by Annette Swafford
The earliest memory she has is a big pink plastic Saint Nicholas medal hanging over her crib. It covers a hole punched in the wall by her father. She cried and made him angry. Her grandmother had the medallion blessed by the priest.
One day, she will be a quiet child who knows Saint Nicholas, the patron Saint of children, won’t save her.
She is proud of the ‘A’ she received on her state history project and shows her parents. She tells them it is hung in the hallway at school. Her father says “You would have received an ‘A+’ if you would have listened to me and done your project the way I told you to.”
One day, she will have a fear of failure.
She hears the crashing noises in the garage and realizes her father is throwing the bikes and anything else he can. Her mother refused to go in the car with him while he was drunk. He slams the door into the house and puts a hole in the dining room wall. Her mother herds her and her sister to the back of the house for safety. But the sound of breaking glass and rushing water brings her she back to the living room. Her father put his fist into her fish tank. She runs out of the house and heads down the street. She never wants to go back.
One day, she will be afraid of confrontation.
She falls down the stairs from a hard push from her father when she dared to interrupt him banging her sister’s head against the wall. She doesn’t know why he is beating her sister or why he beat her mother earlier. Do the neighbors hear the terror in this house? Would they help if they did? One day, she will wonder if her sister’s psychosis results from this beating.
One day, she will believe no one cares what happens to her.
She smells the alcohol on his breath and pushes him away but he persists. The only way she can deal with the ordeal is to leave her body and watch from the corner of her room. She only wants him to die a horrible death even though he is her father, so she imagines a guillotine chopping off his head. She hates her life but acts like everything is fine to the outside world.
One day, she will suffer from shame and self-hate.
As a young adult, she confronts her father of all the horrible things he did to her. His answer is he was teaching her about love.
One day, he will die with no communication from her for decades or ever seeing his grandchildren. That is her lesson to him about hate.
She lives her life with hate and despair bubbling under the surface of her hard exterior. She let’s no one in and allows no one to help her until her life crumbles around her. A therapist shows her how to use art to heal her soul.
One day, she will be free.