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7/4/10

The Promises I Made To Myself For The Scars That Never Fades

When I was about six or seven, I was placed with a foster parent. She was a single parent, was not married from what I could tell.

It was a two room board house. One living room and one bedroom. There was a bed in the living room where I would sleep, just like all the other foster children that passed through her house. There was no bathroom. If you had to go #2, then you go to the bush and do your thing and wipe with leaves. Yes they do have some leaves that do the job better than some. And dogs seem to like the taste and cleans it up after you are done, or maybe they are just starving.
Not my house but kinda what it looks like

There was a kitchen. It was away from the house a couple feet. It was a shack made with zinc and wood. We'd make a wood fire between three rocks and that's how we cooked.

She had a makeshift closet with lots of children clothes. 

The first thing I remember her telling me was that I couldn't wear those clothes unless I was a good girl. She did not intend to have anymore government children using up her things and then leaving. And that when I leave, I'd leave with my little scandal bag (same as like plastic grocery bags). I'm not sure how I responded then, but today it still hurts because it makes me cry. 

She worked at a little shop in a cane factory. Many times I'd go to the market with her so she could stock her shop. It was grueling but I should not complain and so had to lift the heavy buckets and crates of oranges and beers on my head and walk about a mile or half (however much it was awfully long and afterward I'd shake so much). Sometimes we'd get rides in trucks going back to the factory or passing by.

She also did obeah (voodoo), well I think she went somewhere else to have someone do it for her, against other people to put it more accurate. 

This is where I taught myself to read by making words into syllables. I still remember the day I found out 'conscience' was not pronounced; 'con science' as two separate words. 

There were not many books and so I read the bible over and over and over again. I especially loved the red writings. I am sure I did not understand the significance of the bible. 
She did not teach me to do anything, yet she loved when I'd read and would encourage me to read as loud as I could.

I found out later, she was excited that I could read and the neighbors child who was much more affluent, could not. The neighbor also delighted in beating (so called spanking, but it was more beating) her child to go read. 
There was not much else to do , so I'd sit with a book and wait for my foster parent to get home. This infuriated the neighbor and often you'd hear here shouting and belittling the other 6 year old to go read or do school work. 

The little girl wanted to play with me and I with her, but her mother (found out it was her grandmother later) did not want this. She did not think her daughter should mingle with the beneathers.

I wanted to be her sister for many reasons.

She had parents from far away lands (turns out they lived in the USA and visited her whenever they could) who brought her many gifts and pretty things (which she was NOT allowed to share with me). 

SHE ALWAYS HAD FOOD.

And she was like me....just a child. Someone to play with.

The foster parent I had would leave me at home each Friday night and not return until Saturday night. These are the times she goes away to do her obeah (voodoo). When she return, she'd engross herself in her rituals. Scary. 

She'd make a pot of food and leave it on the wooden shelf for me. Showing me how to put the wood together and pour kerosene oil on to light the fire. It was a outdoor kitchen/hut surrounded by zinc and a wood fireplace where she cooked. 
The place wasn't burned down, so I handled it well. 

One day she could not find her silver fork and spoon. Those very long ones you might use for BBQ. She said I had thrown them away and that I should go look for them. 

Picture a 6 year old, crawling around in grass and dirt, trying to find something she has no idea where to look. 
I know I did not touch those cooking tools. I had no reason to.

Yet, she'd beat (spank) everytime she felt she wanted to and tell me to go look. These are usually the times when she'd be cooking.

These are usually the times, when she'd not offer me any food. 

These are the times when I'd run to the neighbors yard and climb their tree and eat apples (Jamaican apples) until I was full.

These are the times when I'd sleep under the neighbors house on the dirt or go home when I think my foster parent was asleep and sleep under our house as far up in the corner as possible because I know, there were more beatings awaiting me. 
She has tried to use sticks to poke me out before. I guess she didn't care if she poke me in the eye or hurt me otherwise. 

There were too many times I slept under the neighbors houses. Huddled with cats and dogs to keep warm....or safer. Making sure I awake before they did and running to the bushes to hide away.

She never stopped beating me for that spoon and fork. And I promised myself that one day when I was big (I didn't know the word adult) I'd come back and let her know, I never touched her fork and spoon. 

I still have the scars on my body from these beatings. 

I remember one day, the social worker was supposed to make a visit. I was glad and terrified. I thought she'd come and see what was happening and rescue me. 

For the first time, she took one of those dresses out of that closet and told me to put it on. I was to look pretty for the social worker. I still remember the look of that white dress.
The social worker came and talked and left and she had no time or experience to see the fear in my eyes, to wait for my story, or wonder why, I didn't speak.

I promised myself I'd be a social worker because I would listen to the children.

This foster parent also did not care that she put me in harms way other than her abuse. 

It seems that every night she would have a different man in her bed. Sometimes if one man was good to her, he'd get to come back for a week or so but that was rare. I never saw their faces. The ghosts came at night and left before dawn so the neighbors could not see the truth. 
I'm sure she thought I was asleep, and sometimes I was, but a child does get up to pee in the night and we did not have a bathroom, just a chamberpot that was kept under her bed. I'd ache to pee but afraid to go in her room. 
I had walked right in there one night and was threatened.

One morning she and one of these men ghosts had a falling out and she wanted him gone in a most violent way. 
She asked me to stone him out the yard. I was terrified. What if he hurt me. There were lots of shouting and threats. 
She commanded me to pick up those stones.

I did.

But I threw them lopsided as if I could not reach the man. I was very good at stone throwing and even better than most boys.

That morning has always been imprinted in my mind.

One even I was supposed to get another spanking, I tried to run and fell on the rocks and knocked myself out. When I awoke, there was a wide gash in my chin (still there to this day) and I broke a few teeth. Those broken teeth I carried all my life into adulthood. Those teeth kept me from smiling. Even now, I sometimes have to remind myself to smile. 

My MIL paid to have my teeth fixed, just weeks before I got married. 

There were times when the foster parent was away and I'd be at the house, playing all by myself, chasing the dogs, whatever and my heart would prick, more like a stab of pain, and it happened so often and only at a certain time that it became my clock to know the minute she turn the corner to our lane to be home. I still find that very odd. 

One day I simply left and walked all the way from Trelawny to Falmouth to the social's worker office. We had been there before by bus many times so I knew the route. 

I can't say how the social worker react to see me there, but that was the last time I was in Ms Brown's home to be terrorized, instead I went to a place of safety (government care / orphanage) where the abuse was milder. 

I did remember the panic of walking, hoping that I was not accosted or raped or hurt or that night would come and I didn't reach the place in time. 

When I met my husband and realized I was going to leave my country to come to America. My only wish was to go see Ms Brown because I had promised her that some day I'd come tell her , that I never touched those cooking tools, she beat me so often for and to confront her about the many times she left me starving because she was angry with me or place the food in the ledge so I could try to get it so she could grab me to give me my beating. So many things I wanted to say to her.

It seems while I was pushing so hard to go see her, God was thwarting all these opportunities and I never did get to go, but maybe it's best that I didn't...maybe. He does say revenge is mine right?

So that's why it makes me weep to watch Antwone Fisher. That and so many other things.








About the author: Owner of JamericanSpice. Sharing my journey in the present, from the past or thoughts for my future. Mom of two who loves to travel and read and decipher people.
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17 comments :

  1. I am so with you about the scars Callie...I honestly do not have an inch of wanting and memory in my body or soul for Jamaica.

    You have made it, you're a great woman and mother and wife.

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  2. Wow, so humbling. I hate it that any child has to experience anything negative, it sooo saddens my heart. My mom was in & out of foster homes and in a (US) state orphanage and she won't talk about any of it. She did the best she could as a mom but I often wonder the impact it had. Thanks for sharing, I hope it brings healing in that release- more room to receive all the goodness that is yours! www.BreeBee.com

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  3. Callie, it's been a long time since I've been able to stop in and say 'hi.' Oh my dear...*hugs*. I don't know what else to say. God loves you, and He knows all....

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  4. Thank you so much for having the courage to share your stories with us. I am constantly in awe of what a strong woman you are.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story with us! It must be hard and yet releasing at the same time. Abuse is so awful. It is everywhere. I would love to erase it from the earth forever! It makes me sick every time I hear another child is abused or murdered. I am saddened you suffered so much :(. Here is a big cyber hug from me.

    You are a talented person! You ever thought of writing a book? Take care!

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  6. Thanks for sharing your story, Callie. You are a strong, strong woman. And blessed in so many ways.

    Some day you'll have to share how you met your wonderful husband. :)

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  7. I am in tears after reading your story. I am so glad you had the Bible to read and the wisdom to leave.

    I hope many will read this any use it as a cataylst to open up about their difficult childhood.

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  8. The more stories you share, the more I admire you for your strength. You are an amazing woman Colette! God bless! xoxo

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  9. Oh Colette, thank you for sharing this story, I hope it helps others as I am sure it is painful for you to write it all down.
    I just don't understand how anyone could be that abusive to a child.
    Hugs to you, you are truly a strong woman!

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  10. Wow - very powerful. I can't even imagine what you went through, but thanks for sharing...

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  11. Wow how absolutely awful a thing for a child to have to go through. You made tears well up for me. I was in foster care as a child and it was the worst experience of my life but it pales in comparison to what you have gone through. I'm sure God must have been watching over you for you to make it through all that. I'm glad you did! Thank you for sharing.

    Also, thank you for your comment and follow. I am following you back now. Love your blog.

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  12. I must be a vindictive soul because I would want to go back there to tell that woman a thing or three & to make sure she wasn't doing it to anyone else & if she was I'd take all those children away from her. Turn her into the authorities. How terribly awful for you to have lived like that & yet how terribly brave. Hugs my friend I am happy for you that you are here with people who love you & make you happy!

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  13. Colette,
    My heart is with you. How amazing that you have the strength of mind and heart to have overcome. You have traveled far to become the person you are.

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  14. Thank you for sharing your story! I am devastated that any child would have to live like that!I'm so glad that you got out and that you became a stronger, instead of bitter, person!

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  15. Some pains,and incisions that have happened to many of us do heal, some scars fade away , some are too deep and have been cut open so many times that they still hurt and are tender, We will always know that they are there.

    Although I have never been through what you have been through be any means! BUT I pray that God continues to heal your pains and hurts. He gives beauty for ashes. It looks like He has done just that! Amen?
    Kelly K

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  16. You make me want to scoop up every child in the world who is neglected or abused and hold them close to me and tell them they are loved.

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  17. and furthermore...
    how great are you to walk to the social worker??? Awesome move! Brilliant even at a young age. :)

    It's so wonderful that you emerged such a strong Christian woman even when voodoo was being practiced around you as a child. And your attitude towards that particular woman is humbling. I too have wanted to tell people a thing or two...but you can't reason with the unreasonable anyway. We can pray for them though...and I know people might scoff at that...but who is praying for them? Somebody needs to, and maybe despite our hurt, we can be that somebody. Nothing worse than a lost soul...

    I know I've said it before, but I'm so sorry for your hurt as a child. What a wonderful, precious child you sound like you were. Pity those around you were too dumb/ignorant to lose out on that blessing.

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