Posts Tagged ‘ReFoRm ScHoOl’
The day the beast took me to court is a day I always find difficult to relive. Not because she lied to the judge and said she felt physically in danger of me. Not even because she said she no longer wanted me, given up on me. I was too difficult – a troubled child.
What hurts the most about that day are the tears she shed when I was remanded into the custody of the court system. In less than 15 minutes I had been charged, found guilty and convicted of being incorrigible “a person in need of supervision” or “PINS” is what they called it. I was a PINS case and I wasn’t given a single opportunity to defend myself nor was my presence even barely acknowledged. Everyone was too worried about the single mother of three who had an uncontrollable monster at home. Somehow in my 15 years, I had become the BEAST.
As she was escorted out of the court room in hysterics, I witnessed the comforting arms of the court officers, consoling the beast, assuring her that everything would be ok, she did the right thing. And there I stood, watching this display, alone, handcuffed as even my own court appointed lawyer took her in his arms. Waiting for the bullshit to end, all I could think of is how I would get her back. Next, I was escorted to my cell to wait for the sheriffs to take me to my new home. I was now a possible foster child on my way to minimum security jail or as they referred do it – “reform school” That day was hard for me to swallow, but what was even harder was learning years later that the beast felt she was teaching me a lesson “for my own good” about obedience.
My first day at was much like many other girls that came and went. I had my intake interview where I was explained the rules of the facility and the point system. See, at my new home all activities of my daily routine would be graded by counselors barely out of high school who had no education, experience, or training on how to deal with a child like me. They would assign the appropriate amount of points that they felt I deserved and at 5pm each day I would be presented with a point sheet that held my evaluation. Personal hygiene, chores, eating manners, condition of my room, activities, wake up, lights out – ALL POINTS! All the time!
After intake I was brought up to the second floor where 6 apartments were set up and each one housed 14 girls. I would have 13 roommates of my own and only see the other inhabitants during meals and school. I was shown my room and abandoned to cry. They allowed you to do that on your first day, they wanted you to get it out so they wouldn’t have to deal with it later. That was the last time that I cried in my teens. From that day until the day my brother died, I did not shed a tear, not a single tear. Tears would not protect me from my lemonade being spiked with bleach, a fork stabbed into my arm or the riot that sent in over a hundred policemen and fireman to overtake my prison.
Tears were for the weak and I would make it out of this experience alive and when I turned 18 and could not be forced to do anything that I didn’t want to do, I would go to college and make a life for myself. I would become something, anything. I would never allow anyone to hurt me and tears were not an option towards this goal.
Sister Gertrude was tough, she took no bullshit and she was always there. I don’t think Sister ever slept, she couldn’t have. She supervised all of our meals; she just stood there at the front of the cafeteria and watched us eat. If anyone acted up during these meals, all would suffer. Sister Gertrude meant business. Ironically and what still makes me laugh to this day is that you were allowed to smoke cigarettes. This was our encouraged reward. My perception of religion was changing a bit.
A mean nun who pushed cigarette addiction to mold your behavior was just too much for me to comprehend on my first day.
Depending on the accumulation of points on your sheet, you could earn up to 5 cigarettes a day and 3 of these were after mealtime. Sister would turn on the smoke filter and one group at a time we would be called up to the front of the cafeteria. Since we were not allowed to carry cigarettes or any method of fire, sister held them for us, and we stood on line until it was our turn to light a cigarette off of a white candle held by a nun. It was the same ritual meal after meal day after day…unless.. someone acted up, and then our well earned cigarette privilege was lost and the bitch who caused it would pay later…in some way or another. Even though I was well into a pack per day by the time I was 12, I am convinced that it is here that my true addiction to cigarettes began because even when I am able to put in various months of surrender to these rolled up pieces of dirt, it is always the after meal cigarette that I miss the most.
The school was run pretty much the same as the living arrangements. You were to be in uniform at all times and had to wear a pin on your vest with your level number. Newcomers were automatically put on level 1 with basic privileges and could earn their way up or down, depending on behavior. Level 0 was the worst because you were not allowed to talk to anyone and anyone who was caught talking to you was automatically put on level 0. This level was the bottom of the bottom, no cigarettes, social interaction or food with the group. The only privilege allowed on this level was school. After that it was in your room for room restriction and T-table as they termed it, where you were forced to sit at a table for hours and stare at the wall. T-Table sentences were usually given in three hour intervals. Reading material of any kind was not permitted and if you slipped from your upright position, more hours of T-table were assigned. I don’t know why they called it that, but if the T stood for torture, it was a very appropriate name. I was put on this level every time I ran away and I found it a bit comforting, it was as if you didn’t exist and that was what I was used to – I loved level 0.
The school had its very own point system. At the end of each class, we were to be evaluated by our teacher and if, at the end of the week we earned enough points, we were given the opportunity to watch a movie on Friday afternoons in lieu of classes. It was not difficult to earn these movies as the classes were filled with girls of all ages and levels of schooling, so competing with 11 year olds was not too difficult and to my embarrassment I looked forward to these movies each week. Not because they were interesting or because I hadn’t already seen them before, but because it bucked the system. The school received government money for all classes we attended and most of these classes were barely more than coloring books and the basic survival skill of ensuring that the bitch sitting behind you didn’t fuck with you. The teachers at this school were in fear of us horrible human beings and if someone hunted you, a teacher would surely not get in the way.
I was brought to the “school” in the summer of my 15th year. I was evaluated by social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists’ school personnel etc. Every move I made from my behavior to my bowel movements was recorded for one month. After that month, “the school” made their evaluation and it was suggested to the judge that it would take at least 18 months to cure my behavior and he agreed. I would reform myself and then maybe I would be well enough to grace another family with my presence and become a foster child. From my experiences, I learned that the only thing families wanted from a 16 year old foster child like me was chores and sex. I was not about to become someone else’s slave and if I was going to fuck someone’s husband or daddy it would be on my terms, not against my will.
When I was escorted into the courtroom after my 30 day evaluation the handcuffs digging into my wrists, the beast was there. She didn’t acknowledge my presence or look in my direction, but seemed to be very upset upon hearing that I displayed behavior of an abused child. It was next mentioned that I was severely depressed and that I could be a danger to myself. The beast had heard enough, she lost control. Yelling at a judge who had no tolerance for white trash, she dug a deep grave for herself. “Always blame the mother, always blame the mother, she is from the devil.” “You are all alike, believe an evil child over her mother, she’s a liar.”
See, the beast thought I had told on her, sold her out, put blame on her. What she didn’t understand is that for some reason, still unknown to me I protected her. Not only did I not sell her out that time, but I never told anyone until now the story of her abuse. Maybe I wanted to protect her, or my brother, or maybe I was just ashamed. Whatever it was, the beast never would believe it and she didn’t speak to me again for over 2 years. What I didn’t know was that the judge sent the beast for a psychiatric evaluation of her own that day and the results of that evaluation were enough for the court system to fully take me out of her custody.
According to the legal system, I no longer had parents. I don’t know what the beast could have said or done to cause this because she had always been good at playing the victim, but whatever it was, it made her mad and as thankful I was that I was not at home, I feared for Jeffrey. The beast most surely punished him for my sins and the guilt of leaving him alone with the beast is still so shameful that I can not find it within to forgive myself. I abandoned him as Billy had done to me one year earlier.
As other girls earned weekend visits with their families, I spent mine eating and watching TV, making myself throw up and exercising in the middle of the night. I spent each of these weekends wondering why no one cared, why my now 19 year old brother never came on visiting Sunday or why my father who I barely knew didn’t even write me a letter.
I was alone.