But I did remember. I remembered everything.

 

It was very hot that summer day. My older sister Toupey and I spent the afternoon on the front porch which was shaded by huge trees that blocked the house from a bank that dropped forty feet to the road below. We were playing with the ragdolls our grandmother had given us for Christmas. Mom brought our sleeping younger sister out and placed her on a blanket so she could take her nap in the coolness of the shade. We were given instructions to play quietly so not to wake Joy-Joy. It was no secret that Toupey didn’t like Joy-Joy. She had been ill much of her life with constant colds and stomach problems which demanded more of mom’s time and dad’s attention; time and attention that was taken away from Toupey. Mom had no more than gone back into the house before Toupey began to poke Joy-Joy with the bottle of milk that mom had placed beside her. After several pokes, Joy-Joy woke up. She began to whimper and Toupey quickly gave her a ragdoll. This seemed to pacifier her and she began to play with the buttons that grandma had sewn on for eyes. After a few minutes of allowing Joy-Joy to play with the doll, Toupey took the doll away and began to tease her with it by holding it in front of her but pulling it away when Joy-Joy reached for it. After a several minutes of this teasing, Toupey tossed the doll off the porch and it landed on the bottom step of the steep staircase leading up to the porch. “If you want it, go get it.” she said laughing. Joy-Joy toddled her way to the top of the steps and held onto the rail as she made her way down the steps. On the third step, she stumbled and fell the rest of the way down. She immediately began to scream and I jumped to my feet and headed for the screened door to get mom. Mom was coming through the door before I got to it. She ran down the steps and picked up Joy-Joy whose head was bleeding from striking one of the rocks that lined the path that led to the porch.

 

“What happened here? How did she get off the porch? Why didn’t one of you stop her?” Mom fired question after question without waiting for an answer as she took Joy-Joy into the kitchen to wash her wound. Once she learned Joy-Joy’s cut was minor, she rocked her back to sleep (I guess mom didn’t know about the possibility of concussions back then) and placed her in her crib. Toupey and I had been sent back to the front porch to wait until mom got Joy-Joy settled. As we waited for what was sure to be a severe whipping, Toupey tried to get me to say I was the one who threw the doll off the porch. I refused. I knew I would probably get whipped because I was there, but I also knew once mom found out what happened, the one who threw the doll would get the beating of their life. Toupey then said we would just tell mom Joy-Joy woke up and got to the steps before we knew she was awake. “If you tell on me, you will be sorry!” she threatened. I do not know what I would have done had Toupey been given the opportunity to tell her tale, but as it turned out mom was standing at the screened door when she made her threat. Mom demanded I tell her what happened. I remember being so scared. If I didn’t tell her, mom would have really whipped me. If I did tell, I didn’t know what Toupey would do, but I knew it would be bad. I can not recall any specifics, but I knew on that day I had already been at the receiving end of Toupey’s meanness many times before. I finally told mom what Toupey had done. Mom went off! “What were you thinking? If she had gotten down those steps she could have fallen down the bank and been killed!” she screamed. With that said she pulled Toupey upon her lap, turned her over her knees, pulled up her dress, and began whipping her. She whipped her for what seemed like forever. I sat in the corner of the porch and cried because I figured my turn was coming. But my turn did not come. I have always thought I didn’t get whipped that day was not because I had not done anything wrong, but more because mom was too tired after whipping the daylights out of Toupey. The look Toupey gave me after her whipping told me a beating from mom would have been less painful than what she was going to do to me to get even.

 

That evening, we had company for supper. My Uncle Jim, my dad’s older brother, had stopped by to see if dad could help him make hay after dinner. Dad agreed and after eating a piece of peach pie for dessert they left to go to grandpa’s farm. Uncle John, my mom’s brother, had also stopped in and was planning to stay overnight. I remember sitting in the living room that evening listening to the radio with Uncle John. Toupey came in and sat down to listen to the music. I had been walking a wide path around her since her whipping. We were listening to a song about cherries being pink and apples being white and laughed because we knew both were really red. We laughed so hard that I not only forgot about being scared of what Toupey was going to do to get even, but it made me need to make a trip to the outhouse to pee. Mom would normally take me to the outhouse because it was located a distance from the house. She was rocking Joy-Joy so she told Toupeyto go with me. We were still laughing about the mis-colored fruit in the song as we made our way to the outhouse. Once there, we were both able to go in because it was a two-seater. Toupey finished first and went outside to wait on me. I was pulling up my panties when Toupey slammed the door shut and turned the wooden block so I couldn’t get the door open from the inside. I pounded on the door and begged her to let me out. It was getting dark outside and with the door shut it was very dark inside the outhouse. Despite my pleadings of being afraid, I could hear Toupy’s laughter fade away as she made her way back to the house. I continued to pound on the door. I continued to cry for help but no one came. At some point, I sat down on the floor and in the midst of my tears and the nauseating smells of the outhouse I fell asleep. Although I didn’t know it at the time, the worst was yet to come.

 

I do not know how long I slept. I learned fourteen years later the chain of events that occurred which permitted what came next. Mom had made her evening trip to the outhouse before settling in to rock Joy-Joy to sleep. While Toupey and I made our trip to the outhouse, mom asked Uncle John to send us to bed when we returned. She was going to let Joy-Joy sleep with her and dad that night and was going to go on up to bed. Mom said she remembered being very tired that night from being so worried about Joy-Joy and her fall. Dad didn’t remember the night at all but said he probably would have come in and washed up in the kitchen and went on up to bed if no one else was up. My older sister doesn’t remember the night either and flatly denies ever locking me in the outhouse. I do know from what occurred later in the outhouse that Toupey had a conversation with Uncle John after returning from locking me in the outhouse. I know Toupey told him the whole story about how she had been whipped and I was not. I also know she told him she locked me in the outhouse. Uncle John was very lazy and would not have walked so far to relieve himself. He would have urinated off the back porch as he always did or would have used the white porcelain pot with a lid that was kept on the back porch for emergency use or so we didn’t have to make the long walk after dark. I also know Toupey went to bed before Uncle John came to get me.

 

I awoke to a flashlight shining in my eyes and Uncle John running his fingers through my hair. “It’s about time my pretty little girl woke up.” he said. “I hear you and Toupey were very bad girls today. Toupey got whipped but you didn’t. Now, that isn’t fair is it? I know your mom is planning to whip you tomorrow, but how about I do it tonight. I won’t whip you as hard as she does.” Still groggy from being waken from a deep sleep, I was having a hard time figuring out where I was. Uncle John pulled me up from where I was laying and I saw the flashlight was sitting on the corner beside one of the seats. I also saw he did not have his pants on and had this funny looking long thing hanging from his body. He sat down on the space between the seats and said, “We need to get you ready for your spanking.” He took off my dress and my panties and laid me across his lap.

 

I do not know how long the molestation lasted. I do not remember leaving the outhouse or even going to bed. I do know that wasn’t the last time I was to feel Uncle John’s hands on my body. Throughout the next six years, he would use different approaches but the result was always the same. My grandmother figured out he was molesting me and put a stop to the abuse. Four years later, he raped me. He never touched me again after that.

 

Needless to say, a childhood of sexual abuse has created a life plagued with depression, low self-esteem, and an array of many side-affects. How that abuse began has also created a phobia of small, enclosed places that I have dealt with all of my life. I am particularly wary of entering an elevator in general, and will absolutely not enter one if I am by myself and only one man is already in it. If I am in an elevator by myself and it stops at a floor and only one man enters the elevator, I will step out and wait for another one. Psychologists say phobias are irrational and imaginary. I disagree.

 

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. adamswife permalink
    August 4, 2008 10:16 am

    I don’t know how to respond to what you have written. My first, selfish thought is, “Thank goodness I never had to deal with anything like that. My older sister was very protective of me and my mother would not have whipped us in that way. Nor did I have any perverted uncles who felt it was their right to inflict themselves on little girls.” My second thought is “Oh, you poor thing! How cruel and unfair.” Neither thought is very productive. Neither will bring you comfort or strength at this time in your life. I guess the best we can hope for as a consequence of this type of abuse is to learn from it how not to conduct ourselves. To never inflict injury on someone smaller, younger, more vulnerable than ourselves. How to spot signs that someone else needs protecting as we once needed it. Then if we can share what we have learned, and by sharing bring comfort or strength to another person perhaps healing will follow.

  2. August 4, 2008 8:34 pm

    I like what Eve wrote. I don’t know what to say. It isn’t your fault. I’m glad you got it out in writing. You did nothing to deserve this. Nobody has.
    You are strong and I can see it in your writings. You are brave because you shared this. You have shared hints of what you’ve been through but I know sharing details is a completely different thing. I was raped a teenager and nobody knows, just my Hubby and I never told him a name. So please don’t comment about that on my blog. I couldn’t imagine going through such a horror as a child.
    I volunteered at a woman’s shelter for abused wives and their children for two years, before I married and had kids. I had nightmares, anxiety attacks, and other stress related illnesses hearing the stories of these children as I tried to comfort them and use what little training I had for such horror. I had to quit. As desperately as I wanted to help, I just couldn’t handle it. All those feelings of guilt of quitting and not helping more came back as I read this. I’m just not strong enough but I continue to pray for children in this position every day. I’m glad you had a grandmother that helped you. I’m glad you’re coming to terms. This is no small achievement what you have done here, writing it out. This is HUGE and personally, I’m proud of you and I’m sorry.
    I send you lots of ehugs and prayers for healing.
    It wasn’t your fault and you are strong.
    On my blog I wrote a book review about a woman who told what she had gone through, you might be interested in her book or at least her blog. She has helped many and you two definitely share this bond.
    If you’re interested:
    http://jenshumbleopinion2.blogspot.com/2008/04/blog-tour-won.html

  3. August 12, 2008 2:14 pm

    Just stopping by to give you an update to my new blog url, I’m hoping this will ditch the watchful eyes of my ‘troll’. http://humbleopinion2.blogspot.com/

  4. August 15, 2008 8:50 am

    I applaud you for writing about this and am sorry I am getting to it so late. What a tragic, horrible event. Oh, it makes my blood boil to think of you having to go through that. As you probably know my cousin was abused for years by a priest. He eventually took his own life. I know that sometimes it must seem impossible for you to get through the day. I know that the darkness must enfold you. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone and that you are in my thoughts. XX

  5. August 22, 2008 9:29 pm

    I am deeply sorry that you had to endure such horrible abuse, Cricket. I hadn’t read this before I wrote my “Slice of Life” post, and now I understand your comment. I cannot imagine what grappling with those kinds of experiences at such an early age must have cost you on so many levels throughout your life. My heart goes out to you. Your strength and resilience is an inspiration.

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