cartoon cow writing at a desk

Dedicating Vegetable Chatter to Debbie (3.17.17)

I dedicated my second book called Vegetable Chatter to Debbie. Information comes to me that I cannot shake off and I trust it. At first, it felt incredibly egotistical to dedicate a book to myself, but over time I have come to realize that I am recognizing and honoring little Debbie, the child within myself.

As a survivor of incest, I now realize that I unconsciously created the book called Vegetable Chatter for the little girl inside of me that did not get to be a child. Sure I was free from this trauma the first 8 years of my life, but once the shift occurred, it was all hands on deck to just cope and survive. I had a conversation with a fellow healer yesterday and she asked me, “What kind of child were you before the abuse happened?” I don’t have happy, carefree memories of childhood. First of all, my parents placed me in daycare at the age of 3 for 2 years. This was back in 1966 before daycare became prevalent. I hated the entire experience. My brother who was a year older than me was in the same daycare, but he was grouped with the kids his age downstairs in the building. All I wanted to do was be with my family members – someone familiar. The primary memories that I have of daycare is battle ax women acting like prison wards. There was no love, no light, no joy, no playfulness. I quickly learned that life in this world was like a prison system.

One strong memory I have of daycare is sitting down at a long table full of children eating a snack. Apparently one of my parents had given me a penny that morning. I remember throwing up the penny on the table while we were eating and then a heavyset masculine woman swooped in like a hawk, scooped up my penny, and harshly scolded me for my behavior. I also remember the bitch never giving me my penny back. I didn’t know the concept back then, but I was robbed. Robbed of enjoying a penny – a small token gift from one of my parents. Robbed of any explanation as to how to manage coins, robbed of a teachable moment to not put coins in your mouth and to not put foreign objects in your mouth while you are eating, etc. All I experienced was swift and harsh punishment along with public embarrassment and shame.

Another memory from daycare was being forced to stay inside the daycare facility, which was a renovated tri-level home, to be with the owner’s granddaughter when she was sick one day. I remember looking out the window and yearning to go outside to play. Instead, I was forced against my will to stay inside with a girl that I don’t even remember being my friend. As an adult, the situation seems even more bleak. Thanks for making me stay inside with the sick kid so that I could be exposed to more of her germs.

One other significant memory of daycare is a battle ax glaring at me from the doorway while I stood in the bathroom next to the toilet feeling frightened and full of shame. Maybe I was being potty trained or maybe I wet my underpants. How ironic that I attended a facility called Peter Pan Day Care Center, yet felt like my childhood was ransacked by Captain Hook.

I had one year of staying home with my mother all by myself at age 5. My brother had entered the first grade and I felt like I hit the jackpot. I had my mom all to myself. I mainly remember her making me lunch every day, having no one to play with, and watching TV most of the time. We never went anywhere special that I can remember, she never read to me, we didn’t play games, we didn’t do arts and crafts projects, etc., but I felt happy.

Once I began first grade, it was back to feeling like I was in prison again being herded around like cattle. I love cows and herds of cows, but I don’t want to be herded around like a cow in a herd. One of the worst parts of going to school was going to the school nurse whenever I fell down and skinned my knees during recess. Those trips to the nurse felt numerous and I always had on tights which made the process worse. The nurse was rude, harsh, and cold hearted. She threw iodine on anything and everything and the only permanent expression on her face was scorn.

Second grade was my peak year. I had the same teacher from first grade Mrs. Mandlawitz who selected me as one of the students that could be trusted with important responsibilities. This unique beacon of hope in my life also recognized that I was an artist. I don’t ever remember anyone else validating my artistic skills up until that point of my existence. Mrs. Mandlawitz helped me to recognize and develop the artistic part of myself.  My new role as one of the teacher’s pets gave me self-confidence and more freedom to do special projects in the classroom. I felt like I was finally being seen and validated as having some value or worth in my life at the ripe age of 7.

My mom put me into a Brownie group when I was in the second grade. I loathed the entire experience. The group met at a church that was unfamiliar to me and we carpooled with a neighbor named Sarah who was two years older than me who was in Girl Scouts. Sarah was never very friendly with me and I always felt lost and overwhelmed in the dark rooms and hallways at the church. That summer my mom went as a chaperone with us to some huge Girl Scout event held at an army base. My mom was with the older girls instead of with me. I felt abandoned and devastated. We slept in metal barracks, it was hot as hell, and we had to march 100 miles (at least it felt like 100 miles to my little 7 year old legs) to the main event on Saturday and stand in the hot, sweltering sun celebrating something important to the Girl Scouts. I thought I was going to die. I don’t remember any special Girl Scout leaders or making any friends. It was pure hell on earth.

I have very few memories of 3rd grade, because that is when the sexual abuse with my father began. I have vivid memories of most of my life, but age 8 is almost like a blackout. I remember my 3rd grade teacher leaving the classroom to take smoking breaks and I remember being friends with a girl I liked named Alice. I think we began playing a black plastic flute called a recorder in the 3rd grade. Everyone in our class was given one of these instruments and we were taught music as a group. Hmm….maybe that’s why music keeps coming up to me in my dreams.

The upside of my childhood was having my brother Doug to play and fight with. Doug and I played outside a lot with our neighborhood friends Bobby and John who were both a year younger than me. Our friend Danny came along and joined us much later. We mainly rode bikes together and played games outside. Over the years I’ve often reflected on the fact that we always played at our house and not at Bobby and John’s house. Both of their mothers were strict, didn’t work outside of the home, and would not let us come into their houses to play. We could only be in the utility room of Bobby’s house to pick him up and I couldn’t tell you anything about John’s house other than they had an immaculate yard. I am very grateful that my parents let my brother and me play in our house with our friends. We were the house that you hung out in because people of all ages were welcomed there. And my mom didn’t treat our home like a museum. It was always clean and organized, but you could really live in it.

So that’s the jist of it. I spent most of my childhood in fear and anxiety surrounded by battle ax women. Actually, that’s not 100% accurate. My mom, my grandmothers, and my three immediate next door neighbors were special women in my life. They were the role models that I needed to learn to be compassionate and kind. Otherwise, the best parts of my childhood were spent outdoors playing in the fresh air with my brother and my male friends. Unfortunately all of that joy turned on a dime one day. I’ll share the story called “Teenage Boys in a Tent” in the future which ultimately led to the “Beast of Burden”.