Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 7 & 8

My Great Grandma, Emma was born in 1875 and died when I was 10 in 1973. She has confused me a bit as she has a lot of relatives on Pine Ridge Reservation, and several of them came to her funeral, but that was the only time I met them. I have seen her family names on a family tree, but they are only names to me and I have no idea of any relatives connected from her family before her generation, only her sons and their children were a part of my life. She married a stage driver in Hot Springs, South Dakota when she was 17 and her father disowned her and she never got to go back to see her mother until her Father died and she herself was in her 50's.  My Mom's Dad was one of her 4 sons, and my Mom is the young girl in the top picture, with an aunt and Great-Grandma Emma.
The middle row is the wedding picture of Emma Lafferty and Frank Slack and a picture from the middle of her life and one about 90
in the bottom row, she is the grainy young mother holding her son, Bill, Then in the middle is a picture of her holding me, and the bottom right she was riding with my grandpa Lawrence and a friend named Bill Anderson, at the Cody, Wyoming 4th of July Parade

She was a feisty woman who drove the stage, danced with Buffalo Bill, (she told me he was so drunk that he fell into the punch bowl) She survived her battle torn younger years which included Custer's Last Stand and the massacre at Wounded Knee and married a white man who gave her a life of adventure and four sons. They ended up on a ranch outside Cody Wyoming for awhile and tun on the banks of the Greybull River in Meeteetse, Wyoming.

She was tiny and I always called her "Little Grandma" but she was strong and determined and fled with love for her great-grandkids.  I remember her singing School Days, School Days" and slipping me peppermint stick candies in the log cabin her sons built - then sleeping in a twin bed in my room when that cabin burned down.

I remember when she died, I was her size and I got a bag of sweaters and long nightgowns and when I wore them they felt like a hug, but also it felt so wrong that this simple cloth should still be around when she was not.

See this girl, awkward yes, different than most of my classmates, true, but not as ugly and stupid and obviously bad as I believed at the time.

True bullying makes you believe everyone else sees the reason you were targeted. It makes you believe there is no escape, that everyone is on the side of those tormenting you, and that those who you could ask for help won't be able to do nothing.  It isolates you and makes you feel like asking for help will only increase the abuse that you must somehow deserve.

Not everyone who bullies you is the primary instigator.  Some will just be almost as weak as you and be afraid that if they speak up the attack will turn on them. It is hard for anyone to willingly volunteer for that kind of abuse and it takes courage and the ability to see that bullies are afraid of groups. There is strength in numbers if other people can join together, which is precisely what the bully wants to avoid.

In grade school I started first grade not really knowing how to relate to other kids. I had a lot of grandparents, great-grandparents, great-Aunts and Uncles, but no siblings until just before I started school. I was severely pigeon-toed and the Dr. ordered dance classes but I failed drastically at dancing when I could barely walk. I was freckled and loud and tried to argue with the teacher who was teaching us to spell wrong, when I had started school already knowing how to read.  The class was using a phonetic program that taught that school was spelled "Skwl" and I knew better.  Cat was not Kat no matter what the teacher said. Not a good candidate for ITA learning!

In grade school, I had a battle every day. My things were stolen and destroyed or passed around from child to child with great drama and screams of "Dixie Fleas! Pass it on!"  They pretended to spray my chair with disinfectant before anyone else would sit there.  I came to believe I really did stink.  I started not doing homework just so I could be kept after school so the kids who threatened to beat me up as I walked home would get bored and be gone.

When I was chased to my house and tried to hide between the screen door and the locked inner door as 4 older girls threatened to kill me, my mom drove up. In sweet voices they told her that "we don't know what is wrong. We came by and she was just crying."  Mom thanked them for trying to help and I claimed I had just had a horrible head-ache.

Once I went to Jr. high it got better, and I had some friends from the other grade schools, but I still had kids who stole my PE clothes or cornered me and smeared raw eggs in my hair and poured cans of soda on me.  Pretty girls would catch my eye and I would stare back, wondering what they knew that made them accepted, that I was missing, then they would snarl at me to stop staring.

I never quite got it right. Once the High School held an anti-bullying assembly with a movie about a boy who tried so hard to be invisible that he stepped off the bus and died of a heart-attack and when the school tried to find his friends, none of his classmates knew who he was.  More kids told me "Hello" after that assembly than ever before but it only lasted a day.  I too was learning to hide, I carried a book and sketch pad and I hid behind them all the time.  I ate lunch in the art room and went straight home after school. I tried to be aloof so no-one would be able to tease me that no-one wanted to be my friend.  

It made me a bad friend to the people who really were trying, because I was afraid it was a trap and then they would laugh, and I was convinced I really didn't deserve a friend anyway.
How did I learn to move on?
First I had to move on.  I could never have become the loving friend and Mom and wife and teacher and writer that I am now, had I stayed in that town.  When I went away, I literally kept my head down and made no eye contact, and could not believe those other kids on the college campus were talking to me when they said "Hi"  It took a lot of them to make me understand that there wasn't some scarlet letter branding me an outcast. Then it took one very confident and loving friend to keep holding on even when I pushed away, and another, and the man who loved me and married me, and kept insisting I was a treasure.  It took seeing my worth in a lot of other peoples eyes before I could see it in the mirror.

It took leaving home and creating my own home. It took living overseas in China for awhile and being in the minority and still making friends

So then I became a teacher of special ed. children and a Mom of loving men, and a writer of novels that are anti-bullying pro-loving and I have made a conscious choice to add to the love in this world

So now school is starting again, and kids will be bullied again. What can we all do?  Love each other, hold a hand, offer a smile and a validation of worth, refuse to be silent audiences any longer. Ask for and offer help.

There is more good than bad people in the world.  That is why the bad ones are the news and the good ones are the norm.

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