It wasn’t until I was in my 50’s that I realized the devastating and insidious effects that my family’s incest and sexual abuse had on me. I know that sounds obvious but it isn’t always. When the trauma is there from the beginning, one can’t differentiate. Perhaps an adult with perspective and knowledge can but a child can’t. I do, however remember always having an innate connection to myself, a survival mechanism of sorts, a way to cope. Going inside myself so deep was the safest place that I had. I spent hours talking to myself and my imaginary friends, making up stories and acting them out.
Sometimes I sang. Singing wasn’t at all my first choice of coping because it drew attention and my goal was to be invisible, to stay in the safety of my self. Even at 5 years old, I knew this.
In the evening, our black and white television flickered images of the homeless people of our generation called hobos. In my mind, they were sad, unattached folks who hopped trains and ate out of cans beside campfires. I found their trademark stick tied with cloth as well as their lives, fascinating. Secretly I would practice the hobo knots, planning my escape, devising what belongings I would fit into my stick suitcase to look like the ones the hobos carried on TV.
With stick in hand, I would take my blanket to the front yard to sit and wait for a family, any family, to come and get me. I have made the decision that I am willing to leave my own for something better and quickly dismiss the sharp pang of separation I feel for my mother. I will sit here for hours if necessary, my dog sits with me while we wait. She too, hopes that I am successful.
The words echo in my head of the men telling me how pretty I am. If this is true, then the new family that drives by and rescues me will see this instead of the despicable creature that I feel I am. I will use my prettiness to make myself desirable enough for someone to take me away. I am packed and prepared to leave.
I am ready to call attention to myself and be noticed. I clear my throat, swallow my fear and start singing.