(Continuation of last Wednesday’s posting . . . )
The three months of molestation ended on Thursday, November 28, 1946. Mom and Dad, my younger brother and I, and a young couple Mom had taken under her wing gathered that afternoon around the dining room table. When the couple spoke of leaving, Mom, knowing their pantry was usually bare, asked me to walk up to the road apiece and buy fruit and vegetables for them to take home.
Mr. Jackson owned the produce stand where Mom wanted me to go. When I balked, she grew impatient because normally I was an obedient and willing child. But for five years, I thought my parents had abandoned me in kindergarten. I didn’t know why they’d left or why they returned. Because of this I feared they’d leave me again if I did something they didn’t like. Not knowing what that might be, I worried constantly about displeasing them.
Did I laugh too loud? Cry too often? Wipe the dishes carelessly? Not make good enough grades? Twitch when I slept? Were my school stories too long?
These questions were the reason I hadn’t told them about Mr. Jackson. I thought they’d be upset with me. I didn’t want them to abandon me because I was, as Nancygrayce said in her comment on last week’s posting, “a bad seed.”
Mother insisted that I walk up to his produce stand and so I did. I put the money she’d given me in the side pocket of my new pale-blue trousers. They pleased me mightily because we seldom had money for new clothes.
I walked up the hill to Mr. Jackson’s home where he and his family were eating Thanksgiving dinner. Getting up from the table, he ordered me to come with him to the produce barn.
As we walked through the orchard, he put his arm around my shoulders. Abruptly he rammed his large hand down my trousers and began to pinch my labia and clitoris. Stumbling, I cried out. Roughly, he pulled me upright and kept probing, pressing, fingering. Feelings cascaded through me. Feelings that confused me no matter how often he’d caused them in the past three months.
I tried to turn aside and run back to his house, but he grabbed at me and ripped the zipper seam so that my trousers gaped wide on the left side.
“Hold those pants together when you get home,” he growled. “Remember—this is a secret between me and you. And don’t you dare tell anyone. Your mom and dad will punish you if you do.”
On both the trip to and from the produce barn, he kept up his monologue and his molestation. All the while, I searched desperately for a lie to tell Mom if she noticed that my trousers were ripped.
Norman Rockwell’s paintings of
Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear
When I got back home, everyone was still seated at the dining-room table. I walked to its far end and handed mom the sack of vegetables and fruit. I stood sideways so she wouldn’t see the rip. But she had an eagle eye.
“Dolores, how did you tear your pants?”
“I . . . ”
“You know we don’t have money for new things. You’re supposed to take back care of your clothes. How could you be so careless?”
She looked so upset that I feared she’d abandon me again if I told her the truth. I began to stammer an implausible story.
“The truth, Dolores,” she interrupted.
“I . . . ” Then the words tumbled from my mouth as tears sprang from my eyes. I, who never cried for fear of being abandoned, stammered the whole dismal story of Mr. Jackson and what he’d done and what he’d been doing all those weeks.
Amidst repeated pleas for forgiveness I wailed my fear: “I didn’t mean to do it, Mama. I don’t know what I did to make Mr. Jackson do that! Don’t leave me! Please don’t leave me!”
At some point, Mom said, “John” to my father with a command that even I could hear. He quickly rose from his chair and the two of them went outside, got in the car, and drove away. The young couple encouraged me to take a nap and when I awoke, Mom and Dad had returned home.
The following Monday, I caught the bus to school and did so throughout the rest of grade and high school. I never saw Mr. Jackson again until I was an adult and had already left the convent.
Next week, in my final posting on this episode of my life, I’ll share that meeting with you. Peace.