Monday, February 21, 2011

A Burst of Freedom...

The following piece is in response to a memoir writing prompt at the Red Dress Club.

We were in a two story house on the second floor. It was me, age 7 years old, and a few other kids, younger than me, between the ages of 3-5. Then there was Monique, tall, dark-skinned girl with cornrows in her hair. She was twelve years old and was our babysitter's daughter. She was watching us even though her older sister was the one who was left in charge, while their mother - the official babysitter - was out.

We were gathered in a living room. There carpet spread across the floor was a dingy forest green. The furniture that sat on it was made up of shades of brown fabric the color of caramel. There was one long couch by a window and then one big chair sitting off to one side. An old black colored television was on and the animated cartoon show of The Jackson 5 played on t.v.

Monique had gone into the adjoining bedroom for a few moments while we kids were left outside. Then she called us in one by one. I was the oldest and I was first. I walked in and saw her standing there with a silver wire in her hand that was as wide as a tree branch. She waved it and commanded me to do things to our bodies that included inappropriate touching. It lasted about ten minutes, though it felt much longer. Then she asked me to leave and she called in the next kid.

I sat down on the couch feeling tense - like something inside me was stretched tight. This wasn't the first time Monique had made me do things like this. Under her mother's care, I had endured things that I hadn't even shared with my mother. With that feeling of tension, a rage started within me and continued to build as she called in each kid individually. I found myself staring at the Jackson 5 cartoon in silence but not really seeing it. She then called me in again. When we were done, she walked out of the bedroom with me and began swinging the silver wire at us, threatening us. She did that for a few minutes and then went back into the bedroom.

Something inside me shifted then. With a steely determination, I turned and walked down the stairs, out of the front door and into bright sunshine. I was leaving - totally out of there. I was done with Monique and I was done with this. I wasn't going to take it anymore. I was walking away from that girl and from her abuse.

I walked up the sidewalk, barely noticing the rows of brownstones on either side of the street. I didn't know where I was going and I didn't care. All I knew was that it was away. I barely heard the sounds of the cars passing by or the people talking and laughing as they hung outside their houses on their stoops. My eyes focused on the sidewalk ahead of me and I was following it.

Suddenly I heard my name being called. Repeatedly.

A shiny red car came up beside me and stopped. I looked up. I saw my mother's face leaning over her friend, who was in the driver's seat. My mother's forehead was furrowed and her eyes were questioning.

"Melanie! What are you doing out here?"

I looked at her, silent for a moment, and then just shook my head. I don't remember what I said. My mom then gestured for me to come to the car as her friend reached over and unlocked the passenger door behind the driver's seat. I got in and closed the door and sat quietly as the car pulled away from the sidewalk. I said things but I don't remember what they were. I felt a huge sense of relief. Relief to see my mother, who just happened to be riding in a car on her way to another destination with a co-worker (she was planning on returning to get me when her work day was done) and relief to be away from Monique. It was truly done. Over. I felt proud of myself for finally standing up and refusing to take the abuse anymore.

Additonal Note: I was truly trying to recall happier memories. I know I have some - a good bunch in fact, but my sharpest memories from my childhood I've discovered, are the ones that were centered around my abuse and those times when I was freed from it. The above memory was one of those times.


  1. You're so strong to be able to share a memory like that.

  2. Shell,

    This was a tricky one for me. I debated: should I or shouldn't I? Felt very risky because I didn't know how it wiould be perceived by others. It's a memory though that helped shape me as a person. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Wow. It's so heartbreakingly sad. Thank you for sharing this. I'm sure it was difficult to write.

  4. As an overcomer of Child sexual abuse myself I could totally relate to this memory. I was going to write on this today but all of my memories find their way back to my abuse as well.. which is not something you really want to let have rule . You think there has to be something that is not connected to that. I get why it was so hard to write

  5. The Jackson 5 cartoon evokes a lot of memories for me. A different time of life when I was small. While I can't say that I was abused I remember older kids taking advantage of their age and size.

    This was powerful and something that I think is worth sharing.

  6. Such a powerful piece.

    I also spent some time in an abusive daycare environment. Nothing that holds a candle to what you went through, but suffice it to say that my sitter and her teenaged kids had no business running childcare out of their home.

    Well done, Melanie. Glad you linked up!

  7. It is sad and sick, the ways in which kids wield their power, and of course you wonder if her sister or mother or someone was doing the same to her.

    Don't feel bad about writing these memories. It's your truth and you should be proud to speak it and share it.

  8. Well done, well written, and shows great strength.

  9. Though I know that nothing I can say can erase this memory for you, I am truly sorry that you went through something like that.

    You are lovely and brave for putting it into words and sharing it with us.

    You should be so incredibly proud of this post and the courage that it took to publish it.

  10. I'm sorry this girl left you with a memory like this.
    What a strong girl to say no more and walk out.
    I held my breath through your post.
    I feel like I still am.

  11. I agree with some of the other comments. It takes so much strength to share a memory like this.

    This was actually painful to read because it was so vivid. But, on the flip side of that, I could feel your relief when the car pulled up and you saw your mother.

  12. Hey!! I love the new look. I LOVE IT. It's so bright and cheery.

    What a great idea. You have to email me all about how you came up with the banner and everything.

    I really, really like it.

  13. NO!! I just left you a comment and it disappeared under 404 error.


    Anyway, I love your new look. It is so bright and airy. I whole different feel, what a great idea. Email me and let me know how you came up with the awesome banner.

  14. Will you do a follow up to this story? DId they ever stop Monique?

  15. Wow. Mel.

    Love you.

    (And I like your new blog look - I've totally gotten behind on my friends' blogs).

  16. Melanie,

    My heart was in my throat as I read this. I'm so sorry this happened to you. I, too, am curious if charges were ever pressed?

    It's so courageous and brave to write this and to go back to that fear. Wonderful writing!


  17. Such an awful story to have to tell. You've taken tremendous power for yourself in the telling, power that has its roots in a little girl strong enough to walk out of a bad situation and take her destiny in hand.


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