Everyday Jane would make the quarter of a mile walk to the mailbox as her daily exercise. This walk carried her past her brother Edward’s house. He had three children of his own by then and they would lay in wait for Jane to walk by almost everyday. Once she was in sight they stood and threw rocks at her and called her “WHORE! MY MAMA SAYS YOU A WHORE!” until she was out of rock throwing range.
Jane would clutch her swelling tummy and keep walking with her head down, ignoring them.
She ignored them because they were children. She ignored them because she knew it wasn’t their fault. This was something they were taught and encouraged to do by their own mother, her brother’s wife. So Jane endured it and never said a word back to them.
After the baby was born Jane was in charge of the new baby girl’s care each day. She loved every minute of it. She reveled in the baby baths and the diaper changing and never complained once about getting up in the middle of the night to feed the screaming girl she loved so much.
It was decided that Jane would keep her baby, but she could not be known as the child’s parent. So I was adopted by Jane’s parents, who are my maternal grandparents and my birth details were kept very hush-hush for many, many years.
My grandmother wasn’t especially proud to be raising a bastard child and made it very clear to everyone in the family that my birth details were not to be discussed, ever. When it was time for me to be christened, she sent Jane away to stay with family in Pennsylvania. She was not invited to my christening. In fact, she wasn’t even allowed to tell people she was my mother. She was forced to tell anyone that asked that she was my older sister, and this is how I knew her until the year I turned eight years old.
I don’t know what possessed Jane’s brothers and sisters, but it seemed they gathered against her and made her pregnancy with me a mortal hell to traverse on her own. My grandmother wasn’t much support for her either. The only person that was just as happy as Jane was about my impending birth was my grandfather.
And it was my grandfather that named me. I am named after the only sister he ever had. She didn’t live to be very old and was taken from them at a very young age.
Her name was Katy.
My middle name is Madeline. It was originally Katy Mary Magdalene, which was given to the nurse at the hospital by Jane when she came to fill out the record of birth. Jane thought this was a pretty name for such a pretty baby, but my grandmother had a meltdown. “No child of ours is going to be named after a harlot!” You see, Mary Magdalene wasn’t recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as a disciple of Jesus Christ, rather than a “girlfriend”, until 1969.
No matter, my name was promptly changed on my birth record to Madeline.
This was how I learned some of the truth behind my entry into the world of the living. It was the morning of my first day in First Grade and my cousin Toni was standing over me, pointing her finger and sneering at the dumb stare on my face. We were all waiting for the school bus to arrive to take us to our respective schools. The Bus Stop was at the end of the driveway that led to all of our homes and this is where I got to spend a few minutes each day during the week among most of my cousins.
I had no idea what ‘dopted meant, but I was sure it wasn’t a nice thing from the expression on her face. Toni was a horribly mean child! I learned later on in life that she was also one of the rock throwing hellions that Jane had to pass by on her daily walk to the mailbox.
“I am not!” I shouted!
“Y’ar too! Yer an orphan and Granny and Poppy ‘dopted you from the orf-negge!”
All I remember of that day, other than wearing my favorite hat and being excited to start school, was the fact that somehow I was marked. Could the other children riding the bus with me that day tell that I was an orphan? Did everyone know this horrific detail about me, but me?
When I got home from school that afternoon I immediately asked my grandmother, who I knew only as Mother, if this was true. She gently explained that I was adopted and she explained what that meant. She did her best to explain these mature details because keep in mind, I was only 5 years old at the time.
From that moment forth, the term ORPHAN became a weapon in my arsenal.
“Why can’t I play in the mud puddles?! If you don’t let me play in the puddles why don’t you just send me back to the orphanage where you got me?!”
By the time I was eight years old, my grandparents could take no more of my petulant childish behavior. It was time for them to tell me the truth about my birth and perhaps then I would give up the threats of returning to this imaginary orphanage.
As an adult now I can see where these three years, during crucial development of self and self esteem, were set horribly off course. This is a tender time in a child’s life. This is when a parent can either raise their child up, or completely shatter them for the rest of their lives.
In my case, it was neither. I wasn’t raised up and I wasn’t shattered, not even cracked. I was left hanging in limbo, surrounded by shame and wondering what the hell happened here. I was left to my own devices and thankfully, I was strong.
I am a very strong and charismatic individual with firm opinions about life. But there are days when I feel totally useless and insignificant.
There are days when I still feel just like an orphan.
Please cue Tomorrow…
So how does a child make sense of all of the intrigue these adults have injected into her young life, without totally coming unglued? To find out the answer to that, you’ll have to come back…tomorrow.
- A Child’s Garden of Misinformation (madelinescribes.wordpress.com)
- Pieter the Orphan (thefamilykalamazoo.wordpress.com)
- Family History can be interesting (janeadamick.wordpress.com)
- Karma and duplicity (madelinescribes.wordpress.com)
- Tomorrow (madelinescribes.wordpress.com)