This is a guest blog from a woman looking back on her teenage years. How many teens feel the same? How many women look back to a similar story? Can you relate? She writes:
There are times it helps to be invisible. When I was about eight years old, sitting in a boat in the middle of the lake with my dad, the outboard motor wouldn’t start. My dad kept pulling the chord and nothing would happen. He was getting more and more angry. Cuss words were streaming from his mouth. I was sitting there frozen with fear in a pond of profanity hoping to be invisible. I was alone.
I didn’t always want to be invisible. There were times when I wished I could have had a dad that hugged me and held me on his knee. I wished I had a mom that would comfort me. They were not there like that. I would wait for my dad to leave for work in the morning and then run to the window to watch him walk down to the car while drinking the sweet, warm, dregs of coffee he left behind in his mug. He never saw me; he never knew I shared that with him. My mom would bake homemade bread. I cut thick slabs of it and rolled up in my dad’s parka in the closet to consume them. That was the closest I came to being hugged and comforted.
I learned to enjoy my isolation. My friends were the characters in books. I have a lot of friends contained in over 1500 volumes on my shelves. I’m proud of them. They never criticized me. They never shunned me. They were always available to spend time with me. Unlike the rest of the world, I think they liked hanging out with me. They always had time to share their contents with me.
Growing up, we were transferred from town to town by the Royal Canadian Air Force. My dad would go on ahead while mom packed up the belongings and the kids. Being the new kid was always tough. By the time I was fitting in and beginning to know and be known, we moved again. Fidel Castro cancelled my seventh birthday party. Sirens howled on base demanding that everyone return home immediately. The beautiful pink elephant cake with curly coconut icing was left untouched as children hurried away. Missiles in Cuba had torpedoed my party.
My sister always had great parties; she was born on the first of July. She thinks she didn’t because her friends were sometimes away for summer vacation. But I knew they were better than mine. My eighth birthday was cancelled because we were moving again. My twelfth was great though! Indian summer kept it warm right into October. I had a beach party. It could have been out of a movie. I was happy. I had fun.
My mom remarried and we moved to Calgary. The land from hell with the step dad from the same place. I was thirteen. I had to start high school; it was scary. The older kids would park their motorcycles in the alley. I had to walk past them to get to the school. They held an initiation day. All new kids had to do what they were told or they would be reported. I had a dog collar tied on my neck with a leash attached while wearing a diaper. I had to follow my handler through the hallways singing loudly, Mary Had a Little Lamb. It was humiliating.
I decided to go home for lunch. I had to pass the motorcycle chicks and guys. There was one who stood out as the leader. He called me to come and polish his shoes. No way! I ran past as fast as I could. After school there was a dance in the gym. Mr. Motorcycle must have turned me in. I was called up on stage for refusing to take direction. My punishment? Push an onion across the stage with my nose in front of the whole school.
They hated me because I came from BC. Apparently voting Trudeau into office was my fault even though I was too young to vote. My textbooks were stolen. My parents received calls from the school to complain and require payment. I was in trouble with my step dad who had big debts from a previous marriage. The only friend I made who sometimes skated with me on homemade ice across the alley said she couldn’t be seen with me anymore or her friends would drop her. I was alone.
I had to spend Saturdays at English and math tutorials to catch up to the provincial levels. Sundays were controlled by the step dad who dictated what we could watch on TV. Nothing was fun. I would set the table with place mats. Ours were right side up while the step dad’s was upside down. I gave him the mismatched silverware. I wonder if he ever knew why. Maybe he didn’t even notice.
I cried myself to sleep at night. A boy living next door who was kind to me was sent away. He was a foster child. Another boy named Jason found out he wasn’t stupid like he had been told. He ran away. I never knew what happened to him. I wondered if I should run away too.
I had a transistor radio that I played at night under my pillow. Somehow hearing voices that talked to each other was comforting. I wished I could phone and talk to them too. I couldn’t sleep. My mom took me to the doctor and he prescribed sleeping pills. I decided to take them all. I could barely stay awake at school the next day. I was sent to the counsellor. When I told her what I had done, she called my mom. They were going to send me to live with my grandmother, but she didn’t answer the phone.
Then I met Helen. No one liked her either. She was Chinese. Her family owned a corner store. I liked her company, but she was always very slow to walk with, so we were late for school every day. More phone calls home. We didn’t have anything in common except we were both outsiders. Eventually I met another boy and girl. We were becoming friends. The boy called to ask me to be his date at the last school dance of the year. My parents said no. We were moving again. Alone again.
But I was not alone. There was One who watched. To Him I was not invisible.