Carol A. Hand
One of initial purposes for Voices from the Margins was to create a space for guest authors who wanted to share their stories. I’m delighted to announce that I received an email with the following story in response to a recent post, “Kindness Matters.” I hope that this is the first installment of what will become an ongoing series of posts from a guest author. For now, she prefers to use the pen name, Sara.
Sara’s Stories: Claras in My Life
Reading your blog post “Kindness Matters” I was reminded again of the “Claras'” in my life and the things they taught me.
My first was a cousin named Harley who had Cerebral Palsy. I was about 6 years old when I first spent part of the summer at his home playing with him. He was so sweet and his face lit up when he would see me. We truly made one another happy. Another girl cousin would get so upset because she wanted me to play with her and let him sit there because he couldn’t play anyway – according to her. But as far as I was concerned Harley was more fun and much nicer so I played with him! One day as we were playing, I accidently stepped on his favorite toy (a plastic white lamb) and broke one of the legs clean off. I felt just awful and hugged him and told him how sorry I was. He told me it was OK, just as his mom stepped out to see what was going on. I explained what had happened and what he had told me and she went back indoors. Years later, I found out she went indoors to cry because Harley didn’t talk and I didn’t know that because he and I “communicated” all the time. Although I didn’t know it at the time, he taught me there is more to interaction than merely words. I learned about body language and touch and looking into a person through their eyes. I love him still.
Photo Credit: Plastic Toy Lamb
The next Clara incident was when my foster sisters arrived to spend the next 5 or so years with my family. Opal and Teresa (Not their real names) were 5 and 3 years old and my bio sister was 4! The first day they arrived was such a trauma for all concerned. My mom truly wasn’t thrilled to be given this extra “work” – it was my dad’s decision for them to be there. They came with filthy clothes and pitch from pine trees in their hair. Mom hauled and heated up enough water to fill the galvanized tub for a good cleansing – or such was her plan. She told the girls they needed to take off their clothes and get into the tub for a bath. She was unprepared for the screams of fright that came next. The girls tried to escape and had to be caught and talked with again. We learned that day that one reason they did NOT want to take a bath was because when the old clothes came off they were burned and replaced with new clothes. And, they didn’t want their clothes burned because their daddy had just bought them and they were NOT going to part with them. Plus they didn’t see any new clothes. And so began the task of building trust in these little persons who had no reason to trust anyone.
Photo Credit: Galvanized Tub (Microsoft Clip Art)
I was rather in the middle of this muddle due to the fact that my little blonde haired sister wanted as little as possible to do with these dirty, dark haired, wild kids who didn’t even know how to play with dolls and tea sets and such. So off and on for years we have my sister crying to mom about how somebody did this or that and mom coming to the rescue and dishing out punishment which quite often was undeserved and horrible. Like the time that Opal, who had now started school (in our one room school house), told the other kids that “Thorntons” (not my family’s real name) never fed her and she was hungry. This from a child who now had cute chubby cheeks and a happy smile! I got home from school to see Opal trying to eat another bite of pickled tongue. (Please see note below for more information about pickled tongue). I asked her what she was doing because it was apparent that each bite was making her gag. So she told me what she had done and that mom was so mad she told Opal to eat every last bite of the food in that bowl and it was “s’pose to be gone before mom got back from doing her barn chores.” I grabbed that fork and threw it onto the cupboard and told her she was done eating. I went running down to the barn and started yelling at mom (not for the first time, or the last) about how awful it was to think she could make a little kid eat all that food. I was furious. I kept yelling that “she is just a little girl.” Over and over, I found myself coming to the rescue. It did start the pattern of fighting for the “underdog” all the rest of my days. I loved those girls and have just recently reconnected with Opal. What a joyful experience!
I guess another thing it taught me was to speak up to whoever was causing the problem. If, as a youngster I could risk the wrath of a parent, I had no reason to be fearful of anyone else!!!! My own dad beat me to a lump one day when I was about 14 because I couldn’t find a radio station that had the livestock reports. I told him I believed it was off the air and he said that if I wanted to find it I could. He knocked me to the floor and started to pound me. At one point he was choking me and I remember looking up and saw my mom standing there Doing Nothing. He must have noticed that I was no longer fighting back because, at some point, he stopped and stood there looking down at me. I used his bib overalls to pull myself up and looked him in the eye and said “I am not strong enough today but someday, if you ever do this to me again, I am going to beat hell out of you and kill you.” He never beat me again.
Photo Credit: Vintage Rose
Carol, I may or may not add to this story but I do need to take a break at this point!
Note: Pickled tongue is boiled organ meat!!! The heart and tongue of cattle are simmered until tender with salt, pepper, and perhaps a leaf or two of bay leaves, a clove or two of garlic. Then the meat is cooled, sliced, and placed in a large bowl (about 3 quarts in our case) with a brine of white vinegar and bay leaf, etc. Looking back on it, I wonder now if perhaps it was a method of preserving the meat for people who had “ice boxes” or in other words, no adequate way to keep things from spoiling. We did get a refrigerator in the late 50’s and that was pretty exciting and it must have been about that same time that we went from cooking on our wood cook stove to using a modern gas range!
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