As I type that name I want to scream! No words can describe the level of terror this woman woman inflicted on us 3 kids.
Flash-bash, MidSixties, British Columbia, Canada: To memory, Margie first showed up on the scene in ’67. We lived in a small house on a corner lot of St. Paul Street in Kamloops, BC, Canada. “We” being, myself, my two older siblings, (Danny and Lorraine),Dad, Margie, and a red Doberman named Flint.
Dad still had a heroin monkey on his back, not much food in the house, lots of parties, and cold pizza for breakfast. On our coffee table stood a jackass cigarette dispenser. When it’s tail was lifted, a smoke(Canadian for cigarette) would slide out of its butt.
Periodically, I would watch Dad shooting up at the kitchen table. Bob Dylan was usually playing in the background. Gentle Ben, starring Ron Howard’s older brother was the latest hit on the black and white TV. Amusing to think how enthralled we were with a series about a black bear while living in the heart of Grizzly Country.
Our house was covered with coarse white aggregate. On sunny days the blinding white rock made it difficult to find the door knob without danger of searing a cornea. The dirt streets and the alleyways were lined with metal trash cans where my older brother would find himself looking for food on his way to school in the morning.
Flint lived in a makeshift shelter under the backstairs. Being 4 or 5 at the time, I was terrified of her. Looking back I now Realize that if she had wanted to eat me, I would’ve been gone long before then. Regardless of her intentions it was Danny (always looking out for me)who would hold her back as I quickly run past her shelter. Flint had a habit of breaking loose and hopping our “white picket fence”( the irony). She would not quite clear the fence , scraped her ribcage, which seemed to always be raw or scabbed over. . Consequently, I think ole’ Flint had finally succumb to infection and didn’t live long after that .
Other than a few old pictures, I couldn’t remember much about the day to day with Margie. She and Dad were never married and that spring, she became pregnant. Not long after that, we moved to Vancouver. Margie was 17.
At first we stayed in Margie’s Moms small house located behind a Royal Bank. Margie’s Brother Kenny, and sister Honey, Margie’s mom , Margie, Dad and us kids were all squeezed in there.
As the saying goes, you may not remember all the details but always remember how you felt. In that house, you could almost always cut the tension in the air with a knife. It was a “kids are seen and not heard” household. They must have had dogs as I remember sneaking in one of the bedrooms shoving my hand into the bag of Purina dog chow and eating a snack. No doubt I would eat it today if I had nothing else . We definitely didn’t feel welcome. Margie’s Mom was strict and harsh. Honey, Margie’s younger sister was a mean spirited sort. She physically abused and terrorized us whenever we were under her “care”. She amused herself by not allowing Lorraine to use the bathroom. Telling her that if she said anything she would beat the crap out of her. Lorraine would always rush to the bathroom right before Honey came home. Dad hadn’t a clue.
Not long after , our new Sister was born in Dec. ’67 we moved into the lower level of a duplex building . The entry was under the staircase of the apt above.
Being an ExCon , Dad wasn’t much of a 9 to 5 guy. He either slung beers, or hustled up money at the pool halls. When Dad was there, he was quick with a joke and was not afraid to express his love . I can only imagine what it was like for Margie. Being 17, living with a newborn, a heroin addict, plus of his 3 kids. Margie probably wondered what the hell she had gotten herself into.
Margie had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persona, She couldn’t do enough for us and Dad while he was there but, once he left , the abuse would start. She would lock us outside in the cold while we knocked at the door. Her reasoning was, we wanted to go outside to play in the snow so bad, we could stay out there. I used to wonder if my tears would freeze . Finally when she would open the door , she would slam us to the floor. “Teaching us a lesson”. Another time she swore I was lying about something and wouldn’t admit it. Her form of justice was to hold my hand inches from a red hot stove coil demanding I tell the truth. For a 5 year old , Knowing I hadn’t lied, scared me even more. I think about it to this day when I see a red coil…
Being on the other side now provides the opportunity to ask why would someone treat kids this way. Postpartum? Was she simply applying “discipline ” as she was taught? Had my Dad beaten her and this was her helpless revenge ?
This entry puts Margie and her relations “parenting”skills on trial. Being a parent, myself, calls for a look in the mirror. The closest I can come to understanding Margie’s level of rage was when my first son was about 4. He was so stubborn and rebellious at times. We as young parents would escalate the discipline . Ask, then raise our voice , then a swat on the butt. This approach varied in effectiveness. A moment of clarity came for me, (I don’t want to speak for my first wife) when, I applied a few lessons from a PET(Parent Effectiveness Training) course I was taking at night. It talked about needs levels in relationships. For example, they taught marriage is a 60/60 relationship. Always putting the extra 20 % in the bank when times got tough. With respect to kids, it was helping them express and then acknowledging their feelings. And yes, they had needs as well. The textbook, “feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just are” approach. Light years away from the “kids are seen and not heard” mentioned earlier.
Back to my little Tyler throwing a fit and mad as heck in his room. A simple, “so did that make you feel angry? question to him. It was as if he was touched by a sense of feeling understood. The relaxed look on his little face indicated a connection had been made. ” yes , he said , I am angry”.
I am not proposing that this was a magic bullet and smooth sailing from that point on. Just one simple tool. A bolt cutter perhaps , used to break the chain of abuse. God Bless.