I had always lived in very small towns. A bar and a church were all the towns had. But then, what else do you need? I usually lived with the minister of the one church, at least until he kicked me out for some offense or other. Like one time I got kicked out because I liked to wear two different colored sox. They said I was a bad influence on their children. So Christian of them to take me in, too bad there god didn’t give them the strength to tolerate my little quirks. But I never really minded, because it just meant a new adventure, new people to meet, new places to see. Although just last night, I dreamed that the very same Lutheran minister that threw me out because of my sox, was at my door. He came in and apologized. He gave me a huge bear hug. I stayed in his arms and felt the warmth and love. It felt good. So maybe it did bother me a little. Maybe as a child I did wish some of these foster parents would love me, just a little. Wouldn’t it have been nice if I could of felt that no matter what I did, I would still be loved and cared for? But that was not the reality of my childhood. I knew that what I did, how I acted, what I said did matter very much. My actions decided if I got to eat or not. What I said decided if I had a place to sleep at night. My quirks decided if I would be packing my boxes once again. I went to a different school every year. I lived in an orphanage a good part of my younger years. Actually, that was easier. The nuns at the orphanage would just beat me in the linen closet if I did some offense, not kick me out in the cold. Like the time I painted the imported Italian marble statue of Jesus with flowers and grass. I rubbed red flowers on his toenails. I love red toenails. I have red toenails now. Football head wanted to do it too but I said no so he went and told on me. Mother Superior came sailing down the garden path with murder in her eye. “How dare you deface the son of God!” she screamed.
I replied timidly, “I just wanted to make him pretty. He’s all white!. He needed some color!”
“This statue cost thousands of dollars! It is imported italian marble. The Pope himself blessed it.You have ruined it. Your father will have to pay for this!”, said Mother Superior putting her ugly face close to mine.
I thought to myself, “Good luck, lady. If you can find my father, let me know. I have a few things I’d like to talk to him about myself.” She slapped me across the face as though she knew what I was thinking. She just kept slapping me till I fell to the ground sobbing. One thing I learned from all the beating I received in “The Linen Closet” was after a few hits- cry and cry loud and hard. They won’t stop hitting till they are sure you are hurt. The only way they can know you are hurt is to cry dramatically. Some kids think they want to save their dignity and not shed a tear no matter how many times they are hit with a piece of garden hose. They make it a battle of the wills. All that does is prolong the beating and guaranteed that the nun will be on the look out for any excuse to beat you again. My brother was like that. He was so proud. A Nun would beat and beat him until welts would swell up red and angry on his arms and legs. But he would just stand there not flinching with a smug smile on his face, just to drive those nuns crazy. Finally the nun would stop and put down the hose tired from the effort.
“Go! Get out of my sight!”, she would scream,”Next time I will let Sister Edwards beat you, she is as strong as two men. She’ll wipe that grin off you face.” The point is: they may have beat us and never loved us but we knew they could never throw us out. No matter how much we wanted them to do so.
I wonder how much of this affects me now? Am I so defensive because I am worried that if I am accused of doing the wrong thing, I will be turned out on the street? Am I entertaining because I feel that if I amuse others they will give me a place to stay, some food? Am I sexy because I want to seduce men to take me in and take care of me?
I think I’ve gotten over most of these issues. I feel very capable of taking care of myself. When I’m tired or stressed I might revert back to childish behaviors but on the whole I think I’ve come to terms with my stormy childhood. Dreams bring some of the memories and maybe hidden feelings back. The hug from the minister points out to me that I also craved love. I never felt that. I just felt a need for survival. I don’t even remember thinking about receiving love. I just wanted to survive. But at some level I must have felt that need too. It just was at the bottom of the list. I don’t think it has made me hardened to love. In fact I am a very loving person. I think when I met my husband, Danny, he taught me all about love. He shows me unconditional love. No matter what I do or say he will always love me. I met him when I was 15 and he always poured love on me like pancake syrup. He tells me 5 times a day he loves me. He calls several times from work and tells me how wonderful I am. He has helped me heal any scars I received from my crazy life with his unfailing love. He always kids me that he got me out of the gutter and made me what I am today and he is right. Without his love and sunshine, I would have withered and died. I may have never even known what love could be. I know I was lucky to have met him, but then again I get a feeling that we have been together though many lifetimes. That this life was meant to be a contrast, a lesson in contrasts. A loveless childhood versus a love-filled adult life. Without the darkness, how would I have appreciated the light?