Today, though, we were all mentally and emotionally recovering from the aftermath of the night before. Why did dad hate us so much? Why couldn’t we just do what we were supposed to do? Why was he so violent? We all spent the morning getting ready, trying to process and comprehend what we just went through and having to face the day at school.
Surprisingly, we all adjusted fairly well to school despite the challenges of our lives. School was a fairly positive experience for me. The teachers were typically nice and cared about me. They were kind and helpful. When I messed up, they didn’t cuss at me, tell me I was a piece of crap and smack me upside the head. The worst case scenario was I got sent to the principal and had to sit outside his office for a bit, then ended up talking to the secretary or counselor nearby, if I talked to anyone at all.
This day, however, none of us were ready to go face all that school had for us. We were experiencing our own version of PTSD. The memories of these shows are still very vivid as they provided the fantastic escape that we needed.
Terri took her bowl of cereal, sat in front of the TV, turned it on and started watching The Bozo Show. I grabbed my own bowl and joined her. Jimmy was already sitting on the couch with his bowl. We all sat there in the memory of our misery, eating the bagged puffed wheat with as much sugar as it took to taste like Sugar Smacks and let Bozo the Clown help us forget about our real lives.
We laughed slightly and stayed glued to the TV all the way up to the Grand Prize Game where each of us imagined we got a ping pong ball to toss in each bucket. We imagined participating in the fun as they progressed through the buckets, starting with the closest of six buckets, tossing the ball into and hopefully staying in each bucket, working our way to the grand prize. We envisioned earning the reward — a grand prize of extreme proportions — which I imagined as getting away from dad and living a normal life.
The show ended at the conclusion of the Grand Prize Game and the next show started. It was a rerun of Bewitched, which I loved. I looked at the clock and started to worry that we had already missed the bus, but Terri and Jimmy were in charge while my parents were gone, so I figured they knew what they were doing. These TV shows took me into another world and allowed me to escape, if for a moment, to a better place and time. Once Bewitched ended, a rerun of The Jeffersons came on to which I wasn’t as fond. It seemed more like a show for adults. Of course, I wondered, that’s probably because kids are supposed to be at school.
“Uh, are we going to school or what?” I asked, letting the words hang in the air.
“Not today. Let’s just stay home and watch TV,” Terri responded without much fanfare. That sounded just fine to me. I wasn’t much in the mood for school and I was still a bit of a mess from the night before. Terri turned the channel and found, The Price is Right and we all continued to play along in our heads imagining our own prizes. After The Price is Right was over, Terri got up and turned the TV off.
“Let’s go,” she said.
“What?” I asked. There was no way I was going to school now. We were hours late and it was a long walk. I just knew we would get in even more trouble for arriving at school late. I couldn’t do it.
“We are going to get in bigger trouble than last night if mom and dad find out we skipped school. We’ll just tell them we missed the bus. As long as we go to school, we’ll be fine,” Terri explained.
“No way!” I said. “You said we could stay home. I would be so embarrassed to go into school late. They will see right through us!” I pleaded.
“We have to go.” Jimmy stated plainly.
Terri and Jimmy did their chores meticulously, cleaning the bathroom and kitchen — knowing they couldn’t let a repeat of last night happen again. They even helped clean the living room of everything including our dishes from that morning. If dad saw dirty dishes in the living room, he would literally kill us. That was always a pet peeve of his. Dirty dishes in the living room or bedroom meant bugs. Bugs meant a dirty house. He wasn’t having that. No bugs. No dirty dishes. No way. We all cleaned the living room before we left, but I was way too embarrassed and refused to go.
“Fine,” Terri said. “We’ll leave without you. Your life is in your hands.” Terri and Jimmy exited the trailer and started to walk to school, which was about a mile and a half away. I couldn’t believe it. First, they said we were staying home. Then, they tried to take it back. It was way too late for that. We were already so late! There was no way I was going to school more than two hours late, plus we would have to walk a mile and half!
I turned the TV back on and tried to find something to watch. I flipped between a morning show, two soap operas and another game show that I didn’t like. Nothing. Now I was stuck home alone, skipping school while my brother and sister were walking to school without me, the day after I got five swats with the belt. I was so lost and didn’t know what to do.
About that time, the front door opened back up…