The age of 10 was the worst year of my life at this point. The night my grandpa died something happened to me that changed me profoundly. I was sleeping at my aunts house and the second my grandpa died he came to me and woke me up. He said “I have to go away now but I love all of you tell Imogene I will be watching over her.”I accepted the goodbye as normal. Five or six of us slept in the same bed. I told them grandpa had died and they were crying. My aunt came in and when told why they were crying. Wow, I was in trouble! I was spanked and called a liar. It would be years before I told my mom. I learned then adults did not know everything. She said it was impossible but when I asked my dad grandpa did die at that time. I saw events before they happened. I would know things about people if I touched them. Many other that I do not talk about. Writing about this part of me is very hard. I felt even more left out of the family. I was now an alien in my eyes. No one was like me that I could find. I would be in my teenage years before I talked about it again.
Once my grandpa died my mama died too. She was just a breathing body at this time. My childhood was over. My new duty was being “mama” to four younger sisters. I had to take on household chores. Hand washing diapers in the toilet if they were soiled led to strep throat. I missed most of that school year. Because one was her angel, and the other three were her babies, I became my mama’s source of anger. Her public point of view was different if she cared about your opinion. Then I was ignored or teased until the others would laugh. She was so beautiful that her making me feel ugly was easy. I saw an ugly girl with thick glasses and ugly brown straight hair. It would be that way for many years to come. The verbal abuse got worse and the physical more frequent. My grades were not be talked about because they were the highest. I would hear the next words many times over the years. She is so ugly she has to be smart who would want her. She got a big kick out of running me down in front of my favorite aunt. One example that was burned into my soul happened in 1969. That was the year I got married. We were at my aunt’s house with my wedding snapshots. My aunt gave me a compliment. As soon as my mama heard she jumped up, and shoved a snapshot of my sister, in front of her face and said”oh no one looked at Paula because everyone said Linda looked like an angel”.” All eyes were on Linda.” My aunt looked at me with such pity and just shook her head.All the joy was gone. That became her mantra because if she saw me happy she attacked. Avoiding her became easier after I went to work at the age of 15. I became a fountain girl at the local drive-in. It was the first time I had clothes that fit me. Black jeans and a white button down blouse. I met new people too. Of course she took all the money I made. My first tax return was $103.00. She gave me the $3.00 and she spent the $100.00 on my older married sister. (The one whose clothes did not fit me).
I started to develop a woman’s body. The only D cup in the class room was me. I had long straight brown hair, thick glasses, and was built like a brick shit house. I was 5 foot 3 and in the 5th grade. I had to develop a thick skin because I was the butt of all the jokes in and out of class. And I carried the guilt about being the bad girl at all times. Clothes did not fit me because I wore my older sister’s hand me downs. She is 5 foot 8 and big boned. I walked hunched over and head down for years. I really thought my boobs were hidden that way. My mama refused to buy me a bra. I started 6th grade still not wearing a bra. Granny Gladys was there for coffee and she took one look and told me “we are going to my house”. After we get there she digs into a drawer and started throwing bras onto to the bed. She told me to try them on. They were granny bras that helped tuck the tummy in also. I did not care I was going to have bras. I felt on top of the world! She gave me 4 of them. I could not wait to go to school. Once home mama took one look and, told me they were ugly. By then it was becoming water off a ducks back. Unless she became vicious. I still tried to hide them and now women pay for them. I was born to early. I was ashamed of my body for many years. It only brought attention from the wrong kind. By 6th grade I looked like I was 20. My father worked 14 hour days. We could not talk to either parent.
Sixth grade I spent more time with the teachers or in the library. In the library I could travel to other places and times. I felt a kinship with history. I became self educated. Reading was my escape from my life. It was unbearable. I thought of suicide often. I did not fit in at school except as someone the teachers depended on. The true me felt invisible unless, I was being bullied. I acted as if their words did not hurt. I just took it because I felt I deserved it. But, if a larger child bulled someone younger or smaller I was right there to beat them up. I would see red right away and jump in. There were students that thought I was great. I wrote plays and directed them. I wrote the school paper in 6th grade. It was my peers that that I did not bond with. I felt very older. I was given our old Brownie and I fell in love with photography. It would last a life time. That summer I would cut grass for 25 cents. or babysit for 50 cents. and if I got lucky, go to the corner store and get to keep the change! The money was spent on film or developing the photos. Swinger, wow even the name was sexy. Going into 7th grade I had one. It made me feel hip. The photos developed in front of you. I had this fear that I would forget my life because I blocked so much of it. I needed the photos to say I was there.
Seventh grade I went to a huge jr high and became lost in the crowd. The next 3 years flew by. At the age of 15 in the 9th grade I felt old and like I knew it all. Life would only get worse. I started dating a man of 21 years old. Within 3 months I was pregnant. Boy in 1967 it was a BIG DEAL. I had gotten into trouble as they called it then. I was a big disgrace. I had to quit school and the father of the babies ran away. It was twins. Full time work at the drive in now. I had bills to pay: the doctor, hospital, and baby stuff. One week- end crossing the street, a car hit me on purpose, in the stomach. I did go see the doctor and he said I was fine. My grandma and young aunt wanted me to spend the night. I was so stupid that when I went into labor I thought it was the cramps. I woke up my aunt about 11 p.m. and we walked the floor all night. I would double over and keep my mouth shut. I did not want to wake up grandma. Around 7 a.m. she woke up and I went into the bathroom. This urge to push would not go away. I sat on the toilet with my legs apart and delivered the first twin. I yelled for them to call for an ambulance. Once there I told them another was on its way. Of course both were born dead at 5 months. Coping meant going back to work. I would even work double shifts. My life was over, who would ever look at me now. Fifteen and washed up and badly depressed.
Sixteen I met my first husband. We married June 1969 . I thought he hung the moon. I was so used to emotional and verbal abuse I did not notice when he began to do both. I had my son 1 month after turning 18. During those years he drank, gambled, and cheated. But since I could not catch him I could not divorce him. We moved every few months. By keeping me without a car or a phone I was isolated. That is typical of abusive men. He was like my mom, if I was speaking he would interrupt, if I received a compliment he hated that. He would turn to a women near him and hit on them by complimenting them. He would always say I was wrong or telling it wrong. The center of attention had to be on him. I learned to not speak unless I was spoken to. I stayed home and never got any thing new unless it was a holiday. He dressed very nice drove fairly new cars. He played golf and the pinball machines. We would be broke if I needed something. The only happiness in my life was my son and my husband was insanely jealous of him. We would fight over his treatment of our son. Our friends hated him for it but he did not notice.