What was once a storage room became my bedroom. I was the only one in the house with my own room. Most girls would be elated, I was devastated. This only meant that I had no protection. I’m sure that some people reading this know what raw anxiety feels like. Every night, I dreaded stepping into that pretty yellow room that during the day reminded me of the sunshine, but at night became a den of evil. It always seemed that right as I thought I was safe and started to drift to sleep, the moonlight would be split with his shadow. I just froze every time. I always tried to be dead. I was dead.
About this time I was instructed that I had to take a bath alone, no longer with my siblings which I had been doing since we came there. We had a well, so we tried to conserve water and all 4 of us would bathe at once. Not any more. There was a window in that bathroom that always seemed to be open when it was time for me to bathe. I was given commands from that window to do things that are seen in peep shows on movies. I have asked myself many times why didn’t I just not do what he was asking. I don’t have the answer. I just don’t know.
I don’t speak of the beatings much. My brother endured more than me. He was emasculated nearly everyday by this coward. My brother was slight and I had always took up for him, so that didn’t bode well for him. We did lots of chores and they were assigned only to us, not their natural children. Most of mine were inside and my brother’s were outside, like burning trash, raking leaves, and mowing the grass in the front yard that was as big as a football field with a push mower. This particular day, he couldn’t get the mower started. That devil came outside and began to kick him with his work boots and shoved him onto that hot motor. I will never forget the pain in my brother’s eyes. There is something so mortifying watching the castration of a boy that hasn’t even had the opportunity to become a man. All he keeps hearing is “you’ll be just like your daddy” “you’ll never be nothing” “you’re stupid” “what are you a sissy” . This was my defeat as much as his. I was supposed to protect him. He didn’t know my secret, but we all knew the whackings that he took. But, he had another secret that was blocked until years later.
We only had contact with a few biological family members. One was my great grandmother, Granny Davis. She lived in Columbus, Georgia, right across the Chattahoochee River. We had visited her and she gave us 9 Mars bars, one for every member of the family. In this household, we weren’t allowed to just go into the kitchen and get what you wanted. We ate and drank when it was time to eat and drink and we were told when it was time. Well, these Mars bars were sitting on the washing machine in the kitchen in a grocery bag. I can’t remember who ate it, but one was missing. It may have been me, I don’t know. What I do remember is the inquisition of the entire family and me being dragged by my hair through the house, into the back room, told to drop my panties, lean over the bed, and being whipped with a belt. All this over a candy bar. You can only imagine the many others that came before and after this for much worse transgressions.
In spite of all of this, I learned A LOT of good things in his house. Hard work was a given. I learned how to roof a house, put in an alternator, change brake pads, build a playhouse, grow a garden, sew a dress, can tomatoes, make jelly, and …homemade wine.