I never understood why I can not remember the good things in my childhood without remembering the bad. There were certainly more good things than bad, too bad I have to remember the hurt before I remember the joy. I remember the slap before the hug and I was hugged a lot. I remember the punishment of writing out lines that demeaned me and it only happened once and to this day I do not know why that is.
When I was just a little boy my mother would sit in an oversized over stuffed chair in the livingroom to watch television and we her 3 children used to crawl on top of her and watch television that way until it was our time to go to bed. My mother never complained about our weight on her, or being uncomfortable and so it was that we were all together every night secure in her strength, her warmth and smell. One family inseparable, but to remember that for a long time I had to remember this story. One day while watching the Perry Como show I referred to the entertainer as my mother’s man and she told me not to say that, but my brother and sister and aunt laughed and so I repeated it and got a slap and ordered out of the chair. I never got back into the chair, because I chose not to, but to this day I think of the slap first and all the other days in the chair last, or because I am talking about the slap.
Is it that the bad is so traumatic that it erases the good or clouds it so much that we can’t see anything else? I don’t know I am no doctor, I just know that somehow for me the pain, hurt and tears for me are hopelessly intertwined and so nothing out of my childhood memories ever starts with a smile. I used to shop a lot with my mom when I was a little boy, because it made me feel so special to be with her and for every time except one our shopping ended with us going to lunch, or getting an ice cream, or some other treat, but to remember this I must remember the Easter time when things were not so good for my family. This one day just before Easter there was no money for new clothing, a family tradition in my family, but off we went mother and I and we went shoplifting not shopping. I was dressed in the waiting rooms and bathrooms of the department stores with my sister’s new outfit, my brother’s new outfit and my own outfit and all of that covered by the clothing I had on when we left the house. I remember sweating and being so afraid. I remember knowing that stealing was wrong, my mother had taught me that. I knew if this was happening that my mother needed my help and so we did it together, but I never forgot the fear and all of those treats and lunches went out of the window. We never went shopping together again, I always pretended to have other plans when she asked. I knew that she would not do it again, or did I? All I know is to think of shopping with her the 1st thing that comes to mind is that one time, that one Easter.
There were so many great Christmases in my house when I was a child and the one that leads the way is the one where my brother got punished for running away from home. He was 13 years old in high school and had done something so wrong that he thought it better not to come home for a while. Well when he did come home he was punished with lashes and he was told that there would be no Christmas for him. I could not have imagined the pain and the hurt as he watched all of us open our gifts from under the Christmas tree and not one was under there for him. There were no toys, no clothing or new boots. There was no candy and no Christmas stocking. He never complained, there were no tears, but I felt an emptiness in the bottom of my stomach and my heart ached for him and to this day I do not think that I have ever felt such a feeling of despair like that ever again. All of the other Christmases before that Christmas morning got buried and that is the one I remember like it happened yesterday.
It is the same for everything in my life at that time school, community centers, church picnics you name it there is always something there that is not nice that over shadows the good times and it is often only one incidence although on some occasions it has been more than once. I remember going on church picnics and work picnics that the whole community attended. There were upwards of 25 busses loaded up with kids and adults let alone the 50 to 60 car loads of people. There was food, games, prizes and everyone drank there fill and ate until they thought they would burst and most of the time a good time to me was had by all, but there was the time when a friend of my mother’s and woman I used to call auntie got too drunk and passed out behind a big rock protruding out of the ground. Well I was passing by as she started to come to life, but she was still drunk and called to me to help her up. Then she was pulling me behind the rock and I noticed that her pants were half off and she was offering me what no adult should have been offering a child. I got away from her easy enough, but I never quite felt the same towards her again, or any adult female for that matter. I never was afraid of older women, but I did start to think that they were all fair game and I ran through my mother’s friends in short order, me using them and them using me and when there were no more aunties I moved on to older non friends of the family. This is my lasting memory of those outings not the swimming or the games, or even the group sing alongs on the bus.
I tell you this in my ongoing battle with adults to understand that it only takes once to turn a child’s happy memories to nightmares. I get no joy out of reliving the past in this manner, but the events of each and everyday tell me that we as adults, government and parents are still not getting it. We as a country are still trying to minimize the effects of child abuse. We as a people still are trying to rationalize why child abuse occurs instead of doing something about it. We choose to do more studies and hold more symposiums and do nothing to save our little ones. Parents murder their children in their sleep and we say poor father he was depressed, his wife left him and send him off to a mental hospital who declares him sane the day after the verdict.
We have parents killing their children for honour, killing them for religious reasons and killing them because they are afraid of what the future has in store for them, but the biggest killer of innocent children is willful ignorance. The ability of the government to ignore what it knows to be true so as not to embarrass the nations good name. When children first complained to their parents that the priest and nuns were abusing them the parents forced their children to say nothing and suffer in silence, worrying about their own excommunications rather than their children. When a child complains in school about bullying the school exiles the bullied child and goes into a code of silence as to not ruin the reputation of its school. When the government hears all of this it down plays the whole package and for a short time makes laws and loud noise, that it has no way of following through on, or backing up. In this manner nothing gets done and the next generation of abused frightened children are created and they like me and all the others before and after me grow into angry adults, that will think of the sad things first before thinking of the glad and the memories of the abused child will be passed on to the next generation. This is the life and memories of the abused child living in a world where they are not as important as the reputation of the church, the school and the country.