The Age of Hiding Continues
Sweet memories of that feeling: being secretly alone amidst the landscape of our home and the wild beasts that fussed, babbled and roared in its confines. There was a suspect, arm’s length mother who’d, at your birth, left you in the delivery room to go and spend three months in an institution, then come home stranger than strange. A jealous five-years-older sister who clung to that perpetually ranting and babbling stranger. A teenage brother and sister who did much of your care in between their ever wildly loud, fiercely hormonal rebellions against the authority of the strangely changed mother and their growing hatred of each other. Our elusive father was quiet, gentle and caring who held you on his lap as he read the newspaper to you between coming home from work and before supper, before fending off the perpetual after-dinner shrieking attacks of odd and angry mother which sent him retreating to work in his garage machine-shop-refuge, even after working long hours in a machine shop in another town.
Graduated from baby crib to an army surplus, metal-frame bed, the space beneath that bed became a new, preferred refuge, much better than behind doors or the sofa – it was a space where I became. I outfitted the space with stuffed animals, drawing supplies and a picture my oldest sister had drawn of a beautiful tropical island beach. I taped that picture to the limited, under-bed wall space and gazed at it, mesmerized by the swaying palm trees as the sound of the waves washing on those white sands drowned out the bellicose noises of my mother, my family.
Outside my island, mother stormed on about the woes of womanhood set down by Eve in the Garden, the evils of the neighborhood women that were somehow leading naughty father down wicked paths, and the doom awaiting my vile, lustful teenage siblings. She left me to myself, threatening that God watched every move I made while she foretold a future for us children as bleak and painful as her own. In my under-bed refuge I somehow forged a strong sense of myself with an imagination that became my armor. Believing my father was good and not naughty, disbelieving that a God could see me all the time or cared to, I fostered a resistance to my unreliable mother while I drew endless pictures of horses jumping fences and running, running, running away. In my small way I began to plot a future for myself that was different – it was going to be an Adventure.
And so it became.