Childhood, what was that? I couldn’t wait for it to end. The first eighteen months, I was the little princess, and then my brother was born. This should have been a happy time, but I still remember the loud noises coming from my parents’ room. Another eighteen months, and another brother was born. I learned later that she did not want to get pregnant and was trying to escape. That opportunity did not come because no sooner did my brother come home then my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery and hospitalizations followed, a full time nurse moved into the house to care for her, until the last hospital stay. Never got the chance to say goodbye. Her wish was that we live with her family, my father refused, forbidding us to see them ever again.
No sooner had my mother died when all of her pictures were gone; her name was never mentioned as if never having existed. My father disappeared into his own world and never again mentioned my mother’s name. He took away all of her memorabilia and angry with her family who thought he was not up to the task of childrearing, he broke off all communication. The school secretary lived next door and it was she who kept in touch with my mother’s family. The school allowed my aunts, to meet my brother and I who waited in cars to see us. My brother and I would run out for a few stolen moments of comfort. So it began, my furtive plans to keep my mother's memory alive-boy did that get me into trouble.
A string of disastrous housekeepers came and went. One had an affair with my father and seduced my brother. Another moved in with her two sons and stole all my brothers’ clothes when she left. We were on our own, making up games, and trying to raise money by putting on little shows.
By the time I was in the fifth grade, we were left alone to our own devices. This was great, a good time but short-lived. One year later, my father started dating the woman he would subsequently marry. My stepmother was tense, melodramatic, and abusive.From the outset, she hated me. Soon all the kitchen cabinets that held food were locked, food meagerly portioned, no television during the day, and I was not permitted to speak to my brothers.
I was further punished by never receiving Christmas or birthday gifts. Whenever I did eat at home it was alone after everyone and cold. An infraction was turning on the television during the daytime, she and her daughter came in and started pulling my hair battering my head, and I screamed until a neighbor came in and made them stop it. I never had any allowance and always needed to make do. I needed to get out, and began to sleep at the house of whichever friend would take me.
Once at friends an alcoholic mother got into bed with us and started pounding me. not nice. I grew older, and found out about a local theater. Life was beginning; the actors and staff cared for me-and made me happy. I began to learn simple tasks, like how to take care of a dressing room. Whenever I did go home, I needed to pry a window because I had no key. Once I was gone for three weeks and they never called. My friend’s parents gave me a sweet sixteen party- and eventually maybe remembering that it was my birthday- my father called. My friend’s mother told him that if he cared he would have called weeks earlier. This was the first time I remembered an adult defending me.
Schoolwork suffered, as I cut three times a week or so to work at the theater. People knew something was wrong, but most were fearful of intervening. Outside of the theater the only comfort I found was from two women who were involved in civil rights and some African American friends. I failed so many classes that I barely graduated from high school. And when I did, what I remember was walking off that field for the last time.