Tuesday, October 26, 2010
When I was fifteen years old, an execrable lie was told about my family. I often speak of defining moments in life, but at that time I didn't know what a "defining moment" was, but today, I know that outside of my mother's womb, this was the most transformative event in my life. How I reacted to the malevolent lie caused me to be the person I am today. The heinous lie haunted me and my family for years and caused me much turmoil as a teenager because of the great impact it caused to my personal life. Because of the pernicious lie, I was subtly ostracized at school--I was never asked for a date--I was never invited to parties--never asked to visit others' homes--and by the time I understood the cause of the quiet, cruel, shunning, I realized that it had been going on for awhile and I had never been able to comprehend why I was being treated "differently". Not only did the iniquitous lie hurt me and my brothers, the malicious lie was later flung in the faces of my nieces and nephews as the lie continued down the generations. Whenever I heard of the children being hurt, I would tell my husband I was glad we never had children who would be able to be hurt!
When the lie was flung in my face, I reacted by physically, brutally, attacking the girl who said it to me. We were in the gym at Bloomingburg School and I pushed her to the floor and I jumped on top of her body and I had my feet holding her legs down and my elbows were on her shoulders holding her torso down with my body and I was pounding her face with my fists; ironically, she was much taller and heavier than I was, but all she could do was pound on my back and pull my hair. I don't know how long I beat her, but Mr. Rudolph pulled me off her prostrate body and pushed me down on the bleacher seats. Mr. Rudolph helped her up from the floor and she left the gym and went home. She did not return to school for a week.
I had to remain at school the remainder of the day, because I rode the bus. There were just two more classes left in the day. I went to my next class, still wearing my gym clothes (which was a definite no-no!). Not one teacher and not one student spoke a word to me. My friend Cammy was not at school that day. The word spread quickly and between classes one of my brothers came to me; he didn't hug or try to comfort me, but he could tell I was close to crying and he said, "Shirkeys don't cry." That figurative ramrod up our backs that Mother instilled in all of us stiffened my resolve. On the bus ride home, no one on the school bus said a word.
The truly amazing thing--I was never taken to the office--no discipline was ever enacted--nobody ever uttered a word to my face in the next two years of school! I can imagine what would happen to a kid today! My mind was roiling and I thought that I could NEVER go back to school again!
When I tearfully related the event to my mother, she was enraged and she called the mother of the girl and the woman threatened to call the sheriff and my mother told her to do it, but nothing ever happened! However, the woman told my mother the genesis of the lie. The mother of one of my sisters-in-law was the one who had originally told the lie more than a year previously. The lie had been swirling around all that time, but we had no knowledge of it. Her motive for telling the lie was to get even, because my brother had broken off his relationship with her daughter. After the lie was spread, my brother and her daughter had reunited, married, and yet none of us knew of her mother's perfidy in telling the reprehensible lie.
My mother then called the mother of my sister-in-law who, of course, denied that she had told the lie. My mother told her that she knew it was she who did the deed and she never wanted to hear from her or her family ever again. Then my mother called my sister-in-law, but she was the one who was caught in the middle. Before this incident, my sister-in-law would bring her three sisters and brother to our home for Sunday dinners and my mother told her that those relatives would never be welcome in our home again. Her mother's name was never mentioned in my mother's home in the presence of my sister-in-law.
I told my mother that I would never go back to school again. She told me. "Oh, yes you will, and you'll look them straight in the eye and defy them to say anything." It was the Shirkeys against the whole damned world!
As I reflected, I knew that, at the moment that I was pounding my fists into the girl's face, that I could kill another person, enjoy it, and have no remorse. I was already a devotee of Thoreau and Gandhi and believer in Dr. King's message and had followed the Montgomery bus boycott with admiration. I knew that I had to change, because I didn't want to be THAT violent person! I often think that if I had followed the path of violence what could have happened to me.
Somebody called Cammy to tell her what had happened at school and she called me; she was my rock, and I will always be grateful to her for her love, compassion and understanding and the fact that I was still her friend despite the lie.
I also reflected on what had happened that day which caused the other girl to fling the insult in my face. She was showing a "diamond" ring that her boyfriend had given to her and I made fun of it! It was because of my own arrogance and willingness to hurt another's feelings that caused her to be mean and repeat the lie.
If I had not done that, I would probably have never heard the lie and would have wondered my whole life WHY I was treated the way I was in high school. Because of that, I am glad that I DID hear the lie. Ignorance ISN'T bliss!
I did go to school the next day and Cammy was there. As usual we went to her Grandma's house for lunch and we discussed my revelation about myself that I had it within myself to kill somebody!
Other than with Cammy and my husband, I have never spoken about this to anyone outside the family.
Today, I was told a lie about the daughter of one of my fiends. I am proud of myself that I reacted to it by saying that I didn't believe it. I immediately
began investigating the story and found that although the story had a basis, my friend's daughter was not involved in any way! I called the person who had told me the lie and she said it was just "BUZZ"! She asked if I'd ever played the game "buzz" when I was a kid; it's where a group of people tell a story and how it ends up being totally different the last time it's told. I answered by saying, "No, we called that LIES!" I asked her to please not repeat the lie and to call the person who had told her the lie to make sure he knew he was spreading LIES! I reiterated by saying, "This is no GAME--it's SLANDER!"