The year is 1963. She is eight years old. The songs over the airwaves were; Johnny Cash's 'Ring of Fire', The Beetle's 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' ~and~ 'She Loves You' along with the black & white images of The Clydesdale Horses trotting to the 'Budweiser Jingle'. Those are the sounds that dominate her memories of that year. Today when she hears one of these songs her whole body reacts to it. Her muscles tense, she can feel the oppression from the heat and the thick, heavy air that makes it difficult to breathe. The first sensations to arrive are heightened anxiety and a sense of danger and then the unwelcomed memories start to punch their way to the surface. That's the sequence and it always seems to be a sneak attack. What's so puzzling to her is that she finds herself both drawn to and repelled by those melodies at the same time.
The place was Tampa Florida. She even partially remembers the address; 11004 61st Street, but she can't remember the zip code. She remembers the first three numbers of their phone number, 988-. It was a place were grotesqueness and exquisiteness existed simultaneously and she often wonders how that's even possible. This is the place where all of her nightmares, creativity and love of nature was born. She both loves and hates this place at the same time. She's pretty sure this paradox is where she came into being. Her life, such a contradiction.
They lived behind an Orange Grove. The Grove was a place of haunting beauty. From the branches of orange trees hung silver-blue moss. It was a kind of beauty that's indescribable, especially in the early morning when there was a misty fog floating on the air giving the grove an air of enchantment. The moss looked like what she imagined the hair of a fairy would look like. Long blue-grey strands with silver highlights twisted and curled around each other. If you looked really close you would see tiny, almost microscopic ruby red bugs scurrying up and down the strands. She remembers thinking that they in themselves were beautiful and she was absolutely fascinated that creatures that tiny even existed. How in the world could something that small be alive?
This particular day was oppressively hot and the air sickeningly thick. Just over yonder there where dark, angry looking storm clouds gathering, physically and metaphorically. Before the storm ever reached their little green colored aluminum house the air inside began to feel as though it were popping with static electricity that was being generated by her mother's anxiety.
Her mother was terrified of lightening. She was so terrified that she was willing to sacrifice her child to electrocution to save herself. When a storm was in progress her mother would seek the safety of the corner of the long blue sofa furthest from the big picture window in the living room. From the sofa the girl's mother would instruct her to go around the house to first turn off at the switch all of the electrical appliances, the television, radios, lamps, etc. and then to unplug all of the cords from the outlets.
The girl wasn't afraid of the storms and at the tender age of eight she was oblivious to any danger. Oddly enough, none of her mother's fear & anxiety ever influence her as far as thunder & lightening are concerned, not then and not now. She does remember loving the arrival of thunderstorms because it always meant that she had her mother's full attention, so, she was quit happy. Obviously, in the girl's childish mind she didn't know at the time that her mother was using her as a distraction, that it never was about being a mother-daughter bonding activity.
On this particular day during this particular thunderstorm her mother taught her a song. The girl thought it was hilarious because it had a bad word in it. "Oh the monkey wrapped his tail around the flag pole to see his ass hole" and those words were sung to The National Emblem March and the girl and her mother sang it over and over again, giggling until the storm past over.
It was just a matter of moments later when the girl's father came home unexpectedly for lunch. This was a very confusing period in her life because as much as she wanted to love her father she was terrified of him at the same time, and for good reason. But she was still giddy from the excitement of the play time with her mother and so she ran up to her father and threw her arms around his hips and hugged him. then she said: " Listen to this song Daddy", and the girl then sang the funny song that her mother taught her during the storm. In her childish innocence she was fully expecting that he would join in the fun because after all, he had hugged her back when she hugged him, but instead he was enraged and the she did not understand why. Instantaneously fear and anxiety spread over her like a pall. To this day the girl can still see his face. The hard lined around his mouth, lips pressed tight, cold steely gray eyes, she can see the tiny beads of sweat on his forehead, she can smell the Vitalis hair cream in his hair & the faint scent of Old Spice lingering on his starched white shirt that had his name embroidered in red thread on the left breast pocket. Forty Three years later her stomach still knots up when she relives that day in 1963. He siad: "Where did you learn that?" She said: "Mommy taught me". His head snaps up and he looks towards her mother and he said: "Did you teach that to her?" Her mothers said: "No, I didn't teach her that, I don't know where she learned that from, she's lying, she's lying." By now the girl is terrified and sobbing, trying to catch her breath while repeating her father over and over again that mommy taught her that song as he's slapping and shaking her demanding that she tell him the truth. Her mother, still sitting in the safety of the corner of the long blue sofa furthest from the big picture window in the living room, watches in silence as her eight year old daughter receives a severe beating for singing the song that she herself taught her daughter and then lied about it.
This was not to be the last time the girl's mother would sacrifice her.
About eight-ten years ago the girl asked her mother why she lied to her father about teaching her that song and why she sat in silence and watched as he gave her such an awful beating. Her mother's response was: "Well, I didn't want the beating". And she laughed as she said it.
Some people should never be allowed to have children.