As it turns out I leapt from the frying pan straight into the fire-but that is a story for another day.
We had moved up from the old ramshackle farmhouse into a larger, more modern house yes, but a trailer none the less.
It was situated in a yard that had been carved out of a pasture(newly fenced by us-post holes dug, wire fencing stretched and stapled and gates hung largely by we kids) and was- in my memory-an acre at least though possibly two, all of which we kids mowed with a cranky push mower.
We had a laundry room fully equipped though we had to hang clothes on the line that stretched across the back of the yard within reaching distance of the fence we had built to separate our yard from the pasture behind the house.
We didn't compost, but kitchen scraps and grease were to be dumped over the fence- and my decision to ignore that rule resulted in the worst beating of my life. It was a very cold afternoon-winter still-and it was, I thought, too freezing cold to make the four minute walk to the fence row and back again.
I underestimated my father's temper and ability to discern my transgression that day.
To my regret.
Understand that this was not the first time my father had employed his own special dialect of corporal punishment(which I do believe has a place-a carefully thought out, extremely controlled place to be sure-in the lexicon of discipline) and as a group we children had an unspoken agreement to hold the cries and tears as long as possible-to refuse to cater to his need to break our spirit as well as our body.
I think I need another drink to finish this story-hold on a sec..
Within moments of my transgression-the pouring of perhaps a third of a cup of grease as far over the side of the porch as I could stretch(I know, as an adult, that what I did was unwise from a pest and smell point of view-I don't argue that at all)-my father had dragged me outside, whipped off his heavy leather belt and then proceeded to swing that hard strap up and down my backside from kidneys to knees, over and over again in a vain attempt to get me to cry out.
My legs gave out before my tongue did as I danced to the song that belt whistled on its way to strike my flesh.
How do I end this tale.
With my father's apparent remorse as he took us all out to eat that night for Chinese which was my favorite?
With my pain and discomfort as I tried to sit in that hard pleather booth-knowing that every bite I took had been purchased with my blood?
With the embarrassment and strange glee I felt whipping down my pants and showing the school counselor and secretary the reason I refused to dress out for P.E. that day and hearing their collective gasps as they viewed the 2 inch wide welts colored in dark black scabs and livid blues, those fresh violent flowers that bloomed over my lower back and legs?
Do I end it with the feeling of hope that I had? That at last the pain was out in the open and would perhaps end?
Do I end it with my feelings of betrayal and despair, which were all that were left when my siblings denied the abuse we endured?
Or do I thank my father for teaching me that it is possible to survive the pain and betrayal of those we love and who love us and for giving me the strength to do so?
Because I have learned more about pain since I left my father's house than even he could ever have dreamed of.
And I have more than survived.