Mommy and Daddy took my little brother and drove away. Days passed and they didn’t come back. Grandma told me they didn’t love me anymore. They’d deserted me. Left me with “no-account” neighbors.
I now lived in a house with different smells, different people, and different ways of doing things. I became a solemn, quiet, reserved, unsmiling child, fearful that anything I did would make people desert me. Grandma. The neighbors who fed me. My kindergarten teacher. My playmates.
Each day before I ate, dressed, talked, sat, rose, pee-peed, drew, listened to the Cisco Kid on radio, knocked on Grandma’s door, I questioned myself.
Am I doing this right? What if they don’t like this? Will they desert me? Will Grandma lock her door and not open it when I knock? Who will let me stay with them if the neighbors don’t want me any more? Who wants a naughty, little girl?
Mommy didn’t. Daddy didn’t. Who would?
After I summoned up the courage to do or say something, more questions badgered me: Did I do that right? Did I talk too loud? Did I wheeze too much? Too loudly? What if they don’t like little girls with asthma? Did I eat too much?
Am I pretty enough for them to keep me? Did my school story make them laugh enough? Am I funny enough for them to keep me? Do I need to learn to dance? Maybe then they’ll keep me. Maybe then they won’t lock me out. Will they? If I smile bigger, will they like me more?
I worried day and night. What if the neighbors with whom I lived said, “Get out, Dodo, we don’t want you anymore.” Where would I go? Where would I sleep? How would I get food to eat? What if I wore dirty clothes to kindergarten? Would the other kids laugh at me?
Could I sleep in the church? In a pew? Could I eat candle wax? Could I become a beggar? Mommy had showed me one over on Main Street. Could I sit on the sidewalk and hold up my Easter bonnet for money? But where would I sleep?
And what would I eat?
The kindergarten teacher seemed to like me. She gave me milk before our nap. But what if I did something naughty? What if I swung too high? Talked too loud? Colored too long? Slurped my milk? Would she tell me to leave the room, close the door behind me, and never come back?
I lived for the whole of that year and for years and years and years afterward, analyzing everything I thought and did and said. Did I do something wrong? Did I say something that would make a friend desert me? Would they throw me over with no explanation? Would I end up with no friends?
I didn’t understand why Mommy and Daddy and my little brother get mad at me and drove away. I didn’t know if they’d ever come back.
“What did I do?” I cried into my pillow at night.
So many things we do each day. Which of those had been the reason they abandoned me? I was confused. Sad. Lonely. Sure that no one loved me anymore. What did people want? Mommy? Daddy? Grandma? These neighbors? My kindergarten teacher? Playmates? What did they want? What? The “whats” hurt my head.
(to be continued on Tuesday . . . )