Today is also Child Abuse Prevention Day. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The reason I mention Missy is that I needed to know these dates, and since she doodles obscure holidays, I asked her if she'd run across these in her research. Obviously, she had, or it didn't take much for her to find them for me, as well as February 9: National Stop Bullying Day, February 20: World Day for Social Justice, June 9: World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse, October 2: International Day of Non-Violence (Mahatma Gandhi's birthday), October 6: Blue Shirt Day (World Day of Bullying Prevention), November 19: World Day for Prevention of Abuse and Violence, and November 20: Universal Children's Day.
Some of you may know my feelings about the topic of child abuse. Some may not. What follows is a monologue of sorts, that I wrote when I was in the Associate (nee "Apprentice") Acting Program at Theatre West in Los Angeles. We, the Associates, were about to participate in TW's WestFest presentation of original works, and our "play" was called "Your Roots Are Showing." It was designed to tell our community who we were, where we came from, and what made us tick. My original piece was about my love of jumping - on beds or trampolines or pogo sticks or over a spinning rope or into hopscotch squares. Another girl talked about running, so I figured jumping was an appropriate topic. As you will read, the moderator of our group (and "editor" of our "play") felt I should dig deeper. I give you, "Monster in My Closet":
STAGE DIRECTION: I play "ring around the rosie" and leapfrog by myself, with only my teddy bear as companion, in a small circle of light. The rest of the stage is dark. Stop playing, and step forward into center of light, facing the audience.
I am afraid of the dark. It's because I have a monster in my closet.
My Daddy drinks a lot. HIS Daddy drinks a whole lot. Daddy doesn't act funny when he drinks, but Grandpa does. I don't know about when Daddy was growing up, but I know about ME and Grandpa.
Grandpa's jobs always take him all over the world, so whenever they live in America, he and Grandma spend as much time with their kids as they can. They come visit us, or sometimes, we go visit them. Days are spent doing whatever is fun in town. Over dinners, we hear stories of Daddy and his brothers. After dinner, my brother and sister and I go play a game or something, and the grown-ups stay up real late to play pinochle. We kids go to bed, expecting more fun tomorrow.
At some point in the middle of the night, in the dark quietness of the house, I wake up to a strange touch. Or to hear my sister crying (STAGE DIRECTION: one female voice or all female voices crying out of the darkness): "Go away, Grandpa. Grandpa, go to bed. Leave me alone, Grandpa. DON'T TOUCH HER, GRANDPA!" His breath always stinks, and he very quietly tells us to just go back to sleep and forget about it. And we don't like to go back to sleep, in case he comes back in. But we do go back to sleep, and we never talk about it to each other, and I don't think Mommy knows.
And then the next day, he's fun again. We do whatever is planned, living our happy childhoods, and never mention the nighttime. But always, the day they go back HOME is the best day of the visit.
CHARACTER TRANSITION from ~6 years old to ten.
Now I'm ten years old, and my grandparents live in Alaska. This summer, Mommy packed up us kids into the Volkswagen camper, and we drove all across the country from Miami, Florida, so we could spend a month with them. It was an educational summer. We learned the state capitols and saw both oceans, the Redwood forests, Niagara Falls, and Mount Rushmore. It even snowed in Yosemite, THIS SUMMER! In Alaska, we fished for salmon, and then we smoked it and canned it and ate it. We visited a glacier and hiked through tundra looking for ferns to eat for a salad. Yech. But we were there for a month, and every night my sister and I would try to find a way to lock the door, and we'd pray that Grandpa would NOT visit us that night. It was good to see Grandma, and Alaska was interesting, but only the two months with Mommy, criss-crossing the country, including picking up 3 hitchhikers, was SAFE.
CHARACTER TRANSITION from ten years to about twelve.
That Alaska summer is long over, and now they live in Maryland. Everybody's planning and packing. I don't want to go. I love Grandma and Grandpa. But I don't want to go. My sister wants to stay home, too. Mommy wants to know why. We're scared to tell her, but it's more scary to think about spending any more time at night with HIM. Amazingly, she said she'd take care of it, so we get to spend next week with friends.
FINAL CHARACTER TRANSITION to "now".
Not until years later did I learn that "I'll take care of it" meant (STAGE DIRECTION: single strong female voice from the darkness speaks) "You touch my babies again, you asshole, and I'll have you thrown in jail."
He never did touch us again. I managed to forgive him by the time I got through college. Grandpa died knowing that for me, my siblings, and my cousins, he was the only Monster ever in the closet.