Food. So much of my life as a little girl centered around it, mostly because during those periods of time my great grandma wasn’t watching me, nobody thought about feeding me much. When I was really little, I was never allowed to say that I was hungry, even though I often had to go all day without anyone giving me anything to eat. When I was about 2, before Mom married Bruce, we lived in a little house with my mother’s friend and her two little girls, and a boy. My mother’s friend would leave early in the morning to go to work and my mother would sleep, often until her friend came home from work. Most days nobody offered me anything to eat until night time, when one of them would make dinner. I was the smallest, and the older kids could fend for themselves but didn’t often share with me, so I would sneak into the kitchen in the mornings, climb on a chair and get some cereal or crackers down from the cupboards to eat behind the sofa where nobody could see me and I wouldn’t get in trouble.
One morning, the older kids got up before I did, and saw me going into the kitchen. The boy grabbed the box of cereal out of my hands and said I couldn’t have any. When I tried to get it back, one of the girls held my arms behind my back and the other girl kept poking my tummy calling me a fat baby. I cried and kicked at them, and they still didn’t let me go, and I got really scared and bit the girl holding my arms to try get away. She screamed, let me go, and they all went into my mother’s room to tell on me.
I was crying really hard, and went in to try to tell my mother what they were doing to me. She sat up in her bed, furiously grabbed my arm, jerking me over to her, looked into my face, with the tears running down it, her face contorted with pure hatred, and bit my arm so hard it started bleeding. Then she shoved me away from her without a word. I landed on my knees on her floor, and crawled away and got into my bed, where I stayed, holding my bloody arm, and cried as quietly as I could, pulling blanket over my shaking little body, while the other kids went into the kitchen and poured themselves cereal.
Not long after that (I know because my arm was still scabby from my mother’s bite) I was sitting on the front porch, and the older kids came and sat with me, saying that they had some candy for me. They put these colorful little things in my hand and told me to eat them. I put two in my mouth, and bit into them. A horrible taste filled my mouth and I spit the “candies” out. They laughed and told me I was going to die, because I ate medicine. Then they started busting open the other capsules on the porch next to me. watching the tiny beads fall all around. Their mother came home and saw the empty box of cold capsules on the porch, and all of us, and the kids said that I had eaten the pills. She grabbed me, yelled for my mother, and they drove all of us to the hospital. They said I had eaten a box of pills. I was really scared. Even as such a little girl, I kind of knew what dying meant, but mostly I was afraid of what my mother was going to do to me. She was so mad at me.
They took me in and put me on a bed. A nurse told me not to be scared, that the doctor was really nice and he was going to help me. I liked her, the way she stroked my face and gently pushed on my tummy, and talked in a soft voice. Then the doctor came in. He sat down next to me and held my hand. He asked me if I was scared, and I nodded. I wanted to tell him I was scared that my mom was going to hit me when we got home, but I didn’t say that. He put his cool hand on my forehead and told me I was going to stay there with them, and he was going to make everything better. Somewhere in my little girl mind I thought that meant he was going to take care of me and not let my mom hurt me. I was going to stay there! He asked me if I liked spaghetti. I nodded. He said, “Well, when you wake up, I’m going to bring you some spaghetti, and you can have all you want.” I think they put me under and pumped my stomach. But I just remember drifting off, happy that the nice doctor was going to give me spaghetti and make everything better. I thought I was going to stay there with him.
When I woke up, I was in a different room, and my mother was there. She told me we were going home. A nurse was in the room, saying I could stay overnight, but Mom said she wasn’t going to pay for me to stay there. My throat was raw, and it hurt to talk, but I whispered to the nurse about the spaghetti. She smiled at me, but she didn’t know what I meant. My mother told me the doctor just said that to get me to stop crying. She took me home and into my room. I got on my bed because I was feeling sick.
She came back in with the belt and a new box of cold pills, and said, “You want to eat these, too?” I shook my head. She yelled, “Don’t shake your head at me! Answer me!” “No,” I whispered. She swung the belt and it hit me on my leg. “No WHAT?” she yelled. I tried to say no ma’am, like I was supposed to, but my throat was raw, and I had started crying. “ANSWER ME!!” I tried. I really tried, but my voice wouldn’t work. She kept swinging the belt, and I curled into a ball, while the belt whacked over and over, on my legs, my back, my bottom. When she finally stopped, I lay there, shivering, crying as quietly as I could, trying to pull the blanket over me, but my little arms were too weak. I closed my eyes and could see in my mind the nice doctor, at the hospital, walking into my room with spaghetti for me. I thought he might come and find me, but he never did.