Thursday, April 20, 2017


When I was fifteen years old, an execrable lie was told about my family.  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--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 had been treated "differently"; not only did the iniquitous lie hurt me and my brothers, but also, the malicious lie was later flung in the faces of some 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.

On that day that the lie was flung in my face, I reacted by physically and 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 from 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, but nobody said a word). Not one teacher and not one student spoke a word to me the remainder of the day.   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 is--I was never taken to the office--no discipline was ever enacted--nobody ever uttered a word to my face about it 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 mother threatened to call the sheriff because of my assaulting her daughter and my mother told her to do it, but nothing ever happened.  However, the woman did tell my mother the genesis of the lie. 

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 when 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 did change the course of my life.  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 easily hurt another's feelings that caused her to react by repeating the lie but 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.  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 grandmother's house for lunch and we discussed my revelation about myself that I had it within myself to kill another person.

Other than with Cammy and my husband, I have never spoken about this to anyone outside my family.

Yesterday I was told a lie about the daughter of one of my friends and it spun me back in time. Because I know the person who told the lie dislikes my friend, I could tell the joy it was giving the person to relate the tale and that doubled my rage.  I am proud of myself that I reacted to the lie by saying that I didn't believe it.   I investigated the story and found that although the story had a basis, my friend's daughter was not involved in any way except she lived on the same street where an incident had happened.   I called the person who had told me the lie and she blithely said it was just "BUZZ";  I was enraged and said, "No, it's LIES!"  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 SLANDER!" I asked her to please not repeat the lie and also 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 LIES!"

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