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Warts & All

October 9, 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.

Warts & All

My grandson Caleb brought a book home last year when he was in first grade about frogs and toads. I always enjoy reading with him and often finding myself thinking about the books we read and how it seems children learn so much more than we did at that age. When I selected the writing prompt this week, I remembered the frogs and toads book. It is not that I hate toads, but I learned while reading with Caleb that a group of toads are called a knot. I also learned the difference between frogs and toads is primarily their appearance. Toads are just frogs that have adapted to dry environments by developing a leather-like skin which retains water better and have changed from a green color to brown for camouflage protection.  And, Caleb quickly pointed out in the book that toads do not cause warts. This clarification was made in reference to my making a joking comment a few months before to his older sister. Torrey had developed a wart on her finger and I teased her that she should stop playing with toads. As I sat laughing, recalling how proud Caleb was in correcting his grandma’s knowledge on toads, I remembered a comment about warts my mother had made to me when I was in the sixth grade.

Although I was very small at birth, and remained small for my age until I started school, I was one of those girls who seemed to grow overnight. By the time I was in the fourth grade, I was as tall as most of the boys. And by the fifth grade, I was five feet tall and had to stand in the back row with the boys for our class picture. I was beginning to worry about being born on my Uncle Jake’s birthday as he was 6’6”. And if my height wasn’t bad enough, I began developing breasts. School shopping for the next year included buying my first bra, which should have been purchased many months before to spare me of all the teasing from the boys. I was relieved to find at the beginning of my sixth grade year the other girls were beginning to catch up with me in the height department. I did not grow even a half an inch over the summer, and haven’t grow any taller since. My breasts were another matter.  They continued to grow and by Christmas I had to have new bras with a B-cup.  During Christmas break, my mother came into the bathroom as I was getting out of the bathtub and began to gasp. “Oh my God, how long have you had hair down there?” she demanded. I didn’t know what she was talking about until she held a hand mirror so I could see the fuzzy pubic hair. Looking back on all the physical changes my body was undergoing at that time, my mother should have known what would be coming next and given me some advanced warning. But she didn’t.  And those being the days of no health education before eighth grade, I didn’t have a clue I was about to live a scene right out of the movie, “Carrie.”

A few months later, I had a really bad week. I didn’t feel well and I ached all over. Mom thought I was coming down with a cold and made me put Vick’s Vapor Rub on my chest before going to bed each night. I hated the smell but I didn’t want a cold, so I did as I was told. I was so tired by bedtime, that even the odor didn’t keep me from going right to sleep. That fateful morning, I woke to mom’s yelling up the stairs it was time to get up before “I come up there and drag you out of that bed.” It seems she had already been up fifteen minutes earlier but I had not heard her, or if I did, I just fell back to sleep. My sisters were already up, dressed, and downstairs.  I could tell by the tone of her voice that mom meant what she said. I flipped the blanket off me, jumped up and turned to make my bed. I saw what appeared to be blood on my sheet. I was startled. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where it came from. Then I looked down at my nightgown and saw it had blood all over it. I was so scared, I quickly removed it only to realize the blood from coming from me. I started to scream and wrapped my blanket around me and ran downstairs. Mom met me at the bottom of the stairs and wanted to know what was going on. “I am bleeding to death! I don’t know what happened but I am bleeding to death.” I screamed. Mom opened the blanket and told me to go to the bathroom. “You are not bleeding to death. Go get in the tub and get cleaned up. I will be in and show you what to do.”

Show me what to do? What was she talking about? Here I am bleeding to death and she wants me to take a bath! She had always said it was important to bath everyday and put on clean underwear in case you were ever in an accident and had to be taken to the hospital, but this was different, I was bleeding to death. However, I knew better than to question her orders. I went to the bathroom and starting running water into the tub. It seemed like the blood just kept bleeding and I didn’t know how I was going to get it to stop. I got into the tub and just sat there crying. I kept my eyes closed because I was afraid the water would be all red from the blood. Mom finally came in and was very angry I was not out of the tub and dried off. “I’m going to be late for work so get out of there. And stop that crying. I told you, you are not dying. You are just getting your menstrual period like all women get. Of course, like everything else, you’re doing it before your sister. You are more of a pain than a wart on my ass. “

I still did not understand what was happening to me, but I did as she said. She gave me a thin elastic belt to put on and showed me how to attach a pad she had under the sink to the metal hooks on the front and back of the belt. I was instructed to check the pad throughout the day and put a new one on if it got too bloody. Too bloody! I was going to bleed to death! She said I was to stay home from school that day and gave me a booklet to read. “I got this from the doctor to read to Toupey when she started her period, but I don’t have time to read it with you now. You can read it today. And make sure you wash your sheets and blankets in cold water today so they don’t stain.” And she left for work. I stayed in the bathroom reading the book until my sisters and brother left for school. I still did not under what was happening to me. The pictures and words in the booklet didn’t make sense.  

I did manage to get my bedding and nightgown washed. I went to the bathroom to check my pad every fifteen minutes or so.  After school, my best friend and neighbor Peggy came to see why I hadn’t come to school. At first I was too ashamed and scared to tell her, but being a good friend, she didn’t give up until I told her. ‘Wow, you didn’t know about periods?” she asked. Then she explained in sixth-grade girl language what it meant and I began to feel better about it, especially since she had already started hers four months before and she was still alive.

Many years later I remembered the traumatic experience I went through and made sure my daughter was fully educated on the matter at the first sign of puberty. As I look back on my relationship with my mother, I know I realized at a very young age she did not like me very much. This dislike in my youth blossomed into a love-hate relationship. She loved to show me how much she hated me. She took every opportunity to show disapproval, disrespect, and dislike for anything I did, even if it was in a normal part of growing. I guess she had a large knot of warts on her rear.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 10, 2008 4:11 am

    You would not believe how many people I know who have similar stories to this one, Cricket. My mother was also mortally embarrassed to discuss menstruation with me but fortunately I had some older cousins who told me all about it. However, I did feel, like you, when I started my period that I was bleeding to death. I am sorry about the love-hate relationship you had with your mother. I have had my moments with my own mother too. I guess my Mum had a knot of warts at times too.

  2. October 10, 2008 8:24 pm

    I love the way you wrote this, with humour and fear at the same time! I had no idea that’s what someone had to do when they got their period with the belt and everything…I was born after that I guess…lol….I know you are not alone in the thought of bleeding to death, I’ve heard many others describe the same story. I was lucky in the fact my two older sisters had already gone through the ‘oh we’re going to die’ and they told me what puberty was and what to expect. My eldest sister even took me out to supper and explained everything to me, so when I did get it, there was no shock. My second eldest sis taught me how to shave. My mom never taught us anything about puberty. My sisters are 12 and 11 years older than me and they made good moms 😉 My mom wasn’t abusive though, you just didn’t talk about that stuff I guess.
    I had to smile at your wart line…LOL…I’ve never heard that expression before!

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