I remember some but not all of those early days.
When you're 4 and 5 years old, life is more about fun and playing. Skipping and dancing and friends. Not time and space, dates and order of sequence.
It's warm outside and these neighbor kids are so much smarter and always want to play games that confuse me. We were in trouble for saying the word "butt." Our mom considered it a bad word but these kids said way worse words ~
Did way worse things than saying the word "butt."
I instead go inside to find my mom. My big brother is there too.
My mom has dressed and says she's going out for cigarettes but tells us she will be back soon.
I don't want to make this about my mom.
She did the best she could. Three kids, a limited grasp of the English language and a job as a hair stylist with zero help or support from anyone...
It was a recipe for a disaster from the start, I suppose.
The day she left was much like any other.
She left and we waited.
We waited by that door like 3 tiny baby birds waiting for their mom to return to the nest.
Days went by.
We lived in the upstairs apartment of a tattered and worn old house.
We didn't know anyone except the wild neighbor kids.
There were downstairs neighbors but we never saw them. We knew they were there. We could hear them and smell the smells of food cooking below us.
Weeks went by.
My big brother did all that he could to care for us.
I remember one day he sat my sister and I down and told us that we were out of food. We were crying. Sobbing.
He said, "I have to do something wrong.
If not, we will have to eat grease. That's all we have left."
I remembered my eyes wide and crying, telling my brother "But I don't want to eat grease!"
There was a local A&P grocery store 3 blocks away. He would shove a choice cut of meat wrapped in white paper down the front of his 8 year old pants and run like the wind.
Whatever he could run with.
There were days he would fly thru the front door, throwing closed the locks.
Out of breath like the devil himself was on his heels... chasing him but we were fed.
We never had to eat grease.
He made us brush our teeth and go to bed at a certain time.
He got my sister and himself up and ready for school each day.
We ate a lot of rice. I mean a LOT of rice but we still waited by that door.
It never happened.
She never returned.
I have no concept of how long we were there alone but I think it was about 2 months. Someone turned us in to the Welfare Department. Probably the downstairs neighbors or the owner of that A&P with all of that missing food.
I will never forget that day as long as I live.
I had on these faded torn pink one-piece pajama's.
I was going to stay at a girl from the neighborhood's house for the night but something scared me.
I felt real fear. My gut was telling me to go home and some higher power was screaming in my ear to GO HOME!
Go Home Now!
I was spooked me so badly that I walked back home in the dark in my pajamas to the safety of my big brother and sister.
The police were there. Their cars were parked in front and the bright lights were flashing blue and red against the night sky. The dark blue uniforms of the very tall officers did little to comfort me.
They kept asking us over and over where our mom was. She had been gone so long now that it seemed like she was never there in the first place. At least to a 4 year old it seemed that way.
One officer picked me up. I'm sure I was dirty. I'm positive I smelled.
Tangled dirty blonde hair and a dirty grimy face. No shoes, just the soft footies built into the PJ's I wore day and night.
It seemed like that night went on forever.
Nothing really mattered. As long as I was with my big brother and sister, we were fine.
We were taken to the Police Station. I hid under the desk of the Police Sargent and refused to come out. No coaxing or food or candy would get me to come out of the safety of that dark cubby-hole. I remember the smell of the oiled wood and the pattern of the woodgrain. My face pressed into the wood as though it would let me become that desk. I wanted to live there. Under that desk.
It felt safe there. The more they tried, the deeper into the corner I pushed my dirty little self.
I remember hearing my mother's voice off in the outer halls somewhere. Crying.
I sunk deeper to the back of that desk. It was Quiet. Dark. Safe.
We were taken in the night to an orphanage.
The building was large, looming red brick. Tall dark windows that seemed to mock. Halls that echoed and seemed too large. Too large and scary for a small child with no mom. No one to give comfort. No lap to curl into.
It was very much like the movie Annie except there was a girls' side and a boys side. It was huge and it was scary.
My big brother was sent to "The Boy's Side." The boys and girls were never to go to the other side. I never saw the "Boy's Side."
The Girls' side had one very large room with about 60 beds.
Thirty on each side. Small iron beds all in a row pushed close together.
We showered and ate with kids that were older. All ages. All races. All orphaned.
One huge big room where everyone showered at the same time and used green Palmolive soap. The smell of that soap can bring those memories rushing back in a nano-second to me to this day. One over-sized bathroom with shower heads one after another built into the green tiled wall. No doors, no curtains.
I was the only child there that didn't go to school each day so the powers that be made the executive decision to either have me placed up for adoption or go to school at 4 years old.
Thankfully, I went to school at 4 years old.
Adoption would have separated me from my big brother and sister and that I would never have wanted to do. (My life would have been 100% better but I didn't know that then.)
It was all about to come crashing down too soon anyway.
Years would pass but evil was waiting.
Evil had a home for us.
Evil was our future....