The other night I was changing my clothes and looked down at a little round scar that I have on my stomach from the chicken pox. When I look at that scar, it makes me think back to being 4 years old. My parents had been divorced for about 6 months at this point. My mom had been in a serious car accident on Christmas Eve (1977) and we'd spent a great deal of time with our grandparents. My mom had her nose split open, her wrist broken and her knee sprained when a drunk driver decided to head out on the roads one night after a few too many eggnogs. I thought she was Frankenstein the first time she came to visit and I wouldn't go near her until she left and I screamed and cried for her to come back. I think of that scene a lot because it's such a symbol of the way our relationship has always been.
Anyway, the chicken pox. My mom was healed and finally back to work when my brother and I contracted the chicken pox from the kids of the lady who watched us. Her name was Connie and she had 6 kids. 6 mean kids. And 1 mean lady. And 1 brow-beaten husband, as I recall. Oh, and a really unkempt but sweet dog. You may have memories of having the chicken pox and spending that time being comforted and taken care of by your mother. That is the way I imagined it for everyone else, anyway. For me, it was just another example of us getting in the way. All a kid wants when they're sick and feeling lousy is to be comforted. Connie took care of us while we had the chicken pox.
Let me tell you about Connie. She was a mean, nasty woman who required me to face the wall during my nap. If I turned around in my sleep, I would be manhandled back into the facing-the-wall position. Needless to say, I didn't really sleep when I was at Connie's house. I don't even remember what she looked like but I remember being so afraid of her. I never felt like she treated anyone else as bad as she treated me, and I imagine that I thought that because it was happening to me.
I slept on a cot in the living room of Connie's house. This made it easier for my mother to slip in after she was done working at the bar (Offshore 21 where she was a waitress). She would come in at 3AM and wake us up to get us in the car and then put us in our own beds about 15 minutes later when we got home. Sometimes I think that's why I've never been able to get a good night's sleep. I always seem to be waiting to be woken up.
Once I peed in the cot at Connie's house. I was way past potty training, but Connie didn't allow us to get up once we went to bed. We were expected to hold it. When she discovered that I had urinated in the cot, she humiliated me by waking everyone up in the house to show them what I'd done. Not only that, she encouraged her children to taunt me. They laughed and pointed at me. I felt so ashamed of myself. I felt so worthless. I was 4.
These are just a couple of examples of what happened at Connie's house. I won't keep going because, frankly, it's too painful. You can imagine how nurturing she was with me when I had to go through the pain and discomfort of chicken pox at her house. Dirty, corn starch bath water and "suck it up" were not my idea of being cared for. I believe this experience is the reason that I am acutely aware of who is watching my child at all times. I almost never go out and would not dream of leaving him with someone that I don't know and trust as much as I trust myself. I am terrified of my little boy ever feeling that way.
We didn't stay at Connie's house for long, but it's not because my mom decided to take us from her house. One day, Connie was standing on top of her old hi-fi stereo dusting off a plant. Her house was always a mess and the hi-fi had a bunch of records on top of it. She slipped and fell and broke her back, right there in front of me. I mean RIGHT in front of me. The ambulance came and took her away and my mother was told she would be laid up for quite a while. I always felt bad that I was happy, so happy, when it happened. I wondered if it had happened because I had willed it to happen so I could get away from her. I imagined that I made it happen because I was looking at her. I'll never know the answer to that and I'm quite sure I didn't make it happen....but just the same I always have this little feeling of guilt (and pleasure) when I think of that day.
So, it was back to the child care drawing board for my mom. Luckily, the next stop was a nice one. But that's for another story.
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