Friday, March 18, 2011

Olivia's Turning Point: A Fable

The photo is of the Ancient Egyptian principle/goddess called Sekhmet. Sekhmet is a protector-warrior.

Olivia's Turning Point

Developing relationships was a challenge for Olivia.  She didn't fit in with the others in her peer group and often was alone reading, studying, contemplating the meaning of life, when she wasn't competing in sports. Sure, people liked to be around her, but she learned early on that much of it was tied to her appearance.  Olivia was easy on the eyes, so to speak. She fit a standard of beauty that drew attention from the old and the young, men and women, married and single.  At a young age she knew that there was something fundamentally wrong in reducing the totality of a person to physical attributes.  Unlike her peers, who spent seemingly endless hours getting their hair and nails done, going to social gatherings, and the like, she found greater satisfaction in her studies - of history, life, material reality, science and philosophy.

At 23 she felt good about the path she was on.  Having just completed a Master's degree in architectural engineering, Olivia planned to switch gears to study philosophy.  She was finally ready to begin repairing her soul and saw philosophy as a move in that direction. 

It took a long time for Olivia to reach this point.  It took a lot of time to recognize that her heart and soul needed healing.  Her life path had not been easy. As a teenager, Olivia  cut herself...scars still visible on her wrists.  Angry she was at the world, at herself.  Angry at the counselors who taught her ways to live with the abuse, to be thankful that she never actually was raped, to find her blessings in life and learn how to be happy and live in the world not as a victim but as a person in control of her life.  Angry at the police who endlessly questioned her mother about the whereabouts of Uncle J. Angry at the judge who sent Mama away; at the social worker who tore the family a part; at herself for having been the cause of it.  But Mama said it wasn't her fault. It was never her fault.

The year she turned 14 was when her world seemed to turn upside much didn't make sense.  Adults were supposed to protect children, not harm them.  So why did they take Mama away when she was only protecting Olivia?  She did everything a child should have done - she told her mom what Uncle J did to her. She told her that what began as unusually long hugs turned to putting his tongue in her mouth and then touching. She told her mother about that night when Uncle J came over to the house when Mama was working her night job. He came in the house and tried to rape her, stopped only by what sounded like Mama coming in the door. He ran out so quickly.  They took this to the police and made the report, believing that something would be done to stop him from harming her and untold others.  A warrant was made for his arrest. Walking out of the police station mama was mumbling and cursing, which was not like her.  "What did you say?" Olivia asked.  "A black child's life has no value in this system." She knew something then that Olivia wouldn't find out until a few days later.  Mama was raped when she was Olivia's age. They caught the man and after 3 years he was out.  His next rape won him a life sentence, however, as it involved a white girl in a nearby neighborhood.  She called around calmly to all the places Uncle J might be, but was nowhere to be found.  Mama let Olivia sleep in her bed that night and made breakfast the next morning. 

Still thinking about her mama, Olivia recalled the events that unfolded soon thereafter.  When she returned home from school the day after filing the police report, Mama was sitting at the kitchen table.  "Olivia come here" she said firmly.  Quickly she responded; when Mama spoke in that tone, Olivia knew not to waste time.  Her voice seemed to soften, however, when Olivia entered the kitchen.  And as Mama spoke, she breathed deeply as if to hold back looked as though she had been crying.  "Olivia, I am so sorry," Mama paused wiping the corners of her eyes.  "I didn't know what was going on." Mama paused again to take a breath and wipe her eyes.  She then looked at Olivia with blood-red eyes, determined resolve and said, "I promise.  This  will never happen again."  Mama then got up, kissed Olivia on the forehead and walked out, grabbing her purse on the way. 

Olivia thought it a bit unusual the way her mother looked in the kitchen.  It was as if she hadn't slept in days but was calm, quiet and focused; reminding her about how her father was before a big presentation.  Paw Paw, as she called him, would work for days on a project with little sleep and food.  He told Olivia that working hard and giving one's best built character. And he should know as he had a lot of it. Everyone loved and respected Paw Paw.  He taught her a lot before cancer took him.  She missed him.

Thinking about how her mom looked in the kitchen quickly shifted as her little sister and brother got home from school.  As the oldest child, she knew the routine - prepare dinner, make sure they got their homework done, run the bath water, and get them ready for bed.  Since Paw Paw died, Mama had to get a second job. Auntie La La, a neighbor down the street and Mama's best friend, would come to look in on us just before bedtime. Mama hated that she had to work so much, but said that it would only be until she paid off the hospital bills.

After  putting her brother and sister to bed, Olivia sat down to do her homework.   She must have dozed off because she jerked up at the sound of the front door closing. "Mama?" Olivia called. "Yes dear. I am home early. Go back to bed." She then heard Mama walk quickly up the stairs and into her bedroom.  Olivia slowly rose from her chair to turn the light off and get into bed.  After flipping the light switch, she paused by the door hoping to catch a glimpse of her Mama. Olivia needed to feel the comfort of her hug before going to bed.  The day before was so hard that the loving reassurance from her mom would help to calm her.

Olivia knocked on her mother's door, but before waiting for permission to enter she pushed the door open...and froze in disbelief. "Go back to your room," Mama said sharply. Olivia quickly returned to her room and climbed in bed.  The image of blood on Mama's shirt stayed on her mind all night and through the next day.  Olivia didn't talk much in school that day and when she returned home, Mama was sitting at the table.  She told Olivia to sit down and listen.  Olivia learned that day what happened to her mom as a girl and how no one stood for her.  Mama said that the weight of sexual abuse falls consistently on the shoulders of girls and women and it is only through our efforts that solutions can be developed and carried out.  Olivia listened intently as Mama spoke about the importance of mamas standing up for their daughters because their lives are just that important.

Olivia began to change that day. She began to see the world in a different way. She began to question what a world would look like in which girls would be safe.  She though about how such a world could be brought into being.  Her mom taught her important lessons that day. And at the top was that through human effort change is made. That change can be for the better or it can be for the worse. It can value life or it can devalue life.

Note:  About a week later the police found Uncle J's body. And Mama became the main suspect. Even though the police didn't find any evidence that she killed him, Olivia's mom was arrested, tried and convicted.  She remains in a high security prison in North Carolina.  Mama doesn't regret what she did - her daughter's life is important.  Mama knew that if she didn't stand for her daughter, no one would.  Olivia's brother and sister were sent to live with Auntie La La, who has helped them to understand the importance of living with integrity, working hard and fighting for those who can't fight for themselves.

1 comment:

  1. Powerful story. Adults need to stop preying on children. Boys and girls go through this and its so sickening. Very Deep. And if its true, way to go to the mother. Reminds me of "A Time to Kill" Everytime he wastes those bastards I jump up and cheer. What are we doing to the babies?? OMG!!