Not Daddy's Little Girl
7:15 a.m. - 2006-02-10

When I was five, my mom bought me a box of Care Bear tissues. They were very special, she explained, because not only were they Care Bears, but they were colored, and even more exciting: they CHANGED colors. Like, they started out pink, and after you'd used those, the yellow ones would start, then purple, green, blue, and so on. I loved those tissues. I didn't waste them though (you didn't waste things in our house, or you got a whipping), so I made sure that I only pulled one out when I really needed it.

Late one night, I came out of my room to find my mother kneeling in front of the window. She was sobbing, like people did when they were hurt really bad, and it scared me. Bad. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that she was just worried about Daddy because he hadn't come home yet. I wasn't sure why that was such a big deal, because there were times that Daddy didn't come home for days. Besides, things were a lot more fun when Daddy wasn't there, because no one was screaming at or yelling or hitting us. But for some reason Mama was very sad that night, and so I stayed up with her and gave her tissues. After awhile, I realized that I had gotten to the next color of tissues, and a little part of me got all excited about that, but I couldn't show it because Mama was so upset.

Daddy eventually came home, of course. He always did, even though I prayed a lot that he'd just stay away. I hated it when he and Mama would get into a fight, because no matter how many pillows I put over my head, I couldn't quiet the screaming and bad words. And, of course, the sounds of hitting. I was grossed out when Daddy threw up everywhere or peed on himself while he was passed out and we'd have to step over him when we left for school in the morning.

When I was about eight, we had a little Boston Terrier. I can't for the life of me remember that dog's name, but I do remember what happened to me because of it. One night, right as I was going to bed, Daddy yelled and asked if I'd fed the dog. I lied and said yes (though I knew I shouldn't), because it was cold outside and I didn't think it would hurt the dog to wait until morning. A few minutes later I got scared that Daddy would go check, so I crawled out of bed and snuck quietly down the hall and outside to pour some food in the dog's bowl.

On the way back to my room, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. The dog was fed now, I'd avoided getting in trouble, and I could go to sleep without worrying about it at all.

Then, all of a sudden, I heard someone step out of the bathroom I'd just passed. Someone big. Someone had broken into the house, and they were going to get me! I screamed, and started running down the hall to my parents' room, and I heard him running after me. As I was running, I turned to look over my shoulder, and I saw my father. He had that crazy, mean look in his eyes, and I knew he was going to hurt me.

And he did. He cornered me in their bedroom, and grabbed me by the hair and slammed me into the wall. And then he started kicking me, and yelling at me about lying to him. And I don't really remember the rest, because during those kind of times I had to find a safe place inside my head to wait it out until the beatings were over. Except I do remember my mother, lying there on the bed, watching him punch and kick me. And she did nothing to stop him, not even yell.

There were lots of other times, too. Like when I was four, and was so tired of hearing them scream at each other about bills that I grabbed my piggy bank out and ran down the hall and threw it at Daddy and told him to pay the bills with that. Or when I ten and my brother was six and we put on his plastic helmets before venturing out to watch them fight so we could call for help if Mama got hurt too bad.

The beatings stopped by the time I was fifteen, shortly after Daddy quit drinking. He told me that he wouldn't ever hit me again, and he's held true to that, for the most part.

I've sworn that I'd never talk about this, because it brings those memories flooding back, and I'd rather keep them locked away. Alan knows about it, but it took a couple of years for me to tell him. And W knows, because until I met Alan he was the only person I trusted enough to let myself open to completely. Besides, he was there for a lot of it, at least the later years.

I'd certainly never planned on discussing it here, at least not to this extent, because I don't want to sound like I'm looking for pity. I'm not. But when my father was screaming at me on Wednesday afternoon, telling me about what a screw-up I am, it somehow got brought up. What we grew up around. And I didn't want to talk about it then, but he wouldn't leave it alone. He wanted to know, goddammit, just what DID I grow up around? What was so bad about my childhood? I've never gone without, have I? And when I told him what I've just told you here, that crazed look came back into his eyes. And he told me that he didn't regret any of it, and that the beatings weren't because of his drinking. That smart-ass kids need to be kept in line. And he stepped toward me, hand raised, like he was going to hit me.

But for the first time in my life, I didn't pull away. I didn't cower down. Because now, I have a child of my own, and as long as I'm around she will never, EVER be hurt that way. I'd kill someone before I let that happen.

I've always been told that I'm a lot like my father. But if people really knew what they were saying, they'd know that nothing could be further from the truth.

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I am: so very many things. A mother, a wife, a dreamer, a lover of animals and babies, a friend. I've been called a bitch, but if that's what you call someone who stands up for what they believe in and refuses to settle, then I guess the title fits.

loves: my family, horses, a full night's sleep, puppy breath, my daughter's laughter, thunderstorms, bubble baths, makeup, soft sheets, David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, wine, massages, the written word, and sour straws.

dislikes: closed minds, depression, pimples, extreme heat, math, panic attacks, black licorice, doing laundry, white chocolate, gin, Bush.