I don’t remember most of my childhood. By most calculations, I had a pretty good one. I always had a roof over my head, food to eat, and love – simple necessities that, when denied to so many, become remarkably precious. Nonetheless, those are the basics. While most of it escapes me, I do have happy snapshots in my mind of a privileged childhood: summer trips to the river and destination family vacations, dance recitals and fancy hotels, new toys and a big backyard. But those Polaroids are just that, momentary pictures of times that were surely fun.
The memories that have crystallized in my mind, those most clear even on late drunken nights, are the ones where I have lost trust. The ones that taught me that authority figures were just bullies with titles and hidden truths were as cheap as lies.
My first memory is crying in a corner, my purple and brass lamp illuminating me like the tiny prisoner I was.
I recall the humiliation of having my pants around my ankles, my mouth salty with tears, pleading for the forty-year old man who wasn’t even my father to stop hitting me with his belt.
The first time that I realized that my brother was not fully my blood, a family friend mentioned it off-hand, as if my young brain could comprehend what she meant when she said, “He isn’t really your brother.”
Not long after, my mother threw away nearly everything I owned, certain that Satan himself had invaded our house through our possessions. It was a long few days later before the men that claimed that God could do anything finally admitted that he couldn’t fix her without a doctor.
I remember when she was better and divorced the man that had held her hostage for over a decade. My life was turned upside down as we found our footing in a new place, but I still feel the relief of being free of his grip and those Bronze age beliefs – breaths I hadn’t known I was holding.
No one understood why I had no desire to visit weekly the man I never considered my father. I remember the cop who got in my twelve-year old face and told me what I wanted didn’t matter, before turning to the man who had begrudgingly found his way on to my birth certificate and telling him that he could “force me, kicking and screaming” and they wouldn’t stop him.
The spring of my puberty had hardly sprung and already I knew that my body was not mine, my family was not my own, my religion was full of holes, and my desires didn’t matter.
When I wonder now why I have a hard time communicating out loud, why my thoughts I’ve sequestered into a stairless tower, why all those I love are held at its threshold without a ladder, I remember.
And I know I had a privileged childhood.
And people tell me I “get it”.
So sometimes I have to wonder, if I am the enlightened one, who will mend the broken? For I am already diseased.
I never had any faith in humanity and my confidence is draining…
until I remember that I had a privileged childhood.
There have been and still are those without food, love, and shelter.
They are many, too too many.
diseased and broken they mend their pieces, rise
and offer food for thought
and love they never knew…
I don’t know where humanity will be in another millennium or three,
but I have hope,
because the shattered still offer shelter.