Archive for April, 2020

It was a warm sunny Saturday. The type of day when just the hope of spring was in the air as children still buttoned up in jackets emerged from their homes on Hanson Avenue eager to explore all the possibilities the outside world held for their curious little minds. On the front porch of 435 Hansen Avenue gathered a small group of  three such children. The youngest was a honey blonde little girl with soft brown eyes and soft Shirley Temple type locks. She was six years old. Mommy was at the center of her world at her young age. That was it. She was the one constant in her life. The one who made her feel loved, protected and safe. Everyone else she knew were sideline characters that leaned in and smiled at her, calling her cute and attempting to gain her trust, but she was always guarded. For all the earliest years of her life her world existed  her and Mommy alone. Then in the past year Mommy got married and shadows began lurking in the corners of her bedroom at night. On the ceiling, swirling around, changing shape. The shapes would become scary faces and then dissolve into dark blobs again. All the new people in her world reminded her of those shadows. They were mysterious and unknown to her.

On this particular day, the little girl was in the care of two of these strange people. They were her new Grandparents who lived downstairs from her. Two old people that looked to her like characters out of one of her a fairy tale books. Like the sort that might put her in the oven and cook her up for dinner. They acted like they were trying to be nice to her but she did not believe or trust them. Her new step daddy who gave her the same feeling was at work so they had to take care of her today. And Mommy was in the hospital because she just gave birth to her baby sister. She wished Mommy were home.

Of the other two children on the porch, one was her cousin, so she was told. But somehow she understood he was not her real cousin. He was the oldest, a lanky boy of 12 with crooked teeth and a bit of drool always oozing from the sides of his mouth when he spoke. The little girl understood that he was not quite normal. Not “retarded” like she understood that word to mean, but different. “Slow” they said. In her six year old mind he was funny. He told constant riddles and laughed a lot at himself. The little girl was not afraid of him. Adults she did not know made her more ill at ease than other children did. The other child was a girl between them in age. A friend of the boy’s. A stranger to the little girl. As they all played together on the porch the morning wore on.

Out of boredom the older two decided to wander away from the house. “Let’s go to the Field”, they said. “C’mon”, they told the little girl. Assuming she was in her pretend cousin’s charge, since he was the oldest, she followed. And off to the field on the next block they wandered. The little girl never went that far from the house by herself. But it seemed to her that since the older two said so, it was ok to go. The field was muddy in spots. The result of a rainy Month. There were puddles, and tall reeds. Some taller than her. It looked to her like a maze, as the three explored. They came upon a small pond. There was an older boy there. Or maybe he was a young man. Much older than her cousin. He started to talk to the three of them. The little girl just listened. They were thinking of a game to play. The new strange young man, had an idea. There’s something that looks like a raft in the water. How about two of us go to the other side of the pond and the other two stay here and push it across to us. He looked at the older girl and said, “Lets me and you go across.” “No, no, I’m not going” she said. “I don’t want to go. Let her go”, she said pointing to the little girl, who wondered why she was making such a fuss. After all, he picked her. So the youngest of the three began to walk with the strange man to the other side of the pond. He lead, she followed. “This way” he directed as they walked silently. Then suddenly a strange feeling began to grip the little girl. A tightening in her belly as her heart began to beat faster. It came upon her so fast it began to panic her. Fear. The realization she may not be safe. The feeling she had about all the new strange people in her life but ten times stronger. This bad feeling began gripping her within one minute’s time. She stopped. “I want to go back”, she said meekly. Then the slow motion began. “Noooooo”, the stranger’s mouth formed the words as he grabbed her arm and began to pull her against her will. Her heart pounding in her chest could be heard up through her ears and out into the day. The sun moved behind dark clouds as the stranger pulled her down in the brown grass among the reeds. Her back to the ground, the stranger looming over her, the clouds looked like the shadows in the corners of her room at night. They formed the scary blobs above the man’s face. His face became one of those scary shadow blobs. She opened her mouth but could not scream. Then he placed his hand on her mouth while the other hand was doing something. And then she saw it. He showed it to her and said touch it. The strange part of him that she knew was not meant for her to see. Shaking her head violently away from his hand she again tried to scream but, no sound. Then with a softer shaky voice she heard herself meekly say. “Please, Mister, tell me, what are you going to do to me?” He just stared at her and said nothing. She could see above the reeds behind him, something tall like a stick coming toward them a little distance away. Then she saw him turn his head and look behind him. In an instant he released her, rose up, ran away disappearing into the reeds. Then out of the reeds appeared the other two children. Her pretend cousin with a tall stick in his hand. And the girl. They were laughing. We came to save you. They acted like nothing more were happening than children playing on a sunny afternoon. She rose to her shaky feet. “I want to go home”,  she said behind tear blurred eyes. “No, we don’t want to go home now”,  they protested. She followed them whining and crying. The older girl looked annoyed.” I want to go”,  She continued stumbling through the puddles. She tripped and fell and the knees of her jeans got wet. Finally the other two children gave in and they headed back to the porch at 435 Hansen Avenue. Walking home all the little girl could think of was how she wanted to tell Mommy. She wished Mommy would be there to tell when she got back to the house. But she knew she would not. She could not tell the strange new Grandmother. She would tell Mommy when she came home from the hospital.

Later standing in the kitchen of the Grandmothers house, the Grandmother looming over her with her scary face, she trembled. The Grandmother was questioning where she had been. “Why are you pants wet ?”  she asked. “Where you in the Field?”  “Yes”,  the little girl muttered holding back tears with a lump in her throat the size of an apple. With one swift movement the Grandmother slapped her hard across her face. It hurt her frightened and bruised heart worse than it hurt her face. The hurt of that day and all its events would leave a bruise that would remain for life.

For the rest of that week she told herself she would tell Mommy when she got home and Mommy would comfort her. Mommy, the only constant in her life of scary shadows, and strange people. Later that week when Mommy returned the little girl did not tell her. As each day passed she blocked out the scary day until it was like a bad dream. When Mommy returned, all the focus was on her and the new baby sister.
Standing in the background she somehow felt that she had been a bad girl that day and that’s why the bad thing happened to her. She became afraid to tell Mommy and never told a soul until many years later when she grew up.

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