After my father died and the courts stepped in and took us from my mother, life for us was never the same. My brothers and sisters, (there were 6 of us then, until my uncle, my father’s sister’s husband, decide to provide my mother with 3 more children, but that’s another story), went to an orphanage and I went to live with some family friends. The memories I have of that experience are not good. I must have been one of those kids who get up in the middle of the night and wandered around the house, because I remember being in a crib with a net over the top so that I couldn’t get out. I think I was getting up to go to the bathroom, because I can remember being punished for wetting the bed; in fact I bear a cigarette burn on the top of my left hand.
My mother has told me that these people wanted to adopt me but she refused and so at the age of six. I was sent to the orphanage with my other brothers and sisters. The first one I met was my sister J she had beautiful black hair and smelled funny. I found out later that the smell was vitamins, (we got one every morning). She was lots of fun and shared her Tiny Thumbelina doll with me. I met this lady; she said she was my caseworker, and that I was going to be reunited with my family. It was really weird because I can remember thinking, “who are these people?” I had not seen any of them for nearly 4 years. They called me “Patsy”. I can remember being nervous. My mother hugged me but I was stiff, she didn’t smell good and she was really fat. I found out later she was going to have a baby.
The intake center at the orphanage was not very pleasant. Everyone was sad because they had been taken from their homes and were in this strange place. You had to go everywhere in a straight line and always look forward, and if you didn’t you would get whacked in the leg with a stick. The food was good most of the time but sometimes it was really gross. We had to shower together and sleep in one great big room. One day, my caseworker told me I was going to a cottage, my sister J would be there. I was really excited about seeing her, because shortly after I arrived at the Center she was moved to a cottage and I couldn’t see her except when we had visits with my mother. The caseworker also told me that I would be going on visitation on Sunday afternoons to my mother’s home. I can remember feeling excited about that because I really didn’t like the orphanage.
The day finally arrived; I was going to “Cottage D”. The cottage parent was an elderly lady named Mrs. R; she was very kind to me. I have fond memories of her making me warm milk and cinnamon toast, and rocking me. It was in Cottage D where I first remember hearing about Jesus. Young people came from a local church and brought felt people and told the children about John 3:16. I was happy to know that there was a God who loved me.
Life was about to change again for me as the visits with my mother on Sunday afternoons would open a door to abuse that would continue most of my childhood…