Do you remember Scruff McGruff? He’s the motherfucker that fucked up my childhood. Here, let me explain.
I remember it like it was yesterday: I am sitting in my daycare class and we are passing around Ziploc bags with these weird things in them. I see little brown vials and think to myself, “Wait… I have seen these before.” The next bag reaches me and I see what looks like mashed up grass. Oh, I KNOW I have seen that. The only thing stopping me from saying anything is the fact that I am being told that these things are bad… but my parents are the ones that I’ve seen with these things. My parents aren’t “bad.” They are MY parents.
I get home and I see a vial. I pick it up and my dad slaps my hand and I begin to cry. Through sobs I tell him that I learned that this was bad, just as bad as him hitting my hand. He apologizes repeatedly and kisses my hands. My mom walks in from the bedroom and I crawl in her lap. She rubs her hands over my hair and presses my face into her chest. “Que paso?” (What happened?) I point at the vial that my father is now trying to hide beyond my reach on the top of the aquarium. I tell her what I learned at daycare today. My father comes back to me and kisses my hand again but I try to dig deeper into my mom’s chest with my face. “Joselyn, if you tell the people at school what you see here, they will take you from us.” I grab my mother’s shoulders tight. The thought of not having my parents… (Yeah, even the one that smacked my hand is scary at the age of 4.) I look at my dad and now he is showing me the same things I saw at daycare. I see the baggie with the green stuff, the white papers that I have watched my parents smoke, and the vial. “You can’t tell them about this, okay? I am your dad. I love you and will never hurt you.”
And that is how it began. At the age of 4 most kids fear the Boogieman or sleeping with the lights off at night. I slept with the lights on, because my father was convinced that if the police ever came for him they would come from my room because it was on the outer corner of the duplex we lived in. The Boogieman? Oh, I didn’t fear him. My “boogieman” consisted of 5 letters. D-F-A-C-S. I didn’t know anything about life, but I knew all I had in life was my parents and that is it. I couldn’t risk losing them because I opened my mouth.
I never was much for conversation when I was younger. I suffered heavily from only child syndrome. I played by myself; I got what I wanted when I wanted it; I didn’t need friends… I had my parents. I used to bribe the little girls from my neighborhood to play with me by giving them my Barbies. I knew that my mom and I would walk to Eckerd’s later in the week and just get another. The late 80s/early 90s were amazing (and I say this as a child, I can only imagine as an adult). The Christmas parties were always extravagant. All of my father’s friends knew how to do nothing more in this era than show off what they had. It was all about how many gold chains you had and what Coogi sweater you were going to wear to get-togethers. The parties were plenty and when they were at our home I was expected to entertain the kids. You know what I did? I “fell asleep.” Through squinted eyes I watched the kids play in my room as my eyelids struggled to not open too wide. I was always the “party ender.” It always happened the same way…I’d scream for my father to come to my room. “Joe! Joe! Jooooooooeee!!!!!” Someone would tell my father that I was calling him. He’d come into my room and through slurred speech ask, “Que pasa, baby?” I would throw tantrums; I would throw toys; I begged for him to kick the people out and go to sleep. Sometimes it just didn’t work, but then I learned the trick… I would go crawl in my mom’s lap. See, the one thing that a mother will not (or at least should never) do is look like an inattentive mother. I would guide her to the bedroom and curl up next to her. Whether it was her hand in my hair or the feeling of a Q-Tip in my ear… I kept my mom occupied just long enough that my father would start telling others to leave because let’s just keep it real. Without my mother… my father was nothing.
It is that fact that kept my father in my mother’s face any chance he got. Was he your stereotypical machista? Sure. But my mother… God, my mother is this force that is hard to describe. You know how in order for new foliage to grow and start new you need a fire? My mother is that fire, but she is also the rain that puts it out, and nurtures everything back to health. Growing up, I watched plates slam into walls, glass tables shatter due to vases being thrown in the heat of an argument. I bear scars on my hands from the random pieces of glass that would be thrown around the house after one of my parents fight. They were crazy. As cliché as it sounds, they were crazy in love. My mom would kick him out of the house and the very next day cook dinner, fix his plate, and ask if he wanted anything to drink. My mother’s love for my father has always been shown through acts that others would think consisted of loathing. Yet, I get it. She accused him of cheating if not every weekend, it was every other. I became immune to it. It didn’t faze me.
My God there was so much glass.
The random appearance of guns being held at my father. All of this was normal, or so I thought.
When I reached the age of 8, I was so used to certain things happening in my life that I assumed all families went through the same things. When I couldn’t deal with the arguing I would go next door to my grandmother’s and eat. And man would I eat. My mother was no fool though, she would ask me what I ate as soon as I stepped foot in the house. I remember she would open my mouth to check my teeth for food remnants. I laugh now, but I hated it then. I gained weight. This lead to my mother constantly reminding me how fat I was and how no one would ever want me. (I was a size 12 in junior’s clothing.) Now why I would care, at 8, about someone “wanting me,” well that I can’t tell you. My father? Did he care about my weight? Nope. I was his princess. I could do no wrong. He never laid a hand on me. He threatened to discipline me when I did bad in school, but even at that age I could call his bluff.
At 9 my life changed, but I didn’t understand the impact until I was much older. My mother gave birth to my little brother. The lack of attention I received killed me. I never said anything. I just hated it. Hell, I hated him. I hated diapers, I hated crying babies, I hated the smell of baby powder, and the smell of Neno. My mother stayed in the bedroom with the baby and I stayed in my room with my books. My father? Life was always nonstop party for him.
That party stopped when I was 11. I got off of my school bus to what seemed like a pool full of black cars. My father has a lot of friends that are constantly in and out of the house, but never anything like this. This was different. I remember walking up to the house and seeing my father handcuffed on the ground. I was always told that only bad guys go to jail, so I knew this must be a mistake. This man was just my father. My father was the person that saved me from my mother’s wrath in the house. He made me laugh when she made me cry. Why was he on the ground and why couldn’t I go into the house?? I heard my little brother cry and I ran towards him, but a cop grabbed my arm and told me I had to wait. I got out of his grip and I ran towards my mother standing in the doorway. She had tears coming from her eyes when she looked at me. All I wanted to know was why were they treating my father like the bad guy. What did he do? I watched our house be torn apart. I watched guns, brown packages, white packages, and money be loaded into the back of an SUV. More importantly, I saw my piggy bank be loaded with all the other stuff. That was my Toys R Us money that I saved from my allowance. There went my money for video games.
To be continued…