“Hush little baby go to sleep”, whispers grandfather’s strong but soft voice. Large hands pat the toddler on her back as he sings her to sleep, being careful to not use too much force, but to be as gentle as possible. Soon her eyes would close and she would be off to dreamland, where everything is familiar and bright, and happiness fills her soul. Only it was not just a dream, for even in waking this was what life was like.
Grandfather was tall, well-built and robust. He worked hard; working the land and gardening. He would even take the toddler with him on occasions to gather mangoes. Grandmother, a strong, medium sized built woman with the most beautiful head of completely grey hair, which is almost turning golden, hums quietly to herself, “great is thy faithfulness or Lord my father, there is no shadow of turning with thee”, doing so as she is finishing up her weekly ironing.
As an adult, these are among her earliest childhood memories. The memory of feeling loved by her grandparents; until tragedy struck. According to Dr. Kevin Leman, author of What Your Childhood Memories Say About You, “the human brain stores memory through emotions. In order for us to store our memories for years, we must either get information repeatedly or strongly. Therefore, one of the hallmarks of memories that last, is close association with emotion.” Could this explain why this is her earliest childhood memory, and her desperate need and longing throughout her life to be loved unconditionally. The need for love is a basic need of all of humanity. However, for some people significant childhood experiences can compound that need, which then becomes a strong driving force in their lives. “Your childhood memories reveal who you really are”, says Dr. Leman. He also suggests that understanding who you are as revealed through your childhood memories affects how you live in the present and how successfully you are able to take control of your future.
The girl had been sent to live with her grandparents at just about 3 months old, and they happily accepted her. Her 15-year-old mother walked out on her father after a quarrel leaving the baby girl with him. Her father having to work to earn a living and unable to properly care for his baby girl on his own quickly sprang into action, executing the plan they had already been contemplating. It would be best to take their baby girl to live with his parents. He hurriedly bought a plane ticket to Tobago, delivered his daughter to his parents’ home and returned in time for work that evening; not even having time to see that she settled in alright. Nonetheless, she adjusted. Oh, how her grandparents loved her! She quickly became the apple of their eyes. With all of their children being adults and all except for one, no longer living on the island, what a joy it was to have a little one prancing around the house again. She was smart and energetic, curious bold and brave and her grandparents doted on her. For the toddler, life was perfect. She feels loved and secure. Her grandparents love her and she love them. What more could she possibly want.
Little did she know that her world is about to be turned upside down. Her father had written a letter to his parents explaining that he wanted to take his daughter, now about seven years old, to live with him. His parents deliberated on the matter, before responding to the letter. “No we don’t think you should take her, and what would that mean for the child”, they inquired. An earlier visit by her father and his new lady friend who would eventually become his wife did not go over too well with them. It turns out that there was an incident in which the grandparents were not pleased with how the little girl, their love, the apple of their eye, was treated by this new lady. They were not willing to give her up, determined not to send her into a place and life of uncertainty. She had been with them for all of the seven years of her life. They cared for her, supported her, loved her; how could they possibly give her up. Her father however, had his mind made up. Whether his parents approved or not he was taking his daughter to live with him.
It was a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon. The little girl is visiting at her aunt’s house and happily playing in the yard with her cousins. A car pulls up to the house, the children could hear the revving of the engine. Not accustomed to having many visitors and filled with curiosity, they quickly run from their place of play to see who could be visiting on this Sunday afternoon. As quickly as they arrive on the scene, they are hastily motioned to return to their play. “Go back, no body didn’t come to you all, go on”, says aunty, fanning her hand at them. Knowing better than to disobey and hearing the urgency in her voice, they retreat, clueless as to the events that were about to unfold.
It was the girl’s father that had come in the car. He had a brief conversation with his sister and then proceeded on to his parents’ home. His visit with his parents had been very short because not too long after, he returns, snatches up his daughter, who was still playing in the yard with carefree innocence, bundles her into the car and drives off. She is disoriented. What exactly is happening? She is still wearing her house dress, a red dress with flowers printed on the bottom, and no shoes or slippers. Where is he taking her? They eventually arrive at the airport. She had never been to the airport before. Everything was unfamiliar, and she is wearing her house clothes and no shoes, in public. There was no time to pack a bag or gather up any of her favorite things. All she had with her was the very clothes on her back. Her head is spinning; she feels afraid.
Her father asks a lady to change her clothes. Knowing full well what he had intended to do, he came prepared with a change of clothes for his daughter. The lady takes the girl into the bathroom and dresses her in a brand new red cotton pants suit, black shoes and white socks. Her father makes her smile for a picture. Why would she want a picture to remember this day? The memory that would be etched in her mind is more than traumatic enough, there is no need for physical reminders. But obediently she gives a thin, superficial grin only showing a small amount of teeth. The flight number is announced and father and daughter boards a plane bound for Trinidad. He had accomplished his mission. He stole his daughter from his parents.
No one would have imagined that this same girl who was once happy as a lark, loved and secure, would eventually experience feelings of sadness, loneliness, depression, detachment and being unloved. Life took a drastic turn for the once happy child. The love and security she once felt quickly faded. Her grandparents, aunt and cousins were miles away, with no means of her seeing or getting in touch with them. Her father’s vision of a happy family, with his new wife, step-son and daughter did not quite turn out as he had planned. There seemed to be continuous tension in the home surrounding the new arrival – his daughter. Her step-mother treats her harshly and complains to her father constantly about her.
So upset is her father this one time with his daughter after a complaint from his wife. He pauses with his plastic cup in his hand as he was walking to the refrigerator. Unfortunately for his daughter she is within reach, and before she knows it, she feels the warmth of her own blood running down the side of her face. Her father had hit her in the head with the sharp edge of the cup and busted her skull. On another occasion her step-brother pushes her down a flight of stairs, whether it was intentional or accidental is unknown but what is certain are the bruises and busted lip she just suffered.
The girl now feels unloved. Her father no longer wants her because she poses a threat to his marriage, and her step-mother certainly does not want her. She feels even her own mother does not love her or even like her for that matter. She is living with her mother now, but life was not any easier. Although she had outings with her mother prior to living with her, they never seemed to develop a strong bond. They are worlds apart. She feels her mother prefers and loves her brother over her. Her brother is sweet and sensitive and kind and loving. He is always loving and shows no reservations in expressing it. The girl, is reserved and guarded, she certainly is not as expressive as her brother.
Battling with her own demons, her mother has no time for her daughter’s emotional well-being. She often seems irrational and treats her daughter harshly. The big stone that grazed the back of her daughter’s foot as she ran frantically to get out of the way would testify to this. Her younger brother and sister would gang up on her and tease her. She feels unhappy and alone, no one cares for her, no one loves her. She is dejected and rejected, stolen and kept apart from the people who truly loves her. She is sure that she has been sentenced to a life of misery.
The little girl was now a teenager. The years had passed by but her situation remained more or less the same, except that her mother migrated and she is once again in the home with her father and step-mother. She still feels unloved, her self-esteem is low and she experiences depressive episodes, marked by severe crying spells and sadness. She lies on her bed one day her eyes burning with tears and she thinks, “if I had a baby of my own he would love me, unconditionally. I would love him and he would love me.” She would no longer have to feel unloved….
Thank you for taking the time to read this story. I know it was probably a bit heart wrenching. To read a related blog post with a message of hope and encouragement click on this link Let’s Talk About Love…