Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Signs and the Imagination

This past weekend I finally told my sister about this blog and explained to her how therapeutic it felt writing about my past experiences with our parents. She brushed over it lightly. I knew she didn’t really want to know the details of what I knew about our family life. She has heard stories told from other relatives but not really from me. From the time she was born, I made a resolve in my mind at the age of 8 that I would protect her by any means necessary from the atrocities that I had to witness. So when I sensed that a blow- up was about to occur, I would remove her from the situation.

I was already programmed to know when a fight would break out. I would see the “signs”. Late at night on the weekends, my father would come home drunk, decked out in his slobbering binge drinking regalia. This was almost always a recipe for disaster. He might silently stare at my mom with the flickering fire of content in his eyes; this was a sign that an eruption was about to occur. Or, he would go out of his way to create a totally pointless argument. For example, when he came home from work, he would feel the vintage yellow rotary phone on the wall in the kitchen to see whether it was warm or cold. If it was warm, that meant my mother was talking on it with her friends, and this “horrid act” was forbidden. If she truly was speaking on the phone and heard my father’s keys in the door or the garage door opening, I would watch her jump immediately and rush off of it and head upstairs to appear busy with some household activity like separating laundry or tailoring his clothes. Sadly, my mom was trained like Pavlov’s dogs. When he felt the warmth of the phone, that was an automatic argument and almost always, grounds for a beating.

Anyway, when I would see the signs, I would move my sister to another room and engage her in some creative play with our toys; something fun that would distract her. I even transformed our once dusty, box-ladened basement into a Playland/Classroom. My mother topped it off with a fluffy cream-colored carpet that we would make snow angels and roll around on pretending it was snow. The two clothes lines above served as ski lifts for the Barbies. In that basement I taught my sister how to read, which was essential to delve deeply into the pleasantly distracting world of the imagination. Although my father forbid me from reading anything fictional (including the Bible which he deduced was fictional) I made sure to introduce my sister to the literary land of fiction starting with Shakespeare who I loved. She became an avid reader of everything and right now her literary resume is a long one that spans all through the classics.

So when I mentioned this blog to my sister, I knew it wouldn’t be on her to do list of works to delve into but I just thought I should make her aware of it. I brought up one experience from the blog to her attention and my normally extremely talkative sister whose mouth my mother proclaimed ran like faucet water and who she prophetically described as the next Oprah Winfrey, went silent. She has witnessed some of our parent's tamer fight scenes but there are some events that I screened her from that she is still not aware of to this day. The rape incident stunned her into a silence so strange that I decided at that moment to continue to shield her from some things for her sake. Not everyone can handle hearing the grave details of abuse. Imagine the children forced to experience it first hand everyday. Our imaginary winter wonderland in the basement was our great escape. There, our laughter painted the walls and our snow angels tatooed the carpet. This was our secret place of protection. Little did we know that our mother would later die there on the fluffy cream-colored carpet.

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