Santa Claus is Coming to Town

“You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I’m tell you why: Santa Claus is coming to town. He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.” Elf

I sat flipping between Elf and Lock-Up Raw on Christmas day. I did, however, watch the end of Elf where Zooey Deschanel sings Santa Claus is Coming to Town in order to rally the public’s Christmas Spirit so that Santa could fly his sleigh. Much to my chagrin I started tearing-up. And as tears drool down my cheeks I wondered when my Christmas spirit disappeared.

*side note*: this is probably the hardest post to write about. I don’t really talk about myself. Anybody who knows me can attest to the fact that I share bits and pieces about my life… but whole stories in coherent and chronological order are out of the question. It will take you years and years of getting to know me in order to reveal different levels of my history. Most of the things I remember are repressed moments in time that I’ve worked hard to forget. At times they release and over power like a tidal wave. I experience these deep moments of depression and anxiety to the point where I distance myself from everyone. I’m still hesitant and uncomfortable with physical touch unless I initiate it. There are moments when extreme self-revulsion course through my body and weaken my knees. I felt like that a lot during the holiday break when I had no outer commotion to distance myself from inner thoughts. And I simply remembered…

Through the shuffle between parents, I remember my first Christmas with the Millionaire. I remember the gently sway of the boat as I went to sleep excited for the next morning. I remember waking up excited wanting to see what “Santa” brought to our little boat. I remember having to wait until the Millionaire and Mel woke up so that we can open gifts together. As I normally did, I made breakfast: coffee, eggs, toast, bacon (you know I was young if I still ate bacon). Finally they came down the hatch from the upstairs; he in sweatpants and a tee shirt, her in a robe and rollers. We sit before the propane tank and little fake tree that my great-grandmother gave me. Nothing’s underneath the tree, or beside it, or anywhere in sight. I see the red stocking my mom had given me hanging up near the ungarnished tree. “Here ya go, LB, open up your present”. Inside there was an orange, a pack of pink Extra bubblegum, and a card. I don’t think I could hide my dismay. Oh, but I perked up instantly when I saw the frown on the Millionaire’s face. “Oh thank you so much!”

I think this is where I learned to appreciate cards. If you know me, then you’ve probably seen my card collection. I keep all the card and letters that I’ve received since that day.

Christmas ends, but the relationship on the boat was still tinted with animosity.  I really don’t know what happened. All of a sudden I was not allowed to leave the boat; I couldn’t visit friends after school; I had to be home within 30 minutes of school ending. From a child who had untethered freedom… to this strict confinement, I almost lost my mind. Before these rules there were others: no Kool-Aid; only water, no more than 30 minutes of TV, friends aren’t allowed on the boat, breakfast and dinner should be ready when they got home. My nightly phone calls to my mom became less frequent and more monitored. I remember one day I wanted a friend to come home after school. I see the Millionaire watching me from the door of the boat as I walk to the Marina gate. My friend was with me. The yelling and the expletives could be heard for miles. I get into the boat and the hitting begins. Plate after plate is brought down from the cupboards and thrashed against my arms. Then pots, then pans, then cups… I had bruises for days. I was to wash and dry each item that was brought down and then put it back.  There were more of these “punishments” for slight infractions that surprisingly surfaced on the regular. And since we had to wear a uniform, I had to put on long sleeves underneath—Often the same shirt over and over again.

I went from being this vivacious, carefree girl to a quiet, introverted, hesitant, child; and fearful… then numb.

So I called the lawyer, the child advocate that was supposed to help and protect me. I called her on a day I knew the Millionaire would be on a job and not home until late. I picked the restaurant, saved enough money to pay, and strategized what I was going to say. I was 8 or 9.

Safe to say the request to live with my mother was denied. “Maybe you can see her during the summer… we’ll have to arrange that with your father.” I stared blankly at her and replied “Ma’am if you don’t get me out of here, I may not survive until the summer.”

I was on the payphone with my mother when he came home. “Get the stuff out of the car, NOW”. “Mommy, I think he knows I have to go”. I grab the gifts out of the car… stuff mailed to us from Grandma Lorraine, Uncle Mike, and Uncle Stan. What would a normal kid be aside from excited?

I remember the long walk down the dock to the boat on the last tier. I remember casually responding to our neighbors. I remember thinking that maybe things would get better.

I cooked dinner that night, Cheeseburger Helper. They opened the gifts for me. I think there was a faux make-up set, a Barbie, and something with animals – perhaps a bracelet. “The bitch doesn’t deserve shit”… gotta love Mel, she never hides her emotions. “LB, I got an interesting call from a lawyer today. What were you doing?”… “But, but, but you said if I ever wanted to go back to my mom you had a ticket waiting for me!” “You aren’t going anywhere, clean up this mess and do your homework”… “Trifling Bitch, never appreciates a thing we do…etc” I never truly understood the term The Calm Before the Storm until that moment. When the Millionaire is calm, the whole world should be worried.

“May I go use the phone?”… “Wear a jacket”. So I put on this colorful sweater my mom gave me. And I grab my phonebook/diary and walk to the marina gates where the pay phone is located. “Mommy, something’s wrong. Mommy, I think something bad is going to happen. Mom, you have to get me out of here. Mom, he’s coming!” All I can hear are his boot steps as he walks the mile-long gangway to the marina gate. “Mommy, what should I do? Mommy, I’m scared. Mommy!” Ben comes at that moment.” L, are you ok? Do you want me to stay with you? <Millionaire> looks angry, what’s wrong.” Heart thuds, tears are falling “Ben, he’s probably going to kill me tonight… you should go, you don’t want to be here”. All of a sudden Ben is pushed out of the way, the phone is snatched from my ear, and I’m dangling by my collar. And I’m screaming. “No, stop, Mommy!” He picks up the receiver “Good night Leslie (my mom)”.

I’m dragged to the gate and slammed against the handle… my tooth is still chipped from that moment. And he’s hitting me. And hitting me. But I fight back, that’s what I am a fighter. I hear the phone ringing in the background, my mom repeatedly calling the pay phone. I get free and I run. I’m screaming… “HELP, HELP, HELP, HE’s CRAZY”. I’m tackled. Not hard for a 6’4’’ man to catch up with a child. Head locked on the ground until he can get me back up. But I’m still fighting. WHAM. Back-hand to the face… that hurts. But I get free again. I run into the parking lot. I see Mary. “Mary you have to help me, please help.” He’s there before all the words get out again. I feel like a rabid dog with heavy-handed animal-control officer. More fighting… but Mary comes to my rescue. Her calm voice convinces him to let me go. I ride around with her, run her errands until the police can be called. As you can guess, this was way before cell phones were common.

The rest is history… foster homes… maybe 3 in total. I don’t remember. I can only tell you I hate closets. Then I’m back in Arizona. The real journey starts there… but this is all I can recall.

“What wounds have I?” said the sad Sparrow. “What pain have I?” whispered through her broken beak. “What memories I can’t remember, what tragedies I can’t forget” cried her aggrieved spirit. “What day will come when this is all stardust?” sobbed her broken heart.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Ade
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 16:25:16

    “What wounds have I?” said the sad Sparrow. “What pain have I?” whispered through her broken beak. “What memories I can’t remember, what tragedies I can’t forget” cried her aggrieved spirit. “What day will come when this is all stardust?” sobbed her broken heart.

    I know not what to say, but know I love you, Leslie. Very, very much.

    Reply

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