It comes to mind that you might need to know me a little better to make sense of this disjointed story. I know it’s being presented to you in odd little bits and mismatched puzzle pieces and I apologize for that. I’m trying to capture all of the memories and force them into a single story and it’s not working out very well. It occurs to me that you are experiencing all of this kind of like I did in the living of it, with very little understanding of the big picture and struggling to frame everything in such a way as to make the images come clear. If you are of a mind to travel through the crazy with me I think I can make it come in to focus for you eventually. It did for me…eventually.
I am one of nine children. I was the fourth of six girls born in a row, each birth several years apart, and then came my three brothers at the tail end. We hardly knew what the color blue looked like in our house for over a dozen years. My oldest sister, Lindsy, was in high school when our first brother came screaming his way into our girl world, and oh boy, how things changed! We fawned over Breck like the little prince he was. Our feminine reign was over. A few years later Lindsy had graduated, gone from home, married and was expecting a child of her own when my last baby brother was born. After Breck had come Alden, and then Ryan. Ryan was the ninth and last, although mom had several miscarriages after him. The last two live births had been difficult for her, and finally mom had to decide nine was enough; she sadly resigned her dream of ten.
Our home was busy, loud, often chaotic, but always loving. Mom was almost always busy with babies, so much of the mothering of me and my two younger sisters fell to Lindsy, Leesha and Claire, my older sisters. I hadn’t a doubt that my mother loved me, but she often took a back seat when it came to teaching me and my siblings the ins and outs of life. I learned most of what I knew about being a girl from my sisters. Usually they got it right, but they were young, too, and couldn’t give me everything I needed. I don’t blame them any more than I blame my mom’s depression and frequent hospital visits for what happened to me. We were all simply trying to get by. I sometimes wonder that they don’t blame me for making life harder inside our family. I was a handful, to say the least, and still they loved me.
We were a religious family. Everything we did revolved around our Christian upbringing. My extended family, well into the past, was steeped in the pages of our scriptures. I was taught that my life’s opportunities and stumbling blocks came about because I either prayed well or sinned badly. Always there were Saturday night baths so we’d be squeaky clean, with shiny hair curled for Sunday morning. Sunday School and Church worship with my family was not an option and if I were sick, I had darn well really be sick! Our beliefs were the core of who we were and set the tone for my world. We prayed on our knees as a family and again by ourselves at bedtime. When mom baked bread (a bi-weekly chore, producing 8 loaves at a time) there was always a loaf for a neighbor in need. I learned early to serve, especially as a girl. My roll was to support and obey the adults in my life, doing as I was told without question, especially my Father and other grown men. They held the priesthood in our Church and were considered the last say in everything. Their word was law, with the power to bind us to Heaven or Hell.
I could recite scripture and pray by myself by the time I was 4 years old, but anything dealing with sexuality was foreign to me throughout my childhood. I don’t think I once heard the word ‘pregnant’ until I was a teenager, even though we had an abundance of babies around us all the time. That was just how things were back then. My family wasn’t out of the norm at all, but rather one of the collective that made up our little Town of Greendale, Utah in the 1950s. I didn’t have any understanding of sexual matters…not the words, not the images, and certainly not an understanding that I had the right to defend myself against a violent sexual predator in the form of an adult man. I had no way at all to make room in my life for something so foreign and unexplainable, so I didn’t. Rather, I borrowed the wings of a story I could make fly in my mind; several times I’d seen old science fiction movies on TV while my sisters were tending me and I knew about spaceships and alien beings. I had nightmares after seeing The Day the Earth Stood Still, and couldn’t make myself go to the bathroom alone after watching The Thing. I had a real and working knowledge of the terror alien beings wrought upon people, and so, in my mind, I became the victim of an alien abduction. This was my reality right up to the time I sought out help as an adult, after my anger exploded in the colors of a Blood Orange. The abduction story housed my shame and fear in ways that made sense to my child-mind and took on a truth of its own over the years.
When I was finally able to face what had been forbidden to me for so long, my own sexual reality and what had really happened to me,the weight of the world fell away from my shoulders. I was able to leave the well-worn wings of a false history behind me. I found I could fly without them.
Today’s word was forbidden: