When I was returned to my Mother in the fall she was still under the heavy strain of taking care of her Father. All my aunts and uncles spoke in hushed tones about him not being able to last much longer. My curiosity obviously compelled me to ask if he was soon going to pass away like Grandma; a question that was not well received. I wanted to be with him when he passed, however, so I persisted in my inquiries.
The adults’ whispering began to change in tone as they became more concerned with my predilection for the topic of death than they were for Grandpa’s longevity. They often spoke of how my experience with my grandmothers passing had changed me and how I was no longer “right in the head.” In my mother’s defense, she tried as best as she could to stand up for me, but this only strained her relationships with her siblings.
To me the adults seemed weak, maybe even pathetic. Their fear of death and their ridiculous assertions that the dead were “in a better place” just disgusted me. The other children at school were even worse. It seemed that they could be tricked into seeing life in just about anything. I remember being disgusted when another girl at school showed me her pet rock. It was just a rock with some googly eyes glued onto it. I peeled the eyes off and as I handed it back to her I said, “It’s just a rock.” I just couldn’t believe that she cried.
I was completely dumbfounded when I was sent to the office for “killing a pet rock.” Needless to say, my mother wasn’t pleased at all. I had become completely alien to all around me and I have to say that the feeling was mutual. In retrospect, if they viewed the changes in me as resulting from the trauma of having watched my grandmother’s passing then they really should have felt some sort of compassion for me. Compassion was the last thing I was feeling from anyone.
The real trouble came when I buried my dolls. I made a nice little cemetery for them in the backyard. I don’t really remember doing it but I definitely remember my mother’s reaction. She walked into the room, turned off the television, and then held one of the exhumed dolls in front of me accusingly. I looked up at her not understanding what the problem was and for a while she just stared down at me in silence.
Finally she said, “Can you explain this?”
“You dug up one of my dolls,” I replied.
“Why did you bury them?” she demanded.
“There’s no life in them.” I answered.
“They’re dolls. There isn’t supposed to be life in them!” she shouted.
“That’s why I buried them.”
She marched out of the room abruptly and phoned one of my aunts. I just turned the television back on. I can’t say that the adults in my life treated me with any less warmth after that, for there wasn’t much warmth left for them to withdraw. They did eliminate most contact that I had with my cousins but I really didn’t care. I really didn’t have much to say to anyone and I felt almost no connection with people anymore.
Although my contact with my cousins became minimal, I had already become aware that I wasn’t like most other children. I no longer had the notion that adults were all-knowing beings. I think that I must have begun to look at them differently as well, for they began to glance back at me in fear and rarely made persistent eye contact.
Just before Christmas all hell broke loose. Someone in the neighbourhood had killed a dog and mutilated the corpse. Everyone kept talking about the horrible things that had been done to that dog and I honestly had no idea why anyone would have wanted to do such a thing. The fact of the matter was, though, that all eyes turned to me. I have no idea how they thought an eight year old girl could have killed and mutilated a dog without anyone noticing but I was already feared. I guess they just couldn’t accept that there might actually be another deranged child in the neighbourhood.
I don’t even remember Christmas that year except for the whispers and horrified glances. No one seemed to know what to do and I guess I could sense that there was a lot of pressure on my mother. As winter progressed, I seemed to become even more alienated by the other children at school. I think she finally realized that I had to go when not a single child was allowed to come to my ninth birthday party. That’s when she sent me to live with my father.