Then the Seasons Changed

-Journey of Forgiveness 

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you”-unknown

With the whooping’s coming to a halt, life got a little easier for me. Just a little see because, the whooping’s were replaced with exclusion.  Spring basically started to exclude us from activities with her family. There was even a time that her mother came to visit and wanted to have some professional pictures taken with her, her daughters and grandkids. I guess Spring didn’t realize that she meant us too because ,when her mother got there she was upset that Margert and I was not ready.

 Quick tip: kids can hear you when you whisper yell. 

         Spring was not happy at all. Her mother made her find us something to wear and bring us too. The entire time Spring was nasty towards us and only allowed us to be in two photos. Now let me be clear, Spring is the one that made it a point to exclude us from her family functions. Her sister and mother were never mean to us. However, they did know what was going on and as far as I know, no one intervened. 

The exclusion did hurt my feelings but, it allowed me to spend more time away from home. Because Spring did not want us around like that, I started to be able to spend the night over my friend’s house and my Dad started to come and get us more often.  But, when we were home, comfortable is not the word. Margert and I would lay and night and plan out escape.  Margert was super serious and determine to get out. She told me that she was going to run away get her own place and come back for me. 

I believed her. The way she stood up to Spring made Margert so brave and courageous in my eyes. She did what I was never brave enough to do. Then one day Margert escaped. Like I meanted before, Spring never could control Margert so, she didn’t have to run away to escape….

I can’t remember for the life of me what the actual argument was about. I do remember the tense feeling I had watching the show down. Spring and Margert stood face to face. Spring’s arms folded in front of her and Margert’s hands on her hip. 

         “Turn around and stand in the corner.”, Spring demanded

         “No, you’re not my mother!”, yelled Margert 

         Pow, Pow

As quick as Spring slapped Margert in the face is as quick as Margert slapped Spring back in the face. I stood holding my mouth in amazement. Spring went to the phone called my Dad and Margert flew the nest. She moved in with Dad that night. 

With Margert gone, I definitely wanted my chance to fly the coop. I was not brave enough to do what Margert did, so I just had to sit and wait for my out. Then, right in the middle of 7thgrade, Spring made the announcement that at the end of the school year she would be moving back to Indiana. My Dad and Spring once again decided to let me decide where I wanted to live. 

Margert did not give me the loving mother spill but, she did say she wanted me to go with her. My Dad offered me a bike and my social security check. Now I had no idea about any kind of check but, my Dad told me that he was money from my Mother, and it had to follow me where ever I moved. He never mentioned how much this check was but, I suddenly found what appeared to be Springs “motherly love”. It seemed I had just 2 choices, go with Spring and keep being excluded or go with Dad and hope things go well. I choose my third option.

The day after my last day of school, I was on a train headed to Indiana. The plan was to go to Indiana and go to my happy place, Grandma Phy’s house. That was the only place I ever felt loved and safe.   I was planning on escaping to her house once I got back to Indiana. 

Now, for the most part I had nothing but good memories in Indiana but, it had been years since I had been there. I really didn’t know what to expect. We pulled up on a grey, soggy, rainy day to what appeared to be the dirtiest train station on the dirtiest side of town. (Don’t come for me that is just how it was).  First thought that came to mind, what have I done. 

Although my ultimate plan was to move with my Grandma Phy, I knew it would take some time. See, the only person that knew about this plan was me. So, I moved in with Spring and Amber. I didn’t get to see any of my family for about a month. 

During this time, I continued to stay on Spring’s exclusion list.  Spring and her family would have family events and outings that I wasn’t ever invited to. I either had to stay home by myself or babysit the family’s kids without playing with them. When it was time to sign us up for school, Spring decided to put Amber in a Catholic school with her sister’s kids. Like any parent she wanted what appeared to be the best education for her child. She decided to put me in public school that is until her sister intervened. Spring was reminded of how bad that would look especially since I had a check that would more than cover my tuition. 

I remained the extra baggage for a while. I’m not sure what sparked it but, my family suddenly became aware that I was back in town. The first person in my family I seen was Grandma Phy of course. I was super excited to see her and all of my cousins that I had not seen for over 6 years. I had the time of my life but, quickly realized that my plans to move in with her was out the window. As always, Grandma Phy’s 3-bedroom house was already packed. Not another couch or chair was available. So, I didn’t bother to tell Grandma Phy of my life with Spring nor as to live there. Disappointed is not even a strong enough word to describe what I felt when I left that night. 

My Grandma Phy did do me a big favor though. She called my Grandma Lou and let her know that I was back. Next thing I know, Grandma Lou was at Spring’s door. She took a quick look around and TOLD Spring that she was going to take me for the day. After spending the day with my Grandma Lou and family, she told me she wanted me to live with her like my mother wanted. 

Now granted, I was not as close to my mother’s side as I was to my father’s side but, they are my family. I belonged and so I said yes. That same day, Grandma Lou took me back to Spring’s house and TOLD  Spring that I was moving in with her. She stood as I gathered my things. 

Spring suddenly put on her loving mother facade. She came to me with tears in her eyes and asked me if this is what I wanted. Grandma Lou never gave me a chance to answer. “She’s just a child and you’re not family. She ain’t got no choice. Hurry up and get your stuff Na-Na” Grandma Lou insisted. 

Spring was not happy but, she sure didn’t have any choice. I gathered all of my things that day knowing that I would never return. Spring’s time was over, the rain was gone and just like that, the seasons changed. 

Spring Break

-Journey of Forgiveness

Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck”-Dalai Lama 

 

“Get your funky hands out of my face!” I yelled at the boy Josh in front of me. We were standing in line waiting to go to lunch.  “What did you just say?” asked my 5thgrade teacher Mrs. Scoot. “Get your funky hands out of my face because he keeps waving them in my face” I explained.  “No, you didn’t you cursed and that is unacceptable” Mrs. Scoot said. “Naw she did say funky” Josh added. “Go to the office” said Mrs. Scoot. “I didn’t do nothing”, I protested . “Now!” she yelled.

“What am I going to do now?”, I thought. The last thing I wanted to do was go to the office. Any kind of call home was just going to trigger another whooping and I definitely did not want that. So, I went to the office with a plan. Have them call Josh to the office so, he can tell them I didn’t curse. That is what I wanted to happen but, they didn’t even want to hear my side. Detention, a call home and go home early. “Fuck!” I yelled in my head. 

We didn’t have a car and Spring didn’t work so, that meant two things. I had to walk home, and she would most certainly be waiting on me with the leather strap. I walked as slow as I could without taking too long to get home. Be brave, it won’t last long, don’t cry, don’t make a noise, it’s going to be okay. I kept telling myself this over and over again on my walk home.

Maybe it was how long it took me to get home, maybe she had a bad day or maybe she just hated me. I don’t know what it was that day but, when I walked in the door I could tell this was going to be different. Spring was sitting in the dark holding the strap. “Go to room and get ready”, she calmly stated. I knew the drill. I got naked, planted my feet firmly on the ground and held the chair. 

No tears, no sounds, not a one. Spring held my shoulders and whaled on me much longer than usual. No tears, no sounds, not a one. When she was done I attempted to grab my underwear (I always put those on first because I felt so shameful being naked getting whooped). “Go to the bathroom”, she demanded. What? This was new. 

I cautiously walked in the bathroom and saw that the tub was filled with water. “Get in,” I was directed while standing in the door way. I just stood there staring at her. I didn’t understand why she wanted me to take a bath. I had open slits all over my skin and it wasn’t even bath time. “Get in NOW!” she yelled. I put my foot in and screamed. The water was so hot it felt like she boiled it first. Like any normal person I snatched my foot out. 

Out of nowhere Spring was on me, beating me with the strap and yelling for me to get in the tub. I got in but, it was so hot my natural reaction was to jump back out. This time Spring was standing over me and pushed me down in the hot water. She demanded for me to wash up. Crying and screaming from pain I washed myself while she stood nearby watching me. 

When I was done she allowed me to get out. “No clothes stand in the corner until I say get out.” Spring directed. I stood there in the corner naked, scares bleeding, soul bleeding and all hope for a better life slipping away. I had to stand in the corner until school was out  that afternoon. Then I was directed to sit naked in the corner until bed time. 

That night for the first time in my life I cried from my soul. I cried for my real mom and for God to take me. I cried only on the inside because for so long I was not allowed to cry on the outside. Somehow, I had seemed to forget how. At that moment something inside changed and I felt a sadness and anger that I had never felt before. I drifted off to sleep that night praying for death to come to me, so I could go to my real mom. 

The next day, whelps and all I went back to school. I spent the entire day in detention. By the next day I was allowed to go back to class. I resented that classroom and the teacher. As far as I was concerned, it was her fault that I got beat. I was angry at her, the class, the school and the entire situation. I was even more angry that the teacher grabbed my arm that morning, saw my whelps, made eye contact with me, and proceeded to be the nicest person in the world to me. 

I wanted revenge on everyone except Spring for some odd reason. Mrs. Scoot decided to make me her classroom helper for the day. One assignment was to take the tacks and hang up posters. I discreetly took one tack and put it in my pocket. When I went back to my desk, I showed my little secret to one of my classmates. We put a plan together to put it in someone seat and make them sit on it. 

Who better then the girl next to me? The teacher asked a question and the classmate convinced the girl to stand up to answer. While she was standing I put the tack in her seat. Delighted with myself I started laughing. Mrs. Scoot shot me a stern look and told me to stop playing. I don’t know what took over me but, in response I jumped up and pushed the classmate down into the seat making her sit on the tack.

She yell out, the teacher yelled for me to go the office and I lost it. I kicked over my desk, threw a chair at the teacher and ripped everything off the wall on my way out the classroom. Once I got to the office I was hysterical. I was crying and yelling that she was going to kill me. I pulled up my sleeves and showed the principal my scares. I cried and begging for her not to call Spring. I pleaded for her to listen to me. She called the school therapist to the office and then she called Spring. 

At first, I refused to speak to the therapist but, was allowed to stay with her for the rest of the day. The only question  I  finally agreed to answered was to provide my Dad’s phone number. When I got home from school that day I knew the routine.  I walked in the house right past Spring to my room, got naked and stood holding the chair.  Spring walked in and told me get dressed and go to bed. “Crap,” I thought. I wasn’t sure what fucked up thing she had in store for me but, I was not going to let her get me. So, I put on my pj’s and took  half a pack of Benadryl. “Mommy here I come”. I whispared and off to sleep I went with nothing on my mind but, escape. 

“Can you hear me? Open your eyes baby wake up.” the voice of my Dad. I could hear him but, I couldn’t see him. “She’s okay, she will be okay”, Spring was talking now. They were yelling at each other but, my Dad’s voice was soothing to me. I wanted to open my eyes to see him but, they were heavy like rocks. I was awake in my mind but, I could not move my body or respond. “I’m taking her!” my Dad yelled and like the kiss for sleeping beauty, my eyes started to open.

I was in an out for the most part but, I do recall my Dad carrying me to the car. I recall being in the hospital and by the time I was released I was fully awake and functional. My Dad was full of concern asking me about what happened. Honestly, I didn’t want to tell my Dad because I was scared that he did not care. That he didn’t love me. I told him I just wanted my mommy. Then he told me that he had a dream that my mother came to him and told him he needed to come and get me. He told me I could tell him anything and it was okay he would help me figure this out. In that moment I felt so protected and loved by my Dad. I was for sure he would not take me back to her and I could move in with him and his new girlfriend. 

The next day my Dad took me to school and we both sat down with the therapist. She told my Dad that she believes I have depression and anger issues due to some underlining issues at home. She requested that both him and Spring come in together to discuss what was going on at home. She then explained how everyday I would be pulled out of class for sessions with her and sessions with the anger management counselor. 

Just like she said, I started getting pulled out of class for sessions with her and anger management. However,  my Dad and Spring never did come in for that session. I went back to living with Spring and Dad went back to living with his girlfriend. The incident was never brought up again but, I started to see rays of sunlight. Spring was still full of mind games and extreme punishments but, the whooping’s came to a permeant end and I was never struck by lighting again.

Humming Birds In Spring

-Journey of Forgiveness 

Neither the hummingbird nor the flower wonders how beautiful it is

 

Unknown

The average humming bird beats its wings 53 times per second. That’s so fast that it looks like it is like time is standing still just for them.  I have always thought of them as the butterflies of birds. They are my favorite birds and my favorite part of spring. To this day I keep a humming bird feeder just so time can stand still, and I can marvel at their beauty. 

I am so glad that time does not stand still for us because, there are plenty of moments from my childhood that I definitely don’t want to be stuck in. By the time I reached the 5thgrade I felt stuck in Spring and ready for a major change. It seemed impossible to find a way out but, I was determined to do so. I just had to weather the storm a little longer.

After living in Hawaii for about 1 ½ years, my Dad and Spring separated. We all moved back to Indiana but, for some odd reason they thought Margaret and I should live with Spring and her Grandmother.  By this time, I had formed a love/hate relationship with Spring, and I was only in second grade. So, I had no choice but to be okay with it.  

The best thing that happened was, the whooping’s stopped as soon as we touched Indiana soil (surprise, surprise).  However, the punishment part did intensify just a bit. Now standing in the corner lasted hours (no exaggerations), sentence and essay writing started. Now I was fine with all of that but, something new started too and my young mind had a hard time understanding what was happening. Guilt trips. They would come so quick and fast like the humming birds wings, I never seen them coming. 

Something about Spring always had this weird allure over me. Sometimes I’m not sure if it was my desire to feel a mother’s love and belong to someone or her intelligence. In my mind, Spring is a mad genius and master mind manipulator. Either way, she noticed her influence over me and used it to her advantage. 

My favorite thing, even still to this day, about Spring is that she writes beautifully with passion and conviction. Even if she was lying you would surly believe her especially if she reads it to you. She brings the words to life with different tones and emotions behind her words. While we were living with her in Indiana, she wrote Margert and I, what I considered at the time to be, the most beautiful poem ever wrote. The poem is about a mother bird that found eggs outside of her nest and accepted them into her nest. The  mother bird loved the eggs like her own and helped them learn to fly. Then she told us that it is okay to call her mom if we wanted to. A permanent place in my heart was carved out for her. I started calling her mom because in my young mind she was now my mother and she would love me like a mother loves her own child. Like she loved Amber…. 

We went on living with Spring and her Grandmother. I don’t recall much contact with anyone outside of Spring’s family for quite a while. Then one Sunday, Spring tells us that our Dad is going to come and visit. She said he had something important to talk to us about. I was so happy I drew my Dad a picture and could not wait to give it to him. When he came he was in a great mood. He said he wanted to talk to us one at time. Margert went first. While she was talking with Dad, Spring called me into a separate room.

She told me that my Dad was going to ask us if we wanted to live with him. She said that we do not have to say yes. Spring reminded me that she was my mother now and she was the one that has been there for me not my Dad. She told me she loved me and wanted me to stay. My Dad called me into the room. He told me how much he loved and missed us. Then he asked me if I wanted to live with him, I told him no. Then my second-grade self sat there and watched my Dad cry. I had never seen him cry before and since then have never seen those tears again. If ever I had to name one regret in life, it would have been that moment. After my Dad wiped his tears, Margert and I packed our bags and moved in with our Dad. 

We lived with our Dad, his girlfriend and her kids for a while. We had not contact with Spring or Amber as she and Amber moved to California. That is until one night my Dad came home and told us to pack our things. “Get underwear, only summer clothes and 3 toys” he said.

Fuck the clothes, I packed all toys. Then he unpacked it and I was devasted. I was only in the third grade and was not interested in giving up ANY of my beloved toys. Of course, I wanted to cry and throw a fit but, the look that he gave me said I better not. Something serious was going on but, he never told us what. So again, I had no choice but, to be okay with it. In a matter of what seemed like minutes, Margert and I was packed and on a flight to California to live with Spring and Amber. Later I found out my father was called with the first set of Marines to fight in Dessert Storm. He didn’t want to burden his aging mother with us, didn’t trust girlfriend with us so Spring’s time came back around.  

Last time I had seen Spring she was my loving mother so, of course that is what I expected upon arrival to California. Spring had a two-bedroom apartment. Amber had her own room with a day bed and so did Spring. Margert and I had a mattress on the floor in the Livingroom to share. We lived like this for quite a while. One day I came home from school and to our surprise my Dad was back from war and was moving in. Now, Amber had her own room with a day bed, Spring and Dad had their own room and bedroom set, Margert and I continued to share our mattress on the Livingroom floor…. 

Needless to say, Dad and Spring split up again. The best thing that came out of that was Margaret and I got a room to share with bunkbeds. Yep, we stayed with Spring, only this time there were no sweet poems or loving gestures.  Oh, I was not ready for what Spring had in store. Whooping’s were back with a vengeance, punishments ramped up big time and almost all communication with Amber was cut off.  The lack of communication with Amber definitely effected our relationship and it was starting to show. 

From third grade to 5thgrade life for me got caught up in Spring’s physical and emotional storm. Amber began to become extremely disrespectful toward us. “She’s not even your real mom” or “That’s why your mom is dead!”, that is how Amber communicated with Margert and I. Right in front of Spring and she would never do anything about it. One time I even got a whooping because we were told to watch Amber but, don’t play with her. Amber was lonely and wanted a playmate. I wanted to play with my sister so, I went in her room to play in her and her enormous doll house. We had a blast and as soon as Spring got home Amber told on me and I got a whooping. 

The guilt trips stayed around too. One time, Margret and I decided to write to Spring and tell her how we felt. The guilt trip came heavy that day and lima beans were dinner.  She was always telling us how much we need to appreciate her because people don’t like to take in someone else’s kids. She would tell us that our Dad did not care about us and she is the only one willing to take us. She made it seem like we had nobody else in the world but, her. 

The worst part of all were the whooping’s. Like I said  before, they came back with a vengeance but, only for me. Margert started to fight back so…. Yeah, Spring couldn’t handle her. But she got my mind early, so I was submissive. I just wanted to be wanted…. This left me wide open to Spring’s manipulation. It was like she was just waiting on me to breathe too loud, so she could beat me. 

One time I was requested to babysit her sister’s kids. The little girl took a block and drew what appeared to be a perfect N on the patio window. When asked about it, I told the truth, the little girl did it. That was not good enough. Spring went and measured the height of the N to the floor and determined it was up too high for her to do it. I tried to hold my ground but, she made me sit at the dinning room table, with a desk light shinning in my face. She kept asking me the same thing again, and again and again. I broke, lied and said I did it. Then I followed suit and stripped naked, held the back of the chair, held in my sobs and tears while she counted off the lashes. Then I stood in the corner until bedtime. 

This was life for me. I was just a humming bird stuck in Spring storms. By the time I reached 5thgrade, my young soul was worn out. Then the day came that these whooping’s almost took my young life…. And just like when the seasons change, Spring just stopped. 

Thunder Storms in Spring

-A Journey Of Forgiveness

The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgives but do not forget-Thomas Szasz
 

Sore ass and hurt feelings. I just couldn’t believe she hit me and with a belt at that! I got my first real whooping and I was devastated. The worst part is, I didn’t even know what I did wrong.

Like I mentioned before, as a young girl I was a lover of anything “girly”. My sister Amber always wore these pretty ribbons and bows in her hair but, I was not allowed to touch or wear them.  Well, I wanted to wear bows in my hair this particular day and I was going to wear some bows. I didn’t want to break the rules so, before I left for school that morning, I stuffed my pockets with toilet paper. On my way to school, I carefully tied the toilet paper around my braids to appear as hair bows. My big sister, Margaret, found this to be utterly embarrassing. 

“Take that crap out of your hair! It looks stupid,”

“No, it don’t! It’s cute.”

“Everybody is going to know it’s toilet paper Manosha.”

“Nu-un! Watch, nobody will know!”

“Take it out or I’m telling!”

“So, what! It’s just toilet paper, I didn’t take the real bows so tell then!”

Nope, I wasn’t backing down so, I wore my “handmade” hair bows all day. Margaret wasn’t backing down either. She did just as she promised and told on me as soon as we got home from school.  Brat! By this time my “handmade” bows had crumbled up and fallen out. Spring didn’t seem phased. She just said ok and went to the bathroom.  No problem….

Moments later, “Manosha come here”, Spring called. No anger in her voice so I’m not in trouble, I thought. I stepped into the bathroom and she calmly closed the door behind me. Still, with calm composure, stand in front of me with her hands behind her back she asked, “What did you take to school today?”.  “Nothing”, I replied.  “Manosha, what did you take to put in your hair?”  she asked a little sterner now.  “Oh, toilet paper”, I said laughing. However, Spring was not even smiling. In fact, she didn’t smile, flinch or blink. Instead, she had this oddly peaceful yet disturbing stare. 

“Where are the hair bows you took to school?” she asked. “I didn’t take any. I made them with toilet paper.” I whined back. 

“Why did you think it was ok to waste the toilet paper?”

“I wanted bows”

“Turn around, pull your pants and underwear down and put your hands on the toilet” she instructed. Now I was all kinds of confused. While I never got a whooping myself, I did see my cousins and Margaret get a whooping and it did not involve them taking off underwear. So, I just stood there looking as confused as I felt. Then she slowly brought her hands from behind her back to reveal a thick, leather, black belt. 

Now, I understood and knew what time it was and burst out into tears. Meanwhile, Spring just stood there, still looking calm, and patiently watched me remove my pants and underwear. “The more you cry, the louder your cry the longer the whooping. If you move your hands or turn around we start over”, she calmly explained. 

First whooping EVER, despite the warnings, I cried and screamed for what felt like an hour. I didn’t dare turn around or move my hands but, I could not stop the tears, cries, and screams. I had to stand there with my hands on the toilet seat, her hand on my shoulder as she counted off each smack of the belt. Often times she would start the count over because of a loud scream or two from me. I can’t tell you the actual number of whacks but, to my 8-year-old mind, it was about 1002.  

Sore ass and hurt feelings were what I was left with but, that was not the last time that I was struck by Spring lighting. This was just the calm before the actual storm. What I knew to be my first whooping was something that I was about to become really familiar with. So familiar, that I would learn how to take those whooping with no screams, no cries, no tears and be happy to get praise about how well I took my whooping. I learned to weather the storm….

In The Spring Time

-Journey of forgiveness

It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder -Rumi

While I don’t remember everything from my youth, I certainly couldn’t forget living in Hawaii. Even at a young age, I could still appreciate the beauty of the island. We were fortunate enough to have the beach as our backyard. Banana and Pineapple trees, beautiful blue skies, crystal clear ocean water and gorgeous sunsets surrounded us. Geckos, exotic frogs, huge toads and giant flying cock roaches were our rodents. 

To a child coming from Indiana, Hawaii was a strange land. Paradise but, strange land none the less. So, living in paradise was definitely something to get used to. Living with Spring was something to get used to as well. Going from Grandma Phy’s home in Indiana to living with Spring in Hawaii was moving to strange land within a strange land. The environment was totally different. 

I can’t remember a time when less than 5 people stayed at Grandma Phy’s 3-bedroom home. It was always full of life as she has 9 children and all but, 2 had at least 2 children each. At some point in time, Grandma Phy had a hand in raising the majority of her grandchildren. Either they lived with her or spent several days at a time at her home as she was the designated babysitter. 

 If you can’t tell by now, Grandma Phy is well…. a little “hood” if you catch my drift. The flow of her home had a relaxed flow where she used curse words and ass whoopin to get results (except for me that is, NO ONE was allowed to whoop me according to BOTH of my Grandmothers).  All grand kids were out the house after morning cartoons and the street lights was the curfew. The only real rule I can remember was to stay in a child’s place. Oh, and “ Don’t slam that got-damn door!”.

Grandma Phy never assigned any chorus or pressured any of the grandchildren to work while in school. She is a true believer in allowing a child to be a child. Education has always been important to her as she was one of the first African Americans to integrated schools in her State. She then had to had to quit school due to pregnancy. While in her 20’s she became a single mother of 7. Determined to make a better life for her children, she went back and got her G.E.D in one day. Now in those days, completing the test in one day was almost impossible. She went on to become a Nurse and encouraged us to finish High School no matter what. 

Spring ran her home like a well-oiled, culture exploration, non-stop learning, strict etiquette school. Now, I’m not saying that these things were bad. As a matter of fact, I do credit a small bit of my fabulous writing skills (if I do say so myself) to much of her direction. This structured cultured environment that Spring created helped me to thrive academically. She is very big on education as well and has several college degrees in the Arts and Teaching. 

Nothing though, could compare to the art, culture and land the she introduced us too. Often, she would take us exploring on the island and surrounding ones as well. She liked to take us to the beach and tell us about the different ocean and plant life. She was always sprinkling us with juicy droplets of knowledge.  I remember looking up to her and just wanting to be as intelligent and knowledgeable as she was. 

Spring assigned us chorus, nothing more than keeping the room clean, picking up after ourselves, and making sure your clothes and backpack were neatly set out for school the next day. House rules were, no TV on the week days but, at night we could listen to classical music while we sleep. Every day,  we were to read a book of our choice for 1 hour. 

As always, we were expected to use your normal manners such as; Please, Thank you, You’re Welcome and Excuse me. However, we were taught new etiquette that we never used at Grandma Phy’s. Now we had to ask to be excused from the table and then wait to be excused before getting up. If you had something to say and others are talking, you simply say excuse me then wait to be addressed. Cross someone’s path, say excuse me etc.

Nothing too bad right? The biggest rule was to not play with any of my little sister’s things including her colorful ribbons that she got to wear in her hair.  To a 7 or 8-year-old  girly girl, this was very hard to learn and remember. Spring had no problem helping you remember. Punishment would start off as standing in the corner, writing sentences, losing weekend TV and classical radio week days.  Then one day it happened….Spring went from a gentle breeze to a whirlwind thunder storm. And my butt was struck by lightning….

Now Entering the Twilight Zone

-Journey of Forgiveness

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit to them-Bruce Lee

I’ve never really liked Spring. As a matter of fact, the feeling is pretty damn close to hate. It’s too unpredictable for me. Instead of Spring, it should be called the Twilight Zone. One minute, it’s all sunny and pretty. The next minute, there’s a monsoon, tornado or hurricane and oh, the enormous amount of gray rainy days.

 All that crazy weather is supposed to be good for the earth and everything on it right? Winter has washed away. The flowers start to bloom, dried up trees are rejuvenated, and new life begins to spring forth. Well for some of us, those freshly bloomed plants cause hay fever, allergy attacks, sinus issues, and asthma attacks. Oh, and that pile of new insect life, yeah, I could do without all that. So, nope don’t like Spring…. the season that is.

My Step Mother Spring, that’s a whole other story. My relationship with her is much like the season. She came right after the dark hours of my life, brought new life and from that point on I was sent through the “twilight zone” of emotion. She had so many mood swings I didn’t know who or what I was about to get. So, for the longest time, I secretly hated her, that is until I learned how to forgive.  

Trust me when I tell you there was plenty to forgive so, this was not an easy journey. This started back when I was between 3 to 5. After my mother died, my Dad went back on duty with the Marines and was stationed out of State so, we did not see much of him. My sister and I stayed behind and lived with Grandma Phy. We lived there until I reached 1stgrade. Now somewhere along the lines, I met Spring I don’t’ remember this day but, I do remember when my Dad told us that they were getting married. 

It was so sunny outside that day when my Dad walked into the house with Spring. My sister and I were bouncing all around happy to see my Dad and his friend.  “Girls come to have a seat on the steps, so I can talk to you,” he said. With goofy smiles on our faces, we sat on the stairs anticipating whatever news he had for us. “Do you girls like hanging with Spring?” he asked. “Yes!” we sang in unison. “If I marry her she will be your new mother, do you want her to be your new mother?” “Yes!” we sang once again. 

As I said, I don’t remember the first day I met Spring but, I do remember spending some time with her before that day. I remember she seemed nice and had a rabbit. As a kid that was pretty cool and to have a mother was even better. So, yeah, we said yes but, hell we didn’t know what we were saying yes too. Now what comes next is kind of a blur for me.

They got married (we didn’t go, and I can’t even tell you what day they got married) and my sister and I continued to live with Grandma Phy. What seemed like a short while later, Spring was pregnant with my little sister Amber. She was such a cute baby and I was so happy to be a big sister. I did not get to spend much time with her because after that, we didn’t see her again until she was a toddler. 

So, about a year after Amber was born, My Dad appeared at Grandma Phy’s again. This time he told us we were moving to Hawaii. Back then I didn’t know how cool that was as being a military brat, I was pretty used to traveling so this did not excite me. The fact that I was moving to a home with both my sisters, my Father, and a new Mommy is what got me hype. What I didn’t know is that the real reason my Dad was there to get us was that when Spring and Amber went to join my father in Hawaii some months back, she conveniently forgot two very important passengers…. That day I left Grandma Phy’s home and entered the “twilight zone”. 

What Siblings Do

-A Journey Of Acceptance

We were born and joined by blood, but we chose to be joined by love-unknown

Over the next few years my brother and I continued to grow closer. We talked more, and he visited more often. I even got to attend his High School graduation in his hometown. Although we stayed in constant contact, he still felt really far away. So, after discussing it with Mr. Ex, I invited Eric to come live with us. Now at this time, I was 25 and my boys were 5 and 3. We had a 2-bedroom section-eight apartment, Mr. Ex was the only one working, I was attending school fulltime for my A.A.S and we were receiving food stamps. Nope, none of that stopped me from opening my doors. Prior to that, Mr. Ex and I had opened our doors 8 times before that to various family members on both sides of our family. We were able to pull together for them so of course we could pull together for him. 

My boys were super excited to have him there. To them, it was like having a 23-year-old kid to play with. He would pick my oldest up from kindergarten and on the way home while showing him cool tricks and flips that he could do. Eventually he had the boys thinking he was Spiderman because he could flip off a tree. Eric is also a really great dancer so, he would have the boys bobbing around the living room thinking they could dance like him. 

Eric got along beautifully with Mr. Ex. Since they both are pretty laid back and easy-going guys, I never worried about them fighting. Eric also got a chance to meet my closest friends (at that time) and build relationships with his cousins on our Dad’s side. Most importantly, Eric and I got closer than ever before. We spent so many days having long conversations and nights staying up late just talking you know, just doing what siblings do. We talked about everything. With all that talking you know it was bound to come up. The unspoken words about our mothers. 

At 25 years of age, yes, I still considered his mother Glenn, the enemy (I hadn’t reached the point of full understanding just yet). Since Eric moved in, it was kind of hard to ignore her. She would tell Eric to tell us hello (still my enemy), send gifts for Christmas (still my enemy) and even asked to come visit Eric; To which I replied, “Sure, when I’m not home.” (STILL MY ENEMY!). It was pretty obvious that I didn’t care for Glenn and I never tried to hide it. However, out of love for my brother, I was never disrespectful or rude (at least not to his face, okay except for that one time when I was 15). So, during one of our longs talks it finally came up. I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner but, when it did happen, I thought I could handle it. 

I don’t quite remember how it came up but, once the conversation started, I just assumed that Eric would concede to the fact that his mother was wrong. Nope, that was not how he felt or what he said. Different households, different mothers, different stories. According to him, his mother was the innocent party and she had to move out of town due to harassment. The icing on the cake was when he said our father loved his mother more than my mother and Spring. Instant attack mode was triggered.  So, imagine for a moment, if you will, me turning into a red version of the Incredible Hulk. Yeah, it was something like that when I exploded. I was enraged and all I could see was red.

 “Lies! All Lies! Nope that’s not what happened at all!” I argued. How dare he sit in my face and slander my mother. My mother was the WIFE and she lost her LIFE behind my Dad and Glenn’s foolery.   It was obvious to me that my mother and what she went through was left out of Glenn’s story so, I felt the need to enlighten him. I told her story and all that I knew about Glenn’s role in it including the harassing phone calls. I even told him about the day she committed suicide. Then I went in for the kill, I told Eric that Dad never loved his mother that is why she was the only one he never married. 

Yep that was cold and mean just like I meant for it to be but, instantly I regretted what I said. He was not my enemy. I didn’t want to hurt him but, I also didn’t want to hear Glenn’s side. I didn’t want to acknowledge, accept or understand. In that moment, I felt that whatever negative impact that this situation had on his mother’s life was well deserved. After all, it was nothing compared to what my sister and I had endured. Praying for a mother to come save me that could never come. Images of what it would be like to have her in my life keeping me up at night. Waking up every day to the reality that she was no more. So what Glenn had to move out of town and raise her first child all alone! So what Eric didn’t have his Dad around, hell, join the club, all of his kids felt that way! At least she got to raise her child and he was only down 1 parent while I was down 2. It wasn’t fair!

Now instead of just me being hurt, he was too but, that was not what I wanted. I just wanted to protect and defend my mother’s honor as she was the only one that could not tell her side. So, as her daughter, I felt as though I had to. I had to fight those battles on her behalf. I had to give her a voice. In that moment we had to make a choice. To agree to disagree and remain respectful of each other or defend our parent and deny our sibling bond.

Years later Eric still comes to town and show the boys some dance moves. He was there for me through my divorce. From time to time, we even still have those long conversations.  See because no one left with hurt feelings that day. We said what we said and left it right there in that moment. After all, that’s what siblings do.

My Brother’s Keeper

-A Journey Of Acceptance 

Silence does not always mean acceptance-Life Diariz

Spending time with Eric was everything to me. When I say everything, I mean everything. Getting to know another sibling was exciting. Especially since that sibling was a boy. I grew up most of my childhood living with my sisters but, I never lived in a household with my brother. It was so interesting to me that he grew up in a totally different household but, he was still so much like us. He had many of the same mannerisms and was just as goofy and sensitive as his sisters. But, there was one sister that he had a little more in common with than the others. Me.

After spending several hours talking about our lives and how we grew up, we quickly realized that we both shared a dark past full of physical, verbal and mental abuse courtesy of a Step Parent. The only difference was that I was able to escape whereas this was still his reality. I listened as he told me horrible stories of beat downs passed out by his Step-Dad. No, not the normal ass whooping you get for misbehaving. I’m talking about, beat you down for breathing too loud type of abuse. He also expressed the verbal put-downs and mental games that he Step-Dad would use to make him believe that his father didn’t want or love him. Eric said this all with a straight face, no tears and bravery in his eyes. 

I knew his pain all too well. I had experienced almost the exact same thing with Spring. There is something about this kind of pain that when it becomes a norm for you, it dries up your tears. So, when I told my story to him I also did so with a straight face, no tears, and sadness in my eyes. No sadness for me but, an overwhelming sadness for him. He seemed relieved to tell someone. It seemed like it lifted a weight from his little 13-year-old mind. We continued our evening with laughs, taking and taking pictures. I continued to smile, laugh and enjoy his company but, all along I had started plotting on a way to save my brother. I just had to help him, after all, that’s what big sisters were for right? I am my brother’s keeper.

When it was time for him to leave, I was so scared for him. They weren’t even all the way in the car before I cried out for Grandma Phy. She knew of all the things I had gone through with my Step Mother and she rescued me. Surely, she could do the same for Eric. I told her everything he told me and this time I had plenty of tears to flow. 

 “Grandma we got to help him! Can’t you just make him come live with us?”, I asked. 

 “You can’t just go around taking folks kids. But, I tell you what, that M-F’er won’t get away with this shit!” she exclaimed. 

I was hype! Grandma was going to get that M-Fer! Grandma Phy went straight to the phone and called our Dad. I personally didn’t think that would do any good. For one, he was all the way in California and we were in Indiana. Second, from what I could tell from what my brother said, Dad didn’t really check up on Eric like that or else he would’ve known what was going on. This was not the reaction from Grandma Phy that I was hoping for, so I was completely disappointed.  That was until I spoke to Eric again. It had been maybe a few weeks later.  Eric told me that things were actually getting better for him at home. Neither one of us knew why though.

It wasn’t until years later that we found out that after Grandma Phy called our Dad, he and my uncles made an unannounced trip to my brother’s city that lasted one day. What happened? I don’t know but, whatever happened rescued my brother from the abuse. For that, I am grateful. 

My Brother From Another Mother

-A Journey of Acceptance 

What you deny or ignore you delay. What you accept and face you conquer-unknown

“It’s all hot and sticky out tonight,” I said as I sat on the porch with my Grandma Phy. “Um-hum, and theses got damn mosquitos keep fucking biting at me!” she snapped.
“Grandma I don’t know why I’m so nervous”
“I don’t know either, it ain’t like you never met the boy before. He’s your damn brother plain and simple okay! I can’t stand this M-F’ing biting shit. I’m going inside. Come get me when they come”.


She was right. It wasn’t like it was the first time we had ever met I just didn’t remember. So, to me, it felt like our first-time meeting and I was nervous. Not about seeing him, but about my reaction to the entire situation.
After Grandma Phy took me to my mother’s grave site, it totally altered my reality. Moving forward I had a hard time accepting things in my life. I felt like I had to check and then check again as I felt the need to account for everyone in my life. This left me feeling like an angry, hurt and confused teenager. However, I wanted as much clarity as possible and I wanted to know how my siblings felt about all of this.
Now my older sister and I have always been close. However, in our youth, we never really discussed our mother and our feelings towards her death. It was kind of like having an unspoken rule to never bring her up. My younger sister Amber was way too young to even begin to understand. Besides that, her mother Spring was wife #2 and Amber was born five years later.
Then there was him. My little brother Eric, just 2 years younger than I. I barely knew him, and his existence was hardly mentioned so I knew of him but did not know him. But, as Grandma Phy said, he’s my damn brother plain and simple okay! I wanted to know him not just know about him so, when I was ready, I asked my Grandma Phy about him. She told me what city he lived in and contacted his mother for me.
The first conversation was a bit awkward. I was talking to my blood but, it felt like I was talking to a stranger. To my surprise, he was just as interested in getting to know me as well. Grandma Phy and his mother Glenn arranged for us to meet up and hang out at Grandma Phy’s house. I was full of mixed emotions. On one hand, I was excited to hang out with my brother but, on the other I was I perplexed about coming face to face with the “enemy” Glenn.
Then they pulled up. Now I can’t remember what kind of car they were in but, I remember my first sight of my brother like it was yesterday. Walking up the walkway was this skinny little 13-year-old boy wearing a windbreaker tracksuit (don’t laugh Y’all, it was popular in the ’90s). My eyes were locked on him and I felt lost in a trance. He looked like a male version of me! I immediately felt the sibling connection.
I was snapped out of the trance by Grandma Phy coming out of the house to greet them. Glenn greeted Grandma Phy then, she did it. She turned to greet me, “Oh my gosh you are so pretty!”, I don’t know if she said anything else to me but, that was all I heard. So, what did my 15-year-old smart mouth, angry little self do? I looked her dead in her eyes with my nose turned up and replied, “thanks I look just like my mother.” Yeah, I’ll admit that was petty and I meant for it to sting. However, I never got to gauge how effective my remark was because immediately after all my attention went right back to Eric. I was ready to spend some time with him and get to know who he really was. The part I wasn’t ready for, was all the sad, upsetting stories

Finding Understanding

-A journey of Understanding

 

To Love from your soul is to give too much-Manosha Gray

 

On my 23rd birthday, I felt as though I had already walked a mile in my mother’s shoes. Guess what? Her shoes didn’t fit me. I kicked them thangs off honey! Instead, I laced up my own boots. When I left the bathroom that day, I was seriously determined to walk my own path. That’s just what I did. In a family full of medical-related careers, I choose to continue in the legal field. I continued this path sometimes skipping, running and even crawling at times (especially with math).

Over the next 10 years, things at home continued to be a hit and miss. Mr. Ex confessed that he didn’t want to work at all (he was serious too). Luckily, that feeling was short lived. He eventually got over that and got a really good job. That lasted about 3 years and then it was back to job shuffling and late night hanging out with friends.

I proudly walked across the stage and received my A.A.S in Paralegal Studies. While looking for a job in my field, I went back for my B.S. in Legal Studies. I got a government job working as a Litigation Paralegal making a decent living. Child, you just don’t know how happy I was to get off government assistance and Section 8. Don’t tell nobody but, I actually cried. Then I made that faithful walk back across the stage for my B.S in Legal Studies.

My roaster was becoming full of accomplishments but, my spirit kept getting lower and lower. Constant ups and downs with Mr. Ex felt like war instead of love. I was so deeply in love with him. Where he ended, I began. I found myself looking to only please him. I secretly felt ashamed of my accomplishments because I did not want to do better than him. He enrolled in some courses but, never had the necessary passion and commitment to make it past the first semester.

 Every time I got a degree, he would tell me that he knows I am going to leave him. He even left my graduation for my B.S early and I never got a chance to celebrate. I truly felt alone and lonely that day.  I didn’t know how to make him feel secure besides to try to help him with his dreams. So, even though I started my business first, when he wanted to start a business, I set mines to the side to help him.

I walked him and his partner through everything to get started. Their business was a floor and janitorial service. Mr. Ex was excellent at getting clients. So, before long he had a roster of clients. However, he didn’t have any employees and for some reason, his partner could not work with him. I stepped up and worked for free. I worked scrubbing floors and carpets on my hands and knees, cleaning bathroom stalls and emptying trash cans at the local jail and daycares.  Meanwhile, my business still had clients calling and many I had to turn away due to working for Mr. Ex’s business.

Then after a few months of being in business, Mr. Ex just stopped working. He just stopped trying period. No working, no bill paying, no nothing. I was left being the only one working. I wanted so desperately for my business to work but, we also needed a steady income so, I got a part-time minimum -wage job. At this point, my self-esteem, self-worth and general outlook on life was very bleak. I felt like a total failure.

One day while organizing my storage closet, I came across my mother’s photo albums. I sat in the hallway looking through her albums. As I opened the last album, which was her scrapbook,  and her letter fell out. I sat the letter  to the side and began to read all the loving remarks she wrote about my Dad. It expressed a deep love that was so pure. Then I read her letter. It expressed a Love twisted into sadness and resentment.

As I let out a long sigh, my eyes unleashed a river of tears. I finally understood. I understood the difference between loving from your heart and loving from your soul. I understood how you could lose yourself in someone else. I understood how your life could feel so worthless in someone else’s hands.  And finally, I understood why she committed suicide as I was sitting there contemplating that very thing. 

As I sat there feeling defeated and emotionally drained, I just began to pray. I asked God to help me let go. To help me find the worth in me again and to help me break the chains that bind my soul to Mr. Ex.’s. After I poured out my heart to God, I wrote this letter to my mother:

 

Dear Mother of Mine,

I may not look like you but, I am definitely your child. We have so many things in common; especially our compacity to love so deep that we get lost in it. You once wrote that you hoped one day I would understand. Mommy trust me I do. You also asked for our forgiveness and I want to let you know that there is nothing to forgive. Instead, I ask that you forgive me for my lack of understanding. I now know that it was not your lack of love for us that allowed you to do what you did but, instead of your lack of love for yourself. I know how it feels to run on E because I’ve been doing it too long. You were drained and had nothing left to give anyone including yourself. Know your death was not in vain. I learned so much from your journey. I am able to understand where I am now and know to fight my way out. I can’t do this alone, so I am going to lean on God for this healing. Stay close by so I can continue to feel your motherly touch.  I love you to the moon and back and now I must learn to love me that way too.

 Love your youngest daughter,

Manosha Gray

I placed that letter in an envelop along with my mother’s letter and I packed it way and I began my journey to heal from the inside out.