Tammy: Spring of 1972
I was three and Tyra was six months old when we first came on the radar of social services. It wasn’t people being malicious or taking revenge, there was a serious problem. Sadly by the time the social services removed us, I was already severely traumatized. I do believe back then there was two options for a child like me, a regular foster home or institutionalization. I am not sure if I benefited or not from the regular foster home. However, I do believe I was grateful to not be in my mothers home.
Our mother was a prescription drug addict and a alcoholic, so she made choices that did not bode well for me or my sister. The choice she made, that led us to being removed from her home was she went on a four day bender. Leaving my sister and I alone to fend for ourselves We survived by me getting water from the toilet in one of those leggs cups that had the pantyhose removed. For those that remember those. According to the reports I was able to get into jars of jam and bread, which we subsisted on. I shudder to think how my poor baby sister fared during this time, but apparently I did my best to feed her. Apparently even horse radish was not off the menu. I just can’t imagine being so hungry, I was willing to eat horseradish.
Apparently our mother had a twinge of guilt or fear, I do not know which, but she did come back and took us to a neighbors house and left us there. She left us there for two weeks. She abandoned us again, however, this time social services were called. We were removed from our mothers home and placed into the foster care system. So it begins.
Who called or how they found out about us I am not entirely sure. All I know for sure is we were alone and we survived a horrible ordeal. As I said I was already traumatized. My foster mother stated I spent my time rocking back and forth for hours on end. She stated I did not want to be touched or cuddled, and would stiffen up if any one tried. I was not potty trained and peed the bed nightly. I would gobble my food like it was my last meal…..
I knew things that no three year old child should know about men and women and their sexual behaviors…I have vague memories, but am wont to stay away from those repressed memories, I think the horror might destroy what I have managed to save of myself. The memories I can not repress are bad enough to deal with. Needless to say I was a very difficult child to love, no fault of my own. I should have been receiving specialized counselling and therapy, but in those days that wasn’t really done, especially since we lived in such a rural community and it would have been a hardship travel wise.
The barbie dolls though!! Eyes bright And beaming smiles. I always had and a sense of calm and pleasure; I spent hours by myself playing with those beat up barbies. Making them beautiful and successful, and happy. They never judged me, never were unkind, always willing to play with me, and had the patience of a saint! They became my best and only friends.
It was really hard on my foster parents and their children, having a traumatized child in their home. I understand really I do. They were entrusted with a task of caring for me, when in reality they were woefully unequipped to care for a child that has been so wounded at such an early age, that specialized care was necessary, but not recieved. This was a failure of the social services not them! In the 70’s and eighties, it was a very bad time to be in the child welfare system. So many children were put in situations, not because they were ideal, but because there was no other options.
I recall one night again, I peed the bed. My foster father had his limit. He was so frustrated, understandably so. He grabbed me by the arm took me out side and as he was pulling me down the drive he asked me if I was a little pig and did I want to sleep with the pigs. Crying I said no, but in fact I really did, because I thought it would be better for me if I slept with the pigs. Really, I wasn’t scared of them and I kinda liked them, I gravitated towards animals. To me they were safer than people.
Another time I was really thirsty and asked one of the boys if I could please have a glass of water. I wasn’t supposed to have water after eight o clock, because of the bed wetting. However, he did get me a glass of what I thought was water. It was a plastic cup and felt warm to the touch, so I was confused. Water is usually cold, no? I was so thirsty though I took a drink of the warm liquid. It was not water, it was urine. This hurt my heart deeply. I wasn’t mad, I understood in my childish way why he did it and I accepted that perhaps I deserved to be treated this way. Even at this young age the connection between the urine filled glass and my bedwetting was not lost on me. However, even though I understood, my soul did crack a little more.
I had good times too though. My foster mother, who also became my GOD Mother, is an amazing cook and was very kind and loving to me. I love her, it hurts me to say that because Love has hurt me so deeply in the past that I’m afraid of it. However, I love her so much I am willing to accept any pain if it means loving her, to the best of my ability.
They had a Shetland pony named Tiny. I loved Tiny so much!! They had a big platform you would walk up to get to a clothes line, I would climb up there and get on Tiny lol. Sadly I was not a very good rider and Tiny like any opportunist would head straight for the garden, especially the carrots. There I would be calling my Foster mother for help to come rescue me and Tiny from the garden hehe. she would laugh and tell me wait until you are bigger to ride tiny so you wont get stuck in the middle of the garden.
We did was go to church. Can you imagine all us little kids trying to sit through a sermon that felt like it was going on for hours. My foster mother used to carry cough drops with her and would give us one when we got to restless. I still like cough drops once in a while. She told me that she wanted my sister and I to be baptized but due to the law she was unable to do that for us. However, as I will share later how she She helped me get baptized.
Tiny was not the only opportunist, my little sister and I would raid the garden every chance we got. We loved the carrots and peas. The first time we raided the garden, our Foster mother caught us eating carrots with the dirt on them. She said are you not going to wash the dirt off? I was so scared of the trouble I was in, so you can imagine my astonishment when she was willing to be my accomplice, and helped me wash the vegetables. It really makes me wonder, what happened at such a young age that fear was the primary emotion, when it came to being “caught” with food. Is this normal? I am speaking about a carrot, not candy, or cookies or the coveted cake, but a carrot. Something most children would turn their nose up at, especially a dirty raw one…
Since my sister recalls so very little about this time, since she was so very young, I will not dwell on it much longer. However, I would like to say that I love my foster mother, and my foster siblings very much and thank each and every one of them for opening up their home to me and my sister and keeping the door open through out all the years.