Things Unknown

I have noticed that most horribly out of control events in life happen for a reason. When you follow the chain down, someone was afraid to speak out. Whether the current pandemic, the Nazi movement, the Russian Nuclear disaster, someone stayed silent, afraid to speak out. When it all goes horribly wrong, it’s too late. The small dramas in life go this way. The abuse next door, the ending of a job, and sabotaging lies that ruin a life.

When I was a little girl in second grade, I was a wallflower. I felt like an unwelcome alien visitor. My best school friend, Victoria, was either Sue Indian or Latino. I say this as an adult looking back at childhood. Few people of color were in the Sioux City, Iowa school system in the 1950s. The tribe of that area was Sue Nation. It was Victoria’s “vibe” I related to. She was wise beyond her years.

Victoria wore long cotton skirts that had a distinct Native American pattern and color scheme. I remember asking my mother if she would let out the hems in my skirts. I wanted to dress like Victoria. Together we would stand, silently, watching the kids play at recess like two old Grandmas. Of course, kids would make fun of us.

Being A.D.D. I was the kid that went into brain freeze when the teacher called out for an answer. I wasn’t dumb, I was different. It seemed to attract the persecution of mean teachers. Humiliation was equivalent to learning for me, and to make matters worse, my Dad was a high school teacher. He demanded scholastic answers but also as a “life teacher,” Dad contributed to my wisdom. Mom encouraged art, music, drama, and humor. At school, I was just “dumb Ann” who never knew the answers.

Dumb Ann standing like a Grandma against the rail with wise Victoria. A Soccer ball, thrown hard at me by a mean boy, lurched me backward. The black wrought iron guard rail to the school cafeteria elevator broke open. I sailed down one story on my back, smashing my head on the concrete basement floor.

I remember being picked up, carried, all around us a crowd. Voices sounded like they were underwater, muffled, a thousand miles away, and yet I was floating somewhere above my body watching it all. When I woke up, the first thing I asked was, “Is it time to go to the fire station yet?” A field trip was planned that day. “No, sorry, Ann, you missed it. You were asleep.” I had been unconscious in the nurse’s office for hours? Two women wearing skirts and glasses sat at a nearby desk, paperwork before them. They acted unconcerned and looked at me sideways.

I must have been ashamed. Why would I fall asleep on such an exciting day? I got up, walked home, never telling my mother. Neither did the school. I remembered the sailing ball, the impact and lurching backward, the fence bursting open, the taste in my mouth. The sound of muffled voices. Floating above my body. The trauma for me was sleeping and missing the field trip!

Sharp headaches that made me want to throw up began. The teacher moved me closer to the front of the room. It was discussed I may be having eyesight problems. I began to hear whispers. I found myself listening, reading the kids around me, even the teacher. It wouldn’t stop and ran like a fan that would never turn off. Now I was dumb Ann lost in other people’s heads, feeling and hearing their stories.

Years later, I told this story to my mother, and she was shocked. How could something so impactful go unspoken of? Years later, it seems we feel free to tell our loved ones of the things that changed our life, things unknown, that made us who we are. No matter how horrific. Sadly some will say that sister, child, or parent is lying. They will say, sometimes, that if what you are telling them is true, they would have known. Shame does that to you.