Emotional scars from childhood remain with us into our adult life. We stay busy and try to push them out, but they’re always there, and they affect our moods, our self-image, and our choices. An example of childhood pain is related in the following excerpt from my book Silent Echoes. It takes place in the 1930s Depression years when I was in elementary school. My mother worked in a bar to support 3 children, and began drinking too much.
Excerpt variation: I learned to get the pail and wet cloth when I’d hear her coming in from work mumbling and weaving across the room toward the bed. She’d tell me not to wake my brothers, because she didn’t want to worry them. I’d lay close to her, listening for the sounds of her sick stomach, and then jump up and hold the pail until I heard the dry heaves and knew there was no more sick to come up. Later,
when we’d lay back in bed, I’d listen while she’d cry and ramble on about the past when times were good and about her fears for the future.
“Your Daddy loved us,” she’d say. “He was so strong and handsome. He didn’t care if I wasn’t like his family. You were Daddy’s little girl. Did you know that?”
“We had everything then. I didn’t have to go out and work and raise kids by myself. I didn’t have holes in my shoes … hell, I didn’t even have to wear shoes.”
“Why didn’t the family provide for us? Why the hell do I have to go through this?”
“Please don’t get mad, Mama.”
“Who wouldn’t get mad? My mother leaves me in a place for orphans, and now I’m left like this. Who the hell wouldn’t get mad?”
“I don’t know, Mama.”
“You won’t leave me, will you, honey? I don’t know what I’d do without you kids.”
“You’ll always be my good girl and never leave me?”
When she stopped crying and talking I’d snuggle close and hug her arm. Then it was all right for me to cry, because she was asleep and couldn’t hear me. I remember being so confused. I wanted to help her, but I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to do with my own hurt, so I pushed it way down someplace where I couldn’t feel it so much, and I left it there to make room for the next time.
I learned to watch her moods, and when she was grouchy, I knew better than to get in the way. I’d take my little brother out to play, or if a funeral was happening at the mortuary next door, we’d sit on the front steps and watch the people in black clothes crying and following the coffin to the waiting hearse. And we talked about what it must be like to die.
Healing childhood wounds. No child escapes those hurtful times, some minor, some major, but just as you needed positive strokes when you were a child, your inner child may need that now. Setting aside some time everyday for that part of you to experience a second childhood, a happy one, can help heal the past and promote health in your life. Talk to your inner child often, express your love, and invite him/her to come out and play. Be silly, dance in the rain, laugh at yourself, refuse to eat your Brussels sprouts, whatever gives you joy. And watch that child blossom.
I wish you a happy, peaceful heart.