During my 15th year, Mom and Dad gave me a keyboard, and gave Brother a guitar. They knew that I dreamed of playing the piano, and that Brother loved the guitar. Mom and Dad listened to a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Santana, and Elton John while we were growing up, so we had an ear for that type of music. Our parents told Brother and I that we had to play for at least half an hour every day, and that would be the way we would “pay” them back for the instruments. This was a way to hold us accountable. I discovered that the keyboard was a great escape. I had a book with a cd, and taught myself how to play and read music. The time spent playing music was my time; I could let go of everything and focus on the music. Mom and Dad would listen to me play then offer praise and encouragement. I could see the pride and joy in their eyes, and it made my heart burst with happiness. I discovered that I liked the blues. Every Sunday morning I would wake up early and listen to NPR because they played jazz and blues.
I discovered that I liked waking up early. The early morning before the sun came up became my time. Everything was quiet; everyone was sleeping. I would read, write, or draw and watch the sun come up over the walnut tree. This was my time to breathe and enjoy being. As soon as I heard the others stirring, I would get busy making breakfast and lunches for the day. I made sure to get myself, Brother, and Sister ready for school. I enjoyed these activities, for I was able to show love to my family. I was not supposed to be alone with Dad, or show much affection to him. But I could make him coffee and lunch; that was my love. I worried that if the Pastors found out about me doing all this in the morning, they might say that I was thinking I was better than Mom; that I was trying to do her job. Thank goodness they never found out, and I didn’t think I was better than Mom. I thought Mom looked tired, and I wanted to make her smile. Mom would say that she wasn’t good enough, which wasn’t true. I thought if I could do some things for her then she could see that she is good enough. She was worthy of love.
The morning memories seem magical, as if for a brief time we lived in another dimension. For a few hours we became a “normal” family: rushing around in the morning, eating, getting dressed, brushing our teeth. There was no talk of abuse, hurt, or pain. We were just being, together. There were arguments about “why didn’t you dry my pants?” and “where are my socks, why isn’t there ever any socks?” But that all seemed awesomely normal compared to the life of which we were subjected. We would rush out the door “bye, Dad, have a good day”, then we would meet Samantha and Renee by the minivan. Mom asked us what music we wanted to listen to, and Sister usually got her way, which was okay with us. She had good taste in music.
As we would get closer to the church I would feel more nervous and quiet. The peace I had found that morning would shrink, and the thoughts of what was waiting for me would overcome my mind. Many times I wondered what would happen if I just threw a big fit in front of the church instead of going in to the school. What if I screamed at Mom that I didn’t want to go in because I didn’t want Ted to grab me anymore? That I was tired of getting in trouble every day? That my legs feel tingly and my stomach hurts all the time. Would someone else hear this and try to help me? I had already told on Ted and I got in trouble, so the odds were that no one could help me. What if I just ran up the street? Would Mom chase me? I’m sure she would, but then she would feel worse about herself than she does now; because now she would have a runaway teenager. One day while in the office during a trouble session, I had told the Pastors that I wanted to run away. They told me that if I ran away, my Mom and Dad would get in trouble with the cops, and it would break up our family. I did not want this to happen. It would break my heart to hurt my parents that way. So I stayed, and obeyed. To fight the urge to run and scream, I would think of the sunrise, and wonder what color tomorrow’s would be.