In February of 1999, I was 18 years old. I had six siblings. Two twin older brothers who were 19, an older sister who was 20, and three younger siblings.
One day, Mama punished my brother (19) after beating him, by sending him down the basement to sit on the bottom step. It was a half basement, moldy, full of spiders and other bugs. If she was really mad, she would throw water down on us every so often. When we were remorseful, we had to come up the stairs and knock on the door, risking being beaten for doing so, or welcomed back into the fold with open arms. Most of the time, we would just sit there and wait for her to remember that we were down there (and cool the fuck down), and she would let us back upstairs.
This time, she simply forgot about my brother for hours. She then told one of the other “kids” to call him upstairs. They did so and there was no answer. The “kid” went to look and found that my brother was gone. He had climbed out of the back cellar window after donning a coat and boots and walked the three blocks to Mama’s sister’s house. That aunt talked with him for a few hours and then brought him back home. She got Mama to promise that she wouldn’t hit the kids anymore and would respect us. Then she left.
That lasted for exactly one hour.
My brother said something to Mama that she didn’t like and slapped him across the face. I watched as the new false reality crumbled in front of me. I waited for my brother to tell her that she had gone back on her word, but I would be waiting forever. He never did. Life went back to normal – hell.
Throughout that year, my two older brothers and I came up with a plan where we would confront Mama and put a stop to all the abuse, forcing our family into a true new reality. After all, there were now four adults in the home, under her rule. I don’t remember any of the details of the plan, but I do remember that we settled on when it would happen.
Every year, our family took a pilgrimage to a Brethren camp near Biwabik, Minnesota called Storybook Lodge, with all the other families from our church. We loved this place. It was a bit of a respite from all the shit of life. We decided that this would be the right place to confront Mama. At the end of camp, we always went down to the river to just sit and play and canoe, etc, until all the families left, leaving us alone. We would do the deed at that time.
Like clockwork, we went down to the river at the end of camp and began to enjoy ourselves doing whatever. I kept looking at my brothers, waiting for a signal, trying to figure out when we were going to do the confronting. It never materialized. At one point, one of the younger siblings did something that Mama didn’t like. She yelled to them to come over to her and she slapped them hard across the face. They cried, so she did it again. Crying was bad, according to Mama. Again and again, she slapped them.
I had enough. Looking at my brothers, they had turned away, ignoring the entire ordeal. Taking matters into my own hands, I stood up and yelled at the top of my lungs at Mama. I don’t remember the exact words that came out of my mouth, but I knew they were laced with a sizable blue streak. And like I knew would happen, she turned her wrath on me, forgetting the other sibling. I felt the blows rain down and I took it. I didn’t fucking care. She was going to hear it from my brothers and I, telling her this rule of terror was over.
They never came to my rescue.
I waited. Nothing. I was ordered to lay on my face in the sand until I apologized. I complied and ended up deciding that I needed to get home somehow and nothing was going to change, anyway. At least, at home, I could figure out a way to escape. I had come to the conclusion that that was the only way. My brothers had no intention of saving anyone. So I did. I apologized profusely and we left for home.
I was 19 now.
One fine day in November, Mama called us into the living room and sat us in a circle. She had just had an epiphany from God and wanted to tell us the exciting news.
“My children. If I killed you, God would wrap his wrath around me and everything would be okay. As your authority, this is truth. Now, I will go around the circle and you will all tell me that I am correct.”
Now, aside from the bullshit religious crap in that clusterfuck of a statement, I knew this was the end. I was going to tell her “no.” That her reasoning was a pile of hogwash. As she went around the circle, I saw that I was going to be the last one. Everyone, including my older brothers and sister agreed. She got to me.
I had just uttered the last word I would ever say to Mama, under her authority.
“Go sit in the alcove between the kitchen and living room until you agree.”
So I did. I sat there for three days. I was fed and allowed to go to the bathroom. The house phone was beside my shoulder the entire time. I was so under Mama’s control, it terrified me to even think of picking it up and calling someone for help. I worked up the courage for three days. Finally, at 3AM on the third night, I picked up the phone and called my dad.
“Papa,” I whispered as loud as I could, hoping to not wake Mama in the upstairs bedroom.
“I think you have the wrong number,” he sleepily answered, and hung up.
I was devastated. It took me three hours to gin up the courage again to call him back. He answered and I spoke louder and more clearly. 15 minutes later, my dad had driven the 30 minute drive and was picking me up, leading to my freedom and the freedom of the rest of my younger siblings, months later.