I wasn't sure what had happened but Daddy was angry, very angry. It might have been that he thought I came home way too late after being on my bicycle, or it may have been because of where I had ridden, a trip on some very busy roads in an attempt to find an open fireworks stand situated way beyond the limits he had set for me to ride.
Charles Lewis and I had had this idea of buying firecrackers and the stands, we knew, would be open to sell them for Christmas and New Years. Fireworks were not legal inside the city limits but those stands selling them would magically appear at the city limits like mushrooms after a damp night rain. We looked on the map and it looked like a possible thing to do, riding out and getting back before supper. We miscalculated.
Charles Lewis and I had the same birthday but we were two years apart, he being younger. But I was a passive kid and he had grand sounding ideas, A bit if a rebel he was always getting into something, and I was so happy to have him as my friend. I would always agree with whatever he'd decided we should do. But he was one of those kids who would rat you out. His mom may have called my mom when we got back late, or more likely, my dad, had come home to my worried mom and started calling looking for me.
Charles would be dead in twelve years, drug overdose. He was a friend who never made it out of the wrong side of town, the southside of San Antonio where we lived. It was not a bad place, but it was the wrong side of the Interstate 10, where the poorer people lived. Where I lived. Ten of us at the beginning living there, ten boys I mean although I was really a girl, and we ranged in age over about a six year span. Of the ten only five of us got out alive; one a motorcycle fatality, two brothers murdered in a drug deal gone bad in a public park that I walked through on my way to high school, one death in Vietnam, and Charles Lewis. You do not have to be African American to grow up in a dangerous place.
So although the Lewis's and we had the bad luck of sharing a two-party line, there was a way to call, using a 211 number. A telephone repairman had explained how to ring your own number, in this case both parties, a wait for the other party to answer. So my dad may have heard from the Lewis's that we had not been to see a friend and lost track of the time, as I had claimed. Or he may just have been angry I had come home late.
Daddy said,"Go into the bathroom."
Most all my punishment was in the bathroom. He had to use a place that was private, although my mom and two sisters aged 7 and 5 at that time, would hear every word. He never hit my sisters or my mother, but because he knew me as male, I always available for corporal punishment, as he called it. There was a black leather belt hung on the back of the door for that purpose. When I reached age twelve, I took that damn thing out in the back yard and buried it, He got the hint to never hit me again.
But I do remember spankings at the early as age five when we rented that house on Anderson Avenue. Those punishments were with switches, stripped down limbs from the decorative oleander trees with beautiful bright white flowers, in that yard. I cannot bear to see an oleander tree to this day and they are such beautiful plants when aligned along a property border.
By age ten punishment had advanced to a leather belt, one he doubled over and held so the buckle would not hit me. Daddy was good at inflicting the pain and leaving minimal marks, He never struck my back, not on purpose unless I struggled and turned, and concentrated on my buttocks and the back side of my upper legs. I don't remember ever taking off my pants, or actually having blood drawn. And the welts would be gone in a day or two. But I had to wear jeans after rather than shorts so the marks didn't show. He said that the usual punishment for boys was one for every year of my age. I always wondered what the rules were for girls.
This was going to be one of those belt first, lecture afterward. At least it wasn't one of those "go out to the yard and bring me back a switch" ordeals. I had outgrown those, and anyway I did not want to be crying and pleading for him not to switch me, like I would do back then at age five and six. Looking back, it was a sadistic way to treat a kid, making me select my own switches. I just know he learned that trick somewhere, and I suspect it was from his own mother. I think the always hanging belt technique was learned from his father
The belt was bad. This was one of those times he was angry and had yet to calm down. When it hurt too much this time, I had put my hands back to stop it, so they were pretty well beat up too as that had only made it worse.
I of course cried. I sobbed a river of tears. It would be a good story to say I held back during these terrible punishments, but I never could. I was very much a sensitive child and these beatings hurt me on so many levels.
He lectured me. I heard the worn out "This hurts me more that you." I heard the standard story of how he got punished with a razor strop, not a little belt. I heard him out and promised whatever he wanted me to promise, and he left
And I stayed in the bathroom for as long as I could after. It was my way of protesting the violence. I heard my mother and father arguing in loud voices outside. I relished the idea she was furious with him. I had no idea what my sisters did during this ordeal I had faced, or what they thought. They seemed to have erased all the actual events this from their minds. To their credit they later would admit, "Daddy was hard on you," in later years as we talked as adults
Now I know my father, an only child, was probably treated the same way. I still haven't forgiven him as this corporal punishment as he called it, happened way too often. This time stands out. Ten hits with the force he delivered that night was not that common. But even one hit was too much. I was a dutiful and loving child. A simple time-out when I was younger, or a loss of privileges when I was older would have been very effective with me. I will say that one time out of three I had no idea of why I was being punished. I would get punished because he didn't like the tone of my voice.
This is hard to write.
I vowed I would never strike a child, boy or girl. "End the Abuse" I would later see on billboards and TV. Amen to that.