“All Parents Damage their children. It cannot be helped.
Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers.
Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.” – ‘The five people you meet in Heaven’ Mitch Albom
“There is no such thing as beyond repair” -Leesa
When I was Nine
It was Saturday morning. Tommy and I were sitting at the breakfast table. I was nine, he twelve. Dad came in the through the kitchen door. Tommy and I both looked up to say good morning but lapsed to silence upon seeing his face so stern, and more disturbing, mother behind him.
Mother always lay in weekend mornings where we delivered her a three-minute boiled egg, one slice of toast lightly buttered and a pot of tea, not for another half an hour though at least. Dad went to the kitchen sink whilst mother headed out the other side of the kitchen to our bedrooms.
Tommy and I became hyper alert. Something was going on. And in our family that something was usually crappy.
Mother re-entered the kitchen with my suitcase in hand and a smile on her face. Definitely boded ill. Unless we were going somewhere she wanted to go she was always too angry to smile. Tommy and I glanced at each other.
Dad spoke. “You are going to an orphanage today Leesa”.
For seeming eons a void of silence hung in the air as I stared at him, vaguely aware of mothers smiling face behind him, trying to process the words.
Slowly I looked back at Tommy. His eyes reflected the agony and shock I felt before a strange sense of numbness took over. My brother suddenly pelted away from the table, out the kitchen door, out the back door. I heard the click of the side gate and the scrape of the shed door bolt across the concrete and knew where he had gone.
I stared down at my bowl half full of now soggy cornflakes. To this day the memory is heavy with despair.
Dad told me to put up my dishes and go to the car. Mother just smiled at me as I followed his instructions. Dad followed me out.
As we walked to the car he called out to Tommy to come and say goodbye.
I went into the garage where I knew he would be.
There he was standing in the corner, his back to me. This is where we cut holes in grocery bags to pretend to be robots. Where we fought, played, laughed, argued. I asked him to turn round and say good-bye.
But he looked at me for a second and I saw the tears cascading down his face. I punched him on the arm. His pain threatened to overwhelm me. My mind silently screamed. I hated that I hit my brother; I could not help hitting my brother.
I didn’t want to leave him. But I could hear dads voice calling me sternly…I turned away…God…the pain was simply indescribable and thirty-six years later the tears still overwhelm as I evoke this time in my mind. But in that time there were no tears. Just obedience and a deep deep pain that I had no name for.
I got into the car. I was silent on the drive. So was Dad. We finally entered this driveway that took us into this absolutely terrifyingly enormous building that had its courtyard in the middle. The building, (I was later to find it was a convent), struck shadows of varying intensity over the courtyard. It was scary. A woman around my parent’s age approached our car. She was a nun, the first I’d ever seen.
I looked at my dad for the first time since leaving the house. And said my first word.
He spoke without any emotion in his voice. I can still see him sitting in the car, both hands gripping the steering wheel though we were parked staring straight out the windscreen. He said, “One bad apple can rot all the others in the basket.” Another part of me sank in an ocean of despair.
I was a nine-year old rotten apple.
My next memory sees dad gone and I’m standing in what they called a flat. There must have been fifteen or so kids in there with some more nuns.
These kids were rowdy and loud. I was silent and subdued. One kid saw the leg of my teddy and grabbed him out of my bag. She started banging his head on the ground. I asked her to stop. She didn’t. Without another word I jumped on the kid, furiously punching her head with no intention of ever stopping. The nuns weren’t happy with me. I was labelled a troublemaker.
All I was doing was saving teddy.
Next I was in bed and finally couldn’t control the overwhelming grief, fear, intense loneliness and self-hatred that made me vomit over and over…literally.
Tears poured and I couldn’t control the noise of my sobs. Some older girl heard me being as I was in a dormitory with two endless rows of beds.
“Hey who was that man you came in with?”
“Why are you here if you have parents?”
I couldn’t answer her. How could I tell her? How could I ever admit it to anyone?
Because mother hates me because I am bad. They are giving me back. They adopted me when I was three months old but I was a dud.
I make my mother unhappy which makes dad and Tommy and Trevor unhappy so they have had to get rid of me for the sake of the family.
Mother had a real daughter. She died. But she would have been the best daughter and made mother very happy.
She would have loved lace and pretty things and not wanted to climb trees and talk to the sky. She would have loved making mother a cup of tea not having her head in those bloody books. She would have been better cleverer, prettier, and certain not strange, stupid, head-in-the-clouds and so bad even her real mother didn’t want her.
Dana would never have made mother beat her over and over on a daily basis. Dana would have made mother happy.
Dad kept asking me to make mother happy. I tried. I failed. But I couldn’t tell the girl that. So I stayed silent.
Pain. The agony of what a failure I was as a daughter…the fear of this new place…this horrible building and these strange nuns and these wild kids. No brother. No dog. No familiarity. I didn’t even have my books to run too.
It overwhelmed me and crushed me. I had no protection…I wasn’t old enough yet. I clung to my teddy with all my being. All my love and all my safety were now in this small white bear that was going to be required to give comfort on a high level…indeed for years to come.