Pa Fenton loaded us into his car and drove on down the road. The ride was a short one, as us kids had walked most of the way to his home, over the long cold night. The car was crowded, as Pa and Ma were in the front seat. Both Ma and Pa were old, probably in their late sixties, with silver hair and wrinkled skin. They all were dressed for court, and Pa had shaved sort of.
Jack’s Mannequin- Rescued/lyrics
Marty, a girl of about 16 years was in the back seat, and moved over to let my brother, sister and myself have some room in there with her. She smiled a big smile at me, and I didn’t know how to deal with that, my heart thumped in my chest sitting next to her. The house we were headed for was only another mile down the road. We had almost made it there on our own, despite how tired we were.
At least we would be safe now. Ma and Pa Fenton ran a receiving home for abused children, and allowed those kids to live with them, until foster homes could be found. Usually that process only took a month or so, but in this case it might take a little longer than that. We would still have to be processed through the system, and we would probably be split up, as nobody ever took in three kids at the same time.
The process can be long and involved. We would have to call my probation officer, who worked for the state, schedule a court appearance, and go through the multitude of formalities involved with children that had been abused, or were considered beyond parental control. I had been through all of this before a couple of times. I was labeled 601, according to California statutes.
601 was beyond parental control. I was considered a chronic runaway. At no time had anyone listened to or understood, my views of the events, that finally led to why we were here now. I was only 12 years old, and grown-ups didn’t think I should have any ideas or opinions, about what my brother, sister and I, had been living with. It was generally thought, children didn’t know anything.
Pa started telling us what was to happen in the coming days. I was to call my probation officer as soon as we got to the house, so Ma and Pa wouldn’t get into any trouble. Harboring runaways was as bad as robbing banks, as far as the state was concerned. It was okay to beat your kids, but it wasn’t okay for someone to save them, it seemed.
The ride only lasted ten minutes, and didn’t allow us to rest from our ordeal. Marty said she was happy to see my brother and myself again, and that probably made me blush. We had met her 4 months prior, and I had a mild crush on her. Marty was 15 or 16 years old, and pretty in my way of thinking. She had, had a bad home life, and was living in the receiving home, awaiting a family that could treat her right. Sometimes it seemed as though nobody had a very nice family.
When we pulled up in the driveway a young boy came out of the house. His name was Steven we were told. He immediately told Ma and Pa, about the phone call, and said whoever it had been wasn’t willing to leave a message. I chimed in at that. ” That was me ” I said, and then explained how I only had 1 dime, and knew it would be pointless to leave a message. I wouldn’t be near a phone, as we were walking across town, and trying to hide from the authorities.
Us kids hadn’t eaten since the evening before we left home. We were starved, and weary. Karol and Kevin were a little apprehensive as to what was going to happen next. I wasn’t quite so worried as this time I had witnesses, as to the conditions we had been living with. Ma and Pa Fenton knew who my probation officer was, so while Ma made food for us, Pa dialed the phone and talking to my probation officer started the next phase of our tribulations.
During the 60’s, social workers were called probation officers. They had large case loads, and at that time, and children were meant to be seen, not heard. She had known of my situation, and had figured it was just a case of a 12-year-old boy, that didn’t want to conform, or follow rules. I realized this was going to muck things up, especially since I was stronger than my siblings and prone to speaking my mind, when I was allowed to.
Pa Fenton talked to my p.o. It was late enough in the day, to put off any kind of action until the following day. I didn’t have to talk to her, at least not then. Ma and Pa both, were happy to see us again and even happier to meet Karol. They had heard about her, and how bad we said things were. They did believe us, but having a new source of information definitely helped the situation. Karol telling the story would at least give credence to my tales.
Marty and Steven were the only children at the home, at that time, so there was room for the three of us as well. The place was set up dormitory style, with a girls section and a boys. there were lots of bunk beds along two of the walls, and each section had room for about a dozen kids in waiting. Last time I had been there, eight other kids were pretending that was home.
We settled in, hoping we would be able to stay there more permanently. I was dreading the coming day, having to see my p.o. She wasn’t ever mean, just disbelieving about things, when it came to me. She would be one of the more decent people I had to deal with, it turned out.
Morning came and I had to be awakened. I slept so soundly everyone thought I had kicked the bucket. I couldn’t remember a time before then, that I rested so well. I didn’t have to be aware of my Step Mother slipping in and hitting or kicking me. My Step Mother had broken my nose so many times, I had deviated septum, and couldn’t breathe through my nose. I would get hit, for sleeping with my mouth open too! I had learned to cover half of my face when I slept.
Betty Ralph’s came by at about 8:30 am, and talked with us. We already had a court docket for 2:15 that afternoon. She was extremely apologetic for allowing us boys to be sent back to my parents place after the last time, we went through this. The judge I had seen told me, ” If you were my son, I would take you home and give you what for “. That was just what I had needed to hear. The attitudes back then were different from today.
Court was a fiasco, as one might expect. The same judge, my same probation officer, only this time she actually argued in favor for us kids. Although the judge didn’t like this turn of events, he allowed us children to remain in the custody of the receiving home until foster homes could be located. We were never able to be placed in a home together, and over the course of a two month period, we were placed into separate foster homes.
We finally had been heard, and I should have just called Ma and Pa Fenton in the first place. We could have saved ourselves the long walk, and all of the worry about police, truant officers, and my Step Mother’s punishments. We had finally been Rescued….
She was an average looking woman, if ever there is such a thing. Her past was a mystery. She said something about motorcycles once or twice. Her scars made sense if that was the case. She never said much about who she was, or about anything for that matter. Actually, she never spoke to me about anything, period.
I know you’ve been introduced to Cinderella’s Step mother. My step mother made her look like a Saint. Cinderella’s step mother had her own daughters, that she pampered while she was harsh on lil Cin. My step mother didn’t have that, she had just inherited three-step children, and probably didn’t really want us. She wanted the respected, hard-working, man who could provide for her. We were my dad’s baggage, as far as I can tell.
She was nice enough right at the start, but something changed one day. I don’t even know when things seemed to change, one day things just weren’t right between myself and my step mother. Later in my life I came to the conclusion, we were incompatible. We apparently had personality conflicts. At 11 years old, that really didn’t mean much.
I was brought up to respect my elders. That meant I shouldn’t argue about whatever was a problem. That also meant I shouldn’t talk back, or offer up any opinions, or cause any grief whatsoever. That meant I should shut up, and take whatever is dished out, unflinchingly! So I did.
I really should do a more in-depth post about who I was at 11 years of age. At 11, I was just beginning to see who I was, and where I stood in this world. I awoke one morning, with a map in my head! You are here, the map proclaimed. That little spot in the San Francisco bay area. I knew I was insignificant as an individual. Just a kid, and not anything remarkable, but my horizons were quickly expanding. It was like I awakened to the knowledge of the universe, right there in my brain! I had an understanding of “things” I had never been consciously told or had learned.
That, unfortunately was probably the whole problem, between her and myself. Maybe she saw it in my eyes, as I never said anything about any of this. But the problems between us grew at an alarming rate. I was in the 5th grade, and not really doing well with school in general. So , I spent most of my time “on restriction”, a sentence that entailed I would not be able to do anything.
I wasn’t allowed to go out to play, see friends or have friends over, or be involved with extra-curricular activities. I could go to school, and come straight back, nothing else. I was to sit in a corner of my bedroom and just be. That changed when I was watching the doorway, and saw my step mother laying on the floor creeping around the corner, spying on me!
So as to keep me from noticing such behavior from her, I was allowed to read. I read every book we had in the house, and that included the complete ” Encyclopedia Britannica ” including the atlas. It was a set of books published in 1954, the year I was hatched, or pulled out from under the rock out back.
I had spent the rest of that year on restriction, even the summer. This punishment only got me in more trouble with my step mother, for several reasons. All of that reading improved my education and taught me more than an eleven year old kid should ought to know. I went into the 6th grade, in September of ” 65 ” and knew everything!
Some of the books I read were old school books. Math, science, English, Spanish, history, and I can’t even remember what more. One of the problems with this particular punishment was, my comprehension was increased by ten fold and I was able to read very fast. I could actually scan a book and tell you, where things were written. You know, that can be found on page 87 about 3/4 of the way down the page!
So, I was punished for that too. In trouble because I could read very fast! Unfortunately I was made to reread most of those boxes of books, because I read them too quickly, and that only drilled the information I had gleaned from them, stick in my mind all the more.
So, I went into the 6th grade and had classes I never before had. We were to learn Spanish, for the first time and the teacher announced who she was, in Spanish. I had read the books, but didn’t have the pronunciation skills. When the Spanish teacher spoke, everything I had read became clear. I understood what she had said, and was able to respond in return. I became a favorite, for all of my teachers.
I took all of my school books home, and during the first two weeks of school, I did the work, in those books, wrote the reports, and made sure all of my work was correct, and shown! That only got me in more trouble with my step mother. How could I stay below the radar, if I was the teacher’s pet?
I finished out that year, still on full-time restriction, yet with honors, as the top student academically, and even got a plaque (award) for my accomplishments, and honors for raising my grade average from the lowest, to the top! That only infuriated my step mother more.
I was abused! I was beaten with anything my step mother could find to hit me with. Coat hangers, leaving welts from my calves, to the top of my shoulders. Welts that turned black and blue. I was hit with boards, from building projects. I was hit on my head with hair clippers, while getting haircuts. I had my front teeth knocked out by her, with a piece of walnut wood.
She was angry about something and asked me about it. I politely gave an explanation, and was threatened, ” tell me the truth or else “. I told the truth, and wham! Right in the kisser, and I could taste the blood and broken teeth in my mouth. I was already taller than her by this time, and I think she might have been a little afraid, I might retaliate. My upbringing didn’t allow me to raise a hand to her, even in self-defense.
I stood there and let her trash my mouth, and just took it. She immediately called my Dad at work, and told him I was running around the house in my socked feet, and slipped, hitting my mouth on the corner of the shelving where the aquarium was. She even dented the spot, so she could show where my stupid kid accident happened!
Our family moved during the summer of “66”, to Marin County California. The reason why, was because my step mother didn’t like the house my Dad, and Mom has bought when I was 5. She didn’t want the reminder of my real mom. She wanted to be my Dad’s wife, without the competition of our mom, or the memories thereof.
My step mother continued to abuse me, and one of her favorite games was, to treat one of us kids special, and use that to get information about us other kids. I was never the one to get this special treatment. I was the middle child, so my younger brother, or my elder sister were given those honors.
Since we were in a new area, my step mother asked the school to allow me to go back into 6th grade again, as it was too difficult for me at the new school. So I went to 6th grade again. I was told not to allow anyone to know how smart I was. I was told to do poorly, so as to not call any attention to myself. I would close my eyes to the lessons, and just pick any answer on the quiz.
That really didn’t help though. Even intentionally trying to fail, my grades were higher than my step mother wanted me to get. I would not read the questions and still pass with good marks. I was always in trouble, and it seemed like I could never please her.
If something went wrong, or was broken, misplaced, or messed up, I was the blame. It didn’t matter what the thing was, nor how trivial, I got in trouble and it was always with a beating.
I ran away from home a few times, and was always caught. ( I will go into this more, later ) The last time I ” ran away “, I took my brother and sister to a place I knew, where we would be able to get help with our situation. That worked! We were placed in foster homes and didn’t have to go back to live with my step mother.
My sister and I went by my Dad’s house on day a couple of years later, to see if we could get my sister’s guitar. My step mother opened the door, only a crack and said, she didn’t have any of our stuff anymore, and we should leave. She was afraid of me! And I never raised a hand against her. She was afraid, and I looked straight into her eyes, knowing she could never hurt us again.