The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP! Goes Alaska letters – chapter 22
22. Buried treasure
April 3, 2013. Something else happened long before the snow fell that had to do with my turning six that began before the fiasco at the fair and ended after it. Every year Grandmother sent each of us a five dollar bill in our birthday card. Because Mildred was so happy in love with Alaska, and because my birthday was on a Saturday of the long Labor Day weekend when Father was home, I believe I got to choose what I wanted to buy myself with my gift money on the very day of my birthday.
All of my life until the writing of this book I have wondered who loved me so much and knew me so well that they would have chosen the most perfect gift possible to give me for my sixth birthday. I couldn’t imagine that it had been Mother. I thought perhaps Grandmother had sent it to me from California but that did not seem likely because she was so far away and I didn’t guess she knew me THAT well. That is why she liked to send us the birthday money in the first place!
Through a process of close scrutiny of available options it finally came clear in my own mind that of course I was the only person who knew me well enough to choose this exact present!! Of course as things went in my childhood figuring out this part of the story does nothing to make what happened to me and my present any easier to write about. The fact is, it makes it harder. It makes it even more of a personal tragedy knowing that it was me who chose the gift that was most important to me.
I am very good at spouting off on my Stop the Storm of trauma blog about how important and helpful I believe it is for people who had severely troubled and abusive childhoods to be able in some way to go back to toss out the wreckage and rubble so they can find the goodness and beauty that is always present somewhere in childhood. If it can be found nowhere else, what was pure and beautiful was always there within the child itself. In my thinking there can be no childhood so dark there was no light in it because it did have a CHILD in it.
OK, can I take my own advice? Here I am just now working myself even deeper into the briar patch where the brambles grow bigger and the thorns grow wickeder and wickeder and wickeder. Dare I go on? Yes. I have assigned myself that task. But first I will make myself and then enjoy a tasty cappuccino.
Where do the words begin that tell about the difference between losing something of great value versus having it taken away by somebody else? How many days had to pass by after Mother got mad at me at the fair before she set me free enough to take my birthday present outside to play with it? Something happened on a fall day after I had already started first grade when I was allowed to go outside to play.
I had spent my birthday money from Grandma on a soft brown leather bag with two leather strings I could pull to close it at the top. Then I had a handle to put my hand through to carry it with me out of the log house door, down the steps, across the driveway into the woods beside the Jamesway hut used for storage. I didn’t walk very far before I stepped onto a thick carpet of brilliant green moss that grew in a wide circle around a tree stump whose jagged top edges reached almost to my waist.
Having been raised a city girl until we came to Alaska the month before, the discoveries I made in the woods captivated me. The tall ferns were not growing in this spot, only soft moss. It was even growing up the sides of what was left of a broken tree I sat beside on the moss with my little bag.
Carefully I pulled open the gathered top edges of the suede and poured my beautiful marbles into a pile on the moss beside me. There were two big ones and four tiny ones and a whole bunch of them in between. I separated the sizes and then one by one picked them up to examine them.
They were all sorts of colors! Some had trails of different colors twisting inside of them. The big and tiny ones were only a single color all the way through. So were some of the middle sized ones. I had never seen anything so pretty.
When I rolled them together in my palms they warmed up. They made such a pleasant sound as they quietly clicked against one another. There were so many of them I couldn’t even hold them in one hand. Oh, I felt so RICH!
I put them down again so I could pick them up one at a time to hold them in front of me. When the light came through them I could see tiny, tiny bubbles inside. I admired everything about my marbles. How round and smooth they were. How hard and shiny. And of course, how beautiful.
I didn’t mean for them to turn into a treasure. It just happened that way. But once it did I knew that they were a treasure that needed to be buried somewhere safe where only I knew where to find them. That’s what people do with treasures.
I looked around me. Hum. Where to put a buried treasure?
I began to gently pull the moss away from the ground at the bottom of the stump and found it was loose and easy to lift and move aside in big flat pieces. The black dirt beneath the moss was soft. Then I got excited. I had an idea. I went to work.
I didn’t want to get the moss all dirty so when I scooped out dirt to make a hole to put my treasure in I released each handful of dirt into the worn-away holes at the top of the stump. I was very busy. I broke off parts of the soft rotten wood at the top of the stump and threw it away into the woods where it landed on fallen golden birch leaves. Then I had more room in the stump to put the dirt I was moving until the hole I had made was deep into the earth like a bucket.
When I was done I broke up some of the moss so I could lay it inside the hole to cover up the dirt. I made the hole all green so I could put my bag of marbles in there and it wouldn’t get dirty. I had enough of the moss patches left over to cover the hiding hole. All the edges fit together like a spongy puzzle. When I had finished making the treasure invisible I sat back and studied my work. I had done a very good job. I knew nobody would ever know my treasure was there.
I was happy in my lonely play. I wished for nothing else. Nothing more. I was content. I felt proud of my work and satisfied. I had no plans for what I was going to do next. I didn’t get to play long enough to know what I would have decided to do with my marbles.
I cannot say there was no sanctity in my childhood. The sanctity was inside of me. That just turned six little girl I was, playing my own creative, inventive solo game with my marbles – yes, precious to me – was made of sanctity as all children are. What I was doing was as holy and sacred as was the soft, lush moss I sat upon. As was the slowly decomposing tree and the black rich soil. As were the emptying birch branches crossing through the sky above my head.
I was not prepared for the log house door to open. For my mother to come out of it yelling, “LINDA! Where are you LINDA? Answer me right this minute!”
“Over here, Mommy. I’m over here!”
I was not prepared for what happened next. I wasn’t ready. How could I have known? Mother stormed across the driveway shouting, “What on earth are you doing sitting by yourself in the woods? What are you DOING?”
I didn’t even have time to stand up before she got to me. Demanding. Mad. Demanding. “I asked you a question now ANSWER ME! What are YOU DOING OUT HERE?”
I was telling her that I made a treasure place for my marbles but all she heard was MARBLES. “Where are they? Where did you put them? What did you do with your marbles?”
She didn’t listen to me. I kept telling her about my game as I pointed to where the marbles were buried all safe, beautiful, waiting. No raging gorilla could have hit the back of my head harder as Mother dropped to her knees and began clawing away the moss until she had my bad of marbles in her hands. “You selfish selfish child,” she roared at me. “Here you are out here burying your marbles in a hole in the dirt like an animal would so you don’t have to share them with your sisters and your brother. You HORRIBLE SELFISH CHILD!”
Off to the house I was dragged. She gave my marbles to my brother. I never saw them again.
This “crime” was added to Mother’s abuse litany, too. Along with all my other “crimes” I was beaten for this one also throughout the years of my childhood.
How close this attack was to the one at the fair I do not know, but it was warm out so it probably happened about a week later. Both of these attacks happened during the two weeks of silence between Mother’s August 30th and her September 15th letters to her mother. I think it took her that long to calm down enough to be able to write. She could not have told her mother the truth about what she had done to me. Mother knew that.
She was not stupid in her madness. She certainly knew how to manipulate the school, her husband, and her mother. It is the pattern of clever disguise of her actions in her letters and the massive gaps where she never referred to the truth of what she was doing in her home that make the places in her letters where I detect the darkness “sticking up” very important to note.
The attack of me over the marbles was a different kind of combination of her madness so that I was affected in a complicated way. I could not deny that I had not buried the marbles. This had really happened in the real world. I knew that clearly.
I would not apologize to her for what I had not THOUGHT in this situation. I knew what I had been doing when she came outside to look for me had nothing at all to do with my not wanting to share my marbles or let my siblings play with them. Those thoughts had never entered my mind. They were a psychotic projection by Mother onto me. Of course I could not understand any of this. Yet the clarity of my perspective was still as impeccable as it was on times when she attacked me for physical actions I had not done. In this case as in all others I could do nothing but endure.
I have not kept the indoors part of this memory except in generalized awareness that more abuse followed her taking of my marbles. It is the beauty in my experience of playing in the woods with my treasure that captivates me. It is important to me that I know myself as a child in these ways. I am not accountable and never have been for what Mildred did to me.
For many years into my adulthood I smiled at the irony of finding marbles somewhere in or on the ground every spring no matter where I lived. As a gardener I suppose my chances of replacing my marbles in this way was likely, and replace them I did. Marble by marble, spring after spring the marbles appeared until I had collected far more than enough marbles to make up for those that were so cruelly taken from me. Those opportunities brought me smiles that nobody who does not know this small piece of my childhood as I have written it here could begin to understand. Life does have a way of taking care of those who live it.
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