I am a day late on the prompts, because I started writing a memoir on yesterday. I got up with it in my mind, as many former students and some of the readers on the blog had encouraged me to write a book. Just the thought of writing a book made me grimace at the amount of work, but also if I could actually do it.
I prayed and asked God if I were meant to write a book, then please help me. Surprisingly, or maybe not, as I finished the book that I was reading while I prayed, A Savior Worth Having, by Dr. E.V. Hill, there was an edict at the end.
It read, “What you need to do is write a book, documenting that you know the Lord. You should start with an outline of what God has brought you through…Then write chapters from that outline… (p. 160). Moreover, Dr. Hill stated, “Whatever happened to you, you need to write it, because some others coming along are going to read it and be strengthened by it (p. 167). I took the advice as an answer from God.
As I began writing the first chapter, I was amazed at the pain I still felt at changing homes and families three times in four years, between ages 9 and 13. I stopped often to think about the lessons I learned growing up that made me a better parent for having been afflicted and which might be helpful to readers of the book.
One lesson was that children need stability in their lives to grow up emotionally healthy and with a sense of value. My sister, Joann, who was two years older than me, was a tempestuous child, as she took situations harder than I did, and retaliating for real or perceived wrongs was her way of dealing with the pain of mistreatment.
When she was age 12, my mother’s youngest sister, who, for some reasons I never understood, hated us living in the same house with her, took a belt and beat Joann for using the “wrong” toothpaste. She insisted that we have a different tube of toothpaste, albeit the same brand. So, it was an honest mistake on my sister’s part, but my aunt beat her any way.
I came in the room, and my ten-years-old self asked my aunt why she was beating my sister. She turned around and lifted the belt to hit me, and my sister grabbed the belt out of her hand and proceeded to whip the older woman with it. I saw my sister’s anger at the many ways our aunt mistreated us, such as giving her children candy in front of us and not giving us any. Even as a child, I knew that was wrong! As a parent, I never gave my children anything to eat, if I did not have enough for their friends.
When my great-aunt, whose house it really was, heard my aunt screaming, she rushed in, and I can imagine what she thought to see a child whipping an adult, with force and determination. She finally got the belt from Joann, and to her credit, she did not hit Joann with it, as I feared. She finally saw what we were telling her was true, that our younger aunt did not like us.
Yet, even though she knew tour aunt was wrong, there was no act of grace for us. Within a few hours, our things were packed and we were in a car on the way to another aunt’s house, one we had never met, not even given a chance to say goodbye to friends and cousins who lived nearby.
Twenty-five years later, my girl cousin, whom we played with every day, said that she thought our mother had come back for us or sent for us, as my mother had left us to pursue her dreams in New York. No one would ever talk about where we went or why we had to leave so precipitously.
I told her what had occurred, and that we ended up moving at least once a year to homes with people we did not know, which is why I adopted my sister’s children when she died, to give them the stability and love Joann and I missed out on as children.
Children need to know that they are loved, and every time I thought I was with people who would provide love and care for us across an extended period, we were sent somewhere else. i discovered that some remnant of that pain lingers in my heart. But there is also a joy in knowing that no matter where we went, I always felt some security in knowing that God was looking down on me.
I had been saved and baptized when I was nine. It was the faith of God’s love and presence that gave me a sense of consistency and stability in all of the many strange places I resided as a child, as I even slept with my Bible under my pillows.
That knowledge, while it did not always keep me emotionally and mentally sound, did keep me from totally losing hope. That’s why I believe children need to learn the love of God as early as possible.