Tracy Porter - The Author
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Difficult Beginnings

Understandably, I remember very little of my childhood other than flashbacks that come into my mind quite unexpectedly a the most inappropriate times. No one would like to remember a difficult childhood, so I suppose my psyche has decided to block it out rather than allow me to carry the pain I must have felt being an unwanted child in an abusive home. I suppose that my brother and sister feel pretty much the same way because none of us recall with fondness the events that transpired to form our personalities. My sister has also admitted to me that she too remembers very little about her childhood.

My sister Candice and I were born two weeks early on 30th January 1961 in Little Rock, Arkansas: my sister at 5.01 pm and me at 5.11pm. Because we both had the same heartbeat the doctors assumed that we would just be one big baby because my brother weighed in at 10lb 2oz when he made his grand entrance into the world. Candice weighed 5lb 5oz at birth and was called Ďthe big oneí by the nurses at the hospital. I, on the other hand, weighed only 4lb 5oz and was underweight. Because it was the middle of the winter and I would be going home to a pink, wooden house with no running water and no decent heating the doctors decided that I should stay in the hospital for a while longer until my weight increased. I find fact that I was born underweight amazing because all though my childhood and as an adult I have always had a battle with my weight. No doubt, with all of my other foibles it should come as no surprise that I have had an eating disorder for most of my life. Although I only stayed in the hospital for about two weeks, I suppose that the maternal bonding that should have taken place never occurred.

My twin was allowed to go home with my mother and she is much closer to her than I could ever hope. Candice telephones Mama on a regular basis, confides in her, and has always been able to coerce Mama into giving in to her. That is what I had always thought anyway. Candice later confided to me that while she was not abused on the grand scale that I was, she certainly did not get an easy ride. For example, when Candice needed a base clarinet, Mama refused, joking, ďIím not going to blow my money on a horn!Ē Although Mama though her little quip was quite amusing, Candice was deeply hurt by her refusal to purchase something for her that she needed for her education. It is the small things that people do, or donít do for that matter, that make a lasting impression on otherís minds.

I have found the relationship I have with my mother to be a complete uphill struggle. As an adult I have only the most superficial of relationships with my mother, and the only reason I have anything to do with her at all is precisely because she is my mother, and only that. I have contact with my mother because I feel that it is the decent thing to do, but not because I have any real feelings of love for her. If she was anybody else I can honestly say that without any reservation at all that I would have walked out of her life many years ago. It is very difficult of me to muster up any emotions at all for members of my family because I donít feel particularly close to them, except for resentment, preplexion and often dismay. When the day comes that my mother does leave this earth I will only lament the loss of the relationship that we could have had, and that is all. Any good times we may have shared were few and far between, and clouded by the fact that I knew that although my mother pretended to be nice and sweet, really she was not.

When I was about two weeks old my father decided to take my mother out to the Country, where his parents lived. The Country is the term we use to describe my paternal grandmotherís home because it was, to a small child, this massive house which sat on 80 acres of land in the rural Arkansas countryside. Several years before I was born my grandfather had bought the 80 acres of land and decided to build a farm on it. To a child, it was such a massive sight to behold. To a child, it was such a massive house that he had built with his own hands, and sat on one side of the gravel road, and the barns and a temporary tin house resided on the other side. There were cows, pigs and chickens that enabled the residents of that land to stay firmly grounded to the Earth. There was also a fruit and vegetable garden, which provided food for the family all year long. The Country was a truly wonderful place that most people in our modern civilised society have absolutely no comprehension of. Being the winter month of February the weather was quite inhospitable to travellers.

Being the month of February the weather was quite inhospitable to travellers, so it was not wise for anybody to be driving in that cold stormy night.

Arkansas in the early 1960ís was still in many parts what civilised people would consider to be wild territory, as wooden planks were still used to cover dirt or gravel roads in the rural countryside, which were still very much in vogue. When it rained, which was often, the bridges would become dislodged and thus make passage impossible.

It just so happens that on that rainy evening when my sister and I were only two weeks old, my father was bored and decided to take us to the County. During the turbulence of the storm my father somehow drove the car into a body of water that had been created during the flood. Because my mother was holding both my sister and myself she was virtually trapped in the car. My father, for whatever reason, took my brother and swam to safety. My mother called for him to come and get my sister and myself so that she could get out of the car but he refused, stating that my brother would follow him into the water if he did. My mother told my father to take his belt off, tie my brother to a tree, and to get us out of the car, but father again refused, instead running away under the pretence of getting help. During that fateful evening that I have no recollection of, my mother must have sat in the car with her neck up to water, holding one child in each hand just above the water, waiting, waiting, waiting for what?

It just so happens that on that evening some teenagers, who were probably not much younger than my mother, were out joyriding. When my mother saw their headlights passing she sounded the horn with her foot. By some miracle, these young men heard the horn and rescued my mother, my sister and myself. My mother tells me that while she was concerned for the health of my sister and myself, we came out of it very well without even a cold.

It was my mother who was ill afterward, falling prey to the flue as a result of her ordeal. . If there are in fact guardian angels guardian angels who walk the Earth then they must have intervened on that fateful evening because the road that my father had driven on was rarely used. It had to be a miracle that we were saved that night. We could have so easily have been just another statistic in this cruel world we all inhabit.

My mother apparently holds no malice towards my father for leaving her and two of his children to die in a flooded car during that cold winter evening of 1961. I, on the other hand, fail to see the rationale of his behaviour and insider his actions to have been extremely foolhardy. I personally do not feel comfortable with what my father did. I feel that he must not have loved me very much to leave his wife and children in a flooded car. But then again, I must always remind myself that he didnít love me, did he. As far as my father was concerned, I was just one big mistake that came about due to the fact that he could not be bothered to use birth control when his physical urges got the best of him. Perhaps this was just the first incident of many that has formulated the lack of respect and trust that I have for most men. Virtually every man I have ever met has let me down. This trend began with my father and moved to my boyfriends, husbands, and even male relatives. Unfortunately, because of the very negative male role models that I was presented with in my more formative years, I became a woman who loves too much. I would forever and always seek out those men who would enable to play out all of my old childhood dramas. I would continuously look for men who would enable me to experience all of the humiliation, degradation and total lack of love that I had been subjected to in my own home by my own parents.

I must say, that although my mother was barely able to read and write at that time and was not afforded the benefit of a decent education, she was still nonetheless a very clever person who displayed a great deal of courage during some of the most traumatic times in her life. My mother is, and always has been, a survivor. She was determined that no matter what, she would get by, and that is just what she did. It is important to note however that my mother is a scarred individual too. She had been abused, neglected and rejected by her own family, and their activities had the effect of warping her personality. She could not survive her own childhood and adult experiences without emerging a deeply scarred and damaged being. And damaged she was. Having no one to express her hurt feelings on, she vented her frustrations out on her children.

My first birthday was a non-event, as my mother forgot it and did not celebrate it until the next day. The fact that my own parents forget my first birthday makes speaks volumes of how wanted I was in that household. While most people celebrate the arrival of a small child, my parents reacted in dread.

The next big crises in my life occurred when I was about 3 years old, living in the old pink house on Bunch Road. The myth is that I have been told is that somehow I had acquired a Halloween mask and decided it would be a good idea to put on our German Shepherd dog. I can imagine that in my 3-year-old mentality, I assumed that if humans could wear Halloween masks then it should be perfectly acceptable for dogs to do so as well. Unfortunately my canine companion did not have the same sentiment as I, and promptly bit me in the face when it was confronted with such an austere token of affection. While I do not have any recollection of the event, my mother tells me that she heard a scream. When she went outside I had passed out on the ground with blood all over me. Because we did not even have any running water in the house my mother poured filthy mop water from a bucket on me to get me to wake up. When I regained consciousness I promptly started screaming bloody murder. While I am sure that my mother could not stand to hear me cry, my wails were probably a welcome noise, as it reflected that I was not dead on this occasion. In a fit of anger, when my father came home from work on that day, he tied the dog to a tree and shot it.

As an adult I have my suspicions about the true origin of the scar. It looks more like a wound that had been inflicted by a sharp object, such as a knife, than a knife from a dog. I have seen photos of children who have been unlucky enough to have been bitten by a dog in the face, and those animals can inflict far more damage, such as biting on the cheek. I should therefore consider myself fortunate, therefore, that I received the injuries that I did. I will never know, unfortunately, that true origin of that wound. I suppose my mother will take that secret with her to her grave.

I suppose that if the truth was known my father was never really a part of my life. He officially left when I was about 3 or 4 years old when my parents divorced. My mother has related to me that she divorced him because of his philandering. My mother is, however, a pathological liar, so I will never know just how true that story was.

According to my mother, the straw that broke the camelís back was when he brought a woman back to the house and slept with her while my mother was supposed to be sleeping. She told me that my uncle saw my father downtown with another woman. I donít know whether my uncle lacked discretion or if he really wanted my parentís marriage to dissolve, but he wasted no time in telling my mother what he had seen. The fact that this woman was supposed to have been my motherís friend did not help the situation at all. History, however, is full of tales where best friends have betrayed one another. Evidently my mother waited all evening for my father to return home from his night out on the town. When he did he brought the woman into the house with him.

My dad whispered, ĎCassandra, are you asleep?í

When my mother did not reply, my father thought he was safe to do whatever it was that he wanted to do with this other woman, who did not even have the common decency to break up my parentís marriage outside of the home. My mother feigned unconsciousness in order to catch my father in the act, so to speak. I suppose it really would not have mattered whether my mother was sleeping or not because the sheer fact that he brought another woman into the house shows quite clearly that he had no regard for my mother or his children. It must have been difficult for my mother to witness her husband make love to another woman. No doubt she was astonished to discover that it was her best friend who was betraying her, Sadly, history is full of friends betraying each other in the name of love, or lust, which is why life is so complicated.

My mother waited until the early hours of the morning to awaken my father and her ex-best friend up, as she told them to put their clothes on and get out of her house. I must say that my mother acted with a great deal of composure, which was quite out of character for her, and I personally donít feel that I would have been capable of such restraint. If there is one thing I cannot tolerate, it is infidelity, and would hate to ever have been put in my motherís position. I can only imagine the melodramatic display that would inevitable transpire if it had been me who had been betrayed by my husband and friend in such a shabby way.

If my fatherís behaviour was not bad enough, he returned to my mother that same day with the feeble, ĎCassandra, I love youí line that I am sure that she heard a thousand times before.

I suppose my mother had been humiliated one too many times because she informed my father that she was going to go to Beauty School, become a hairdresser, and divorce him Ė and that is what she did in the exact sequence of events.

Wouldnít it be nice if life was simple and people lived happily ever after. But they donít, and that is why the world is full of doctors, counsellors, therapists, Samaritans, and theologians. After my mother became a hairdresser and divorced my father, the winds of malefic change reared their ugly head, if they had not already been present.

Because my mother did not know how to drive she was dependent on other people to take to work. My uncle, who is 5 years younger than my mother, had been giving her a lift to work every day and this seemed to be an acceptable arrangement because it enabled my mother to gain a bit of independence as well as provide for her family. My grandmother, however, had other ideas. I honestly donít know whether she had Uncle Dannyís best interests at heart or if this was just another one of her jealous manoeuvres to make life just that much more difficult for my mother, but she decided to put a stop to my uncle helping my mother out of such a difficult situation. My grandmother therefore told my mother that Uncle Danny was much too young to be looking after a family and he therefore could not give my mother a lift into work any more! What hypocrisy! My uncle was exactly the same age that my mother was when she was pregnant and had to get married, but he was much too young to help my mother out by taking her to work.

With a family composed of individuals who would not lift a finger to help people out, is it any wonder that my motherís mind hade become muddled and confused with very dubious ethics and morals. Because my mother received no help and support from her own parents, she would in turn give no help and support to her own children. Instead of my mother feeling quite justifiably outrages that her parents had turned their back on her in her hour of need, she felt that she deserved such treatment because she had been brainwashed to accept it. My mother would in turn brainwash her own children into believing that they were not deserving of having anything nice to happen in their lives.

Nevertheless, my mother had to figure out a way to get to work every day, and that was of paramount concern that was not going to go away. She had been dating a man, Bob, for a while and decided that in order to take care of the immediate problem of looking after her family she would marry him.

On one occasion my mother told me the honeymoon was over the day she married him. Among other things, on her wedding night, she learned that her new husband had been in prison for two years for armed robbery. On another occasion my mother told me that Bob was either on drugs or had a split personality because when he was in a good mood he was the sweetest, most loving person in the world, but with no provocation whatsoever he could turn into a murderous monster. The man who my mother married was truly a Jekyll and Hyde personality.

Bobís mother, Mrs Bean, looked after my siblings and myself sometimes. I do not have any particular impressions of her because she was not a significant player in my young, pre-school life, but this woman had such a great influence on formulating the personality of her son. As is so often the case, men who have serious personality disturbances usually have issues to work on regarding the mother/son bond. Bob apparently loved his mother a great deal, but I do not know just how deep the attraction between the two was. I am certain of one thing, however, and that is he must have been abused by his mother or someone else because he developed a rather sadistic personality. He would beat my siblings and myself mercilessly every day, which only helped to strengthen the dissociative disorder that I developed during my childhood.

My mother told me that to this day she keeps a letter that Bob had written her, declaring to her that if she had ever caused Mrs Bean so much as one momentís grief, he would take a knife and cut her heart out. No doubt, my mother stayed as far away from her mother-in-law as possible because by this time she was actually beginning to believe that her second husband was capable of committing such an act. What my mother did not know was that men who harm women usually go on to harm children as well.

I have vague memories of Bob taking us all to live in Lansing, Michigan. I remember this because I can recall standing well over waist deep in the first major snow that I was ever to see until I was 18 and had moved to Maryland with the Air Force. I also remember standing outside in the early morning hours, watching the dew that had built up on the leaves overnight. To my young understanding, dew building up on the leaves every morning was nothing short of a miracle. Isnít it amazing how children can see Godís creation in the smallest of things while adults take such astonishing acts that indicate life for granted.

While my mother has told me that Bob whipped all of us children every day, one of the most traumatic experiences that I can recall is when I was about 4 years old when Candice and I went with another girl outside of our yard where we lived. Because we were not familiar with the neighbourhood, we had absolutely no idea where in the world we were, and went to knock on a local neighbours door for help. The woman gave us some milk and cookies and telephoned the police who promptly came to collect us. We rode around in the police car for some time until we were able to see the familiar house that we lived in. I have no doubt that the police said something to my mother and step-father about letting 4 year old children out on their own, but I will never know exactly what was said. I have no recollection of what transpired next, but my mother told us that Bob beat us. I can only imagine that the beating he gave us was so bad that I have blocked it out of my mind because the next thing I can remember regarding that event in question is waking up the next morning, quite surprised at having lost such a long amount of time. Oddly, as an adult I am alarmed that such an incident could take place, but as the person who lived through it, I view it with a surreal type of detachment: as if I am merely an onlooker to the event and have no intense feelings about the incident whatsoever. I am sure that my inability to conjure up any strong emotions regarding this incident is some sort of protective mechanism that I have had to build up around myself in order to cope with what has happened to me throughout my rather hellish childhood years.

Another event that I can barely remember is when Bob tried to murder my mother. I donít recall all of the events surrounding this occasion, but evidently Bob had a knife and was going to use it against my mother. In terror, she ran into to bedroom, pushed the bed against the door so that he could not get to her, and telephoned the operator to ask for the number for the police. The operator could tell that my mother was actually in a state of distress so she connected my mother directly to the police. When the police arrived my mother, my siblings and myself were taken away to a safe house. I do recall saying that I did not want to go, but of course I did not have a say in the matter. I can only assume since we were living in a city far away from home that we went to a shelter of some sort. I can imagine that the prospect of living in a battered womanís shelter did not particularly appeal to my mother, so we all went back to live with that maniac the ext day. It is quite common unfortunately, that many battered wives go back to their abusive husbands simply because they have no place to go. It is such a shame that in this day and age of enlightenment, domestic abuse is still allowed to occur in homes across the Earth. Sadly, there is so little support available for people who suffer abuse in their own homes.

During this time my brother, who is 18 months elder than me, started school. How could anyone possibly learn with a home environment such as his, so he was put back a year and had to attend the first grade over again.

During the time that my brother was at school my mother honestly tried to sit down with me and teach me to read. I remember her sitting down with a book and trying to read with me, but as I was possibly too young to comprehend such things, she soon tired of teaching me and put the books away. Even at that age I was hurt by her Ďoh, never mindí attitude because I felt that in some way I had failed her in some way. I can only assume that my mother believed that I had inherited her learning disability and therefore was beyond help. Although my mother is actually very bright, she has always had such a low opinion of herself that I suppose she figured that we were just as stupid as she thought she was. It was so much easier for my mother not to have any expectations of me or to push me to achieve anything of any major significance. Since I had never been given any incentive to excel, I didnít.

I can remember a man coming to baby-sit for us during the day while my mother and Bob were at work. I did not necessarily like the man because he brought his young daughter with him. I considered the girl, who was younger than my twin and I, to be somewhat of a brat. She was loud, rowdy, and delighted in taking away our toys. I can remember on one occasion when the three of us took a nap together on the same bed. I awoke before my sister and this young interloper who had intensified the purgatory that I was already living in. As I observed her slumbering features, a hatred rose up in me as I could have quite easily have resorted to bodily harm to get her out of my life once and for all. Had it not been for the fact that I knew if I so much as touched one tiny auburn hair on her head I would has received a massive whipping. I could easily have smothered my nemesis in her sleep. The prospect of getting beaten did not particularly appeal to me, so I turned my back on the tiny being and tried my best to ignore someone who I considered to be so loud and obnoxious. Although I do not condone hitting children, I really do not know what I would have done on that fateful morning if I had not been worried about getting a spanking. If could be, however, that if I had not been a battered child, I could have been more possessed with more tolerance and therefore would not have minded sharing my things with another child.

It is because at such an early age I knew the difference between right and wrong, with little or not coercion from any authority figures, I donít place a great deal of credence on the prevalent attitude that children are not aware of their crimes and therefore should not be held accountable for their offences. I was still a pre-schooler, yet knew very well that I could harm that child. I do not buy the line, therefore, that children should not be held responsible for their crimes. If a pre-schooler knows the difference between right and wrong, a 10 year old certainly does. I believe that most children contain a modicum of common sense and therefore know when they are hurting another being.

My mother had developed a rather sadistic personality, which may or may not have been as a result of her own childhood abuse. With Bob, and then later her other partners, my mother would live out many of her more sinister yearnings. The sad thing is that while my mother may not have performed many of her acts on her own initiative, at the coaxing of another individual, she could be downright evil.

One thing that my mother and Bob did was to give my sister and myself onions to eat. When Candice and I bit into the pulp of the bulb, my mother and Bob giggled with glee, as we screwed our mouths up through the bitterness of the food.

While giving oneís children onions to eat doesnít seem to be such a bad thing to do because they are not actually harmed, it does have rather serious implications. It reveals an inherent nastiness on the part of the perpetrators of the act.

Although I had never been given any incentive to do anything in my life, I do feel that I was nevertheless very bright and could pick things up quickly. When I was about 4 years old an elderly lady who I believe was Mrs Bean asked me if I knew how to write my name. When I negatively replied, she wrote out for me ĎKRYSTALí on a sheet of paper. I always remembered how to write my name and considered it to be the only way to spell it. When I was 6, however, and began my first year of school, my first grade teacher wrote ĎKrystalí on a slip of paper and taped it to my desk. I was quite perplexed about this new spelling and thought that she must have gotten the spelling incorrect. At this stage in my educational development I had not yet learned about capitilisations.

When Mama decided that she had had enough of that marriage to Bob, she filed for divorce. Since she was not able to look after the children, we were packed away to go and live with Granny until she could get settled in to her new life. It did seem, however, that we spent a great deal of time at Grannyís, but I did not necessarily mind because I had never really bonded with my parents anyway.

I later discovered that when my motherís second marriage broke up, Bob telephoned my grandmother and told her that he wanted custody of my siblings and myself because my mother was an unfit parent, but Bob was no better. My grandmother hated Bob just as much as she did my mother, and she told him there was no way he was going to get custody of her grandchildren.

The odd thing is that Bob was of no relation to me whatsoever, other than being my stepfather, so it did not make sense that he would want me. Years later I would learn a little bit more about Bobís motivation for wanting me.

The fact is that Bob wanted my sister and myself so that we could work as child prostitutes. Several years ago he had been picked up by the police in North Little Rock because he was soliciting girls to become child prostitutes for him. Bob, it seemed, was much more interested in my motherís children than he was her, which is pretty typical behaviour of many paedophiles, who usually target single mothers so they can have easy access to children in their home instead of having to go out and look for them.

It should come as no surprise to learn that after all we had been through, my sister and I would no doubt have some emotional problems. One morning I woke up and was astonished to find that Candice had put the top sheet over my head. Even at the age of about four or five, I knew instinctively that my sisterís manner was meant malefically. I took pushed Candiceís hands away from my neck and pulled the sheets away from my face to gape at her in astonishment that she would try to harm me. Because I was awake Candice was powerless to do anything, so merely gave me a sulking look as she turned away and left the room. I never discussed the incident with anyone, but I have never been able to understand what possessed my twin to commit such an evil act that could have had grave consequences.

My first year of school was somewhat of a muddle and I honestly donít know how I managed to be allowed to progress to the second grade. My mother tried her best, but working full time and trying to look after three small children obviously took its toll on her. She was also a young woman and wanted a social life, and was there not home most evenings. In addition, because my mother was in her early to mid 20ís herself she wanted to go out and enjoy herself, and not be tied down to three small children.

The first couple of weeks that I attended school my brother, sister and I stayed with my aunt and uncle while my mother presumably sorted out accommodation for us. My aunt would make lunch for us to take to school, and I can remember on one occasion she asked me why I had not opened up my thermos bottle. When I told her that it I was not able to open it because it had been screwed on too tightly, she responded with a sarcastic comment, saying that she would just leave it open so I would not have to worry about it. Because I could not fully comprehend what she was trying to say, I told my aunt that it was okay to do so, which probably irritated her even more than she already had been. Needless to say, we did not stay with my aunt and uncle for long because they were merely doing my mother a favour and were not ready for the responsibility of a family just yet. No doubt, since my maternal grandmother put a stop to my uncle giving my mother a lift to work in the morning, Iím sure she would not have tolerated my uncle helping my mother with her children.

By this time my mother was gainfully employed as a hairdresser and had to work long hours to make ends meet. For this reason she employed a teenage girl to babysit my brother, sister and myself when we finished school. I did not particularly care for the girl because one occasion she took a pair of nail scissors and rubbed them sharply under my fingernails. This act was very painful, and to this day I donít know if it was intended as a method of grooming or something more sinister on her part.

My first year of school seems to have been a muddle. I was required to wake myself up without the aid of an alarm clock every morning, get dressed, and walk a block to the bus stop all by myself. After school the teachers ensured that we got on the proper bus home, but getting off at the right stop proved a bit tricky considering the fact that I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing in the first place. I can remember that on my first ride on that bus my cousin, who was the same grade as myself, managed to find me cramped behind a group of older children, take my hand and pull me through all the people to get off at the correct stop. I imagine that my aunt told him to look after my sister and me to make sure that we got off at the right stop. What I find to be totally surprising is the fact that while two of my uncles lived next door to each other, only a couple of blocks away from where we lived, we rarely socialised with them. Although we lived physically in very close proximity to each other, emotionally we could have been on completely different planets.

This hesitation I had regarding taking the bus to school every morning was not helped by the fact that two sisters who also lived on Bunch Road took great delight in physically abusing me because they were older than me and therefore larger and stronger and able to pick on me because I was not in a position to fight back. They would hold me down and harshly rub my head with a pill bottle. I would scream out in pain and kick to no avail. The harm they inflicted on me while I was forced to take the bus was excruciating and I am amazed that the force these two sisters used against me did not draw blood. Maybe if they had hurt me so badly that I had bled then someone would have taken notice, but as it stood, everyone assumed that I was just overreacting to the antics of children older and larger than myself.

I did not like school at all, and this attitude was re-enforced by the fact that the other children took great delight in ridiculing me because I was not able to look people directly in the eye. Instead of looking straight ahead, I would look up to the sky when speaking to people. I do not know if my guardians were aware of this problem, but it caused me much embarrassment as a child and I donít know whether my sister encountered similar problems. I had to train myself to look straight ahead when speaking to people, but still have difficulty looking people directly in the eye. Years later when I had my eyes tested I was told that I was mildly cross-eyed, which helped solve the complex riddle but does not take into the account the sociological factors involved that contributed to this problem. Because I was mildly cross-eyed, it was impossible for me to look directly at people. I was, however, able to train myself to look straight ahead, which may well have alleviate some of my symptoms.

In addition to the fact that I was required to look after myself from the age of 6, I did not have pleasant experiences of school. Initially, my sister and I were assigned to the same class, but I suppose that considering the fact we both huddled together in the same chair and didnít learn much of anything, our teachers decided that it was best to separate us. Therefore, one morning when we arrived at school and took our place in our one chair, another teacher came and escorted Candice out of the classroom. I was quite bewildered about what was happening and was too confused to ask any questions about where they were taking my sister. To this day I will not know whether the school acted for their ease of teaching or in the best interest of my twin and me because when they separated us it was as if a special link we shared had been broken, never to be mended. My sister was my best friend and they took my best friend away from be for their own selfish, misguided reasons.

I will never know if my grades improved because the school put Candice in another class, but initially I was totally lost without my soulmate. Even in the first grade we were expected to know the alphabet and numbers but I had difficulty learning them. I had a friend who took pity on me as she saw me struggle through each lesson and not really fully understand what was being taught. When we had exercises she would actually write the answer on her handbag and let me look at it so that I could respond correctly. I had no idea what the answer was supposed to be and am sure that the teacher knew what was going on. In first grade, I was completely out of my depth.

On one occasion my teacher wrote a story on the blackboard and told us our task was to copy, letter for letter, the story onto writing paper. I looked at the board, saw the mass of letters, and was too overwhelmed with magnitude of what she was asking me to do to write so much as one letter, much less the entire blackboard. I sat powerless, unable to turn in any work at all because it seemed just too great a task for me to complete. It should come as no surprise, therefore, to discover that my first report card contained three Fís. I had no idea what my teacher wrote about me because my reading skills were almost non-existent. When I brought my report card home, my mother didnít say a word when she saw my grades. I can only conclude that because my mother faired so poorly academically that she expected the same from her children. My mother had incredibly such low expectations of me, and unfortunately I lived down to them.

One minor bright point in my first abysmal year at school was the fact that try as I may, I could just never get to grips with my alphabet. The fact that I could not remember my alphabet tormented my 6 year old mind as I was lagging further and further behind my classmates. I was so embarrassed and humiliated that I could not grasp such a simple thing that everybody else seemed to be able to understand, I am sure this affected my already poor grades. While I was staying at my grandmotherís house during the Christmas break from school, I woke up one morning able to recite the alphabet perfectly. I was so pleased with myself that I repeated it over and over so that I would not forget it. When I returned to school after my two week break, my reading level dramatically improved and I was soon moved from the lowest reading group to the highest within a matter of weeks. When I was able to master the art of reading my grades improved immensely and I suppose that I received a boost to my confidence.

During my first year of school a woman came into the classroom and spoke to my teacher. She singled me out of the group of children and asked me how I got the nasty scar above my left eye. ďA dog bit me,Ē I informed the woman. That is the story that I had been told and I merely recited to her the version of events that I had learned.

I do not know whether or not I answered the woman correctly because I cannot remember a response. I do, however, know that I would not be attending that school the following year.

Somehow I managed to make it through me first year of school. It was a difficult year for me because I was very confused and not sure exactly what it was I was supposed to be doing. My sister, however, did not fair as well as I did and was made to re-sit the first grade. I donít think her self esteem ever recovered from having to watch her classmates move forward while she was left behind.