My hands are raw and bloody from scrubbing them for the umpteenth time. They'll never be clean enough, never good enough. Story of my life. No matter how hard I work, my mother is rarely satisfied with the results of my labor. At age seven, I make and remake my bed, "ironing" out the wrinkles with my hand and ensuring that the corners are immaculately squared off. Years later my husband will tell me that I'd make a good soldier 'cause my bed-making skills will meet military standards. I'm barely tall enough to see in the mirror; nonetheless I crawl onto a stool, armed with the essential cleaning products, because Saturday morning is cleaning day and no cartoons until the fixtures are gleaming. Mowing the lawn is a treasured chore; I love being "at one" with nature and thankfully my mother's criticism is inaudible over the roar of the mower.
It's so sad that I was born such a "plain Jane." My older sister is blonde, blue-eyed, tall, cheerleader, model figure, and the boys all fall at her feet. On the other hand, I simply meld into the crowd with my stick-thin figure, fine limp hair and forgettable face. I'm a loner and spend my days either with my nose stuck in a bock or hangin' out with the neighborhood boys playing tag football or basketball. My mom never bothered to enroll me in dance class because I wasn't lady-like or pretty enough. Piano lessons were the closest I ever came to learning a "graceful" skill or talent. My mother insists that I keep my hair short (she says it's "stylish"). My young mind deciphers that she wants me to have a hairstyle that is easy to manage so she can devote as much time as possible to Gari Sue. They're always busy running to dance lessons, cheerleading practice and shopping for clothes while I am decidedly content with hand-me-downs that I'm reminded to be grateful for.
I'm scared at school; I'm a good student but I feel alone and uncertain; I cry and chew on my lip until it bleeds. These feelings of inadequacy from my early childhood are evidenced in the present-day scars on my lower lip (it will take 35 years to finally diagnose "hemorraghic telangictasia"). Occasionally in the middle of class my old scar will open up manifesting prior emotional pain; unaware of the trauma, I continue teaching until one of my students gasps, "Oh my gosh, your lip!" or "Mrs. Cochran, are you okay?" I hesitantly dab at it as my mind searches for a way to put the memories to rest. Once, I lost 45 minutes of instructional time while in the restroom dealing with memories that inconveniently resurfaced.
My recollection of school prior to third grade is vague. I have brief, fleeting glimpses of teachers' faces and voices. As a nine year old, I remember wearing either a dress or skirt to school and a little boy behind me lifted it up. I sobbed uncontrollably. I'm certain that Mrs. Aiken was displeased with my emotional disruptions. My fourth grade year was memorable. Ms. Abernethy firmly believed in corporal punishment and she promptly administered my first (and only) school paddling for failure to turn in an assignment; and a boy in my class died that year of leukemia. His attendance was sporadic, then he came back with no hair, and then he didn't come back at all. Mrs. Aubuchon (5th grade) was the craziest teacher ever. I remember during SRAs a girl in my class rocked from side to side constantly and another girl with a prosthesis and a hook for a hand would chase us around the room and terrorize us with her "death grip." Before lunch each day Mrs. Aubuchon always stood in front of a mirror and applied hot red lipstick with an unsteady hand (I found out years later she had a drinking problem and also conducted an affair with our principal)!
I'm sad at school ... sad at church ... sad at home ... where is my safe haven?!