Screams from Childhood - Walls

Biography Barbara Rogers
Foreword: A Hero Child
Chapter 1
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Hotto Memories

during my visit to the island
Hotto shows me a black and white photo of my sister and me
we are about two and three years old
I am moved—how enchanting we look
but stunned to see us wearing beautiful dresses
I remember how my mother opposed anything pretty
as frivolous, superfluous, unnecessary clothing
Hotto tells me that she begged my mother for months
to give her money to buy fabric for these dresses
which Hotto herself sewed for us

Hotto tells me how we met—your parents at that time
lived on the upper floor of your grandparents' house
my room was a small garret in a huge, dark, unfinished attic
if I had not been so afraid of the dark
I would have run away that first night

I was inspected most carefully
right away during the first hours I was supposed to feed you
three adults—your mother, father
and the nurse who took care of your newborn sister
were watching me spellbound
you beamed at me—you accepted me spontaneously
you made the difference—and I stayed

then you could not walk by yourself
you did that for the first time on my birthday in June
which is why I remember it so clearly


Hotto's father worked in a coal mine
they lived on the other side of town
when Hotto went home to her parents on her weekend off
she described to them what the rich family where she was living
would eat for their meals and she told her parents
we eat better than they do

born at yearly intervals we three sisters shared a bedroom
where we were shoved away to bed always much too early

my sister remembers with breathtaking clarity
horrible scenes from our childhood
she recalls how we were lying in the dark
not allowed to use light, to read or to talk
I told stories to ease our lonelinessbut if Hotto would hear it
she would come in to beat all three of us with a dress hanger

my sister recountsHotto would always beat you first
the youngest sister nextand then she would come to me
but I would plead with herplease, please, Hotto, DON'T!
and then Hotto would hit me only once

you would be lying there in the darksobbing
you always had such a tendency to make a fuss about things
this last remark about me my sister says with contempt

Hotto tells me how she leftfor a long time
I had been playing with the thought of becoming a midwife
but the tuition was a lot of money for my parents and me
finally the moment was thereI gave notice a whole year ahead
your father made my life difficult from then on
he only talked with me officially and reproached me
saying I acted irresponsibly towards the five of you

maybe he was rightuntil then you actually were my children
but I also wanted to make my dreams come true

you and your brothers and sisters never seemed changed to me

but you never talked to me about anything anymore
whereas before I got to know everything

when I was ten years old
Hotto came back to stay with us again for another two years
to help when my youngest brother was born
years laterI was a mother by then but not yet in therapy
she told me about her return which I had forgotten
she saidwhen I came back you were not "my" child anymore
I answered spontaneously
maybe I was angry at you for leaving me

the summer after I have started therapy
I visit my parents on the island
I call Hotto whom I have not seen in years
therapy has brought up memories of her

while I talk to Hotto on the phone I notice the expression
on my mother's face across from me
bitter, insulted, angryher strong resentment
that I make this phone call to reach out to Hotto fills the room
her expression says, without wordshow can you do this to me
Hotto hears my voice and says with warmth
what is the matter, Barbara? you sound sad

in this moment I grasp
the treacherous entanglement of the relationships
between memy motherHottoand my father
where jealousy and resentmentbitterness and possessiveness
sided the rectangle that, as a child, I considered love


© Barbara Rogers

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Screams from Childhood