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25 October 1989

Childhood

I was born with an inherent sense of rejection & a strong feeling that I shouldn't be here. I was raised in a Godless & emotionally neglectful home. My earliest childhood memory is hiding in the dark closet at maybe 4 years old whilst drunk parents were fighting crockery flying across the room. For years I doubted this specific memory until 3 years ago when my brother confirmed it was true. As a little child I would throw tantrums in order to get some attention from my parents, because to me being scolded was better than being ignored. I vividly remember having my head shoved under the cold water tap for crying hence I spent the rest of my life suppressing my tears. To add insult to injury, my mom once told me I wasn't planned. My brother often teased me endlessly until I got a hiding for screaming in frustration.


I lost my grandparents & other relatives to migration when we immigrated to South Africa in October 1975. My parents never encouraged communication, so they became strangers we'd only see once more 4 years later. After that many more moves followed, I stopped counting at 30 by the time I was 20. This included 9 different primary schools & 3 high schools which included about 5 years of boarding school 3-4 hours away from home. All of that caused severe social anxiety & left me feeling like an outsider struggling to make & maintain friendships for the rest of my life. I stopped trying to fit & make friends because friendships wouldn't survive snail mail & regular moves.


Ouboet & I spent many days home alone with the domestic worker, Liesbet, there in the morning & back in her little house on the other end of the lifestyle block the rest of the day. Dad would hang out at the pub most days after work. Mom was a restaurant manageress & would sleep at work often. There were times we didn't see either of them for weeks. At that stage I was still scared of the dark & would switch mom & dad's bedside radio & the hall light on before going to bed. They would switch off when they got home & by the time we woke up would be gone to work already.


In 1977 mom sent us to a German boarding school about 4 hours away from home. On weekends when the other kids went home, we'd remain because it was just too far to fetch us every weekend. After a few months, my classmate started to invite us to their farm & her parents would become the first set of "parents" that would introduce us to a Godly life.


After 2 years dad's speeding fines on every trip to & from boarding school became too much for the budget so by the end of 1979 we were home alone again. Fortunately, we had gotten new neighbours across the road who would become best friends. We would spend most of our time visiting them & were treated like part of the family. For the first time in my childhood I experienced family the way God intended. I gained 2 sisters & a brother. On Sundays they would go to church & invite us to go with them, which we did for a long time.


My parents divorced when I was 10 after which mom dropped us with our neighbours/friends across the road. I would later hear it was because she didn't want us anymore. At that stage, my brother & I were severely malnourished having lived mostly on mieliepap, bread & eggs. We didn't know the difference between carrots & pumpkin or cabbage & lettuce. I remember hating the taste of the tonic the doctor prescribed so much that when Mams took the bottle out, I ran & hid outside. Mams & Paps loved us like their own, but unfortunately this joy was short lived because 3 months later mom came back to fetch us. She was moving provinces & her new boyfriend had insisted she bring her children along & I wouldn’t see them again for a few years. I often thought my dad didn’t love us because mom said he didn’t care when we asked why he never phoned. Years later I would find out that she’d told him we didn’t want to speak to him.


There were a few more boyfriends after that & when I was 12 mom remarried. We were in boarding school at the time & hardly knew him. Initially he seemed a fine guy but when we were home permanently again, we quickly learnt he too had alcohol abuse issues & would budget his monthly alcohol purchases over the grocery budget. 5 days after my 13th birthday my little sister was born & from then on. Suddenly things changed at home. He now had his own daughter and I felt no longer important. For me this meant more rejection because suddenly I could do nothing right. I related to Cinderella, being good enough only to wash the dishes, doing house chores, changing nappies, babysitting & having to take sis out to play in the local park. I loved her to bits but hated how she was everything to my parents, but my existence was barely noted & nothing I did or achieved was ever good enough.


Not long after that I was molested by a family friend when he would come visit us with his wife. He was such a kind person but whenever he visited with my mom & stepdad, they would drink a lot & when he was drunk he'd touch me in places that made me cringe. At the time I had no sense of personal boundaries & didn't know about inappropriate touching. The confusion, guilt & shame that brought was immense. Is this how people showed love, but why so much guilt & shame? I couldn't talk to my mom about it because I felt she either wouldn't believe me or would blame me for it so I just shut down & buried it as deep as I could. I was glad when my step-dad was transferred & we moved to the other end of the country so I didn't have to see these people again.


The next few years of my youth are a blur of struggle for survival. My abuser reappeared on the scene again for a period of time but thankfully, in our last year of high school mom decided to send us to boarding school, again 3 hours away from home, because of the nightly turmoil over my step-dad's regular drunkenness. When I finished school, I wanted out, so I moved to Cape Town, to live with Mams & Paps. I can't remember the details how it happened, but I ended up teaching sewing lessons at Deo Gloria Christian School in Napier when I was 19. Due to me not having a car or license, Oom Leon & Tannie Jacobi took me into their home for about a year. Once again I was loved like their own daughter & during this time, I first gave my heart to God, was baptised & experienced deliverance from depression for the first time. I had such strong support that I was always singing joyfully. Even though my mom at that stage wanted nothing to do with me until I “changed back” to the way I ways before, & my brother started ignoring me because of stories my mom & step-mom told him, I was fairly content because I had my church family supporting me through that pain.

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