Saturday, May 23, 2009

Overheard: The Rest Of The Story

Back in April I used a One Minute Writer prompt of "Overheard" and wrote the following piece. A few people thought I should finish it.

I'm sitting outside my bedroom door, wiping the tears off my cheeks and breathing very quietly. I'm supposed to be in my bedroom, being punished for yet another temper tantrum.

My mother is on the phone with my father's friend. He's a psychiatrist.She asks, without anger in her voice, "What are we going to do with her?"

My high-strung personality began at birth. An insomniac from Day 1, I never slept for any length of time. My Mom called them my cat-naps. My Dad said he watched Johnny Carson with me in his arms every night. I had many temper tantrums. When I was a grown-up and my grandparents and aunts were in their 80's and 90's, they could still recall what a difficult child I had been.

At the time my mother made that phone call, she was probably at her wit's end with me. This was my earliest memory (it came out during a particularly emotional session of psychotherapy). I was probably 3 or 4 at the time and my Mom had 2 more babies after me. She had spent a year raising us alone when my Dad was called to active duty during the Berlin Crisis.

We lived on the 2nd floor of a two-story tenement in the city. Our landlord and his wife lived on the first floor. The wife had threatened to evict my family if they couldn't control my tantrums. Until I started school, I have no memories of what provoked the temper tantrums. My Mom was overwhelmed.

When I was 5, I was enrolled in the Catholic School. Mother Mary Angelique was not amused by my temper tantrums. She had various ways of dealing with them. She always had the class split into GIRLS-GIRLS-GIRLS-Empty Row-BOYS-BOYS-BOYS. Each gender-specific side of the class had 1 or 2 empty seats for the Misbehavers Of The Opposite Sex. I spent a lot of time in an empty seat in the BOYS section, where the meanest of them would poke me and pull my hair. This would cause my temper to flare even higher , scream even louder and guarantee me another day in exile in the BOYS section.

I spent quite a few afternoons with my desk in the coat closet. Mother Mary Angelique was also a firm believer in a swat to the hand with a ruler and a flick of her index finger, right above my ear.
I don't remember ever telling my mother about what went on at school. I figured I deserved it for crying and screaming.

My Mother remembers that after my first year in school, my temper tantrums nearly went away and I was much calmer.

On the outside.


Patience_Crabstick said...

I hate teachers who resort to public humiliation! I'm sorry you had to go through that.

Fannie said...

What a sad story. I'm sorry for that little girl.

Cat said...

That is very sad. I went to the only known Catholic elementary school where there was no swatting or hitting or separating by sex or anything like that. Hubby says no way was it really a Catholic school.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

This is so interesting--I wonder what was happening in your little mind? I wonder how things would have been different if you were a child now.