A rare day, as my mom, a woman never keen on having me or spending time with me plunked her 7 or 8-year-old (can’t recall) mistake in the car, and off we went.
Near silence, and forty minutes later, we arrived at our destination. The door opened, I jumped from the seat and followed my master like a teensy lost puppy.
“What are we doing, Mama? Why are we here?”
“Follow me, and behave yourself.”
The lady’s wishes were my command, and I quietly shuffled along until an oversized wooden door loomed in front of us. With all her might she pulled it open, then pushed her puzzled little girl in front of her.
A brilliant sunshiney day, when our steps took us inside, temporary blindness made my eyes squint, and stop dead in my tracks. Through the haze, the outline of a robust man appeared, and the aromatic scent of a woodsy cologne wafted to my nose.
“Well, hello little Miss. How are you this fine day?”
A gentle and inviting voice and he led us to a table.
“Please sit. Would you like a Shirley Temple (ginger ale with cherries) young lady?”
“Oh, yes please.”
Off he went, and I asked my mother about the stranger and questioned why we came to this place. Mirrors and fancy bottles sparkled behind a beautiful intricately carved, mahogany bar running the length of the room.
Couples lingered in dark, secluded corners, and some climbed a towering staircase to the second floor where doors opened and closed.
In the course of explaining this as a “drinking” restaurant for adults, our host reappeared with my sugary concoction, and something more potent for Mother and one for himself.
“This is my friend, Samuel.”
The kind Mr. Sam took a seat and attempted small talk with me, but a shy kid, one unaccustomed to going anywhere, he only elicited pecks of conversation. Distractions lurked everywhere. The tinkling of glasses, whispering, giggling voices and spritely jaunts up and down the staircase fascinated me.
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN???
What is everyone doing up there?
Momma and her man buddy leaned into each other, shared smiles, and affections. I tried not to stare at the two of them, peeking only from the corner of my eye, but I was confused. What about Dad?
At the moment of departure, strict instruction came.
“Now, don’t you dare tell a soul about this, especially your father. You know how he is and he would be so angry, terribly furious, and we can’t upset him now, can we? This is our secret.”
“No, I promise I won’t tell anyone.”
The warning didn’t fall on unhearing ears, for she spoke the truth. Most outsiders viewed the man who fathered me as a likable fellow, generous, but to us, his immediate family, the man represented downright meanness and reigned by fear.
In some ways, I understood Mom’s dalliance. The master of the house scared the crap out of her, my sister, and me. Not a cordial individual, so perhaps, a new friend is okay.
There were subsequent visits, but not to the sweet man’s boozy house of ill-repute. Long drives through pastoral expanses with stops at quaint eateries became the norm, and I came to adore this infrequent father-replacement. A thoughtful gift giver, attentive, he differed from Dad in many ways.
The perpetual “good girl,” I kept my mouth shut, and Mom’s affair became my very first secret.
The relationship fizzled, and Mommy Dearest introduced me to another brief companion, but more came and went, and in my teen years, reality dawned. These others were likely responsible for the hours I found myself home alone on a regular basis since the age of four.
The structure we called home existed as a den of hush-hush, never spoken about happenings. In fact, communication, other than Dad’s flare-ups was almost non-existent. A child should be seen not heard, but in truth, the grown-ups in these surroundings preferred not to lay eyes on my older sister and me, either.
The art of infidelity wasn’t exclusive to my mom, but the old man kept his adultery better hidden, and I never met his girlfriends.
A mere child when the importance of confidentiality imprinted my being, and to this day; I am the consummate keeper of what other’s do not want to become common knowledge. All is safe with this woman, as surely as a tightly locked treasure chest at the bottom of the deep blue sea.
After a life fraught with unspeakable deeds, I’ve chosen to expose the tale of my journey. The horrid, disgusting, monstrous truths, and a period of a somewhat peaceful existence are documented for all to examine in my autobiography, A Good Little Girl, by Kenzie O’Hara.
By disclosure, a path towards understanding and hope may emerge for my comrades of parental neglect, sexual abuse and domestic violence and their loved ones who watch helplessly from the sidelines. If nothing else, perhaps an engaging story, and despite the gravity, wry humor is present.
“You are so brave.” This is a comment I often hear from readers and the publisher of one magazine. Initially the observation surprised me, but after contemplation, I must agree, “Yes, on many levels, I am.”