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"Daughter, I AM proud ... "
This is a true story. It needs no other introduction.
When my mother got pregnant she was fourteen years old. She had me and my twin brother, Lee. We both had to be taken into an orphanage. We both got fostered and separated as we grew up until about seven and a half years old. It didn't work out because Lee and myself were disturbed. We both were moved from home to home. Some of the families weren't really that nice. So when Lee was ten years old he died. He overdosed and killed himself.
My real mother never came to the funeral. I remember I stood there just looking down at him as the coffin was being put into the ground. I did not cry. I couldn't cry. Even when I was older I couldn't cry because when I was six I remember falling and hurting my leg and I cried. I was smacked and told not to cry. I was constantly told to stop crying so I then took my frustration out on other children. I bottled up my feelings when things would happen to me. I wouldn't cry. I just felt anger inside.
When I got sent to my granny and my father, that's when my real nightmare began. My granny hated me and told me so often enough. She used to try and scratch out my eyes, telling me I was evil-looking. She used to give the other children lovely clothes and she would not buy me anything, even new toys. She always called me 'the bastard'. I think she was jealous of me because everywhere she brought me people would remark on how lovely my eyes were and how I had beautiful dark hair. When she would get me home she would beat me up. Once she got mad at me and she screamed really loud and made a dash at me. She tried to poke my eyes out, she stuck her two fingers in my eyes, then she cut my long lovely hair and she would say 'you are nothing but an evil bastard and I hate you'. Any time people would give me toys she would take them from me and give them to the other girls.
I remember one Christmas morning I was really excited running up to the sitting room. All the kids were excited too. Then my granny came into the room and I said, 'What did Santa bring me?'. She said, 'He brings nothing to bastards and evil children'. So I asked her how come he had brought toys to the other kids. I remember so clear that I was sad. I had no new toys or clothes and I was watching all the kids in the house play with beautiful toys. The only toy I had was Rupert. I'd found him, so he was my little comfort. I didn't cry that Christmas day. I just felt anger. I wanted to smash the other kids toys and when I went out to play I had no new clothes and all the kids started to jeer me. They said things like, 'Look at her, Santa hasn't brought her toys'. One boy got a punch in the nose and it bled. I really got frustrated so I'd get into fights and finally got the name of a fighter because my anger was getting out of control.
|I asked her why people did not want me, was I a bad child. I began at that moment feeling lost again.||
She always said she would make my life hell. Well she did. She tried to poison me with drugs and once I caught a bad dose of croup and I was rushed to hospital. I was dying so they had to cut a hole in my neck to help me to breathe. I remember her standing over me saying 'You bastard you won't live'. After one month in hospital I made a great recovery. So I was sent back to the orphanage where I stayed for one year.
Then I ran away. I decided to run my life my way. So I ended up just walking alongside a roadway. I was really hungry and I met a lady sitting by the roadside eating sandwiches. I stopped and I asked her for one. She said, 'You can have as many as you like, child'. She began asking me questions like how come I was on my own. I told her about things that had happened and that I was never going back to that horrible place. So, she said, 'Okay, you can stay with me'. I said great. We headed off to her place. She was a traveller and she lived in a shed. It was part of a broken down house. It was okay. We made it home. It was great living rough because to me it was an adventure and really exciting. Mainly because I was living rough with an adult. Doing what I wanted. I started to smoke and to drink.
I stayed with her for five months and one night she said to me, 'Lora, I have something to tell you. I am going away'. I asked her why she was leaving. I thought it was me. I asked her was I evil. Was that why she was leaving me. I asked her why people did not want me, was I a bad child. I began at that moment feeling lost again. I felt rejected. I felt bad about myself. So I got smashed drunk and started to shout at Anna. I told her she was just like the rest of them, leaving me. So that night I tried to hang myself but two men coming through the fields saw what was happening and cut me down. One fellow smacked my face and they brought me to the hospital.
I ran out of there back to Anna. She nearly died when I told her what I had done. She brought me back and talked to me. She was explaining to me that I needed help. I told her, no, because they would send me away. When Anna left a couple of days later she had left a note in beside my bed on the floor. I couldn't really read so I tore it up. But I kept the £5 and I got smokes and drink. That night I lit a fire and just sat down. I was very angry and started to smash the beer bottles.
Next thing I looked up and Hairy Lemon was coming in. He asked me why I was angry. I told him Anna had gone and I was on my own again. Hairy Lemon said that I would be alright. That he was there. Hairy Lemon lived rough in the other shed. The reason I nicknamed him Hairy Lemon was because he had a really long beard and he loved to eat lemons. All the kids were really scared of him but he was harmless. He loved children. He would check on me in the shed to make sure I was alright.
|Finally the services caught up with me and I went back into care.||
Hairy Lemon and me became really good friends. He listened to me when I was angry and he would buy me clothes and would always make sure that I was okay. One morning it was snowing when I woke up and I was really excited and I ran to the shed to tell Hairy Lemon. I tried to wake him up but he wouldn't wake up. He was dead. I rang for help and people came. The ambulance and police came. They were asking questions. I had to pretend that I was just passing by because I knew they would take me in. I told them I just found him.
I was really down when Hairy Lemon died. I sat that night and I started to pray and to talk to God. I asked him why Hairy Lemon died. Why did he have to leave me. I told God I didn't want to get close to people anymore because nobody wants me anyway and I must be evil. I felt so bad in myself. I decided to build up a barrier when I came into contact with people. I never got close to them nor them me. Later on, people who I came into contact with would try to hug me. I would push them away. I would tell them not to touch me.
Finally the services caught up with me and I went back into care. By the tender age of thirteen I was an alcoholic. I was bonking off school. I would go off and get drunk and would disappear for hours and the hostel would have the police out looking for me. So when they'd bring me back I would get punished and staff would have to bring me to school and wait at three o'clock for me coming out of school. It was really hard because I was dependent on drink. I would spend all my pocket money on drink and when I had no drink I would get moody. When I was drunk I would get very violent. I was able to beat up girls twice my size.
I hung around with girls twice my age and that's when I got sent down for two years. The girl, my friend, got caught robbing drink and she got let off on probation. Me, I got sent down for two years. The judge asked me to stand up in court. I was so small that I told him, 'Judge, I am standing'. He told me not to get smart and one of the cops in court said, 'The child is just small for her age'. The judge just smirked when he looked down at me. So I was really frightened that day in court even though I was showing no signs of it to the judge or cops. But when he said he had no option but to put me away, I thought he meant back to the orphanage. But he didn't. It was a detention centre for young offenders.
When I arrived at the detention centre the lady of the place met me at the door. I nearly died because she was dressed in a blue outfit. When I got to the door I said, 'Wrong house'. But the cop grabbed me and said, 'Not so fast, Missie'. So in I went and the smell of disinfectant was disgusting. Anyway, I was in with people who where three or four years older. They were in for all sorts of crimes. But I managed to get hanging out with them. Also I became what was called Top Dog. That meant I was the best fighter. I wasn't really a bad child. I had to survive no matter what. I wasn't a bully in the place but girls knew not to mess with me, that I could defend myself. I never started fights but I got on great with all the girls. They looked out for me. We all looked out for each other. Just like Anna the lady who let me live with her in the shed.
|My foster mother worked in the caring profession and it was a long struggle. She believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself.||
Our friendship grew and I really loved her as though she was my birth mother. I never had an education. I was sent to a day school for slow learners. It didn't quite do me justice. They didn't quite see I was not slow because their poor lives were hell. They knew I was a very angry child but never took the time to ask why. Then, maybe I would have gotten the help that I needed. All they could ever say was that I was a little brat because I was constantly in trouble for fighting or smoking.
Once there was this coloured girl and she caught me smoking and said she was telling on me. I told her that I would break her face. She was a lot bigger than I was and she pushed me. I jumped on her. I punched her and tore a big load of hair from her head. She was screaming so we both got brought to the office. The girl was holding her head. Me, I had my hands behind my back. The nun asked me what I had. I said, 'Nothing sister'. She made me show my hands and I did, along with the big ball of hair I had pulled from the girls head. The nun asked me what I had to say. I said, 'Buy her a wig'. Well, the nun hit the roof. She suspended me. I was grounded for three weeks. That was hell. All the girls in the house were allowed out but I was stuck in with all the hags. I even tried to get the girls to sneak in drink but there was no way. The teachers would stop by with homework to keep me busy.
At the end of the three weeks I promised myself that I would stay out of trouble. I didn't want to get grounded again. It was hard because I tried to be good when I was out with the girls. But some one of them got up to something and it was hard not to join because you probably would be beaten up and called a 'goody-goody'. Sometimes I would get down in myself but I would not cry. Sometimes people would ask me if I were human. I was crying inside of myself. So, when I got fostered it changed me. My foster mother worked in the caring profession and it was a long struggle. She put up with a lot from me. She believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself. It took ten years to reach the stability that I have achieved and I hope someday to do for a child what my foster mother has done for me.
Now I am studying and hope to achieve what I am aiming for. I want to go on to third level and eventually become a counsellor. But that might be a long way down the line. I said one day I would make my foster mother proud and she always tells me 'Lora, I am proud'.
Wishing to remain anonymous, the writer of this piece has chosen to use the name Lora.
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