Friday, September 19, 2008

One Summer Morning

The sun is shining but I am not. I am lying on the floor crumpled up in fetal position, bawling. There are pains moving in slow motion down my lower back through my hips and down my legs. It goes on and on. My belly is a knot. I’ve never experienced anything like this
in my twelve short years. I feel like I am dying but the pain is so alive.

I had gotten up in the morning as usual, had breakfast and listened to my mother give us her orders for the day. She was on her way over the pass to Idaho where she would get groceries for the ten people in our family. She’d be home about dinnertime.

My assignment was to fix lunch. Ham sandwiches and carrots with some leftover cottage cheese green Jell-O. All the food groups. I mentally calculated how many carrots and slices of bread; but I wasn’t feeling any too chipper. We had been taught to take care of ourselves so I didn’t say anything. Mother had enough on her mind as it was.

We watched her drive off in the green woody station wagon. My brothers went running down to the river and my sisters argued about which kind of cookies they wanted to make. I sat on the sofa with my book. By now I was feeling rotten. My stomach hurt. I went into the bathroom and threw up. I went back to my book but instead I lay down on the floor in the sun thinking maybe I would feel better soon. That is when the pains started marching down my back. (Years later I would learn that this was something called back labor, unusual for young girls with menstrual cramps)

I look up to a sea of familiar faces staring down at me. “What’s the matter, Kappy?” Asks my little sister with a worried look. I shudder through another pain as it hits my pelvic floor. My twin brother, Jack, bends down to put a hand on my shoulder. He knows I am in pain and for once in our dual life together he shows sympathy.

Far in a distant land I hear another brother say, “she’s probably got a‘pendicts, people die from that you know.”

I am riding on another wave of ripping pain as it slides over my hips and down my legs. In a sea of pain, my soul moves out of my body and I look down on myself. I see my siblings moving around me. Someone brings a blanket and sits next to me. I watch my little sister go find, Marie, who is making cookies. Marie is in charge when Mother is gone. She does her job lovingly, like any good Nazi.

I am sweating and cold at the same time and still bawling. I can’t seem to stop crying. Marie comes into the room licking a big wooden spoon filled with cookie dough. She stands looking down at me for a moment.

“COM’ on, get up and quit that!” She says as she kicks my tush. Mind you, it’s not a hard kick but it did bring me back to reality. I roll over moaning.

She kicks me again saying, “COM’ on! You gotta fix lunch pretty soon. It’s just your period and you can’t let that bother you.”

It seems like a year before Mother arrives with a car full of groceries. My younger siblings run out to greet her saying, “Mom, Mom, Jesse’s been crying all day and she won’t tell us why.”

Marie meets Mom at the door saying, “Oh, it’s nothing she’s just being dramatic.”

I get a little sympathy from Mother as she makes me a cup of tea explaining about cramps (something none of my other sisters ever experienced) as she unpacks bags of groceries.

In fact, it was my second menstrual period. I had had some bloody spotting about three months earlier without cramping. I had not told my mother because she was busy that day. It was my older sisters who had fixed me up with a used belts and a kotex (not used). They had shown me where the box was kept and how to roll it up in toilet paper like a little package to throw away. It was our little secret, except they didn’t tell me about the pain…

As a bonus they did me that dad couldn’t hit us now that we had our periods.


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