In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Journey.”
There have been many both physical and emotional journeys in my life. For some unknown reason my mind has travelled back to a very early one that took place around the time I was 5 years old.
Family life had become explosive. My father who spent years on the front line during the second world war in Europe had immigrated with wife to Canada and become well ensconced in the Ukrainian Society in Montreal. There was a divide within our small group, and my mother and sister were an item, while I the younger daughter was partnered with my father. PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) was not an awareness at that time and men who returned from the war were expected to settle in to a warm and fuzzy family life. This was not the case at our house and my father who was an intelligent and sensitive man would drink excessively and then rage. From the ages of 5 to 10, my parents had split up 3 times and then got back together. The animosity, pain, tension and anger that permeated our household was more prevalent than almost anything else at that time.
Each parent had retained a lawyer, and as a five years old what I understood and what I felt was firstly, my father who was made out to be the bad guy (and at times was very frightening) was going to live alone, this caused me great pain. What I understood was the one thing my father really cared about his family. Providing for those he loved was his purpose in being He worked in a steel foundry, doing piece work, and his paycheck was often three times that of his fellow workers. He was amazing in so many ways. Secondly, My mother had developed a certain disdain for me and I believe she privately wished I would go to live with my father.
The day had come; my parents day in court. The judge was going to make custodial decisions. I was informed that I would have to walk up the long aisle to the front of the giant room all by myself, ascend a few stairs and step into a small booth where the judge would ask me to name the parent I wished to live with. This was a monumental journey for me. It was my father who had professed his love for me and had taken me everywhere with him. The bond between us was strong, at the same time, it was frightening to experience his rages and to witness his behavior when intoxicated. Several times the police had come to our door as the neighbors had reported excessive fighting.
I began my walk. The walls and floors were marble and I could hear the tap of my steps as I neared the podium. The ceilings were high and the room silent. I sauntered up the aisle and was sure that everyone could see the tremor that ran through my body. I had been briefed and was aware of the question that would soon be posed to me. I reached the podium and a strange man in a khaki uniform lifted me up onto a chair within the booth. The judge addressed me. His question was inevitable. “Who do you want to live with, your mother or your father” ? My eyes looked out and found my father who sat just feet away from me. Tears formed in my eyes. I have not forgotten the expression on his face: a look of hope. I was about to betray him; the sound I uttered formed the word “Mother”. His eyes communicated to me the shock he felt when his little girl rejected him. My father had lost what he cared for most that day. My mother had emerged the victor.
Memories can be lodged away, buried under lock and key….but are no less there. Our cells remember.