There is a time in the early morning, right before dawn that I still get a bit spooked to this day about my past. It happens more often than I would like. It rushes at me.
Too quiet. Too many memories.
You know that time of day when it's near silent and the entire world seems to still be sleeping. The sun isn't up yet but you know that the day will begin with you or without you.
That time of day.
It is a haunting time of day for me and sometimes I have to run find a loved one to hug or be sure not to be alone. Something about that time of day connects me to the little girl I used to be.
Memories of childhood demons that still seem to drift back into my consciousness and it takes me back to that time and place. That time when it all seemed so dark. Dark, but never, not once did I feel hopeless.
I think that is what Bob and Barbara tried to beat out of me.
They couldn't. Hard as they tried.
I always knew somewhere deep inside me that there was hope.
Soon, I was going to need it. Lot's of it.
Cold weather and dark dreary heavy days.
They weigh on me now as they did back then.
Things in our house began to take a twisted, really ugly turn around this time.
You see, I am about to become a teenager.
Girls at school all taking about their periods, tampons.
I was completely clueless. A young girl needs to be of a certain weight to begin that process. I probably didn't weigh 70 pounds.
I was so behind all of my friends emotionally and maturity-wise.
Being denied food takes it's toll. My clothes hung on me and I caught every sickness that was out there. Mumps, measles, chicken pox, colds, flu.
Somewhere I got a nasty virus on my lip and missed over 3 weeks of school. My lips were green and orange/brown with pus and seeping blisters. Caked and bloody lower lip that would not heal.
Open sores that seeped pus. Green.
Weeping and putrid.
Could it be from eating unclean food, mice feces or vomit?
See a doctor? I don't recall seeing a doctor since we left the orphanage.
Teachers and friends were beginning to notice.
Why are you so thin? Why do you look so lank, pale and pathetic?
My eyes sunken in from malnutrition and lack of sleep. My tiny boney back beginning to hunch over from lack of proper nutrition.
I had learned that you can drink syrup from the bottle and no one notices the amount if you take it in small amounts at a time.
Mrs. Butterworth syrup in the dark brown bottle was hard for Barbara to monitor any missing amount. I took a pickle from a pickle jar once and was beaten so bad I could barely walk. Barbara counted pickles?
Of course she did. Keep us weak and hungry. Ugly and useless.
I missed more and more days of precious school.
I ate baby aspirin to alleviate the hunger pangs. Two olives at a time not missed but take 4 or more and it was a certain beating.
Flour was never missed so mix it with water and it was a meal for the day. Raw and pasty but it kept the constant hunger away for a day...
My nights were filled with nightmares and terror. So tense I would wake up from sleepwalking or even worse, a dream so horrific, I thought I was in hell.
Even in sleep I was on edge. Afraid.
Questions I was too afraid to answer. Too young to know the right answer may be an end to my own nightmares and those of my sister's too.
Questions but no clear answers.
Why all the bruises and scars? Why aren't you showering after gym class? Why don't your ever brush your teeth?
WHY didn't I open my mouth?
I can't really give you an answer except as with most victims of domestic violence, we learn early not to "talk" about it.
You learn to live your life tense. Never relax. The next slap or punch or fist or pinch or burn.
Tension. It drives you. Your focus is to get thru each day with the least amount of pain possible. Tipping that scale could, and most likely would, cause more pain.
To yourself or to someone I loved more than myself, my sister.
You learn quickly that one small word or glance or a silent plea for help could cause more pain and the results were always the same.
Pain for you or pain for who you love.
Besides, who would believe us over them?
Some disheveled waif of a kid that probably smelled bad and had disgusting hygiene? Clearly no one.
Bob's mother Maggie would come out to the farm and ask me why I was so bruised and bloody? What do you do to yourself?
I would mutter something, unable to tell her that her son was a monster....
Her daughter in law equally as evil.
I wanted to tell her. I wanted to cry and beg and plead with her to get us OUT of here!
She was a kind woman.
She knew. She just chose to do nothing.
Barbara tells my sister and I that Child Welfare is coming out to do a Home Study and will want to talk to us.
"If you open your mouth and say one word about Bob or I, we will make sure you go back to Cary Home. Back to the orphanage."
Really? Wow, I would love that!
My heart was singing! My face must have looked like she was about to give me the greatest gift.
She made going back to the orphanage seem like a punishment. It would be like opening the gates to Heaven if only they would send us back there!
"Don't think for a second they will put you back there, you idiot. You would go to JAIL!
I will tell them you STEAL food.
You're a thief!
You're so stupid and ugly, who is ever going to believe YOU?
I hate you. They will hate you more. You are worthless and ugly. You are nothing!
You will go to jail and they will take our kids, my babies, to Cary Home and it will be all YOUR fault," Barbara sneered at us as she pinched the soft flesh of my upper arm, kicking my sister as she passed out of the room.
Jail? Oh horrors. Not jail. Anywhere but jail! And those little innocent babies of theirs to an orphanage? No!
How stupid were we to believe her lies.
Barbara made us dress for the visit carefully. Long sleeves. Long pants to hide bruises and scars. Our hair plastered with Dippity Do, clean and combed. Finally given a toothbrush to clean our teeth. Our faces scrubbed clean. Did we almost look normal?
The case worker arrived and now the memory seems a blur. I was probably so focused on not slipping up and fear of jail that I blanked most of the visit out. I do remember her asking us if Barbara and Bob were "good" to us.
Barbara sitting there with her face set in a pasted on smile looking so "motherly," so angelic. Her eyes darting from me to the Welfare worker. She knew Norma would never have the nerve to talk but I might.
Open your mouth. Scream and tell her.
Ask the Social Worker if we can talk alone.
Barbara's threatening face loomed across the room. Open my mouth and HOPE for rescue or suffer Barbara's evil wrath if the Case Worker does nothing? Could any word I mutter impact her enough to do something?
The opportunity slipped away.
I never saw another case worker arrive to interview us.
Mission accomplished for them. Now that they passed that test with flying colors, Barbara and Bob had a free pass.
The Case Worker did have a message for us:
Our mom wanted to see us!
Bob and Barbara would handle that issue in their own special way later...
As I said before....
Things began to get ugly and twisted.......