The other night I had a friend over and she spilled a glass of wine. It was late, and my laptop was still on the table, but I had a flash of anger that was beyond the event. Tonight a friend opened a can of ginger ale that , well, was a disaster and again I was angry for a moment before doing what I did in both situations – quickly clean up the spill.
When I was a very little girl, probably five or six but not seven, I was sent home from school because I was sick. My father was the minister at the Congregational Church in this small town, and I suspect he was called to get me. This may or may not have been the day that I was to recite two poems that I had memorized. I mostly recall getting through the performance and running to the girls room to vomit. Not from nerves, but from something we were not allowed in my family – illness.
I know the teacher was concerned as I asked to go on.I may have whispered, begging, to her to not call my parents the day of the poems. So let’s assume it was the same day.
When I, youngest of four children, went to school my mother returned to her teaching career. Our home, the parsonage , was about six blocks away from the elementary school, with the church located about midpoint. It could not have been more ideal or idyllic – except for the fact that my father was drinking to the point of utter inebriation every day. I loved him fiercely, but so much was disintegrating.
Why did the ginger ale set me off? That day that I was sent home sick my father gave me money and said I should go to the store and buy some ginger ale. I was six, not seven, so I walked to the candy store at the other end of the street and purchased a bottle of ginger ale. And on the way home I dropped it. I dropped it. And on the way home I dropped it. Just like a sing song nursery rhyme.
I might have considered running away at that point, knowing what I would face. My father was furious – and sent me back to the store to replace the bottle, with no money. I walked back and asked the owner (Miss Elsie, if I recall) to give me another bottle because I had dropped the first one and broken it.
She knew our family, and I think she must have wanted to send a message, because she explained to me that I could not ask her to replace the bottle of ginger ale since I had dropped it, and so I was responsible for it. Although I told her my father said I should get another bottle of ginger ale, she remained firm.
I guess I must have vomited everything out at school, because I don’t recall any embarrassing throwing up (which would be cause for punishment). I suppose I walked home slowly, knowing that I would once again not meet expectations, and once again be a very slight and tiny glitch in my fathers other world.
This story is absolutely true, yet I am a six not seven year old narrator. My mother confirmed most of it when I was particularly confrontational with her . (My parents divorced and my father moved back to his homeland, Scotland, when I was 11). My mother confirmed coming home to me sobbing and my father confused and defensive about his actions.
I tell this story not because I want sympathy, although I accept it readily. I mean, really? I accept it – unlike pity. I would love for you to love little me. I needed it then and probably still do.
I tell it because I went on to love my father, who physically and emotionally abused me many more times. Actually, I never stopped loving him. Hate the sin but love the sinner.
For me, the greater action was to know this person and find out what I could. We never talked about that day, or the day he failed to show up to pick me up from Kindergarten graduation (for hours), or how he would ask me to wiggle through the window and under the altar to get the extra key to the church where it was hidden beyond his inebriation and behind his faith.
We became friends, I suppose. And maybe he always wanted that anyway.
I can be my own failure or success now. I can clean up the ginger ale, the wine, and the memories. I can carry my bottle, for better or worse.