Today is July 4, 2011. The 235th birthday of the U.S. but also it is an important anniversary for me. Below is the story of my day in 1971. If you're interested, thanks for taking the time. I posted the trigger warning because I have come to understand anything could trigger someone.
ďHow long you been doing this?Ē In reference to sex, it's a question which is hard for me. ĎCause I donít really remember when I started. So, I canít tell you about the first time I did, but I remember what I like to think of as the first time I didnít.
The picnic tables were all lined up. Some of the neighbors and friends had already arrived. We were carrying the food Mom had been fixing for the past week out to the tables to be served. It was always a challenge to keep the flies and bees out of the food as it set on the outdoor tables. And June bugs. Ha. Nothing is worse than a June bug flying into your potato salad.
You see, my birthday was a HUGE celebration. Of course there was cake and ice cream. But not only that. There was barbeque, fried chicken, creamed potatoes, a casserole dish originally named for George Wallace but has now locally been renamed in memory of my mother, three different flavors of home-made ice cream, and desserts Ė lots of desserts, the whole spread. Oh, and fireworks, canít forget the fireworks. And everyone from my neighborhood, from church, family from Texas and Georgia. All coming to celebrate my birthday of July 6. We always had the party a couple of days early, mind you. Hmm. I donít remember how old I was when it hit me that the fireworks werenít necessary just for me. This was the year we would celebrate my fifth birthday.
In order to understand my favorite part of my birthday celebrations, you really need to know something that had already begun but would develop even more in the years after. You see, I come from what most would consider a large family. I am the youngest of seven children. But compared to the family my mom grew up in, we were a tiny family. She was one of about forty of fifty kids. I can never keep it straight. And thereís no way I know them all. But when we would gather at my maternal grandmotherís house, there were a lot of people. A lot of people I was kin to. A lot of people I didnít know. A lot of people not my age. A lot of people I didnít really like. A lot of people I didnít fit in with. But for my birthday (or the 4th of July) my favorite two cousins seemed always to be able to come. Tammy lived in Georgia but would always be in Alabama for two weeks around the Fourth. And Gwen, she lived in Germany. Well, she lived all over. Her dad was in the military. When we all turned five (we were the same age), she lived in Germany. Being able to spend time with relatives who werenít drunks, racists, didnít smell like they needed to bathe because they reeked with body funk and tobacco and had the stains to prove it. Seeing my two cousins MADE my birthdays and I looked forward every year to us three being able to be together. This enjoyment only grew as we did.
But back to my fifth birthday. The food had been picked over by now. Several times by most in attendance. Folks lingered after lunch till supper time and ate again. They talked. Talked about the last year and about years long ago. It was fun listening to their stories. There was horseshoes. And always there developed a game of backyard football which included men who should be old enough to know better playing with young guys in their prime and challenging them. With their talking mostly. Not so much with their playing. The game usually went on until there was a major medical emergency or a least several minor ones. Some folks had begun dwindling away and carrying a portion of the leftovers with them when I realized mom was making plans for the evening.
Mom was planning on doing a rare thing. With encouragement from Gwenís mom and dad, she was going to see a movie at the theater. Now in my entire life until she died, I can list on one hand the movies which my mom saw at a movie theater. But on this day, that is what she planned to do. Without any input from my five year old self, the plans had been made. Tammy had already left the house going to visit elsewhere. But Gwen and I were to be left at home with him. With him? That could not happen. I couldnít let it happen. So I begged mom and dad to let me and Gwen go to the movie as well. They couldnít do that because they were going to a rated R movie (which today would qualify as childrenís programming of a network channel.) Still I begged. I pleaded to let us go to the park while they were at the show. The park was close to the theater and we could just stay there and play. My aunt, Gwenís mother, corrected me and told me to look at how her daughter acted and mimic her. The parents were going out and leaving the kids with the make-shift babysitter. That was final.
I pouted over to the doorstep of my house. And as I sat there I looked up at my dadís old pickup truck. It was a flat bed with low wooden side rails that shook badly with even the slightest movement of the vehicle. The older kids used it as a platform to jump off of while playing Superman and flying through the air as they jumped. I had not done that yet as I was too young and my fear of heights had developed at an early age. It was there sitting on the stoop that I developed my plan.
So I went about pursuing it. I had to do it. If not to protect me than for Gwen. So I slipped up the side of the truck with no one noticing. I stayed lying on my stomach on the wooden planks dreading the moment I would need to stand up. While trying to build my courage to do what I knew I must, I heard my mom and dad headed for my uncleís car. I stood up. Mom looked at me standing on the truck bed, smiled, and waved goodbye. I waved back. Then I began. I took my three step approach running to the edge. Then jumped, or rather dove, off the back of the truck. During my flight I eyed my target Ė a big rock which sat embedded in the ground with a fair amount of its rocky surface exposed. It was my point of destination and my aim. Head down and headed for contact. Bang. Mission accomplished. Dead on. I had successfully hit my target. A feeling of accomplishment welled up inside of me as I leaped up and faced the car where mom and dad were. Blood poured from my forehead. The doors opened and I heard my mom crying out for me. I could not see her because by this short time blood had engulfed my face and eyes. No vision was possible. I felt a few hands try to grab me before she could get to me. When she got to me though, everyone else was moved aside as she mopped my head with her top. I heard her yell something to my dad and within a minute we were in the car on our way to the hospital. Dad drove as mom held my head over her knees with blood dripping from her red soaked blouse into a bucket placed in the floorboard for that purpose. All I could think about on the way to the hospital is that my plan had worked. Only I didnít get to say goodbye to Gwen. Iíd see her the next year though.
Fifteen stitches were the doctorís remedy. I was proud. Years have passed and the scar is barely noticeable. Really, not noticeable at all. But I see it. Every time I see a picture of myself or a mirrored reflection, it is there. And it reminds me not of my first time, but of my first time not. No, sex with him was a present I did not receive on my fifth birthday.
If my life were a house, I'd want to build it on a cliff, facing the ocean, and listening.