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A Memory from the Past
by Lena Mabra
For Sale



Mom became more depressed and psychotic as she realized she was basically still a kid. She wanted out-out of her marriage to a man old enough to be her father, out of this country, and out of motherhood.

I don't quite know why but all our lives Mom favored my middle sister whom she spoiled every chance she got, abused my youngest sister, and was neutral with me. She took all of her problems out on my youngest sister. I know many of you have read stories on extreme child abuse cases and so have I but when I read stories, none of these tales ever fazed me. Mom abused my youngest sister from the day she was born. I remember one instance when my sister was just a baby and Mom was trying to potty train her. Naturally, she wet her diaper as all babies do and although it was an extremely cold December day, Mom took the baby outside and stripped her down. Then she laid her on the ground and cleaned her with freezing cold water from the hose.

My youngest sister was Mom’s slave and the target of all her frustration. The mental and physical abuse was beyond imagination. She was forced to get up hours earlier than the rest of the family to take care of the cattle. Only six years old, she would wake up before the sun, don rubber chicken plant boots, a thin coat and head out to take care of the cattle. She never had a pair of gloves to keep her little hands warm. One day while waiting for the school bus my sister’s hands were frostbitten terribly. She cried and cried. I spent hours making her a pair of mittens from my favorite blanket. Any free time I had, I would hand sew through all the thick layers of fabric and batting as I wanted the mittens to be extra warm. The tips of my fingers were cut and in pain from pushing the needle through all the layers. I never did finish the mittens just as I don’t think I ever quite got it in my sister’s head that I really loved her. Her world was so full of hurt that she couldn’t picture such a thing as love.

Her meals consisted of whatever we were having all mixed together-even the dessert. Everything was stirred together with some water, a half stick of butter because Mom said she was too skinny and a tablespoon of Vick’s Vapor Rub was added because “that’s what bad girls get”. The mixture was always in the gray bowl that she had to eat from. Every single meal, every single day. This bowl had two handles and Mom placed the handles strategically at my her hands and if the handles moved even half a centimeter, Mom would strike her tiny hands with the backside of a steak knife.

As young kids, we just thought the abuse was normal. Mom taught us to mistreat our sister and we were trained to tell on her if she sat on the furniture and or sneaked a peek at the television. She was not allowed to be a child or even to be human.

Mom had strange requests and expectations for my youngest sister. She was not allowed to let her arms swing while she was walking and she was not allowed to let the inside or opposite side of her elbows show. This is the natural positioning of the arms. She turned hers directly in so that the inside part could not be seen. Although we all could naturally swing and allow our arms to be held as they normally should be, my sister had to hold hers by her side and keep them still, as stiff as boards while she was walking. She was beaten if any of us caught her swinging her arms. Throughout the years, we were trained to mistreat her and that’s what we did because that was all we knew. Plus we would suffer the consequences if we didn’t let Mom know when she “misbehaved”.

As I grew older, I sensed that this treatment toward my sister was wrong. The first time I came to this realization was when I walked by the bathroom and noticed some choking sounds. I threw open the door and saw my mom holding my sister by the throat and shaking her! There was a small amount of blood and a large amount of saliva coming out of her mouth. Gurgling, gasping sounds were coming from her throat as she struggled for air. I started yelling at my mother with all the anger and volume I could gather. Distracted by my anger, Mom dropped my sister in the tub and started yelling at me. We were involved in many screaming arguments over her.

Another time was after a meal and Mom was going at my sister again. I stood up and firmly told my mother that if she didn’t leave her alone, I was going to throw a kitchen chair at her. At this time, I was about the size of my mother and because I was so enraged, she probably knew that I would put up a good fight. She also knew that I was on to her game and that I would tell the authorities. I don’t remember what had triggered this incident but she did attack my sister again and the next thing I knew, with all my might I propelled a chair at her. It hit her on the shoulder and she lashed at my sister again just to make me angry, which worked. I jumped at my mother and started swinging my arms, legs, anything to get her to stop hitting my sister.

From that moment on, I never did witness any more physical abuse of my sister. But I did see mysterious bumps, cuts, and bruises appear on her scrawny body. “Don’t tell her. Don’t tell ‘ja’ school. Just tell them you fall off bike,” was what my sister was drilled to say. I can still hear my mother saying this in her broken English.

Dad was hardly around when the physical abuse went on. When he was at home, he’d yell a couple of times for her to stop then settled into his chair and t.v. while drinking his Vodka straight. He did favor her the most and I think that was why when I left for college and my middle sister went to live with my mom, he completely spoiled her with anything she wanted; anything he could purchase on credit cards.

The first and only time I remember being severely abused by my mother was when she had purchased a plastic toy for my brother at Ben Franklin. When we arrived home, we could not find the toy and accused me of losing it. She took me out in the extra room that Dad had built and beat me with a leather purse that had many metal rings. I tried to run away but she grabbed my hand and we went around and around in circles as she beat me over and over with the metal-ringed purse. I don’t remember how long the beating was but it seemed like an hour of metal cutting into my entire body and my entire soul.

That evening, huge welts in the form of rings appeared all over my small frame. My mom held me as she cried and apologized over and over. Tears ran down my face quietly as I fought the painful lump in my throat but I refused to let her to see me cry. At that moment, another ounce of innocence and faith in my mother was stripped away and I vowed to myself that she would never, ever beat me again. Ever.

As I grew older, I began to realize that my sister's eating slop, which was unfit for a dog, was not right. I started to see that the mysterious bumps and bruises were not right. I saw Mom sitting in the corner, rocking and saying over and over how she needed to be free; like a butterfly she had to have her freedom and knew that this wasn't right.

Our family hid the secrets well. I don't think we kids knew that this was abnormal. But we did notice that on the rare occasion that we had any company, Mom would turn into a complete stranger. She would be the perfect mother, smiling, cooking; kind and loving. My aunt came to visit one time and having not been around extended family enough, we were shy beyond belief. I remember shaking from head to toe whenever she or anyone would talk to me. This aunt, the one who took in his other children, told my dad that he needed to apply for welfare since we were starving. Against Dad's pride, he did apply and was approved for food stamps.

While all this was going on, I was hitting puberty and after the two years of going from no meals at times to tons of flour and water, I started to gain weight as I was developing into a woman. My metabolism was a wreck so when I did eat, my body hoarded each and every calorie and stored it as fat in order to save for the next famine. Dad would make comments regarding how fat I was getting. I suppose in my mind’s eye, I decided that if I couldn’t control anything else in my life and if I couldn’t fix the other areas, I would lose weight to make him happy. He’ll see how I can be thin then he will be proud of me. My mother also made comments about my weight. Slowly I started developing eating disorders and the need to please people at any expense.

My obsession with my weight and food stemmed from this moment and increasingly
to detrimental proportions as you will soon see. Upon reading this, are you aware of where Some of your issues may have started? List them in detail here.

Mom started working at a chicken plant and hooked up with the wrong crowd and going out to bars every single night. This was her first taste of freedom and there was no stopping her! She moved out of the master bedroom to sleep with us kids in one room. I don't know why we all slept in the same room with Mom since we did have an extra one, so one day I moved myself into the empty room.

I was always the perfect kid. It never dawned on me until a couple of years ago that I rebelled from my parents. I became good because they were so "bad". I took on the parental role. I would hide in the room from the moment I got home from school until the next morning before school. I didn't quite know yet what was up with our family but I knew that I was very, very uncomfortable. I didn’t like the person my dad became when he was drunk and I was disappointed with my mother. Because I lived every moment at home locked in my room, Dad would kick on the door while yelling at the top of his lungs that I'd “better stop doing drugs in there”. He even kicked a hole in the door! I was NOT going to let him in, not for the life of me. I was terrified of him when he was drunk!

Little did he know that I was not doing drugs. I was doing the complete opposite! If I wasn’t reading or drawing, then I was working on creating a little haven, a shelter from my world that had turned upside down. Being blessed with so much creativity, I
single-handedly carpeted the room with a blue piece of carpet I had found in the old house where Dad’s first family lived. The carpet was extremely heavy and I dragged it quite a distance. I sewed a set of blue printed draperies by hand from a set of sheets. I didn't even have a pair of scissors so I tore the sheets into the right-sized pieces that I needed. Then I made a dust ruffle and comforter for my bed with some another set of sheets in a lighter shade of blue. Although the prints were a little different, everything pulled together and my haven-my favorite place-was beautiful!

When Dad wasn't drunk, he was incredible! One day he must have come into my room while I was at school and noticed how I had decorated everything because he let me pick out matching wallpaper in the big Sears catalogue. Dad lived off of credit cards and he was Sears’ biggest customer. He would support me in all my endeavors when he was sober. When he noticed that I taught myself to sew on an old manual sewing machine that Mom got from a yard sale, he surprised me with a brand new one from Sears. It touched me so much when I opened my new sewing machine on Christmas morning and discovered that he had purchased the ENTIRE 30-yard bolt of silk fabric since he didn’t know how much to buy! I wish I could have expressed to him how much that meant to me. But I couldn’t for the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act of alcoholism was too hard for me to understand.

In the meantime, Mom's late-nighters turned into all-nighters. We used to get into the new blue Ford station wagon that Dad had given her and refused to get out so that she wouldn't go to the bars. She would hit, scratch, and bite us as she dragged each child out of the car. As I got older and bigger, she wasn't able to drag me out so we would scream at each other for hours. In my child mind, I finally gave up and would reluctantly get out of the car and she’d drive away to a bar somewhere that we kids could never get to. I felt so helpless.

Dad yelled at her night after night until he finally gave up and resorted to his bed. He stayed there most of the time only getting out for a couple of hours during the day to walk around the farm or check on the trash that he was burning in the trash pit. Dad would throw all the garbage in the big hole that he had dug, pour gas on it, and light it with a match. Then he would pass out from his drinking and when we were on the school bus about two miles from home, we'd noticed thick black smoke in the direction of our house and just knew that once again Dad’s trash fire had gotten out of control and it was time to spend the evening stomping out the flames. The fire would spread for acres and burn the neighbors’ farms! We now laugh at these stories as we focus on how funny it was for us to wear rubber chicken plant boots to stomp out a fire! My sister even burned her foot when her boots melted!

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