Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Journey of a Heart B1 Intro/C1

Author's note: I wrote this in late December 2014, on a restless, sleepless night. The words kept boiling in my mind, for days; I've learned when words are boiling in my mind I need to release them. So I did. It just took me another month to have the courage to post them here.

1/29/2015: Addition to Chapter one
1/31/2015: Addition to Chapter one
02/21/2015: Addition to Chapter one
02/22/2015: Addition to Chapter one
03/01/2015: Addition to Chapter one

~~~~~Journey of a Heart (JOAH)~~~~~
Book one: Through the music
Introduction to a monster (Final draft…may be edited/revised)

As a very young child I believed in monsters. Of their existence I was certain. Face to face, on a daily basis, I lived with one.

The monster of my childhood did not hide out in my closet, nor did she rest under my bed at night. But hide she did. She was good at hiding things, especially the truth. Like a spider hides in a home spun web, she wove a tangle of threads that by all outward appearances looked beautiful and delicate…welcoming. And like a spider in its web she created a home for herself and her young, beckoning, anticipating the hapless circumstances that would deliver to her clutch her next victim.

The monster of my childhood had a name.


Even today the sound of that name brings a chill to my soul…and a tightness in my chest. I feel the heavy pounding beat of my heart increase, my arms and fingertips ache and throb with the memory of her. I remember her, but I wish I could forget.


Funny things can trigger a memory; things we hear, smell, taste, see and touch. The human mind in all it’s complexities has puzzled humanity all through the ages. No one truly understands how the mind works. If it’s true we only use 2 percent of our brain, then it seems to me we know very little about this fragile organ that rules and governs every moment of our lives. And of all the senses linked to my mind and the memories it holds, it is the sense of touch that awakens the memories left by Beulah.

I thought I had put those memories to rest, years ago. I wrote about them, putting words onto paper in a tangible form. Pages and pages poured out of the printer, just before I ceremoniously set fire to those memories, casting them out of me and into the universe. Watching them burn I uttered a peaceful prayer of protection for myself and the world, lest the evil and darkness contained in the ashes find its way into another life. Placing that last sheet of paper on the fire, as the embers slowly faded I felt…uplifted. As if I was floating on air with those ashes. And I smiled. With an exhaled hum of satisfaction I turned, walked away and never looked back.

Until the day the slightest touch of a soft breeze on my cheek triggered a single memory of my mother. And with that single memory, the remnants of my past awakened, filling my life with the memories again.

Very few people read the first copy of the book I always wanted to write, the one I burned so long ago. And I wonder. Perhaps in keeping it all to myself, and not putting it out there before I burned the words, I blocked the power of that ceremony. The healing I desired and needed proved short-lived. By not sharing my experience, by keeping it to myself and hidden from the eyes of the world, I diminished the power to release it all through ceremony.

And so now I find myself at a crossroad with a purpose. I can no longer deny the need I feel to tell my story. Like Beulah hid the evidence of her evil acts from the eyes of my innocent mother, I have been hiding a horrible piece of my past.

This serves no purpose, for me or anyone else.

It is time. The story must be told, released from the caverns of darkness within my heart and spirit. And with the telling, the light will shine. I will be free.

It is not my burden to carry anymore. I only pray I have the strength to relive it all again, the time to put it into words, and the grace to be satisfied with the effort.
~~~~~Journey of a Heart (JOAH)~~~~~
Book one: Through the music
Chapter one: Tears of time (Draft…work in progress and will be edited)

I struggled with where to start. The logical place is at the beginning, the place where my memory starts. But this is not a logical journey, it is one of the heart. So I’ll start with the soft breeze that brushed my cheek and brought it all back to me.

I am sitting in my mother’s lap, she is bundled in a coat with her arms wrapped around me. Slowly rocking back and forth. She is crying. A soft breeze is blowing as the rail car we ride climbs slowly up the grade. Angels Flight. We are on Angels Flight in Los Angeles. I am three years old, my sister Diane is six, and our mother is a single 23 year old with two young daughters, living alone in the big city.

Leaning against my mother’s warm body, I lift my head enough to peer out the window. The breeze lifts the peach fuzz on my cheek like a soft caress, just as one of mom’s warm tears slides down her cheek and lands on mine.

We three are silent. There are no words to share between us as the rail car rattles and shakes. Only emotions. Fear, betrayal, pain, and loss.

When I think back to the memory of my mother holding me on her lap that day, and the feelings she carried within, for all that I knew what I had been through, I can not begin to imagine what she was going through. Hell. Surely it must have been hell.

Angels Flight, October 1960,  just as it was back then.

Days earlier she and Diane were standing by my bedside at the hospital. Doctors and nurses surrounded them, with accusing voices and stares. My mother is in shock, stunned by their accusations. Stern faces with narrowed eyes and stiff backs bore into my mother’s heart as she struggled with the news they delivered moments before. Words fly back and forth between them and her…her voice is frantic and afraid. She didn’t know, she tells them with tear filled eyes.

Mom then turns to Diane, asking who? Who did this to Dona?

But before Diane can speak, I sit up, screaming…”No! No! Nooooo!” in fearful desperation. Everyone’s attention is now on me. I see nurses moving in the background, mom and Diane stare  in disbelief. "Don’t tell! Please…n-o-o-o!" She swore she’d kill us if we told. She swore to God! I remember crying with agitation, until several hands take my arms, and push me down to the mattress. I resist, until I feel a prick in my arm, then a funny feeling. And everything goes fuzzy and dark.

The darkness doesn’t mask the hushed voices. Then more hands take me and turn me on my side, pulling back my gown to reveal what had been hidden from my mother’s eyes. I hear her gasp, then her uncontrollable sobbing. My mother’s voice, filled with compassionate guilt, calls out my name over and over.

What my mother has just learned is a painful lesson in trust, only it is I who paid the price.

A single mother has to place trust in many people. In 1960, mom had limited financial resources and options. When mom discovered a room to rent in a large two story tudor style home, a room that came with a built in babysitter to watch Diane and I while she worked as a skating car hop at Bob’s Big Boy Drive-In, my mother saw it as an answer to her prayers.

In reality, it would be a nightmare for Diane and I. But mainly, for me. Hell is for children, as Pat Benatar says in her song. I know exactly what she means.

Mom always told me about the way I cried when I was young. She said it was a low mournful cry. A cry she had never heard before, not loud and forceful seeking attention. She called it heart breaking, a cry for comfort. I remember the nights waiting for her to return home from work. Nights filled in a dark room, waiting with my tears. And the life I felt in my heart when the door would open, revealing her soft figure to me. Arms outreached, taking me and holding me. I loved her hugs. Hugs made everything better. Her hugs eased my fears, and silenced my tears. Hugs were a magical medicine, and in them I found peace.

Back in the hospital bed, later that night I awakened. The room is dark, save for the light from the corridor illuminating the frame of the hospital room door. I've been hospitalized for a bladder infection, caused by the punishment put on me by my so-called caretaker, Beulah. In this room, I am not alone.

Lying in a bed next to me is a young girl, about the same age as Diane. She is crying but her cry is one filled with pain. Constant and intense pain. I know why she cries, because Mom told me is was burned playing with matches. Her cries fill me with a need to comfort her. Slowly and quietly I get out of bed, and talk to her. "It's okay," I tell her. That's what Mom always says. "There...there. Don't cry. I'm here."

Unresponsive to my voice, her crying continues. I know what she needs.

A hug. Hugs make everything better.

I walk over to her bed, climb on the mattress, lean down and begin to press my body close to her. But I am unprepared for what happens next. I don't get far when her body goes stiff and the silence is pierced with her screams of pain. Frightened I slide off the bed as she glares at me.

"You hurt me!" she screams with hot, tear filled eyes.

Stunned, I don't know what to do. I hear voices coming, and I've done something wrong. Now I'll be punished. The door flies open and female bodies dressed in white rush to the girls bed side. Whispering to her, to each other. Frozen where I stand, unable to move, I remain motionless until one nurse turns to me, pointing a finger of accusation.

"What did you do to her?" she demands. Her face reminds me of Beulah, thick with anger and bitterness.

I jump from her words, but I can't speak. She steps toward me, but is stopped by another nurse. I feel a soothing presence in this nurse, who places her hand on the back of the angry one and points to the door. I am no longer frightened. The nurse sits in a chair between the two beds and offers me her gentle hand. I take it and she lifts me up and sets me in her lap, wrapping her two arms around me. Feeling guilty for the trouble I caused, I hang my head down and away from her face.

"Can you tell me what happened?" she asks me as she carefully tucks strands of my hair behind my ear. "It's okay, you're safe. You can tell me."

"I just gave her a hug."

"Ah," she says with a nod. "Well, honey, I know hugs are wonderful and you did not mean to hurt her." I shake my head. "But," she continues, "you can't hug her. You can't even touch her."

"Why not?" I ask timidly. I turn and look into her gentle eyes.

"Because dear heart," she explains. "She hurts all over, all the time."

Our attention is momentarily turned to the bed, with several nurses hovering over the girl. Her cries now stopped, the air of rushed excitement and urgency is gone as the nurses work together in ordered movements.


She smiles and reaches in her pocket, pulling out a small cardboard object, folded in half. She opens it, exposing several long thin match sticks topped with bright red points...that stink. "You see this?" she asks as I nod my head. "I want you to promise me something." I nod some more. "Promise me that you will never play with these. If you ever see them, leave them alone. Do not touch these, please.  Okay?"

Her tone is one of importance and deep compassion. I hesitate momentarily.

She touches my cheek with the back of her index finger. "Dona, promise me. You will never play with these. Never." She holds the matches in front of me, perhaps to ensure that I get a good long look, to forever hold this moment to memory. "Promise me, now."

Looking into her eyes, dark brown against her soft white skin, I nod my head. "Promise."

"Good. Please remember this," she reiterates as she stands up and gently places me back in my bed. "Now, it's sleepy time. Close your eyes. You did nothing wrong," she explains, pulling the blanket up and over me. "You just can't touch her because it hurts her if you do."

I feel terrible for causing the girl pain. The nurse smiles, then gives me a light kiss on the forehead. "Sweet dreams, gentle one." Then she turns away, but not before blowing me one last kiss. "Good night."

And with that, she steps out of the room guiding the two remaining nurses out through the doorway just before slowly easing the door almost shut.

The room is dark again. And quiet.

But I have to break the silence. "I'm sorry," I whisper.

No response.

I sit up, leaning on my elbows. "I'm sorry," a little louder. I want to make amends.

"Leave me alone," she moans, turning her head away.

Like a slap across my face, her words strike hard sinking into my troubled heart. Resigned by her rejection, I lay back down on the mattress, letting out a deep ragged sigh.

I can do no more. The damage is done.


Acceptance. That's all any of us want. It seems such an easy thing to be. For some, it flows. For others, it rarely comes.

Broken. I've felt that way most of my life. All because of actions not of my choosing. I wasn't accepted. So I thought.

Many times I have read and heard how important a child's self-image is during the early childhood development years, between birth and five years of age. These years create the foundation for the child to accomplish key developmental advances in mind and body. These years determine how they will interact with the world around them, now and in the future.

The events that took place somewhere within my second and third year, while horrific, taught me a lot. From these experiences I learned many things. I gained skills that I truly needed later in life. And tools that I would later use to propel me forward in situations that required forward movement. But it was a double edged sword, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I learned to take the blame for things I didn't do. I learned love and pain are one and the same. But, I also learned to believe in angels.

Mom always believed I had an angel watching over me. And once she saw what Beulah had done to me, maybe that's what caused her to take Diane and I on that ride up Angels Flight. Maybe she just wanted to get us as close to the grace of angels as she could. To begin the healing.

I don't recall how long we lived with Beulah. Whatever the span of time, it was long enough. Long enough for her to leave a profound impression that burned the memory of her deep within my mind's eye. Memories that return without warning, and play out in my head with deep clarity, as if it happened yesterday.

We are in the kitchen. I, in a high chair, Diane seated at the dining table to my right. I see two other children sitting on the opposite side of the table away from Diane, a boy and a girl. The boy is older than Diane, the girl about the same age. They are giggling and jesting with one another. Diane and I sit in silence. On the tray in front of me is a sandwich, but I'm not hungry. I don't want food.

Suddenly, I hear Beulah's loud voice, booming through the kitchen.

"Who broke my coffee cup?" she growls. With her back to us, she is a massive figure, a large woman. She is standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes. Dressed in a simple dark print dress, with a small apron tied at her waist, and I watch the end of the ties float in the air as she spins around and turns her attention from the sink, to face us.

I stiffen, knowing full well what is about to happen. Chaos is coming.

The boy responds, gleefully. "Dona did it! She broke it!" He and the girl are both glaring at me, as the girl begins to chant my name, over and over. "Dona did it. Dona did it. Dona did it."

"No!" Diane breaks in. "She didn't do it. Dona didn't do it!"

I feel paralyzed, unable to move. Fear is vibrating inside me. I can't breathe. I can't move. I feel an energy so forceful I know I'm about to be swept away as Beulah steps toward me. She's behind me in a flash, seconds later I feel momentarily free, until she wraps her large fingers around my arms and lifts me out of my chair and throws me over her shoulder.

Diane is out of her seat. "No, please," she begs. Beulah pushes the high chair out of her way. We leave the kitchen to the sounds of laughter coming from the other side of the dining table. Diane follows, still pleading. "Please, she didn't do it!"

Through the living room, I watch Diane begging and pleading from my perch on Beulah's shoulder. Beulah stops at a door, and opens it. Diane disappears from my view as Beulah whirls around to face her, grabbing Diane's small arm as she leans down. "Not one word. Don't you dare tell! If you say anything, I swear to God I will kill you both!"

Air flows past my face as Beulah turns back to the door. I catch a momentary glimpse of Diane, left standing alone in the hall, tears streaming down her face.

The laughter in the kitchen is the last thing I hear before Beulah slams the door shut. And locks it.

We are in her bedroom now. A large expansive room, with a bed, dresser, chair and small throw rugs on the hardwood floor. I'm not going down without a fight. I know what's coming, as Beulah opens a closet door and removes a belt. I push against her shoulder, twisting, squirming and kicking in a desperate attempt to get free. Two more steps and she sets me down next to her bed as she plants her large frame on the mattress.

With one hand, she holds my two wrists together and with the other, begins to undress me. I desperately dig my tiny fingers into her flesh to free myself from her grip. "The more you fight, the worse you make it," she warns in her deep, gruff voice,

"No!" It's all I can say. "No," I repeat over and over, pulling away, planting my feet firmly down and leaning as far away from her as I can. No. No. No.

My struggle has exhausted her by the time she removes the final article of clothing from my body. I now stand naked in front of her. She picks up the belt. And I continue to fight against her and what she is about to deliver.

"I warned you," she threatens, lifting the belt high above her shoulder.

The metal of the buckle meets my backside with an awful thrap! I feel the stinging pain of solid hits, and near misses as I bend and twist to avoid each blow. My struggles enrage her more. The tears come next, nothing can stop them now, and I cry out "No. No. No." over and over, begging for mercy. Each blow is delivered with more thrust than the last.

Until I crumble into a lifeless heap on the floor at her feet. My mind and body shut down, the pain of abuse too intense for me to consciously endure. And as I fade away to black, the sound of metal and leather hitting my flesh continues. Then slowly fades away. Into silence in the darkness.

I don't know how much longer she continued to hit me after I blacked out. I suppose the blacking out was my mind's defense mechanism to protect me from feeling each and every blow. I do know this wasn't the first, and it likely was not the last time this scene played out under her roof.

People will wonder how my mother could have missed all this. How could she not have known? Well, one can't see what is kept hidden from the eyes. Knowing my mother was desperate for help, Beulah stepped in and offered to bath, dress and feed Diane and I. Mom didn't need to worry about a thing, so she could focus on working. She played on my mother's weakness and used it to her advantage. Until I was hospitalized. Not only did Beulah beat me, at the pleasure of her two children, at night she would fill me up with liquid before she put me to bed. And when I got up to use the bath room, I got another beating. The cycle of abuse left many, many damaging cracks in my life.

Over the years, I wondered why, in that high chair I couldn't move. Why did I feel so immobilized? The answer came while visiting my sister a couple of years ago. We were talking about our childhood, and some of the places we lived. She was showing me the list of addresses and on-line images, when I asked if she remembered Beulah. She did. And it was then I learned the reason I couldn't move, wasn't because I felt paralyzed with fear. It was because Beulah bound and tied me to the chair. I was trapped, caught in another of her many webs.
Back in Beulah's room, it was the warmth of another body, enfolding me completely in their arms, that I now feel. When I open my eyes, still moist from the tears, I see the hazy angelic face of Diane looking down at me. She is crying, rocking me slowly in her arms, and saying, "I'm sorry" over and over. I feel the wetness of her tears touching down on my cheek, and they blend together with mine, just before sliding into a pool on the hardwood floor. I lean into her. Seeking her comfort, and peace, I bury my face against her chest.  It's just the two of us.

As a very small child, I believed in monsters. I knew they were real.

But more importantly, I also believed in angels. They are always there, and of their existence I am certain. I lived with one, everyday. They are real. And always among us. They will never leave, unless you ask them to leave. All they want, all they need, is to be there. Giving us sanctuary.

And love.

Love's divine. 


The memory of that hardwood floor, with our tears pooling together beneath our silent huddled bodies, lives inside me. A slo-mo fragment of time, lingering, intense and clear. As clear as the tears we shared. I remember the feel of Diane's tears softly falling on my skin. I remember the feel of each one when it blended together with mine. Watching, with downward cast eyes, I remember the tickle of each tear sliding down my face, and I remember wondering why the first tear I saw was so small, while the next appeared so much larger.

I never returned to Beulah's after my hospital stay. My mother may have been alone, but she had friends. And one friend, Phoebe, a young Jewish mother with two young daughters of her own, took us in. She was a feisty woman, I remember that about her. A take charge kind of woman, just what my mother needed. I have no doubt, the instant Phoebe heard what Beulah did, she personally marched into that house with plenty of male back-up to assist with the removal of all our possessions, but not before giving Beulah a piece of her mind...and perhaps more.


And I remember playing on the floor in Phoebe's dining room with her children while mom and Phoebe sat at the table, drinking coffee, chatting, and smoking cigarettes. We were playing with a spinning top, or what I thought was a top. But Phoebe's youngest daughter kept calling it a dreidel. We argued back and forth a bit, until Phoebe gently pointed out the difference to me. It looked like a spinning top, it spun like a top, and yet to them it was not a top.

And so I learned. About differences, in things, and people.

Eventually mom found a place for the three of us. It was a bungalow perched atop a small hill and the only way to reach it was up a long flight of concrete stairs lined on either side with ivy. That's all I remember about that place, is those stairs and the ivy. I think it was painted white or a pale yellow. Not that it makes any difference. I just remember that. And mom finally landed a day job as a secretary, no more nights without her. She placed Diane and I in pre-school, and while Diane had no trouble fitting in, I did.

I spent many years living in a world of silence. A world many children, and grown ups, did not understand. Children can be cruel, and from that cruelty I withdrew. It had more to do with tones, than actual words. It wasn't what they said, it was the way they said it. I'm sure they meant no real harm, they just didn't know any better. Stirred by the memories, when spoken to in that familiar tone and attitude of contempt, I felt deep in my tender heart the bitter remnants of one boy and one girl, and I shut the door on anyone who behaved that way. I learned many lessons under the roof of Beulah's house. I felt many things inside those rooms. It was a pattern that would follow me throughout my childhood, and adulthood. A pattern I never could understand, mired in behaviors exhibited by others that I found to be foreign and obtuse. And my withdrawal from their behavior made me a target…for criticism and ill placed negativity.

But I didn't care. I wasn't going to let anyone like that in, ever again. Lesson learned. I moved on without them. During creative or learning sessions I thrived in pre-school, it was a time to work alone and I quickly adapted. Sure I enjoyed the play time, but I really preferred making things or expressing myself in non-verbal ways. But somehow I contracted an awful case of pneumonia, and through this turn of events, I took my first airplane ride from Los Angeles, California to Portland, Oregon.


It's February 1961. As the pneumonia worsens, staff at the pre-school refused to take me, informing my mother that I am too ill for them to care for and I should be left home until I recuperate.  Mom stays home with me for a week, but my condition does not improve.  She must return to work or she'll lose her job, so she contacts her mother in Washington, and my father as well, and explains the situation.  Arrangements are made for me to fly from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, where my father will pick me up. From Portland, he will drive back to his home in Lewiston, Idaho; there I will remain until the end of August.

To this day I remember seeing, for the very first time, the big silver bird at the airport. I remember holding my mother and sisters hands as we walked through two large glass doors toward the bird. The sun was out but the air was cool and a breeze tickled my warm cheeks as Mom led us across the tarmac toward a group of people standing beside a set of metal stairs leading up into the bird.

At the bottom of the stairs, Mom began to speak to a woman dressed in a dark, heavy coat. The sight of her set me at unease. I didn't like her. She reminded me of Beulah; her hair, her frame, her face, and even her voice. It wasn't Beulah, just a chaperone hired by the airline to accompany me on my flight.

I didn't want to leave my mother and I didn't feel very good. I was tired, and cranky, and cold. Mom kneeled down to my level. She told me I needed to go with the lady in the heavy coat. The woman held out her hand for me, but I resisted, preferring to bury my face into my mother's arms while clinging to the security of her warm body.

With her gentle, caring tone, Mom convinced me not to be afraid, that everything would be all right. Slowly, I pulled my face away from her body. She looked deep into my eyes, and softly stroked my cheek. I felt safe just then, no longer frightened. Then she persuaded me to release my grip from her clothing and to take the hand of this stranger and follow her up the metal stairs into the belly of the giant silver bird.

No doubt it was the hardest thing she ever had to do. Filled with worry and guilt, without a plan for the future and little resources...and now this. Turning me over to the care of another stranger, when the wounds from the last stranger had barely healed, and were still fresh on our minds.

Someone took my picture, and I still have it. Somewhere. You'll not see a smiling face in that memory. I didn't want to take any of those steps that led up. But I did.

I did what my mother told me to do. Reluctantly, I stepped away from my mother, and took the hand of the waiting stranger, who led me up the stairs. Clutching a doll, my legs just barely long enough to reach the top of the first step, I put one foot in front of the other and followed the stranger with a painfully familiar face into an unfamiliar place with more unfamiliar faces. Into the belly of that giant flying bird. I wanted to look back at my mother, but the height of each step forced me to concentrate my attention on bringing my short legs up high enough to reach every step. If I stopped moving, even momentarily, the stranger tugged my armed, reminding me verbally that "They were waiting for us." Only when we reached the top, just before we stepped inside, did I finally have the opportunity to turn around for another look at my mother and sister. They seemed so small and far away, standing there waving at me.  I didn't want to leave them there, but I believed my mother's words. Mom was always right.

I followed the woman down the aisle to our seats and she let me sit by the window.  From my seat I watched my mother and sister walk slowly toward the glass doors of the terminal. Soon, the giant silver bird roared to life, then it began to move. Through the window I watched the scenery pass by. I asked the woman when I would see my mommy again, and she replied she didn't know, but I needed to take a nap. I was tired and didn't feel good, but I refused to sleep. This woman wasn't my mommy and I didn't have to do what she said.

Within a few minutes, I felt a lurch as the giant bird launched into the air, but I never took my eyes off the window. Just then I saw the most beautiful thing ever, through the glass. It sparkled and twinkled in the sunlight. Quickly I leaned in toward the window to get a better view, completely in awe of the deep blanket below me. Through the window, the Pacific Ocean stretched out, forever. Never ending, it was everywhere. It was beautiful. Capitivating. With my tiny index finger pressed to the window, I asked my escort what color it was.

"Blue," she replied. "Don't point." Her hand came up, covered my hand and pushed it down away from the window.

Blue. It even sounded beautiful. Blue. It was the same color as my eyes. I no longer felt sad. I no longer missed my mommy or my sister. I no longer felt tired, or afraid. I felt...happy. I liked this color. I felt good looking at this color. I leaned toward the glass, and with my tiny nose pressed against the window, I sat entranced, captivated by the magic of blue. It was so relaxing, so perfect...so right.

Suddenly, little puffs of clouds streaked by the window, then I lost my view of the big blue glittery blanket as the bird climbed higher and higher, immersing itself in fluffy clouds. I was still trying to get another look at the ocean below, when we reached the top of the clouds and I saw the pale sky. It too, was everywhere. This blue was the same color as my mommy's eyes. I sat back in my seat, never taking my eyes off the window. I asked my companion if that was blue, too.  With a quick nod of her head, she confirmed it was.

With total fascination, I sat back, gazing out the window at the blue sky, thinking of the ocean and the billowy soft clouds just below me. Through that window, everything was beautiful, everything sparkled, everything was right. That day, just before I fell asleep inside the belly of the giant silver bird, I fell in love with the color blue.

That day, I fell in love with clouds, too.


My parents never married. I grew up with that knowledge, although when asked my mother always avoided the topic of their relationship. For years she told me it was because she didn’t want to marry him. I accepted it. Pushing for more information brought about an agitation and it became clear it was a sore subject for her. I let it be. Many years later, when I asked my father, he answered the question with complete and total honesty. Moments after telling me the story, he handed me a keepsake of that particular day in their short lived relationship. Finally, I knew and saw the truth.

I don’t remember meeting my father and his new wife in Portland, or the six hours plus car ride to Lewiston. Dad told me I slept the entire time.

What I do remember, is the first night at Dad’s home. I had my very own room, decorated the way a little girls room is decorated…in pinks and soft pastels. There was a beautiful four poster bed in the corner under a window, nothing like the Murphy bed I once shared with Mom and Diane back in Los Angeles. I was enchanted and charmed by it all. All this, for me. It was magical.

Sometime after I was put to bed for the night, I awoke with an intense urge to use the bath room. I slipped out from under the sheets and blankets and padded quietly over to the door, which had been shut. I stood there for the longest time, staring at the door knob. On the other side I heard the sound of the television. I knew they were awake.

But, I could not bring myself to touch the door knob and open the door.

Filled with fear, I stepped back and returned to the bed. I didn’t want to be punished. I had no way of knowing neither Dad, nor his wife Roberta would even think of laying a hand to me because I was up. That thought never occurred to me. Beulah’s actions left more than a myriad of bruises and welts on my body. Through her repeated conditioning of my behavior, she convinced me that if I ever opened the door after it was closed, I would be severely punished, no matter where I was. No matter who sat on the other side of the door. Punishment and pain would come.

But I had to go. Several times I walked to the door, staring at the knob. I walked back to the bed. Thinking.

I had to relieve myself. I felt the pressure building, and a pain in my side. I couldn’t hold it much longer.

Then I looked up at the window. I stood up, pulled the soft pink curtain back and unlatched the window. Slowly, I pushed the glass frame sideways on the track, feeling the cold blast of winter air cooling my face and hands. With one look back at the door, I climbed up into the window, sat on the ledge, looked down and jumped.

Quickly I pulled the long skirt of my night gown up, and my panties down. Then squatted in the dirt next to the house. With the relief of an empty bladder now accomplished, the pain and pressure in my side subsided.

Standing up, I looked up at the window. Way up high. Too high for me to reach. I tried jumping up, to no avail. It was just too far up. I was getting cold. My fingers hurt, and feet ached from the cold damp ground. It was then and there, that I decided to just sit down and stay put. I was tired, not feeling well at all, and feeling a bit weak. Sliding down the exterior wall of the house, I pulled my knees up to my chest, pulled the night gown over them and tucked my feet under the hem. Then I pulled my hands inside my sleeves and wrapped my arms around my legs.

Just before I feel asleep, outside on the cold, cold winter night, I looked up at the star filled sky. It was beautiful. Peaceful. Relaxing. No clouds, just endless dark sky filled with twinkling lights.

And so, I drifted off to sleep…

When I awakened the next morning, the sun was out, casting a beautiful light on a sight that filled me with absolute and total joy. A child’s swing set stood tall and glorious in the morning light. Without a second thought, I remember leaping up and running with delight toward the swing. Immersed in the sheer joy of play, I completely forgot about last night, being sick or anything else. I was happy.

Years later, I asked Dad if he remembered that morning. He did, and I had to smile when he recalled seeing me outside playing on the swing and how, when he went to open the sliding glass door in the dining room to call me inside, he noticed it was locked. Bewildered, he could not figure out how in the world I let myself outside and managed to lock the door behind me. Then they found the open window in the bedroom.

I must have been a very precocious child.

Control. I've heard it said control is just an illusion. Perhaps. After all, in our daily lives what do we truly control? Ourselves? Maybe, but it seems not always. Do we control the car we drive? Yes, to an extent but do we have total control over the possibility of a blowout, or breakdown? No, none of us do. Truth be told, we have no control of other drivers on the road, the weather, or time. Time has a way of getting away from us, and of showing us just how very little control we may believe we have. Then, perhaps, time is an illusion as well.

Or is it?

During the next six months, my father and maternal grandmother shared the duties of my visitation. I have fleeting memories of my time with Dad. I remember him teaching me Roberta's nickname, Bobbi. We were in their bed room, on the bed which had a white chenille bedspread and there were bobbi pins on the bed in front of me. Bobbi was fixing her hair with the pins, and pregnant with their first child. I remember picking up the bobbi pins and saying her name, which brought a chuckle of delight to my father. I suspect because I was still living in the world of silence, he was determined to get me to talk.

Neither he nor Bobbi knew about the abuse. Although I'm certain, at first, my behavior struck them as a little odd.

I fondly remember Dad teaching me how to wink, or trying to anyway. And his laughter at my attempts. His laugh filled me with delight, just something about the way he laughed, and the sound. It was a good sound, not a bad sound like the laughter I remember from the dining room table at Beulah's. A truly happy, uplifting laugh, and I felt the love behind it. He also tried to teach me to whistle, unsuccessfully. Either I was too young or little to grasp the skills needed to whistle, because I remember all I could do was blow air out my mouth. It would be a couple more years before I could actually whistle. But Dad kept trying, every chance he got.

By the time I celebrated my fourth birthday, the pneumonia was gone. But for the rest of my life, any cold or sniffle would go straight to my lungs and within days I would become very sick. For years doctors diagnosed and treated my condition as bronchitis, or asthma. And every year, at least twice, I got sick and stayed sick for at least a month. I missed a lot of school during those periods of time. It wasn't until my teenage years that a doctor accurately diagnosed my condition as 'walking pneumonia' and treated it as such. With proper treatment, I improved and gradually the bouts with the disease diminished. These days I must exercise caution and avoid contact with anyone who has an infectious cold. I'm not keen on the frequent use of antibiotics; I've read too much about long term effects of antibiotic treatment. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. More, actually.

The only memory I have of the time with my grandmother is that of my return trip home. We traveled by bus, the only transportation she would take; in all her years on this earth she refused to set foot on an airplane. I remember her always saying, "If God intended man to fly, he would have given him wings." Sometime during the trip, the bus broke down and we had to spend the night in Salt Lake City, Utah. I remember looking out the hotel window that night, filled with sadness and fearful I would never see my mother again. The trip seemed to last forever.  Fortunately, by the next morning, Greyhound Bus Lines placed another bus into service to finish the trip. I happily returned to the arms of my waiting mother and sister.

Reunited with mom and Diane, life would soon take a different turn.

One day, I played in the kitchen while mom cooked and I heard a knock at the front door. With exuberance, I jumped up and ran to open it. When the door opened, the framework filled completely with the shape of a man. I remember thinking it was a playmate come to play, and then casting my eyes up and up once I realized it was an adult outside. He filled the entire doorway and I stepped back at the sight of him, just as my mother joined my side. He was an imposing figure, outfitted in Marine Corps dress blues. With a sweeping gesture, he removed his cap and bent down to face me as my mother introduced us. He was joining us for dinner, and little did I know at the time he would soon play a very large role in my life.

On November 22, 1961, he married my mother at a small wedding ceremony in Los Angeles. Phoebe stood as matron of honor, mom was dressed in a beautiful turquoise blue taffeta dress while Diane and I watched from the pew with our new grandparents; that day we gained a new grandmother, who opened her heart to us and welcomed us into the fold of her family without hesitation. I remember her sitting next to me, and the feeling of closeness and comfort her presence gave me. In the years that would follow, she became a integral component of my fondest childhood memories. 

With the marriage came a move, from Los Angeles to the San Fernando valley; a move necessitated by the need for my new step father to be closer to his parents Plexiglas business on Tujunga Boulevard, where he worked. We found a small apartment in North Hollywood, but wouldn't stay there long. During the short time there, two memories live within me; a memory filled with music, and another filled with fear. 

So far reaching was Beulah's effect on me, that on one occasion when Diane and I were walking to Sunday school, I stopped in my tracks and refused to take another step. We were walking on a busy four lane street, (Lankershim Boulevard, maybe) and hadn't gone very far from the apartment. Reluctant to take another step, I stopped and bowed my head, filled with a deep need to go back home. Diane was several steps away before she realized I was no longer at her side. Several times she commanded me to come along, but I refused, shaking my head fiercely from side to side. When she grabbed my hand, I grabbed the nearest tree, a small yet stout young tree just small enough for me to wrap my free arm and a leg around it. Anchored to the earth, I told her no, repeatedly. The tears came to me quickly. 

With confusion Diane released her grip and stepped back, asking "What's wrong with you?"

"Beulah," was all I could say, wrapping my other arm around the trunk of my silent, but steadfast supporter.

With frustration, Diane explained, "She's not there! Come on, we'll be late!"


She took a step toward me. "She can't hurt you anymore."

Maybe not, but it was the words I feared in that moment. The words, the promise Beulah used against us. It twisted my thoughts, mixing things up with my emotions and playing a wicked trick on my mind. "God is there," I said.

Her face lit up. "Yes, he is. And he loves you."

I shook my head, "No. Beulah said he would kill us, remember?"

With a sigh of frustrated resignation, Diane looked me squarely in the eye. Heated with anger, she stated quite clearly, "No he won't! Beulah lied. He would never do that!"

Maybe it was her anger, and the wave of emotion that swept through me then and there that caused me to release my grip from that tree. I took a step, and shifted the weight of my body and my soul, releasing my fear of the known and unknown to the power of faith. I believed her and I didn't want her upset or angry with me.  

"He won't?" I asked, tenatively.

"No," she replied with assurance. "Never. He loves us. You'll see. Come on." She offered her outstretched hand. 

I took it. In that moment, the confusion I held deep in my heart, disappeared. Hand in hand, together, we continued on our morning journey to Sunday school.

Then there was the music. As a child growing up in the 60s, American Bandstand was one of my favorite shows. For one hour every Saturday, mom had the perfect babysitter for me. I was captivated by the show, and for that one hour I wouldn't move. Except the times I would get up and toddle over to the back of the television set, looking for the dancers inside. Inquisitively I peered through the pressboard cover marked with small holes to allow the heat emitted from the cathode ray tubes to escape. Never saw the dancers, just the bright glow from the tubes. Disappointed, I returned to the front of the television, moving only when mom would pick me up and set me back a little bit farther away from the set. I'd wait until she returned to the kitchen or whatever task she was on, then crawl back to the tv, stopping only inches from the screen. It was magical. Music was, and still is, the rhythm of life.

I still remember sitting there, wiggling around on my bottom to the rhythms and beats. I could not take my eyes off the dancers. I so wanted to be like them.

Music has always been a significant influence in my life. Music can heal. Music makes everything beautiful. Music can inspire. In many ways, it was music that helped me keep many things in balance throughout my life, especially my early childhood. It kept me from going over the edge, and perhaps contributed to my inner strength. 

It was always there, playing somewhere. Lifting me, filling me, supporting me...touching me.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

The trouble with writing...

Some of my best thoughts come to me when I'm not sitting at my keyboard. It can happen while I'm driving, or at work, sitting with friends or family...but always when it's not convenient for me to write down that thought. The words escape, and I lose them. Sometimes. Not always, but more often than not. Then I find myself at the computer, empty headed and struggling with the game of hide and seek. Fleeting words are the worse.

Nasty little buggers are always showing off. They think they are so clever hiding out in dark recesses.

But I'll find them, sooner or later.

I always do.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dreaming myself awake

I had a rather unsettling dream last Tuesday morning (12/23/2014). About Duke. The kind of dream that pulled me from a deep sleep to wide awake in a snap. And left me feeling cold and empty from the imagery it contained. 

I dreamed I was living in southern California, in the last home I lived before my mom left my step-dad and hauled me and my sisters back to her hometown in Washington. With me was Sam, Duke and AJ; I was holding on to AJ with a lead rope attached to his halter, Duke was nearby at liberty, Sam is standing next to me. The back yard at that house was small, due to the amount of space taken by the in ground pool. Somehow Duke got out of the back yard and by the time I put AJ up, Duke was long gone. As Sam and I searched for him (it seemed to take forever to go just a few yards) the neighborhood changed. I was losing hope of finding Duke, until I heard the sound of hooves on the pavement. He was nearby, of that I was certain.

We turned a corner and suddenly the houses disappeared, replaced by a county fair type setting and I saw dozens of horses tied to trailers lined up in front of us. About the time I was set to look around with the hope that someone had caught Duke and tied him somewhere, I heard Sam moving quickly behind me. Something about the way he moved pulled me from the quest among the trailers, to see what he was looking at. As I turned, he climbed a small dirt hill next to a garbage dumpster and looked inside. Duke was inside, but he looked weak, barely able to hold his head up and unable to stand. We were trying to figure out how to get Duke out of the dumpster, but I woke up.

It was 4 in the morning, and after that, I was unable to return to sleep. I've been worried about Duke and I haven't had a dream in a long, long time. At least not one I remember. Hopefully the dream means nothing, and it surfaced within my subconscious because I've been so worried about him.