Another memory relived. I didn’t know how much time had passed while standing at the castle wall, but Alex and Maus had tactfully left me alone with my thoughts. But my memories had not been put to rest.
I wondered why the dairy had to close at 12:30 on Saturdays. Hopefully, I wouldn’t be late. First, I had to go home, get the milk can and then rush to the dairy. The front door was closed and I had to go all the way around, through the backyard and into the house. I grabbed the milk can from the kitchen and started running.
I wondered why we didn’t pay for the milk when we bought it, like all the other folks? I was forced to always say, “My mother will pay later.” The milk lady never said anything, but I had the feeling she did not like the arrangement. She knew we owned a business and she would get her money, yet I was always embarrassed to say that.
I made it just before the dairy was about to close. It would have been a disaster if there wasn’t any milk in the house over the weekend.
When it started raining and thunder echoed through the streets, I knew I had to hurry. When I got the milk home I set it down, but didn’t take the time to pour it into the stoneware jar.
The boys were not at home and I panicked. I had to find them. They were probably fishing without a permit again. Nigg and I had to be on weekend duty at the gas station and somebody was coming to pick us up at 1:00 p.m..
I set the milk can in the kitchen sink and ran down to the river across the street. The church clock struck 1:00. The boys were not at the river. Maybe, I thought, they were fishing farther down, by the Lembeck’s nursery. The storm moved through the town with lightning and thunder and I ran as fast as I could. When I saw them I yelled:
“Nigg, Hans, hurry up! Somebody is coming to pick us up.”
On our way home we had to stop at the Stadtmuellers barn so Nigg could hide his fishing rod there. Grandpa gave it to him and whatever came from grandpa we were not allowed to have. We were soaked by the time we reached the house. We noticed our father’s car. We were confused and looked at each other. My stomach tightened.
I asked, “What excuse can we use for being late?”
We didn’t have time to make up a good story. Suddenly, we heard Father’s whistle. I yelled, “We’re coming.” Like beaten, wet dogs, we crept up the stairs.
There he stood, “our Lord and father”, one hand on his hip and the other on his cigar. He pointed at me. “You, come.”
When I reached the top of the steps he grabbed my arm and hurled me into the kitchen. He pointed to the milk can and asked, “What is that?”
My head spun. I didn’t know what he meant. I was shivering. Was it because I was cold and wet or out of fear? He pointed to the milk in the can. I realized then that I had not poured the milk into the stoneware jug and it had turned sour from the thunder. There it was, cold, wet and sour smelling. He slowly poured all three liters of milk over my head. I stood there petrified and shaking.
Then he said with a most hateful look on his face, “Go!” And pointed to the laundry room
On my way to the torture chamber I started praying: Dear Lord, let him fall down the steps and break his neck, or let me die now.
I was confused when I saw him standing in the doorway with scissors and a stool instead of the usual rubber hose.
All he said was, “I’ll teach you to respect things that cost money.” He pushed me onto the stool, tied my hands to the back of the stool and told me not to move.
Like a maniac, he cut my hair, strand by strand. Hair, long and short, wet and sticky, fell to the floor. Pain shot through me when the scissors cut my scalp. I winched, but he didn’t care. Instead, he slapped me across the face. Now I knew what it meant to feel like “a piece of shit”.
As he cut my hair I started planning revenge. I plotted what I would tell him and what I would do to him when I was grown up. I wanted him to feel what I felt right then, and all the other times he had tortured me. Suddenly, I recoiled and sucked in my breath. He washed me down with ice cold water from the garden hose.
I don’t know how long my mother had been standing there. In a submissive voice, she said to father, “That wasn’t necessary.” Then she turned to me with a pathetic look in her eyes and said, “That’s what you get for not putting the milk in the stone jug.”
I hated the woman. I thought she was a weak, whining fat mother. She was not a mother who loved her children.
The real shock came when I saw myself in the mirror. I looked like a witch. There were long strands of hair here, short ones there, and even bald spots. I could see blood where the scissors grazed my scalp. That is how I had to go to school and work. He did not allow me to wear a scarf. I became the laughing stock, not only in school, but throughout the entire town. How could I endure this? I wondered. All I wanted was to escape–find peace somewhere–but I knew it would be a long time in coming. I just didn’t know how long.
As an adult I have always felt uncomfortable getting a haircut. I like it when the beautician styles it. But I avoided getting it cut for a long time and I couldn’t explain why I felt that way. The moment the beautician swung the plastic cape over me I sat still, frozen and watching every move. I caught myself holding my breath when the scissors came close to my scalp.
One time, half way through the haircut, the girl accidentally pierced me with the scissors. I panicked, threw off the cape, grabbed my handbag and rushed out without a word. I didn’t care how it looked. I had to get away. Halfway home I calmed myself and glanced into the mirror. The mirror told the story–I looked like a witch.
Unfortunately, I underestimated the power and influence of my subconscious, my black box. The imprints I received as a child had followed me, sometimes painfully into adulthood. Even today I can tell when someone has been abused in childhood. There is a readable imprint. Usually the person will change the subject or not answer at all.
At a coffee talk with seven women, I told the story about visiting some friends overnight. A slight movement near my pillow woke me in the middle of the night. All seven girls hung silently onto every word. I watched them as my story came to the point. I was awake, but I didn’t move. Carefully I opened my eyes without turning my head in the direction of the movement. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a tiny mouse sitting next to my pillow.
At that moment one of the girls jumped from the chair while the other six broke out laughing.
The girl told a story. Mice lived all over the motel where her family moved after her parents divorced. The mice ate holes in their clothes and they had to chase them away from the food. While six of the women laughed, the seventh had a childhood experience that had left a permanent imprint.