Tuesday, March 30, 2010

First Grade

First grade was just about the worst year in my life.

I went to Alice M. Birney Elementary, in Pico-Rivera, for my entire Kindergarten year. When my mom and dad split up, we moved to Bellflower for the start of first grade. After a month of two we moved again and I had to change schools.  My mom took me out of that school after a couple of months and made me go to another. I ended up going to 3 different schools that year. It is my first memory of extreme anger.

Although my mom went with me to the first day of first grade, she didn't accompany me to the other two schools on my first day there. In fact, I had to walk a long distance to each of them by myself. I knew no one. I remember the first morning at my third school. I reported to the office late and a lady walked me to my classroom. As we approached it, I could hear the class singing the "hot cross buns" song. I hated being in that school, my third of the year.  I'm also not terribly fond of the song to this day.

When it was lunch time I walked to the cafeteria, alone.  Because we were on welfare, I didn't get to bring my lunch.  I used a lunch ticket issued by the school district. As I said, I didn't know a soul at that school, so I found an empty table and sat by myself. I was very angry and it was getting worse by the second. I needed to do something.

I know this is very sick and I'm sure it was a cry for help, I peed on the floor under the table. I guess nobody was looking because no one said a word. I then went out on the playground until lunch was over. I stood against a building by myself, feeling very lonely, lonely and angry. The lunch-over bell finally rang and class resumed. I didn't pay any attention to what was happening in class. When we were let out for afternoon recess, I'd had enough and left. I just walked away.  Here is where I know I must have badly wanted some intervention, I peed again, this time on a tree directly across the street from the school. As bad luck would have it, nobody saw me.

I walked home. I know I should have walked in the opposite direction, but I didn't. I was hoping I'd get hit by a car. I even strongly considered running into traffic.  I can't believe that nobody thought a thing about a six year old walking by himself, on a busy street, in the middle of a school day, at least a mile from home.

I ended up finishing the year at that school. I still have the report card. My grades were good, but in the comments section it said "seems very distracted." No shit...

It took me quite a while to connect beatings from my mom, to the multiple school changes in first grade. One day I fell out of a tree and broke my arm.  I know what you're thinking, but no, my mother wasn't involved. When I showed up to school in a cast, my teacher sent me to the office and they asked me several questions. They didn't seem to believe that I fell out of a tree. But for once my mother was innocent. The really bad things about it was that it didn't heal correctly and it had to be re-broken. I promise, my mom didn't do that either.  I'm sure she would have liked to, but she didn't.

At that time we were living in a old wooden house on Rose Street, that sat in front of a small apartment court. As I said earlier, my mom was seldom home. Although we were on welfare, she was working in bars. During this time period she was working at "Sherry's Can-Can." It was on the corner of South and Paramount streets in Long Beach. I remember it had an old wagon sitting on the roof (adding to the shit-kicking charm I guess).

Although I had an older brother, he didn't seem to be around very much either. I have to ask him about that. When I wasn't left alone, my mom would leave me with two different babysitters. They were both perverts. One of them always took a bath as soon as my mom left. She made me stay in the bathroom with her to "stand guard." She seemed to wash some parts a lot longer than others and made me "wash" them also. The other babysitter's boyfriend would always arrive shortly after my mom left.  They made me watch while they had sex. Maybe they thought it was alright because my mom always had "adult" magazines laying around. Maybe my mom knew exactly what was going on. There were also some very wild parties there after the bars closed. I saw much, too much for my six year old brain to comprehend. But I learned quickly.

I'm pretty sure that my mother hated me by first grade. She said she loved me, but she acted like she hated me. I said before that my mother had a serious screw loose. That made her very dangerous. More than once she told me in a loving way that I was the most like her. Each time she said that she went into a rage.


  1. I'm sorry honey.....especially the babysitter part!!! It must've struck a chord with me!! =( Colin, my babysitters son!!! If I could only remember his last name.....

  2. Pat, these are some of the saddest stories I've ever read. Thanks for sharing them.

  3. Larry,
    thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. mrscolombo@yahoo.comFebruary 25, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    Starting with Kingergarten, 13 schools in 12 years.... but I only went to one high school. Even when my parents would move (all over the San Fernando Valley), I would take two public buses and walk 6 blocks to go to the same high school until I got my drivers license. I had also saved to buy a car by babysitting for 50 cents an hour. I started when I was 12 years old and when I was 16, I bought a 1960 Corvair that would fill up with water when I drove through intersections during the rain! Ha! But it got me where I wanted to go....away from my mother.

    The day I drove away from the DMV with my drivers license, I became a different person. Freedom isn't free. There is always a price to pay. It's a very screwed view of the world. Trust is a gift you give and receive with great love.

    I continue to learn to surrender to Love.

  5. That's a lot of schools.
    I did have to change school once during HS. That might have been okay, but we went from the "wrong" side of the tracks, to the right side. I must admit, I was much more comfortable on the wrong side...

    For the first grade changes, I'm pretty sure the school (or school district) might have done some investigating of our home life. My mom was probably trying to stay one step ahead of them.

  6. I am really speechless.
    I didn't know that your childhood was like that; and mine suddenly sounds extraordinary. I'm still awed and can't believe it, and thanks for sharing that story, Pat.

  7. Thanks Sarah!
    There are lots more! It took a lot of work to get over that stuff, but I'm great now!

  8. Pat, I am so sorry that you had to go through all these things. Maybe your Mother hated herself and that is why she said that you were more like her, you know what I'm trying to say?
    But you know that old adage, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger!
    Hey, I just wish my old friend was here, he would tell you about his life....you and him are so much alike that it is unbelievable!
    Take care, big hugs!

  9. Jeeze man, my heart totally goes out to you. How you got through those early years I'll never know.

  10. thanks Alice...it certainly made me stronger!
    Took a while, that's for sure...

  11. Pat, I want to give you a big hug. Thanks for sharing. You are a remarkable, inspiring survivor. You're helping raise awareness, and that's the only way to start to fight child abuse.
    Love to you,
    PS Your writing reminds me a bit of Andrew Bridge's (Hope's Boy). He was placed in foster care, but the painful stories are very similar. You're both extremely talented writers.

  12. Lordy...I think you and I should get together and play canasta!! The stories we could share...it would be epic. I'm so sorry that you had to endure these kinds of things as a kid. This post in particular could have been written by me at that same age, except that it was my dad who hated all of us. My mom was actually pretty amazing, all things considered.

  13. Janet! - Right back at ya! I'm really sorry you had to go through that. A lot of my stories about my mom are here! thanks for going back and reading them! I really do appreciate it! My mom was crazy, brutal to everyone in her life. Somehow she always seemed to get away with it... thanks again!


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