Silence is Golden
Patricia Marie Allen’s Story
My oldest sibling is my sister, ten years my senior. Next in line is my brother, eight years older. Then my next sister, five years older. Finally me. You might notice two gaps in the ages. I’m the youngest of four surviving children born to my parents. Two died in infancy. They would have filled in the gaps.
My story is softer and gentler then many I’ve heard, but no less heart wrenching to live through. Actually, I didn’t need to learn to be silent. I knew instinctively that I couldn’t tell anyone about who I really was. I don’t actually remember my parent’s splitting up but I know it was when I was about four years old. What I remember about it was the train trip from Kansas to Oregon with my mother. Less then a year later, my brother went back to Kansas to live with my father.
That left me to live with my mother and two sisters. I don’t think that being in an all female environment had anything to do with me being who I was, but I do think it allowed me to be free in expressing myself in ways I would never have been able to express had my father been around. My sister naturally included me in her play. No dress up or anything like that, but I did play with paper dolls and other “girl’s toys.” I learned to embroidery when she did. I learned to dance like her. When I was in kindergarten, I remember walking down the hall from my bedroom to the bathroom with my shirt off. I had taken my nipples between thumb and forefinger, pulling them out to pointed little pseudo breasts. My sister came out of the bathroom and mildly chastised me. At eleven years of age, her chest looked a lot like that without her assistance. I’m sure she thought I was making fun of her, but honestly, she was not on my mind. It just seemed natural to expect that was what my chest would one day look like. Another tidbit of information is that my best friend was a girl who lived down the street. In my mind, there was no difference between her and me. She was my friend and of all the kids in the neighborhood, I’d rather play at her house then any other. My favorite over two boys who lived just as close. This persisted until the next important thing that happened and somewhat beyond it until we moved.
The next happening of import came when a stranger showed up at my door calling me by name, and my mother introduced him as my father. He had come to reconcile with my mother. This lasted all of about three months. It seems my mother was unable or unwilling to lose the boyfriend she had at the time. She, fearing my fathers temper might cause him to hurt the boyfriend, (her story, learned when I was nineteen) took off with the boyfriend for California, never again to be in my life.
It was then that my life became a struggle. I loved my mother and for years swore that had I the chance, I’d happily join her. I suppose that somewhere in the back of my mind, I blamed my father for driving my mother away. I learned later the truth of the matter was that my mother was less then honorable in her marriage vows and had made the choices all on her own. Be that as it may, I had a hard time adjusting from the soft gentle way my mother treated me to the more demanding expectations of my father. Looking back I can see that I was a mama’s boy. After all, I was mom’s baby. The youngest and a last child she would ever have. Crying had always swayed the way things were going with mom, not so with dad. In fact, one of the first things my brother told me was that if I wanted to get along with dad, I should learn not to cry. … A demand for silence.
Continued in part two.