Recently a childhood friend had passed away. I had a special fondness for him, as I remember him always being kind. It stirred up restless memories of childhood. My eldest sister always said that we were the” boxcar kids” Children who had fallen between the cracks of society. What made us different? Well some would say we functioned fairly well in a hellish situation, so well! that no one reached out to help. Was it that we were intelligent enough to keep our grades up? attractive enough that it couldn't possibly happen to us? well dressed if you don't look like poverty then life must be fine, with no visible signs of abuse, we continued to function.
Though abuse was not uncommon to any of us,badly bruised my sisters camouflaged well with heavy wool tights. We spent as much time outdoors as possible, from local youth groups to the parks swing set. Still each day we woke in anticipation of what the day held. My mother being a very emotional soul could easily be red through the eyes. If the day were going to be calm her eyes were warm and inviting, If she was distraught then her eyes appeared like fire, not necessarily signs of fear, but loss of hope.
Nature became our best friend, we would spend summer swimming down at the river, I still have fond memories when I see soapwort growing on the edge of water ways. The river was a dangerous place and yet we made it our personal play ground.
One summer day I was approximately eight years old my little sister four years old, she and I were cooling of in the muddy green not so clear river water. We used the old intertubes as floats, ones that were from the abandon tires down by railroad tracks. We use to look forward to the boats coming by creating the closest thing to a ocean vacation we would ever get. Though the water wasn't deep in some places you could step one foot away and find the water well over your head. Without much thought we sat upon the rubber float. Suddenly the waves from the just passing coal barges moved in , the waves strong shook my little sisters body lose from the float. Without a scream she fell beneath the muddy waters. She was barely able to swim and she went under. I couldn’t see her, I panicked and my heart raced, I called out her name and her little hand reached up out of the water. I quickly leaned forward and holding the float with one hand, I reached for her pulling her closer to me. She had swallowed water she looked at me and she said you saved my life. I could see the fear in her and yet we never spoke of it from that time after. We were not necessarily close as little sisters go, we were so different, but we kept and eye out for each other. We were four very different young ladies, each securing our place in the sybling order. Dependent upon each other for our very survival.
The constant uprooting of family had me looking for some kind of stability, sometimes the moves were so close from one neighborhood to the next, to a child it was a whole another world. This house that looked like a mansion sat high on the hill, I could see it from almost every place I lived. I thought of it as a castle, as it had this huge steeple and a large ball that sat high on top of the steeple. It was my stability, something that didn’t leave me and I could relate to. It was close enough to see and yet so very far away. One day I promised myself I would drive by to get a closer look. I am not sure if it still stands, I haven’t been back to the old neighborhood in years.
My second born sister has been gone some 15 yrs now, her life was a ongoing struggle and she left this earth way to soon. I laugh when I hear tales of dysfunction , as we say we put the D in dysfunction. But that wasn’t necessarily true, we did learn how to function and survive in the most insane situations.
I have listened to many people through my recent travels,as many people speak of their lives, many quick to place blame.I never once thought to place blame for the decisions made in my life. Once my sister and I spoke as adults about childhood, She said to me what would it have been like to be born into another family. I think we might have been very different people, better or worse, is to be seen.
There is a stigma attached to seeking help. My father believed that help meant interference and unwanted interference was a unwelcome visitor. Silence is golden.......