“Is this child made of rock inside?” “Where are this girl’s emotions?” “Does she never shed a tear?”
These could have been the thoughts of my caretaker when I landed on her doorstep at the tender age of two and one-half years old in Burbank, California. My father had just divorced my alcoholic mother for child neglect and abandonment. He had won 100% custody of me which was very rare in the 1950’s. I remember the chaos, the turmoil, and the yelling and screaming between my parents in Michigan; however, I just played with a toy and pretended not to notice. I felt scared and anxious, and I wanted to be invisible in case any of this was my fault.
Next thing I know, my dad and I were driving a very long way to move to some place called Los Angeles, California. My dad said the city was known as “The City of Angels.” I hoped I could see a real live angel like I did in Sunday School pictures! After staying with my aunt and uncle for one week, Dad found us a medium-sized house to live in. Well, it was not just for us because this giant German woman lived there with her two kids. Her name was Helga, and she smiled and was quite polite as she welcomed us to stay at her home. My dad had his own bedroom, and I shared the bedroom with her two young boys.
We unpacked our meager belongings that we brought with us and settled into our new home. My dad drove off very early in the morning to go to his new job. I loved my daddy so much that when he was home, I followed him around as if I was his miniature shadow. I even woke up early to watch him shave and get ready for work.
There were so many times, he would be looking in the mirror shaving, and he would say to me, “I just can’t wait for tomorrow!”
I would get all excited that we were going to do something fun. I expectantly asked him, “Why?”
“Because I just get better looking every day!” He would always give the same reply, and I would always fall for it! Then we would laugh together.
Once my dad drove off to work the fun times were over for the day. Then I had to go into my survival mode. Helga only pretended that she was nice in front of my dad. Once he was gone, she would yell and scream mean words at me. When she explained something to me, she would take my little body and shake me violently to see if I was listening and if I understood her. I always agreed with her and told her that I would obey her rules.
I never showed any emotions or that I was afraid of her, but the truth was I was terrified of Helga. If she even passed by me in the narrow kitchen, I would melt against the wall, so I did not have to touch her big, fat body. I turned three years old while we lived there. In the living room at night, Daddy and I would sit close together on the couch. He started teaching me how to read words, and Helga stomped off into the kitchen as her own boys were not reading yet.
The longer we lived there, the worse she treated me. She did some dreadful things to me. One particularly horrific incident that I will disclose in my book, but it will be hard for the reader to hear. Another time she caused me to bleed, and I needed stitches. I never cried. Whatever she did to me, whether it was physical harm or verbal foul language, I would not show her that she could hurt me.
I would bury my pain and humiliation inside my body. Of course, at that time, I did not have the emotional knowledge to handle such despicable behavior. It was easier to bury this pain or trauma inside my body and not talk to anyone about it. Perhaps I thought if I showed weakness, she would inflict more suffering on me. Perhaps I was getting even with her because I knew she wanted me to cry and break down. I really do not know why. I only know that I did what I had to do in order to survive.
Many people think that child abuse means that the child has been sexually abused; however, that presumption is far from the actual truth. There are several types of child abuse which the reader will learn about in my book. The core theme that ties them all together is the emotional effect on the child.
My Naked Face is an educational memoir. There will be a Knowledge Workbook sold separately which will provide more in-depth data on each of the issues that I have lived through. For myself to heal, I had to do extensive research to understand what my mind and body were actually experiencing. Knowledge is power. I want to share my knowledge with you. The more that you can understand what happened in the past as a child or whenever, and relate it to where your mental health is today, the higher success rate you will have of breaking free from your chains of the past. It is my desire that we all can live a joyful life of freedom as we were intended to live.
Penny Hollick, Author/Speaker