I’m not going to spill a sob story. I am going to say things that are hard to read, but what I’m really talking about between the lines, is resilience. Not victimization. Want someone to pity? Find another blog. That being said, I do want to talk about it, get it out, and close the book on it.
All my young life, I was a wild, spirited person, living in a quiet outer shell. I was an intellectual child, wise beyond my years, who loved reading, who loved doing my older aunts high school algebra homework by age 7, and who loved writing. I started writing stories when I was only 10. It was an escape. But, I had started the habit of escaping at a very young age. I was drawing with charcoal on concrete from as young as…. well, old enough to grasp my fingers around the lump of charred firewood.
From as far back as I can recall, I loved the thrill of a high. After being raped at age 14 by two boys from the high school I attended for just one year in Alabama, I moved to Virginia to live with my mother and, despite her being a chemical dependency nurse at a local mental hospital, I started using drugs like marijuana, and massive amounts of liquor to achieve the escape I longed for. I became an EMT at a local rescue squad at age 15. I wasn’t popular in high school. I wasn’t high maintenance, didn’t care about owning only one pair of jeans, and didn’t spend hours in front of a mirror getting ready for school. My priorities were schoolwork, and fulfilling my need to escape reality however I could on any given day. I went through boyfriends left and right between the ages of 15 and 18. I had been married twice by age 21. I was intensely sexual, and secretly loved every moment of it. I didn’t know why I had always been different from other women my age, but I would find out when I was 22 years old and pregnant with my first child.
I think that the buried memories of my young childhood came during that pregnancy, because it was the first time since it happened, that the part of my physical body that had been damaged so bad as a child, was once again being controlled by someone else, and like then, I was having constant abdominal pain.
The memory came in my 10th week of pregnancy. My cousin was digging in the closet and pulled out a ukelele that once belonged to my great-uncle Ray, who died when I was 7. I had always remembered him fondly. He was gentle and kind to me. He used to find great pleasure in feeding me candied orange slices. I was crazy about those things. He would entertain me by playing this old ukelele. He would sing and play, and I would dance in my little dress that my mother had hand stitched. I can still recall, looking down as I twirled around at his request, watching my little feet turn in my black dress shoes. That memory must have been of a holiday like Easter, because I hardly ever wore a dress.
My cousin playfully strummed the ukelele. Something stirred in the pit of my stomach, and my blood turned ice cold. Every internal warning bell, every heightened sense of awareness crept through my body starting from that cold pit, until it reached out into every pore of my skin, and I started to sweat. In that moment my ears were ringing, and I was breathing like a stalked animal hiding under a rock, praying to not be seen. I was outside of my body, watching what happened next.
I didn’t say a word. I gave her no warning. I was in a strange haze. I simply grabbed the instrument out of my shocked cousins hands, and smashed it into pieces against the wall…and without any explanation, walked out of the house, crying so hard I could barely see the ground in front of me. I was shaking, feeling vulnerable and betrayed. All I knew was that it was something that I recognized, but I knew it was from a very dark place that had no name… and I knew I hadn’t felt since I was very young.
When I was outside, I wrapped my hands around my pregnant belly, as if by doing so, I could check on my baby. The air felt different. I was no longer innocent, and the sky somehow knew it. I didn’t feel alone either. I felt the love and support of my family, even before I knew why. I immediately told my mother. She broke down in tears. She had known all along, hoping I would never remember.
Very quickly after that day, memories came. Little flashes here and there, triggered by different things. Springtime brought memories. That Easter I was hospitalized for dehydration because I couldn’t stop vomiting. I didn’t have morning sickness. I had constant all day and all night sickness. The usual joys of preparing for motherhood were not there. I would get sick just by going shopping, triggered by looking for a crib, buying baby clothes, a car seat. Although the clear memory of being raped by my great-uncle was of when I was 4 years old, other ones, of just being touched inappropriately and feeling helpless, or of fallacio , were pre-verbal, before my first steps.
When I was 20 weeks along, I found out that I was carrying a girl. I had known from the beginning, just because I felt very close to my unborn child. I had this undeniable connection, and I was becoming a tiger. I wanted to protect her even before she was born. I was scared to death of the world she was being born into. My only solace was that my abuser was dead, and he had been for a very long time. I joined a child sex abuse survivors group when I was 30 weeks along. I started seeing a psychiatrist regularly. I still wanted my memories to be made up, but you just couldn’t make up the things I was saying, and unfortunately they were being validated by surviving relatives who knew my great-uncle.
It turns out I was probably his last, in a long line of children including his own, who he violated. He was never arrested for it, even though he was caught several times and thrown out of where ever he was living at the time. He was always the first to volunteer to babysit. That was how he got me. My mother was in college to be a nurse at the time I was born. He babysat me from about age 6 weeks, when her maternity leave ended, until I was 4. Uncle Ray was thrown out of my grandmothers house when she walked in on him and me.
It happened the day I was wearing the dress, and spinning around and around, looking at my shoes. It’s no wonder I never saw that dress again. My mind blocks out the blood stains that I’m sure were there. I remember it was trimmed with red velvet stripes, had white lace under the skirt and on the sleeves, and had a bell sown into the hem, that I lived to jingle. I would spin until I got dizzy to hear it. I remember abdominal pain afterwards. Burning when I urinated, back to back unexplained urinary infections that concerned my pediatrician. I was an insomniac until I was about 7 years old, afraid of the dark and of what was around the corner.
Huh….7…..maybe on some level, at that tender age when I found out he was dead, I knew it was safe, even though I had already buried the memories of what he had done. He was my favorite uncle, when I was 7. Knowing now, that he could’ve destroyed my tiny womb and my ability to have children, by violating me with his adult body when my body was so small, still to this day I want to kill him. I’m 43, and that’s a waste of my energy.
With this cleansing breath, as I type this, I give that to God.