Tuesday, July 03, 2007

As an old memory

When i was 11, we lived in Virginia. My family belonged to a little community pool. I pretty much spent all summer at that pool. We would get up at 6 in the morning to go to swim team practice, and spend the rest of the day traipsing back and forth between the pool and home, only going home when driven there by hunger.

Pool trivia: This would have been in 1968 so the girls all had to wear bathing caps, without regard to the length of their hair, and the boys did not, without regard to the length of their hair. This was ridiculous, and pissed me off no end as i had short hair and my older brother had long hair. One of my mom's friends actually bought a bathing cap with hair on it as a protest, which we all thought was hysterical.

I always walked to the pool along this little back pathway that ran alongside the freeway greenbelt. All of us kids went that way, it was much shorter than taking the streets. In fact, i didn't even know how to get there on the streets.

I was walking along the path one day, carrying my beach towel with the lion on it, when i heard running feet coming up very quickly behind me. Before i could turn around, someone jumped on my back and knocked me down.

"Hey," i managed. "Shut up," a voice growled. And then just like that, leaving me face down on the ground, he ran off.

He must have been hiding in the woods in order to get to me that quickly.

I never told anyone, but i never walked that way alone again.


This memory, which i haven't thought about in years, woke me in a panic in the middle of the night last week. I somehow had managed not to think about what could have happened for all these years.

33 comments:

liv said...

oh, my precious. how terrifying. it makes me shiver to imagine how many awful stories start that way. whether providence, the universe, God, karma, or whatever, I'm glad that you were protected. it was not time for you.

so sorry that the phantom memory came back to get you. and yet you're here, and we're here, and we love you.

shara said...

It wasn't until about 20 years after the fact, at a play about survivors of sexual assault, that I remembered the summer I babysat for a couple whose husband (30s maybe? I was 12) used to offer me beer and come home early in the afternoons while his wife worked, and how uncomfortable and yet flattered I felt that he paid such attention to me, telling me what a pretty girl I was. Remembering it decades later, I was almost incapacitated with fear and shame.

Not long after that, taking a night class in computers, waiting alone at the bus stop downtown, five or six men came to the bus shelter beside the bench I was sitting on and starting sniffing something out of a plastic bag, getting louder and closer. Came to sit beside, stand in front of me. Putting their arms around me, telling me they were looking for a girlfriend, and all my self-defence courses useless, one man, maybe, if I could have remembered. But five? Six? So I talked, about anything, asked about their families, talked and talked and finally, the bus was coming and I was up and running - and it didn't stop, wasn't the right stop - and I chased it down, yelling at the bus driver who finally stopped, let me on, was irritated because I was in a panic and it wasn't his regular stop and all I could do was sit, trembling. Very bad memories, but they could have been worse. I understand your panic, even years after the fact, that narrow escape, and the fear, being a mother of daughters.

Bob said...

I don't know what to say, except that you must've had an angel watching over you 'cause that could have so easily gone another way.

I'm glad that the only harm is your nightmare (which is bad enough!).

Lynn said...

Oh Wow...(imagine me letting out a big sigh). Any idea what sparked this memory after so many years?

meno said...

liv, you are so sweet. When i woke up i felt like i had to go right then and tell Em to be careful.

shara, sadly, very sadly, i think almost everyone of us has a story, or stories like this. The fear that we experiece in a situation like that does not go away. Thank you for telling us.

bob, it's me finally realizing just what could have happened that scared me. I haven't allowed myself to think about this before. My old friend, denial.

lynn, yes, i think i do know. I have been thinking about the past, and reading the stories of others on their blogs. And i am coming to realize how alone i, and many other children, felt when growing up. We learned that adults would not help us, and that we would be blamed. So we just went on, whatever happened, and dealt with it alone. That is coming back to bite me on the butt.

Mamalujo said...

I hope my daughters don't feel alone. I hope I could handle the horror that might happen.

Sienna said...

So true Meno, there are some memories children (and adults) should never have to carry....if only we could say, you are never alone...we are here, you've got a friend..

Pam

AC said...

When I told my mother much of anything, her answer was usually *what were you doing there in the first place* or some other form of *what did you do to deserve that.* So i truly understand about feeling alone as a child. I made a vow to myself that my children would never feel that way with me.

Maggie said...

Isn't it sad the one place we want to go for safety left us so alone that we didn't even dare tell them the things they ought to have known? It confounded my husband for the first two years of our marriage that I would not tell him things because I suppose I never really broke out of that habit before him - always trying to handle everything alone.

Lee said...

Wow, that is scary. I was trying to tell some friends the sequence of a really bad time of my life the other day and found that I just didn't know it anymore. It was really odd.

mrschili said...

Horrifying. I am already pounding into my beautiful daughters that there is (relative) safety in numbers. Stick together - the more of you the better.

Sober Briquette said...

i can understand you wanting to go tell Em to be careful upon waking. Maybe that was the reason for you to remember then.

I'm so glad nothing worse happened then.

Joan said...

What a terrifying experience. It's amazing how we talk about the past as if it was a gentler, kinder time but, in reality, it was just as scary and dangerous as it is now. I'm glad nothing more serious happened to you.

jen said...

it's amazing the things we survive and choose to keep silent about. and how they never really go away. the little girl in my hugs the little girl in you, holding your hand and helping you up off that ground.

Marsha said...

Memories like this I think play a factor in my weight issues. I like the freedom of being unattractive and hate that feeling of being prey. I wonder if there is a reason that this memory has surfaced now?

GEWELS said...

How scary!!! Something very similar happened to me in high school, only it involved about 6 high school guys. I was terrified. Thankfully, a more noble guy pulled them all off of me. Had he not been there, well......

amusing said...

Here's to all the moments we were saved -- by timing, good luck, quick wittedness, an intercedent.

And for those times we weren't rescued, let's be there for each other and try to heal. And remember that it wasn't our fault.

platypus said...

Thank God he 'only' knocked you down and scared you. I think the one thing I realise after reading your comments is that whilst most of us have an experience like that which we don't allow ourselves to think about, we will make damned sure that our children are safer than we were.

luckyzmom said...

Yes, when I was between the ages of 10 and 12 I was with my family visiting a man who was highly admired in our circle. I was lured by him to the freezer in his basement with the promise of an ice cream bar. He fondled my small newly developing breasts. I ran and there after always avoided him, but I never told anyone. It wasn't until I was 30 or so that I wondered about other girls he may have traumatized. It was the ickiest feeling when I saw him being sympathetically wheeled in to my stepdad's funeral. I wanted to tell all then but didn't. I did have lots of talks with my daughter hoping to keep her safe as she grew up though.

Dick said...

I'd say you were very lucky. I never had anything similar happen but I know that growing up is a bit different for boys than it is for girls.

meno said...

mamalujo, i hope so too. I bet you could because you have too.

pam, growing up was a lonely business. It's better now. :)

ac, that is EXACTLY what she would have said. So whatever happened, i had to hide it because it was my fault.

maggie, it does become a habit, to build and maintain those walls around our hearts.

lee, maybe you are ready to let that memory deteriorate, or maybe i am full of shit.

mrs.chili, i know that now, plus i have the added advantage of being big. But no one told me that as a child. I know you are taking good care of your babies.

de, i must be having some anxiety about her going off to college next year. I keep remembering things to tell her, usually at 3 in the morning.

joan, what you said about the past is so true. It was not the ideal world, by any means.

jen,, so where were you back then? Oh yeah, not born yet. Thank you for the little girl hand, i needed that.

marsha, what an interesting take on it. That is one way to keep yourself safe.

gewels, i'm glad that one guy was there. And i am sorry that the other 6 were there.

amusing, how many close calls we all have is just fucking depressing. We manage to get out of many of them, but, as you and i know, not all. So i will be there for you too.

platypus, oh you know it sister. I have never given Em an opportunity to experience something like this. I just tell her my experiences. She listens.

luckyzmom, wow. I don't know if i could have been in that same place with him, knowing what you did. And as you say, how many others were there?

dick, i wish i didn't agree with you, but it is a different world out there for boys and girls.

thailandchani said...

Oh, geez! What a story! I remember those days well, too... 1968. It was a crazy year all over the place.

Glad you survived it.. and I'm not a bit surprised it would wake you up now and then.


Peace,

~Chani

Ortizzle said...

Scary! Walking alone, especially for girls, is not to be recommended. But when you're young, you think you're invulnerable. When I think back on things I did well into my twenties, it makes me shudder.

ellie bee said...

horrible! yet, thank God it turned out like it did. life is so scarey sometimes--especially when we have daughters....

Schmoopie said...

I know that panicky feeling of waking in the middle of the night, after a nightmare or, in your case, a strange memory. It is a terrible feeling. I am sorry you had to remember it. Maybe you just needed to share that caution with Em to help you feel better. I had a strange dream about Z. the other night and had to go lay with him and hug him in the middle of the night.

Mother of Invention said...

I guess there were a lot of weirdos around back then too. How awfully scary for you. Did you not even tell your friends or brother?

Robin said...

we all like to think things were different in those days..and in some ways, they were. but unfortunately, sexual abuse and abuse in general is not a new concept...it's been around forever, i imagine. it's just seems to be getting worse or maybe getting more attention (rightly so).

i remember i had an uncle who gave me the heebie jeebies when i was a young girl. we didn't see him much but whenever he was around, i pretty openly (for a young girl) stated my feelings of dislike and general uneasiness around him...to my mom, sister, whoever. i don't think he ever did anything to me, but there was a LOOK in his eyes that scared me. thank god my mom and others listened to me, i was never left alone with him after i spoke up. i don't know if they ever really suspected anything but at least they protected me.

the last time i was in my mid twenties. i still felt the same "grossness" about him and made sure i was never alone with him (even though he was quite elderly by this time).

i'm sorry you had the nightmare, but i hope it was only to bring the memory to your surface long enough to warn your daughter of such things.

remember, you are safe now!

Voyager said...

I got here through heartinsanfransisco's award, and I am so happy I found your blog. I'll be back. The way you write feels like you are sitting in my kitchen having a good chat. Clever, expressive, no pretentions.
V.

QT said...

I really loved the beginning of this post. I remember summer days like that, where you were so busy playing that you would "forget" to eat.

I am so glad nothing horrible happened to you. Maybe just the fact that you mustered that "Hey" was enough to send him elsewhere - you never know.

Jennifer said...

You're giving me the shudders, even now. Holy cow, you were a lucky girl. Maybe the bathing cap was a turn off?

Although wearing one with hair on it? Brilliant.

Tink said...

That's crazy! I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I wonder if the other person thinks about it too. Do they feel guilty?

meno said...

chani, the advent of hippy long hair colliding with swim cap etiquette. It was an odd year.

ortizzle, i don't think i had ever been told not to walk places alone. Because we lived in a "safe" neighborhood.

ellie, i am so fiercely determined not to let the things that happened to me happen to my daughter. That's why i tell her the truth.

schmoopie, okay, i admit it, i did get up and go check on her. She was sleeping peacefully.

moi, i never told anyone for years and years. I just sort of forgot about it. But not really.

robin, i tell Em to ALWAYS listen to that instinct giving you the creeps. That's great that your family listened to you. Did any of them get that feeling too?

voyager, thank you very much. :)

qt, those were the days when summer went on forever, or at least we thought it did.

jennifer, maybe, or maybe when he wrapped his arm around me to knock me down, he realized that i was a young, flat-chested, girl. But i'll never know.

tink, i wonder too. It happened so fast that it just didn't seem real. I wonder what he went on to. i wonder if it was someone i knew.

urban-urchin said...

That is terrifying. I am so very glad that it didn't progress beyond that.