Hero Child

Biography Barbara Rogers
Foreword: A Hero Child
Chapter 1
Table of Contents
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the fire

once at Christmas a fire broke out
in the living room—where the Christmas tree was standing
and where all the gifts had been unwrapped and were still around

my mother was the last to leave the room
she forgot to extinguish a candle
that stood behind a transparent image with a nativity scene
lit up and made visible by the light of the candle
but when the candle fell into the nativity
flames erupted—climbed up the curtain behind it
and a fire spread in the Christmas room
firemen had to come to extinguish it

I was a teenager—thirteen years old
terrified I had run up and down the stairs again and again
down—because I wanted to get out of a house on fire
but then
I ran back up again
—because the door to the room with the fire
was at the bottom of the stairs on the ground floor
I had to pass the scary door
run by the burning living room
to get to the front door through the big entrance hall
and then out of the house

I did not dare to pass that door

the family gathered at the dinner table the day after the fire
I was the only one
to be criticized by my father in front of the whole family
unforgettable—with burning shame

as if the fire continued within me
this memory—burnt into my brain—
tormented every cell of my body for years
until in therapy I felt compassion
for the teenager
afraid for her life—then—and from her earliest beginnings—
and understood her dilemma

the only one to be reprimanded was the eldest
as my father mocked my fear
how anxious and scared Barbara was
she ran up and down the staircase
like a frightened chicken
how brave the younger sister
who found the telephone number of the fire department

thus the fire was summed up by the powerful patriarch

all the blame and guilt were heaped upon the eldest
while her parents were exempted

there was no criticism for a mother
whose carelessness had started the fire
or for a father who did not bother
to help his frightened child out of a burning house

no wondering about adults
who needed a child’s help to call the fire department

© Barbara Rogers

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Screams from Childhood