I’d like to welcome fellow Decadent author, Leanne Dyck to my blog today to share with us her interpretation of my blog series, My Writing Family. Oh, and you may want to grab a tissue before you read any further.
Come with me to my grade two classroom, where a fragile eight-year-old girl cowers in her desk, willing flesh, bone and, tissue to dissolve into the steel of the seat. Please, don’t call on me. Please don’t call on me. I’m shivering.
“Leanne, read the next passage,” the teacher says, throwing me to the jackals.
My hands begin to shake. My forehead tightens.
“Oh, no, not her. We’ll be here all day,” sneers a fellow student.
I peer at the page, attempting to find sense in the swirl of words that confront me. The letters leap, spin and twist – refusing to be captured. I focus all my effort on one word, the first word. I wrestle with it, attempting to contain it.
The first letter is an “s”, I tell myself. It makes the sound of a snake.
I smile contently. I have begun.
Next letter. I look at it.
That’s a “p”, I think.
I look again and in front of my eyes, the letter has undergone a magical transformation. It has become a “t”.
Panic grips me.
This is taking way too long.
I feel eyes drilling holes in my flesh. A clock ticks loudly. The sweet aroma of the teacher’s perfume engulfs my nostrils. Outside a bird calls. My senses are assaulted. I can’t shut anything out. I can’t focus.
I just want this to end. Please, please, I don’t want to be here any more, I pray.
“S-sp-o-ot-t.” I say feebly, doubtfully.
The class giggles. The jackals smell their prey. My face burns. My heart thunders between my ears.
“Sound it out, Leanne.” Frustration, annoyance fills her voice. She is a young teacher, fresh out of university. The responsibility for the classroom weighs heavily on her shoulders.
I’m not a bad girl. I long to tell her. I want to be good. I want to do well. I want to make you happy. I’m trying. Really, honestly I am but…but…
I look down at the page. I can find no words, only tiny black marks on the white page. I find no meaning there. I am caught in a blizzard – I am blind to words.
“Stop,” I blurt out, guessing.
I am cornered. The class howls with piercing celebratory laughter.
My inner voice screams. “You’re dumb! You can’t learn! You can’t do anything! Everyone laughs at you! You are STU-PID!!”
I try to ignore their laughter. I try to silence my self-debasing.
I am mustering up all my resources to continue my battle when the teacher cuts my progress short.
“Carla, please continue.”
The class heaves a collective sigh of relief.
Pretty Carla sits straight and tall on her chair, her head held high. The book rests in her palms like a hymnal. She reads the words; they flow together like a song – the teacher smiles.
I am a big, awkward moose. Carla is a meadowlark. She sings sweetly and others listen. They don’t laugh at her. She soars with words. I stumble and fall. She belongs. I don’t. She is normal. I am a freak.
At home, away from my classmates’ prying eyes, sheltered in my mother’s arms, I cry. I don’t tell her why.
“Sh-h-h, honey.” She tries to comfort me. “Things will get better.”
I don’t believe her.
One day she tells me, “the teacher says you need special help.” She can’t hide the disappointment in her eyes.
Recess is no longer a time to run and play – no, not for me. Instead, my “special” teacher and I are squirreled away in the only available classroom – the kindergarten room. There on miniature brightly painted furniture I struggle to catch up.
Catch up, become normal. I wonder if this is possible.
My classmates know.
“Baby, Retard,” they label me.
And I believe them.
“I can’t” and “help me” become my most used phrases.
Despite the opinions of some educators and social workers, my parents continue to believe in the soundness of my intellect. Their challenge is to reveal it to me.
My mother attempts to teach me to cook, to bake, to sew, to knit. I greet each invitation with a roar.
“No! I can’t! I’m too stupid!”
“I can teach her,” my grandmother says. “I can reach her.”
My grandmother says, “With tender care, among the thorns grows a rose.”
My grandma is a sorceress. Her hands work magic on everything from seeds to flour to yarn. She chooses me to be her apprentice.
Visiting with my grandma is a treat. I love to sit beside her as she shares the secrets of her craft.
When she begins to teach me to knit, I want to throw the needles, I want to storm away but I can’t. I can’t act that way in front of Grandma. I have to try.
One tentative stitch leads to others. My inner critical voice slowly begins to be silenced by her kind encouraging words. “You catch on so fast! Your stitches are so even! You’re finished already?”
I am empty – she fills me.
The knitting basics are revealed. I learn to cast on, knit, purl and cast off. I knit a square. I knit more squares and make a doll’s blanket.
I am so proud.
Maybe, just maybe I’m not stupid.
Aspiring knitwear designer Gwen Bjarnon is stuck in Purgatory. To escape, she must re-examine her life, journey through her past and right a wrong.
But which wrong?
Young and in love, she works to establish her career, except fate has different plans. One rash act and she looses everything. Never resting, always seeking and yearning for what she can no longer have, Gwen faces the truth: if she remains, others are destined to die.
How will she solve the mystery before it is too late?