When my mom called us we all needed to say “yes mom”, come running and line up. We needed to have an attentive look on our face and never look angry or upset as we were yelled at, which we always were when we were all called to attention like that.
One such instance of this involves the “butter on the fridge” incident. I mention it because it was a decisive moment in my little almost five year old spirit.
At the call of our names, we all did our duty and fell into line. My mom was furious and we knew that something dastardly must have happened. As it happened someone had left butter on the handle of the fridge. Now, I was the one who ate butter by the handful so it very well might have been me who committed this heinous crime. Again, though I must say I don’t remember. I don’t think any of us did. We were just kids who did stuff and didn’t think. It really could have been any of us.
When we were lined up facing the frothingly angry mom yelling at us to admit who left butter on the fridge, I just wanted to get out of there and have it be over. My mom dismissed my middle sister saying,
“I know it wasn’t you. You would never do anything like that.”
Before my very eyes my oldest sister began to be beaten as my mother yelled,
“I know it was you.”over and over. I stood there like a lump of cement unable to move as I hadn’t been excused yet and watching my sister take another beating. She got the worst of the punishment though noone really had it that easy. I remember making a decision in my mind that I just couldn’t stand her going through it one more time. Something in my little four year old heart became an "adult" that day and stepped forward as the "hero". Now I don’t think that this was a wise decision. It isn’t one that I should have even have had to make but here it was.
I cried out,
“It was me. I did it.”Like a storm changing course my mother turned on me with force and tore into my body with her words and fists yelling,
“You let me hit her. You let her take the blame.”I really got quite a 'licking' that day but something in me felt a little bigger. I had chosen a beating on my own and lessoned someone else’s burden. Not healthy. Oh, no. Not healthy at all. Butter. It was all about butter. But the message was much bigger. No matter what you do you aren’t safe. You might as well buck up and take it and choose it if you can. Take the power away from your abuser and become the martyr.
Years later at 34, I went to a Jesus orientated retreat. Now I hadn’t forgotten the event, but I didn’t live in that moment either. What I didn’t know is that it was a retreat focused on healing our wounds through the wounds that Jesus received. In the course of the weekend, we spent a lot of time in solitude.
During a time of reflection I had an encounter with the Lord that brought me spontaneously back to this memory as though I was living it again. In this vision the doorbell suddenly rang and my mother answered it. I was there, 30 years later as me looking upon the three girls and their mom so furious over the dairy product that had been left on the handle of the fridge.
What ensued was a profound moment that I watched like a movie being played out. With tender fierceness I as an adult, not as a child forced to be an adult, faced my mother and simply said,
“Enough”I then went to my three sisters an told them,
“You are safe.”Then the scene changed and it was just me with me.
In this "vision", I walked over and knelt beside myself. It was an overwhelming experience to look at myself through an adults eyes and knowing how much of life was yet to happen. I wanted to pick up the little girl and run off to protect her but knew I couldn‘t. I knew she would need to walk her life out. I wrapped my arms around her and rocked her and told her about how Jesus had come for her and would save her. I told her everything was going to be alright and that she didn’t have to take care of herself anymore that Jesus had come to do that.
I know that sounds like a strange thing to have happen. I wouldn’t have ever thought an experience like that possible, nor would I have sought it out, but I do know that it was intensely healing to allow the part of me that needed to know I wasn’t alone and had someone that was taking care of me. It was also powerful to see how innocent I was. When you are small and always in trouble you just know something is wrong with you, not the vastness of the injustice. I was able to forgive myself for not being more powerful or more perfect to avoid the punishment in the first place. Mostly I was able to experience God’s grief over my childhood and see that He had been there hurting over my pain and angry over the mistreatment. I also saw my mother and she wasn’t so powerful anymore, just a broken woman, needing Jesus. Through the blood of Jesus the power of death loses its sting and the broken places in our souls are mended.
I wrote a two-part response to this experience.
Butter on the fridge
Oh, the rampage starts again
A frantic search within
Did I do it? Was it me?
Don’t remember if I did.
How’s this going to end?
only 4-the little one, the funny one, the one who’s a mistake.
10,6, and 4- form a line, a straight line.
Terror cloaks their face.
“I didn’t do it.” whimpered again and again
Amidst shouts of outrage.
Backing away, trying to disappear.
6 is released- the perfect one, the mother one, the one who raises me.
10 and 4- form a line, a straight line.
Terror cloaks their face.
“I didn’t do it.” whimpered again and again
Amidst shouts of outrage
Backing away, unable to disappear
A confession is required.
Swift strikes- yanking of hair.
10- it must be her. The naughty one, the scapegoat one, the one who’s beat the most.
4- sucks in breath as though
It is courage.
Tumbling words, bumbling words.
“I did it. It was me.”
Then braces for full wrath.
Hell hath no fury like 29-
The angry one, the crazy one, the one we cannot trust.
Venomous words-hurled as though stones.
“How could you stand there and let her take it?”
As she turns on 4
Quickness of foot-amidst
“I’m sorry- so sorry.” sobbed through trembling lips
Ducking head, arms over face.
Fists swing. Full face contact.
Hair in iron claws.
Cursing and two sure blows
aimed into the gut.
Air escapes tiny lungs-ragged little breathes.
29 then leaves.
For now it ends.
10 and 4 embrace- cleave to one another,
Console one another.
This is how they survive
How 10, 6 and 4 survive.
The little one, the perfect one, and the naughty one.
This is what they must survive.
Doorbell rings and I arrive
Push my way in right on time
There they stand- familiar line
Child’s eyes see firm and kind,
Though unyielding in my
Steadfast gaze, at the adult
Worked into a rage.
Terror’s stench heavy in air
Demons freely trodding here
Perfection, rage, control and sorrow
Demands their cower
29, mute and broken- not as large as I remember
“Enough” the only word required
I’m a shield, a buffer zone
To the three stacked neatly in a row
Here to face 29- the drugged one, the cruel one, the one who is no mother.
Then she is gone and I am there
And 4 is just a little girl, so innocent and pure.
Blonde locks and big brown eyes
And we embrace and I breathe life.
He in me as I abide-
For it is I - and I am here
Now 34- the redeemed one, the empowered one, the one with a new name
I’ve come with the Wise one, the Fierce one, the Swift Sure Hand that saves.
This is my chance to bring adoption-
Imparted to 4, while I am rocking
Words of worth and words of hope
Ones of strength- not just to cope.
10, 6 and 4
Someday you will thrive. Someday this will make you thrive.
(c) 2010 by Rebecca Dunning.