My Remembrance takes the reader behind closed doors, a silent witness to harsh words, brutal beatings. But through it all God’s love shines through, creating beauty from the ashes.
From the time we were small children, we always sensed that there was something different about our mom. She just wasn’t like the moms our friends seemed to have.
Parenting is usually, to a certain extent, learned from one’s own parents. Children learn what they see. If a child is exposed to excessive violence and negative feedback, that child commonly accepts that as the norm. He or she then has a greater chance of parenting their own children the way that they themselves were parented. This is not always the case. I want to make clear that children are not pre-destined to become their parents. If a person is shown another way, they are fully in control of who they become.
But our mother was not so fortunate. Our grandmother had a violent temper that was often punctuated by sharp blows to her children’s heads. She had neither intelligence nor homemaking skills. So she had nothing positive to pass on to her children, even our mother, her only daughter.
One summer my sister and I got a glimpse into what our mother’s childhood must have been like. Maggie, Adam, and I spent about a week at our grandmother’s home, a one bedroom apartment in Binghamton, New York. That week we lived on bologna sandwiches, undercooked French fries and Fruit Loops. If our grandmother was short on any of these things, she thought nothing of sending my sister and me across town to get groceries. We couldn’t have more than four and ten, at the most.
It was Maggie’s job to get Adam to take his nap. One day, though, she was unable to get him to stop screaming and settle in for his nap. Our grandmother grew irritable and nasty, finally blowing up. Thrusting her hands deep into my sister’s hair, she grabbed two handfuls and started yanking her viscously back and forth snarling, “Why can’t you make him go to sleep?” Terrified, I started to cry. Casting an angry glance over her shoulder, our grandmother demanded, “Why is she crying?” “’Cause she doesn’t want you to hurt me,” my sister whimpered. Our grandmother promptly released my sister’s hair.
This is the sort of person our mother was exposed to every day of her childhood. Therefore, it is not all that surprising that she herself turned out that way.
In hindsight, it’s a miracle that all of us survived infancy. Some of mom’s choices presented potential danger. Being so close in age, Adam and I were in cribs at the same time. On at least one occasion, mom left us in our cribs napping while she helped dad with fieldwork. Unknown to mom, I was able to get out of my crib. Climbing out, I toddled down the hall to Adam’s room, helped him down and led him downstairs. Together we ran into Dad’s office, grabbed a handful of cookies, and scurried back upstairs and into our cribs before mom returned.
In our house, you had to be practically dying before you were taken to the doctor’s office. When I was about seven or eight years old, I contracted some type of stomach bug. I vomited severely every few minutes for several days, feeling as if my guts were being ripped out. Finally dad took me to his doctor, who checked me out and tried to get me to give him a urine sample. I flat out refused so he sent me home with some sort of white liquid in a blue bottle. Within a couple of days I was much better, but if they had waited any longer, I probably would have been hospitalized from sheer dehydration.
It was about that time I also received a severe head injury, courtesy of my brother, Adam. He had a habit of following me everywhere, which would sometimes get on my nerves. At these times I would go into the downstairs bathroom and lock the door to keep him out. He would then become so enraged he would grab a nearby stool and slam it against the door, leaving deep gashes in the wood, until I came out.
One night things played out as usual. Barricaded inside, I flinched at every blow to the door. Suddenly there was silence. Waiting a few minutes I assumed that he had grown frustrated and left. Opening the door, I stepped through and into a world of pain and the warmth of my own blood. My brother had removed his belt, lurking in silence, concealed by the darkened hallway. As I stepped through the doorway, he swung his belt at my head, buckle first. The edge of the buckle hit my head, splitting it open.
My screams brought mom running. She had been unable to convince Adam to stop banging on the door, and not willing to physically remove him, she had gone to another part of the house.
I was not given any hugs or real sympathy. I was given a cold washcloth to hold against my head. I was then sent to bed, instructed to hold the washcloth against my head while I slept. I bled profusely all night, testifying to the fact that I should have gotten stitches. Somehow I lived through it, in spite of the blood loss. I still have a faint scar as a reminder.
About the Author…
Maxine L. Owen lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and four children. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading and spending time with her family. She and her husband have six children between them, two of whom are grown.