In a fairly recent post I alluded to issues I had in my childhood about my babysitter. In this post I would like to get some of those issues off my chest. This is going to be a very difficult one to write and probably very difficult to read. I may even take a few posts to tackle this weighty issue.
I want to talk about the woman who looked after me for the longest time. I went into her care some time before the age of two and I left her care when I was about 10 years old. She was married to a lovely man, had two adult sons and a daughter about 10 years older than me. I didn’t much like her. I really liked her husband. He was nice to me. I hardly ever saw the eldest son but I liked the second son, he was just like his dad. I really didn’t like the daughter.
As I look back on that time in my life, there aren’t that many happy memories of being there. At this point I really want to stress that I do not blame my parents in any way for what happened while I was in the care of this woman. I’m not sure how much I’m going to reveal here today in this post but it is a heartbreaking story which I am still coming to terms with and one which breaks my mother’s heart. I love my mother and I know she made the best choice that she could with the information that she had at the time.
The babysitter was widowed when I was 5. That was the first death of a friend or acquaintance that I remember. The babysitter’s husband was my ally in that house. Once he died I had nobody on my side.
Here’s where this post is going to turn into some kind of cathartic therapy session.
The babysitter supplemented her widow’s pension with all kinds of cash-in-hand income streams. For a while, she had a milk bar/takeaway shop. This was around the time that her husband died, so I would have been 5 or 6 years of age. My job was to peel the potatoes for the chips and run them through the chipper. It was a big metal thing with a VERY sharp cutting grid. You put the peeled potato onto the cutting grid and then pulled down the top which pushed the potato through the blades. I remember the top bit being both heavy (for a 5yr old) and a little too easy to fall. Placing the potato on the cutter without losing a finger was my daily game.
When I’d cut enough chips, she’d let me go outside to play with Shep. He was a mangy, flea-bitten German shepherd who was tied with a short rope to a large Moreton Bay fig tree. He was the saddest dog I have ever known. His poor ears were eaten away by something – disease or parasite, I don’t know which. I just felt so sorry for him. I also felt sorry for myself.
After she sold the shop she went on to pamphlet deliveries. You know – junk mail stuff. She would get a massive bundle of catalogues or fliers that had to be delivered and an area to deliver them to. These come flat and have to be folded to fit into the letter boxes. Guess whose job that was? Yep. Mine. She’d sit and watch Days of Our Lives or some rubbish and I’d be sitting on the floor folding the latest Coles or Woolies catalogue and slipping in the tiny little leaflet for Carleton’s Upholstery. I remember it well. By then, I was probably about 7 years old.
My hands would be filthy with the ink and sore from the folding. But that was not the end of my job. No. I would then be taken to a location to deliver a bundle of junk mail. I had to carry them under my arm – I had no satchel or bag to carry them in. She’d drop me off and tell me to deliver as many as I had. She’d then drive off and I would begin my letterbox drops. To be honest, I didn’t mind it so much. I was alone with my thoughts and I kinda preferred my own company anyway. It taught me to memorise street names so I don’t get lost. I think I have walked up and down every street in Banyo, Nudgee, Northgate and Nundah (to the east of the railway line). I do remember, however, it has given me a lifelong fear of big dogs. There was a massive rottweiler in the aptly named Dethridge St, Nundah that still gives me nightmares when I think of it.
The stories I’ve shared here are really nothing compared to the other abuses by way of humiliation and ill-treatment that I remember. Those other, more horrific stories are mine and they are under lock and key. They still upset me – they probably always will.
This goes some way to explaining the reason why I don’t really want anyone looking after my child but me and my family or closest friends. My mother had no reason to think that anything was happening to me other than I was being looked after by a kind lady. I had no reason to tell my parents what was happening because it was all I knew and I was brought up to be obedient and do as adults told me.
What I have said here is only part of the story. The babysitter was one of two abusers in that house. I’m not sure when or if I will tell the story of the other one. I’d like to do it soon as it’s burning a hole in my heart. I have done this to release the secret I’ve been clutching. Holding on to hurt just hurts more. I am ready to let go.