Thoughts & Memoirs

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Enlightened Witness

       The rain is falling so hard on this stormy Florida night, it woke me from my sleep, a sleep filled with stories and dreams of those long ago days spent in Washington State. I was 19 when my second daughter was born, very in love with my husband, my children, and my life . It almost sounds a fairy tale when I read what I wrote, its so easy to talk about the best memories. But everything wasn't peachy keen, as my granddaughter is fond of saying.
       The farm we lived on was wonderful, but I also remember feeling an intense loneliness, especially when my husband and I argued. I can't tell you what we argued about, probably money and my being left alone so often. We were isolated on that farm. We also had debt, debt, that squeezed our payments to a finance company that sold us a set of expensive pots and pans on an easy pay loan, our utilities and the rent. Dear readers, do any of you remember those companies, high interest lenders, when high interest lenders were not in the news. There were many financial institutions that targeted young couples and military families, all you had to do was take a trip down the main road that led to the front gate of a base, any base. You saw them, used car dealers, pawn shops, rent it centers, check cashing centers, all high interest, all after the dollar. Its still that way, although I believe the young military family of today is more savvy to the predation of such places. But I think this is a human condition, that goes way back, wherever there were soldiers of any kind, there were always the less than scrupulous money dealers.
        We also lived in two other places before moving to the base, we lived in an apartment in Cheney, where to our dismay and our neighbors, we had the female Siamese and they had the male Siamese. When our cat went into heat, no one slept! I still remember hearing the stomping footsteps of the man next door as he yelled his anger at a cat who would not shut up, Siamese howl very loudly when they court, as he tossed the offending feline out the door. We then were offered what was called sub-standard housing, homes that were little more than salt boxes with a one door entrance and really bad interiors. Our oldest daughter had bowed legs and the doctors had put her into a heavy metal brace that kept her legs spread, feet turned out to correct the bone problem. Our baby learned how to walk in that brace, tottering along her leg movement limited. The floor in the kitchen was badly torn linoleum and even though I asked for a new floor, housing authority was slow to comply. That is until I called the Commanders hot line and said the magic words, our baby is trying to walk in a brace over torn flooring. Its amazing what can be done when you go straight to the top of the chain of command. One was not supposed to, but the hot line was there and we had need. I was never afraid to ask for my children or husband, I just never had the moxie to ask for myself. This came from my early training to never object, to just do because the consequences were terrible if I spoke up.
       When we moved onto the actual base and had a really nice home, don't get me wrong, I could live anywhere and it never mattered what state the house was or where it was, I always found beauty and charm in whatever home I was given, but when we moved onto the base home, life became very easy. My husband was an avid hunter and he wanted a bird dog, so we found a litter of Brittany Spaniels and got a pup. We had a great time teaching that young pup to point and fetch, the pup, a male we named Duke, was a natural and training easy, or maybe it was easy because we never believed we could not train that dog. When I reflect on our life together, we had a lot of easy times, but I think I remember things being easy, because I believed in life and all its possibilities. I never believed anyone who told me life was awful and full of misery, even when it was, I guess I had a huge dose of Pollyanna-itis. The biggest neighborhood problem we had was that darn dog, a great bird dog, was a terrible pet, he was a biter, and would not come to me if he got out. I would call my husband and yell, that darn dog of yours is out again and he would have to come get him, easily accomplished from an open car door and a whistle to go hunting.
       My children were very well behaved children too, the oldest was willful, with a terrible temper when she heard the word no, but, an incident at a grocery store stopped that willfulness in its tracks and that temper would not reappear until she was a teenager. She was 2 or 3, I don't recall the year, but trying to get past the bubblegum machine at the grocery store was a real drama, my oldest a drama queen when it came to treats. She went into the tantrum, screaming, tears, sobs, stamping her feet, turning to her father because mommy said, No, she grabbed his trousers and screamed her want, looked up and saw a man who was not her daddy. This poor man just happened to be right next to my husband when our daughter went into her tantrum. The shock of seeing an unfamiliar face stunned her into silence, and she never had a grocery store tantrum again.
       I don't think I had any magic touch with my children, they were rarely sick, outside of the normal childhood diseases, and then mild cases. There were a broken bone or two along the way. The child who wore the brace was taken out of it by a very wise doctor who told us to get her a pair of roller skates. She would tire of banging into her ankles with them and that would make her straighten her legs, and those roller skates worked. The only thing we did through our childrens formative years was stay consistent, there was a set bedtime, a wake up time, Breakfast, lunch and dinner at specific times and not a lot of sugar or processed foods, I was a stay at home mom and I could cook anything, very well. All I needed was a recipe. I was lucky to be able to stay at home, but, it was also a desire from my husband and the one time I did work later in our life while still in the military, he acted out very badly, and I was forced to quit my job, or lose my marriage. I'll talk about that when I get to that period of time.
       I did not believe in beating my children and they were rarely spanked. and a spanking was just a couple pats to a bottom, along with the words no-no and an explanation why it was a no-no.  We could take our toddler children into a fine restaurant and have dinner, we could take our children anywhere. Perhaps it was consistency, perhaps just luck. There were cranky times, but nothing like I hear other parents complain of today.
       Maybe it was because we did things as a family unit, I don't know. I'm grateful and very glad, my children were not difficult when they were young. I also think environment had a lot to do with their behavior, and isolation from well meaning, but interfering family members. I often think our marriage lasted as long as it did because we only had each other and we wanted to be a family. Another factor I believe helped was our connection to nature, being so close to the natural world and not being a part of the drama we saw on the news. I'd had enough trauma in my life already and I did everything I could to protect my children from the trauma that tore apart my childhood.
       I did not have a voice, but I did have something that kept hope, love, and a positive outlook a high priority. This something I believe is what Alice Miller PhD, termed the enlightened witness, a person somewhere in my childhood who loved me deeply and touched something in me that lit the hope and positive nature I had through out my life and have today. You can find her work at the following web site:

I also believe personally that this witness does not have to be a human being, I believe the witness that lights a spark can come from a book, a poem, a mountain top, an ocean sunset and even in the most dismal places, something can trigger an enlightenment of hope. Sometimes just a word from a kind stranger is enough.
       Communication with each other is so very special, perhaps the smile you give a sad child or a shattered adult, will be the witness that person needs, what we say to each other is crucial to our existence on this planet. What we say, how we say it, how we receive what is said and how we perceive it. Words build bridges of love or they build bridges of hatred. w/deepest respect...find your voice

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