In continuation of the memoir I am doing with my seniors. Chapters 3 and 4. You already saw Chapter 2, my open letter.
CHAPTER 3: The Not so Adorable Childhood
When most people think of their earliest memories, they probably think of all the happy things. The quintessential “rainbows and butterflies” of life. But, that isn’t me. I wish it was. I wish that when I contemplated writing this chapter of my life I thought, “oh, I’ll write about that time when my brothers and sister and I did [insert happy thing].” Except, here is the thing, we didn’t. Whatever those happy things were, we didn’t do them, because we were too busy trying to stay alive. We were too busy protecting ourselves from the monsters in the house.
My earliest memories are memories of abuse. Of yelling, of thrown punches, of hands in places they shouldn’t be. My childhood was anything but rainbows and butterflies. I don’t begrudge the past though. And I don’t even blame the people who hurt me. I blame the liquid rage, the liquid courage. My father was a raging alcoholic. He was a genuinely nice guy when he didn’t drink and I think we must have had some good times together because surely he wasn’t always drunk. I just don’t remember those times.
And my mother, well, she was a narcissist. Nothing I did was ever good enough. I started talking in full sentences at 2 but it wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t my sweet sister. I could write my full name first, middle, and last by the time I was 2 and a half. I was like a one trick pony to my father. But my mother was never impressed, not even when I started reading at 4. She was perfectly happy to get me out of house and into pre-k though. It was always like that; she would drive me to perform and then she would tell me how awful I was at everything. I wasn’t skinny enough or pretty enough for pageants. I wasn’t aggressive enough for softball. I wasn’t enough of anything.
That was my childhood. It was a childhood of “not enough.” It was a childhood of staying invisible so that I didn’t get abused or used for entertainment. It was anything but adorable.
Chapter 4: Sanctuary in the Schoolhouse
I was a precocious child and I started school at the early age of 4. The teacher was apprehensive because she knew my emotional development was not quite up to par with my intellectual development. My parents, however, being the stubborn people they are, insisted that I start school. At first, I was SO excited. There is pure glee in my first day of school picture.
After becoming acquainted with my new teacher, however, that glee quickly faded. Ms. Grimes was an evil witch. She was the type of woman that yelled at 4 and 5 year old children because they weren’t doing what she asked. I mean, hello, lady, did you not get the memo that little kids need to be taught how to follow instructions? The more she yelled, the more attacked I felt, the more I hated school.
The next year I got an amazing teacher, Mrs. McClain. She was kind, tender, gentle. She never yelled at us. She always gave us hugs if we wanted them. I was smitten with her. She became more of a mother to me than my own mother. And that is how school became my sanctuary.
I took respite in learning again. No matter how many crappy teachers I had in the years that followed, no matter what kind of ridiculous things those teachers tried to pull on me (like putting me in remedial reading because I refused to read out loud; I was a stubborn child), I persisted in my love affair with education.