Interviewed May, 1999
I’d have to say that I’ll give you my relative history because I’m different than most people. One of the things I do is I define everything. I learned in my childhood and as I was growing up that it was important to do that because otherwise people think they’re talking about the same thing and they’re not. Things were very unclear when I was growing up and continued to be unclear for me until I started doing that. So I can tell you about my relatives‑ relatives are the people you related to by birth, adoption or marriage. Family is created and I didn’t get family until many, many, many years later.
I grew up in northern Indiana between Gary and Chata, Illinois. It was a nice area; I really like northern Indiana. I was raised as the oldest of two children, though I had a brother who was bom before me who died in infancy. It was many years before I knew about that. So it was just me and my brother, who was a year younger than me. My parents divorced when I was three and my mother remarried when I was five. My earliest recollections were at five. My stepfather sexually abused me from when I was five until I was seventeen. My mother emotionally abused me. It wasn’t until ten (or) eleven years ago that I did some more work (and) realized that I had actually been abused for the first time at three. It was at a time when my parents were divorcing and I had been living with (my paternal grandmother) for several months I was later told. She wanted to keep me, but when my parents divorced, my mother wanted me back (and) demanded that I come back. But I never really saw her; she was busy working and doing whatever she had to
do. So I lost my father, I lost my paternal grandmother, who was a loving person, I lost my mother because she wasn’t around, licking her wounds from the divorce and trying to cope with her mother who was not a warm person, a very cold, a very stiff, non nurturing person, and then I was sexually abused by my grandfather. So my world was falling apart at (age) three.
I worked very hard to earn my mother’s love and her respect. I was in choir at is church and I did programs at church. I sang in the youth choir, I did solo work and, at
school, I was the model student. I was the helper and I was always chosen to do
programs there. I was in Girl Scouts and I was in Y Teens. You name it; I was active and busy, but nothing was ever good enough. If I got A!s and B’s, it was “Why didn’t you get A!s?”. If I got second place in a contest it was “Why didn’t you get first?” So no matter how much I did, it wasn’t good enough. Finally, at fifteen, I attempted suicide. I can count on one hand the number of really, really, really painful experiences in my life that really stand out and that was really one of the first. Waking up‑‑I didn’t intend to wake up. I mean, I know now that the number of pills I took weren’t nearly lethal enough to cause me to die. At that time, I thought they were, It was a true attempt. I didn’t expect to wake up but I did. I woke up in the hospital on a gumey and my mother came in and the first words out of her mouth were, “How could you do this to me?” I was already devastated because I’d woken up and, second, she was the last person in the world I wanted to talk to. And then she said that and so, for two weeks, I said nothing. I
wouldn’t talk, I wouldn’t say anything because there was just nothing to say, no one really to listen. The only person I might have spoken to, I couldn’t even ask for that person to come and talk to me. There were happy times and moments in my childhood, times I can look back on remember and enjoy, but almost everything was tainted with the need to prove. I never picked an activity I didn’t like. I did baton twirling, I had dance lessons, I learned to play the trombone in grade school, I did cheerleading, I did music, I did drama, I did speech, I did debate, I sang in choir at school and at church, I did ushering at Church and I taught in the Sunday School and at the Community Center (little kids). I mean, I did lots of stuff, but I never picked anything that I didn’t like I didn’t go into something that I didn’t like, and yet almost all the time I was picking things to be involved in (not for) its sake (but) to be out of the house. It was to prove my worth to my mother, who the only thing important to her was achieving. So while I never picked anything I didn’t like, everything I liked sort of got tainted for the reasons I was in it. So I just sort of lived my
existence Waiting … when I’m 18, when I graduate I can get out of here, (when) I’m an adult I can get out of here.
I had foen in love at thirteen. I met a man at 13 and I knew from the first moment I looked in his eyes (that) I loved him and I knew I would love him my whole life. He was I 8 and had just graduated from high school. The year I started high school I went to summer school. Before I started high school, I went to summer school. See how much of an overachiever I was? I went to summer school before I even started high school to take a couple courses. I was walking to school and this car went by me headed north in the same direction. It tooted its horn and I didwt turn around. The car went by and I never even looked. I could see the car out of the comer of my eye. It was a yellow Impala,
1963 yellow Impala, and I never even looked. So the car came around again and blew its horn again and I never even looked. So I didn’t know who it was. A few days later a friend of mine, Bonita, said that she had a cousin who had a fhend who wanted to meet
me. And I said, “Well, why do he want to meet me?” (She said), “Because they drove by you and you didn’t look and they’re just dying to know who this was.” Her cousin knew who I was. And he went to Bonita and said, “Can you arrange for her to meet?” Well, I wasn’t allowed to date; I was only 13 so, of course, I waswt allowed to date. But all the kids in my neighborhood always walked to the movie on Sundays. That was our Sunday afternoon standard event. We lived close enough to downtown that everybody would walk down to the movie. There were two movies, so she said, “We’ll be at the
Parthenon. ” So she told me and I said, “OK, I’ll go. ” So when we get there, we walk in and we buy our tickets. Her cousin came out and he was very, very, very, very unattractive and I said, “Is that him?” She said, “No, that’s my cousin.” “OK,” (I said.) So then he took us in to where they were sitting and I sat next to this young man. They introduced me and told me his name and told him my name. After the movie he drove me, not to my home, but to the park across from my home where the library was. We stood on the steps talking for an hour or two hours and I knew that I loved him. You know a
song came out that year by, I think, Betty Everett. It was called the Shoop Shoop
Song… “It’s In His Kiss”. “If you want to know, if he loves you so, it’s in his kiss. Is it in his eyes? No, that’s not the way. ” I knew I loved this man but I also, it was a feeling, I knew that if I kissed him I would know for sure. I’d just absolutely. So I would not kiss him. I would not let him kiss me. I just wouldn!t. I was scared to death that once that happened, I don’t know what I was afraid would happen, but I finally let him kiss me and everything I knew was confirmed. I would go to school football games. We’d meet there and spend time together and talk, walk and then I’d go home. I was 13; he was 18. So he was five years older than me and the one thing was, he was always entirely appropriate. And he very, very quickly said that he loved me as well and said, “When you finish school, we’re going to get married, That’s what’s going to happen. ” We talked about the kids we were going to have and everything. When my mother and stepfather were out, I’d spend three hours talking to him on the phone to him and anytime he had a chance, he was working but if he got a break he’d come by school for lunch, so we saw each other off and on.
We had rough times. My stepfather wouldn’t allow me to date, not because of who anyone was, I mean it wasn’t just Louis it was anyone, but because he was saving me for himself. He didn’t want me to date and my mother went along with whatever my stepfather wanted. My stepfather was always suspicious of everything I was doing, so there were a few arguments about that but I kept it circumspect. Later, when I was 16 (or) 17, they began to let me date a little bit. Primarily, young men could come over to
the house, sit in the living room and talk and that was it. I really wasn’t allowed to get in the car with anyone and go anywhere. Finally, when I was 17, 1 don’t know, I don’t even remember whether I’d been with Louis or not, but my stepfather accused me of being with him. I don’t think I had been; I’m pretty sure I hadn’t been. And he accused me of being
is with him and that’s probably why I got so angry. I had not been with him but he was always very suspicious of my spending time with Louis. I said, “I haven’t been with him, I
haven’t seen him, just leave me alone. ” He said he was going to find him and HI him.
And he left the house. I spent hours fiightened to death. I tried to call Louis; he wasn’t home. I couldn’t find him. I didn’t know where he was. I didn’t know if my stepfather had found him and done something to him. I was just scared to death. And when my stepfather came back I said, “What did you do? What did you do?” And he said,
“Nothing. I couldn’t find him. But when I do, he’s going to regret it and you’re going to regret it. You’re not going to see him again. ” We were in the dining room right by the kitchen and my bedroom was right off the kitchen. I had been sleeping for at least three years with a knife under my pillow. I knew I’d never use it but I just sort of thought, if I have it there, maybe some day I can threaten him with it and he’ll leave me alone because he was coming into my room almost every night. And when he threatened Louis and he continued to threaten him, I went to my room and I got it out and I cut him. I cut a big gash in his chest. And he left. He immediately grabbed himself and he left. And then I
spent several hours worried about what’s going to happen when everyone asks why I cut him. When I did it I told him, “Don’t ever threaten Louis again, don’t ever touch me
again. ” He left; he ran out. And when he came back I was scared but there was never any interrogation. I finally heard him and my mother talking and he said he had gotten cut in a bar. And that’s when I realized that he was more afraid of the story coming out and of what he was doing than I was. Then I faced all these feelings (like) “See if I’d done that years ago he wouldn’t have continued. How stupid could I be?” I couldret do it for myself (but) I did it for someone else. I eventually learned that you do what you do when you do it and you doret blame yourself for all the circumstances or that everything wasn’t right. Well, he didn’t touch me again. He never did touch me again after that.
I had been on a couple of dates with other guys and they would try and kiss me, they would try and hug me, they would try and hold me and I would freeze up. It was just
is really, really bad. I had a close girlfhend (who) was a couple years older. She had graduated from school and (was) living in Illinois and she had come back for a weekend.
There was a snowstorm and she couldn’t get back to Chicago, so she spent the night. We didn’t have any spare bedrooms, so she was just bunking out in my bed. We had a sexual encounter that night. I was able to respond to her and I hadn’t been able to respond to any of the young men I had been talking to or dating. And that fiightened me. (So) I began to wonder, “Can I even respond to Louis at this point?” I was scared to death about what
my sexuality was. Of course this was 1967; people didn’t talk about those kinds of things. And I went to Louis. This was like April of my 17th year and my birthday was going to
be in July, that’s only three months and I went to Louis. This was 1967. People didn’t talk openly about sex. I certainly didn’t; no one else did. I said, “Louis, sleep with me.” And he said, “No.” I mean, sometimes honor just goes too far. I mean, I was within three months of my 18th birthday but he said, “(No).” You know, it was a situation ripe for being taken advantage of There was four years there he could have taken advantage of me. I had picked a good man. Four years this man did not sleep with me. He loved me from the moment he saw me. He would not sleep with me. He would not take advantage of me. And I asked him. I had never even considered it before; I mean I had some desire and some hopes, but I never really actively considered sleeping with him. You just didn’t do that in 1967. But I went to him because I was so scared and I said, ‘Sleep with me, please, let’s go somewhere and sleep together.” And he said, “Marta, you’re almost 18. You graduate in a month and a half We’re going to wait. ” I could1vt tell him why I
couldn’t wait, I couldn’t tell him what I was afraid of I mean I almost literally begged “Please. ” But he had no way of knowing how important this was.
There was another young man, 17, who was in school with me who was also about to graduate. He had been trying to get me to sleep with him for several months. I had been dating him more because as long as I was dating him my stepfather and my mother were off me about Louis. It kept him safe, it kept the pressure off. So I was fiiendly with this guy and so forth but I always made sure that there was a limit. But after Louis said no, the next time Eddie came over I said, “Yes,” We went in my bedroom and we didn’t
even get undressed. I mean he was 17; he’d been waiting for this forever and I really wasrft interested. I was trying to prove I could. I had no desire, no interest, I just needed to prove that I wasn’t a lesbian. And so we didn’t get undressed or anything. I had a dress on. I pulled my dress up, I pulled my panties down, he unzipped his pants, he climbed on top of me and I innnediately panicked. And I said, “No, I can’t do this.” I couldn’t
breathe. I pushed him off of me. He understood; he didn’t get angry, he didn’t get violent, I don’t think he understood but he didn’t push it. He got dressed, he left, and I felt worse because I had just confirmed I cet do this. Two weeks later, I vomited and I knew I was pregnant. I had never had any information about pregnancy at all but I knew I was pregnant. You know how excited 17 year old men can leak. I mean, he never entered my body but the semen did. I mean, if that wasn’t a miracle child. It was. I didn’t even get the benefit of sex. And I kept vomiting and I kept vomiting and finally I went to my
doctor and I had a pregnancy test done and I was pregnant. This was like ten days before graduation and I knew my mother would HI me. I don’t mean that figuratively. I mean that literally. But I wasn’t really worried about my mother. I was worried about Louis. How was I going to tell him that I was pregnant? And I did. I called him and I said, “I have to talk to you.” I said, “You remember when I asked you to sleep with me? I really needed you to do that and I slept with someone else and I’m pregnant.” And he was sad and disappointed but he wasn’t angry at me and he didn’t ask me questions. He just said, “We’ll figure it out.”
I graduated. I was scared I was going to vomit because I was vomiting several times a day. I was trying to hide this from my mother (and) trying to get through graduation. We had graduation. My father (who) I hadn’t seen in five years (and) his father came with my mother’s permission. Now my mother and father were worse than oil and water. They were like oil and a match. I wondered how they ever had three children. They were just together so volatile. I think it was really they were so much alike. After the divorce, they hated each other. I think the love had to go somewhere and it became
hatred. They hated each other. So I did get permission for him to come for my graduation. And the day of my graduation, I cooked a family meal. I had taken over all the cooking when I was twelve anyway, I had planned a family meal and my grandfather and my father were staying at a motel. They were only coining over for dinner and then they were going back to the motel and to graduation. I had to be at the auditorium early, so we had dinner and then I get up to go and change into my graduation dress and get my robe. And I’m in my room getting dressed and my mother comes in and she says, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to come to your graduation.” I said, “Why?” And she said, “Well, Father is a little uncomfortable with your father being here and I’m a little uncomfortable so I just don’t think I’m going to get to graduation. ” Well, my mother was always very melodramatic and she had ruined a lot of events and a lot of times for me and she had made my life miserable. And for the first time it didn’t affect me. I said, “Come or not. It’s up to you.” And I got the keys to the car and I went. I knew my mother was coming to my graduation; she’d been waiting for me to graduate since I started school. There was no way she wasn’t coming. It was putting the knife in and twisting it that she was trying to do and for once I realized that. So I went to graduation. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to sit there A the time. It was hot. I had gained IO pounds in just the month that I’d been pregnant. I weighed 98 pounds when I got pregnant (and) I went to 113 the day I graduated, so I gained 15 pounds. I had bought my dress before that; it was a form fitting very tight dress, so I just barely fit in. I made it through graduation, went home and my mother had planned a party for me. At the party I didn’t have friends. I didn’t make friends in school. At the party were her sorority sisters. She was an elementary schoolteacher (so there were) teachers from her school. You know, all adults. I mean, our house is full of adults and that’s my graduation party, And they were bringing me gifts, like one brought me an imitation fur coat and two of them had gone together and
Is gotten me my Samsonite luggage, three pieces of Samsonite luggage with my initials on it because I had been accepted at Fisk. I was going to college. So the gifts I got were good
stuff. I was enjoying the party. I didn’t have any where else to go. I didn’t have any friends. Most of the people I knew were out partying but I wasn@t allowed to do that and I never felt comfortable doing that anyway. This party was fine. My father took me aside and said, “Can we go for a little walk?” “Sure, (I said), let’s go for a walk.” (So he said), “I think it’s disgusting that your mother wouldn!t let you have any of your fliends. ” So she did it in the morning and he did it in the evening.
Before he left to go back to his home (he was going down to see his mother in Louisville to see her first and then he was going back to his home in NJ) I told him that I was pregnant. “Of course,” (I said), “I’m not going to go back to school now. And I can’t stay here. Can I come live with you?” He left and a couple days later he called and we were talking on the phone and he said, “Well, I talked to your grandmother and she thinks it would be better for you to come and stay there instead of coming to live with me.” So I said, “Fine” and hung up. And I had gone to the bathroom and my mother pushed the door open and started saying, “Whose baby is it? Who are you pregnant by?” I am immediately thinking, “Oh my God, she’s going to blame Louis. It’s not Louis.” And I didn!t want to get Eddie in trouble for something he didn’t really do. So I’m thinking I
can’t get Eddie in trouble and they’re going to think it’s Louis, so I just said, “It’s none of your business. I’m not telling you.” And I just wouldn!t say anything and she’s screaming and hollering, “Whose is it?” and that was it. She didn’t say anything else and, of course, for the next two or three days she was angry (and) constantly harping. “How could you dothis?You’resupposedtogoawaytocollege.Allofyourdreams.” ShemeantHER dreams. “Everythingruined.Howcouldyoudothis?Whoisit?Who’sthefather?” I wouldn!t tell her.
The third day (after she found out) I went to church. I had started going to a Catholic Church. I needed to find some peace and structure. I went to Mass. I told her I was going to Mass. It was Sunday. I told her I was going to stay downtown. I called Louis (and) Louis picked me up. We went riding and we talked and talked. He kept
reassuring me: “Yes, we will get out. How do you feel about the baby’s father?” I told him who the baby’s father was. “We’ll work it out. We’ll do what we have to do.” And he drove me home. When I walked in the door my mother grabbed me and hit me. She grabbed me by the hair and she just kept hitting me, my back and my arms, and I fell down and she kicked. Then she picked up a broom and she hit me across my head and the back with the broom and she broke the broom handle and she just kept hitting and she kept hitting and she kept hitting. She’d torn a my clothes off. AU I had on was panties and a bra. My stepfather pulled her off of me He was afraid she was going to kill me. My dress was on the floor. I picked my dress up and I held it in front of me. I was brought up very modestly; I didn’t even wear two piece swimming suits. But I ran out the back door
almost naked because I was afraid she was going to kill me. I ran alongside of the house to the front and I’m in the street and I’m yelling, “Please call the police. Someone call the police. ” My stepfather came out, came over to me and said, “Come on. It’s OK. Come on back in.” I walked back in and even though I was afraid, it was better than standing out there naked with everybody looking at me. So I went back in and I sat in the chair. The right side of my face was all black and blue. She’d pulled out tufts of my hair and my shoulders and arms all the way down to my wrists were swelling, black and blue, and all down my legs I was just one big black and blue swollen body. And you know, he is keeping her away from me. She’s cooled down a little but she’s still angry and she’s still screaming at me and calling me names. Then there’s a knock on the door and my
stepfather goes over and opens the door and there’s two policemen. They come in. I’m sitting there holding the torn dress in front of me because she won’t let me go and get dressed or anything. I am black and blue and I am swollen and one eye is just swollen shut and they said, “We had a call about a disturbance.” She said, “I’m just punishing my daughter for being disobedient.” They said, “Is everything going to be OK here?” She said, “Everything’s fine.” My stepfather said, “I’ll make sure that she’s OK.” I begged
them. I said, “Please take me to ia. She’s going to kill me.” And they said, “Young lady,
we can’t take you out of your home.” I said, “Take me to the doctor. Take me to the hospital. You see me. I’m hurt.” And they said, “Honey we can’t take you out now unless your parents agree.” And they left. She didn’t touch me again.
The next month was full and painful. Our house had been sold. Our whole area was going through urban renewal. They had bought another house so they were packing everything, getting everything moved into the new house. She and I just didn’t talk. I avoided her as much as I could. I talked with my grandmother in Louisville and told her I was going to come and live with her. Louis’ brother was going into the Army. He was stationed in Fort Knox and he offered to give me a ride. He was leaving on the 2 1 st of July. That way I wouldn’t have to take a train down and carry all my suitcases and everything. She wouldn’t let me go. She said if I left with him she would have him arrested for kidnapping for taking me across state lines. So I said, “Thank you, Paul, I can’t go. ” My birthday happened July 25; 1 turned 18 and I left. I did (later) go back. We made our peace and things ultimately got better. But I stayed in Louisville. I couldn’t go back up there. I knew if I went back up there I would still crave her love and that if she wanted to come over to my house, I’d let her come over. If she wanted to talk to me on the phone, I’d let her but I knew I would slowly die. I knew I wouldn’t be able to say no to her, but I also (knew) that would HI me. Three hundred miles away was far enough that she couldn’t call me every day and she couldn’t see me. I had some control. So I did that. I stayed in Louisville.
Louis and I corresponded and called and he came to visit but ultimately (the distance was) too much. We broke up, I still love him. I don’t have a lot of ability to hate people. I spent most of my childhood (thinking) IF … if I tell, if this, if that, so I don’t use that. I can’t hate her for ruining something that I thought, that I know, would have been one of the most wonderful things of my fife. I thought it was really ironic that after that,
is after I moved away and would come and visit, more than anything my mother wanted me to marry. Marriage was THE thing in our family. That’s one of the reasons that she was
so unhappy, because her mother was so unhappy with her for divorcing. She wanted me to be happy. And she was always saying, “Is it serious? Do you think you’ll marry him?” Anybody you dated it was always that. I finally said to her one day after six or seven
years of hearing this, “Mother, the only man I probably would have married you ran off.. Will you stop asking me if I’m going to get married?” She never asked me again,
I ultimately found a way to get my life together. I had two more suicide attempts, (and) I have been in therapy off and on since I was 18. They never helped and finally I was in therapy again. I had graduated from college. I put myself through college. My whole childhood was one of being busy 24 hours a day, I only slept about three hours a night from the time I was twelve, because I was afraid to sleep. So I read most of the night, I did homework, anything. I got up in the middle of the night and I’d go for walks. So it was the same way after I’d graduated. I had my baby; I had Scott. After he was
born I worked full time and I went to school part time. I did that for two years and then (1) moved from Louisville to Lexington. (1) transferred from the community college to the university, and left Scott in Louisville with my grandmother. (1) worked full time so I could support him and support an apartment there and (I was) going to school full time. So I worked full time and went to school full time for another year and then I brought Scott up with me and became a foster parent. (1) had foster children and Scott and worked part time and went to school part time for another couple years and then graduated. That was my first degree. (During that time) I joined a sorority that I was familiar with (because it was the same as my mother had joined). I was presented as a deb(utante) at the sorority ball. So I pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. There had not been a chapter on the campus, so I was part of the founding. I was the president of the chapter. (My mother) flew in for that. That was nice. So we were much closer as sisters than as mother and daughter. She died the next year. Actually, I had started my masters in June. I was going to summer school and in November she had a stroke. I flew home and
stayed over the week before Thanksgiving. I stayed for a week. She was stabilized, so I went back. In December she died. I was sort of lost for a couple years after that.
Before she died and before I started my masters, (while) I was still at UK, I was depressed. I was back in therapy. One of the reasons I was depressed was I had no friends. I knew everybody (and) everybody knew me. I was the shoulder that they cried on. I was older than most students anyway and I lived off campus. I had my home (and) I worked. I was looked at more as an older sister, (more as) a role model than anything else. Everyone always turned to me but I never turned to anyone. I knew that wasn’t right. I knew I had to find friends. I was part of a sorority so I remember very clearly going in November to a party and I said to people, “I’m feeling sort of depressed and I need you to give me a call so we can get together and do things. I’m pretty lonely. Why
not give me a call?” People laughed. They thought I was joking because they were just so used to me being in control and in charge and always OK. So even the one time I really finally was honest and tried to do it I couldn’t succeed. So I went back to my therapist and I told her I was getting more and more depressed because of that and other things. Then December came and, of course, in a college town everybody leaves. I didn’t know my neighbors or anything. I work full time, I go to school Ul time, I’m taking care of my kids. I didn’t know anybody. The people I knew were on campus and they’re now gone for Christmas vacation. So I went to my therapist and I told her, “It’s lonely. I actually tried to make fhends and I couldn’t and now everybody’s gone. I dolyt even know how to make fiiends so I don’t have any friends. Even the people I know aren’t here,” She said, “Well, your depression seems to be getting stronger and I’m worried about you. I’d Re to get a handle on this. Let’s increase your medication. The dosage I want to give you is getting up in the danger range. Do you feel like you can take it safely?” I was depressed but I wasn’t suicidal and I was going to tell her that. But before I could, she said,
is “Because if you don’t feel you can administer it safely, we can always give it to a fhend to administer to you.” Something in me just broke. I had been as articulate as I could. I had
been as clear as I could. I had been as honest and straightforward as I could, as open as I could. I had no friends. I didn’t know how to make friends. I didn’t have any (fhends)
and she wants to give my medication to a fhend to administer. I couldn’t get through. So at that point I knew I would attempt suicide. I took the medication, had Christmas with my kids (Scott and two foster kids) and after Christmas took them to Louisville to stay with my grandmother. (1) came back and I took (all the pills). I had attempted suicide
one other time after I was fifteen, only that time it was more a cry for help. It wasn’t really a serious attempt. I told some people what was going on and what was happening so that someone could find me. This one (was serious). A fhend of mine who was supposed to be out West skiing hadn’t gone. I never found out why he didn’t go skiing. He knew I
was home and wouldn’t leave. He got in and got me pumped out. It hadn’t occurred to
me before but it occurred to me (at that point) that if I die, my mother might get my kids. I had no right to do that to them. That had never hit me. I had never thought of that before. So I said, “OK, I don’t have to like it, but I have to find a way to live.” Again, when things are supposed to happen, they happen.
I was in college. I was doing a degree in human behavior and was taking a course in Child Development. One day I was Re, “WOW, wait a ininute! Kids are supposed to have this, this, this, and this and then they grow up to be healthy adults. I didn’t get any of this, this, this, and this. No wonder I act crazy. Oh, OK! So what do I do?” So I just sat down and wrote out a plan for healing, for becoming healthy. One of the things was, children collect. They collect seashells, they collect dirty rocks, they collect. Well, I never had an opportunity to collect. So I started collecting candles shaped like food and for
years people would run across one and bring them to me. I had never had a bedroom with a door on it. My bedroom was only big enough for a single bed, a bookcase, a bureau, that was it. And there was no door. The kitchen was right there and the bathroom was right there, so I had two doorways. So I never had privacy and I never had gotten to decorate my room or do any of that sort of stuff which is all very important for claiming
your own personality. So (a couple years later when I got into my house) I painted my bedroom purple, took two shades of purple, bought deep purple bedspreads and purple curtains and painted my dresser two tones of purple. There was purple all over the place and it was mine finally. I started collecting unicorns and other things, just childhood experience. How you make friends? I started doing that. I taught myself how to have fun. I taught myself how to do good things for myself. I just created a program that worked.
I started doing some lecturing about sexual abuse. I joined a group. People in there started seeing what I was doing and asked me to do it with them. I had just done an article in a paper there and I had done a workshop. Someone came up to me after and said, “Do you do lecturing?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Would you come? We’re opening a women’s shelter and at our shelter we’re starting groups for survivors of abuse. We’d Re you to come and be our speaker. ” And I said, “Fine. ” When I was speaking about abuse at that time, (I was using) a pseudonym, Catherine, which was a name I always used as a child when I couldet stand to be me anymore. “Catherine” was OK. So that was the name I had that day when I was doing this presentation at the Y. The woman said, “You don’t have to worry about using your name. We’ll be more than happy to use your pseudonym. We’re going to have a photographer and a TV station there because we want to be covered, but we’ll make sure they shoot you from the back and use your pseudonym.” I said, “Fine,” but I was uncomfortable and I didn’t know why. A couple weeks later I was sitting in (the office of) a fiiend of mine, Joe, and I was telling him about it and what I was beginning to do and so forth. He said, “Well, are they going to use your name?” And I said, “No, they said they’re going to use my pseudonym Catherine.” And I said, “Can I use your phone?’ I called the woman in Owensburg and I told her, “My name’s Marta Pearson and that’s the name I’m going to use. I didn’t do anything wrong.” And that was my final moment of healing. At that point I realized that I had done nothing wrong, that it was done to me and I didn’t care who knew that. If they didn’t like me or
they had an opinion, that was there. But I was the one who was abused and I was the one who had the right to speak out about it. And that, for me, was the last moment, the big moment of healing. So I did (it); I went and I talked for like three hours. This was in Owensburg, Kentucky, just before I moved (to Maine). I had them shoot from the front and use my name. There was an article in the newspaper about it and so I moved here just a couple months later.
I moved here to work at Hyde (School in Bath, Maine). I helped a fiiend move to Maine and that’s what got me (here). She and I hated Kentucky. I always hated
Kentucky, never liked Kentucky, and she had gotten to a point where she hated Kentucky and she said, “I can’t stand it anymore, Marta. I’m moving back to Maine.” So I said,
“OK, I’ll help you move.” She was the first healthy fiiend I’d had (after) I had effected my healing. We met because I was on the juvenile justice commission and we were hiring a person. She was the person we hired. We became fiiends very, very quickly. I was devastated (when she moved), I was losing the one person who was a healthy person, a professional person who was my fiiend. I didn’t know what I was going to do after she
left but I literally said, “OK. Marta, you’re going to rise above it and you’re going to help her move, ” We came to Maine and I just fell in love. I knew Maine was where I was supposed to be. I say that the stork overshot and I was supposed to have been dropped here, so I was just correcting his mistake. I looked for a job the week I was here, (but) I didn’t find one. She asked me to come back for the summer, to stay for the summer. She was opening a day care in her home while she looked for a full time job. So that summer she worked two and a half days and I worked two and a half days. The other two and a half days we’d go on interviews or go out looking for work. (1) still didn!t find a job but I did meet someone who said he liked my credentials and was going to find me work. So (in) December of that year he called me and said, “I’ve become Assistant Headmaster at Hyde and I have a summer job for you because, as Assistant Headmaster, I’m in charge of hiring for summer. I can’t hire you full time; the Headmaster will have to interview you
and do that. But I don’t think there will be a problem.” (I thought), “OK, It’s going to get me to Maine.” I was going to do it, but you know this is TEACFHNG. (And then he said), “OK. This is a dorm and here’s your reason. One of the things we want is for dorm parents and their kids to be involved because the kids are boarding, so we want you to integrate your famfly. ” So I said, “OK. That’ll work.” Scottie was fifteen, going into his junior year. He wasn’t sure he wanted to come, but he loved lobster so he was willing to give it a try. Nancee was only two and a half (or) three so it didn’t matter to her where we were. We packed the car up just for the summer (and) I took a leave from my job. I had something like two and a half months worth of comp time and vacation time saved up so that was no problem. I didn’t quit my job or anything. I had been brought in as Community Director and as a teacher and dorm parent. The night we got here I called
and said, “Well, we’re here.” He said, “Well, do you still want a permanent full time job?” I said, “Sure.” He said, “Well, they appointed me Headmaster last night. So you got it.”
So I was here for that next year. We stayed at Hyde for that one year. I was there when Joe (Gauld) wasn’t here. When Joe came back … well, we won’t talk about Joe Gauld.
None of the staff was hired back that next year. He brought in all his own people. No one was good enough for him. He did offer me a job because he needed a minority on staff. That was the only reason he was offering me the job, but I did not approve of his methods or his philosophy. I saw the handwriting on the wall, I knew Joe wasn’t going to hire anyone back and I knew (that) even if he was, I couldn’t work under him and his philosophy.
My supervisor (had) happened to come into my office at the beginning of the (first) summer (I was here). On my desk I had pulled some stuff out of my briefcase. The article was there and she said, “You do these kind of groups?” And I said, “Uh huh.” (She said), “Are you going to do them here?” I said, “Yeah, but I’m going to take a year to learn the
is state and find a fanifly doctor and all that kind of stuff and I wouldn’t know where to find clients anyway.” And she said, “I can find you clients.” I said, “Well, you’re about to
leave for the summer. When you come back if you’re still serious, we’ll talk. ” I figured she’d forget it. She came back in September and said, “Ready to start your groups?” I said, “Well, OK. I’ll look around and see if I can find a place we can meet because we can’t meet here on campus.” She said, “OK, when you’re ready you let me know. I’ll get you enough people for a group.” And within a month she had enough people and I started my first group here. I did (groups) for the next 14 years.
In March of that (my first) year there was an ad in the paper for Bath‑Brunswick Mental Health Center, which is now Shoreline, They were looking for someone to work in their Sexual Abuse Program. So I interviewed for the job and got it. That was a part time position. So I worked there and then, when I finished at Hyde in the summer, I continued working there part time and was on unemployment for a while. I can’t remember where else I worked. I must have worked something else so that I was earning enough money for the next year. Then I began to increase my practice and I worked part time for Shoreline. Then (1) said, “OK. What I need to do is do training. ” I started
putting out RFP’s and so forth. I worked for Bath‑Brunswick Mental Health Center for
18 months and in that 18 months I had five supervisors. It was a crazy time. Finally I got a contract that was going to be several courses over a year. It was enough for me to quit and concentrate on building my practice and my training, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
I just closed my practice in November. It was a real hard decision closing because I wasn’t burned out. You don’t get burned out with this program. I talk to therapists all the time, particularly those who are dealing with abuse clients and (they say), “I just can’t stand this anymore. ” Well, not with this program. This program is energizing, I didn’t know how I was going to function without it. It was a big part of my life, a very
important part of my life. I did a lot of soul searching about it and I went to (my friends) Mary and Bob and talked to them. Actually, I went to talk to them but I just sat there and sobbed for over an hour. They let me talk and they let me cry and they let me talk it out.
1 realized that I didn’t have an obligation to fulfill for anybody else and if I wanted to move on I could move on. It was just time to do something different. I wasn’t burned out at all. I was sad because there was no one to take the program over and I was still getting calls from people saying, “Are you going to be starting a group?” I’m still getting that from people and there’s nowhere to refer them. No one else is doing the program. And it’s
such a positive experience, and a permanent change in people’s lives. It’s a non‑traumatic therapy modality and it really changes people. It’s not a bandaid. So that’s what I had to deal with. It was harder giving it up than it would have been to keep going, But I decided it was time to reward myself and do what I just wanted to do, not what I needed to do. I thought, “Maybe if I can build a name for myself, then other people will decide to take that seriously as well.” I had taught two other people to do the therapy, but they’ve
moved on to do other things. One’s out of doing therapy altogether and the other one is concentrating on substance abuse issues, which was always her first love. They’re not doing the program any more either. They stopped long ago. It was the program that worked, not my personality. If it was my personality, that really wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted a process that was transferable, that other people could do. And they can.
I’m teaching it (in a) class at UMA (L/A College) right now. I developed the first class on sexual abuse in the state. I’ve been teaching it at UMA for ten years. So I’m teaching people parts of it. Not the whole thing‑ I mean it’s 300 hours of training to actually be able to do the whole therapy. But elements of it. They’re learning it and they love it. I had a student call me yesterday afternoon. She was sick but she said, “I’m going to try to make this class.” They don’t want to miss it; they love it. I love teaching. It’s great. It’s a ball. It’s a blast. That was another thing. My mother was a teacher. Well,
she wasn’t a teacher to begin with. When I was growing up we were still “colored. ” She had graduated from college (at age) 21 or 22 with a degree. Then (she) went back to her hometown and she couldn’t use it. Our schools were integrated, but they didn’t allow colored teachers. So I know that she worked early on as a telephone operator. She was
one of those people who plugged in and said “How can I help you? What number can I get for you?” Then when they finally began to hire Negro teachers (we’d progressed a little), she had to go back to school part time for a year because it had been years since she’d
been to college. I was in about the fifth or sixth grade and she had to take some courses
in order to get certified. She did and she started teaching. She taught her whole career at the same school and when she died, they closed the school that day. She had taught there for twenty years. Everybody wanted to go (to the funeral): students, faculty, and parents of students that she had for years. They’d never done it before and I doubt if they’ve done it since. She was a wonderful professional. She was a wonderfw teacher. She responded well (to children). She taught fourth grade. She settled on fourth grade, that was the grade for her. She wasn’t good with the little kids because she wasn’t very nurturing and she wasn’t good with older kids because you have a mind of your own, but fourth grade was right in that place where you don’t question authority, you just sort of do what you’re told. So she wasn’t good with my brother and I when we were real little, under six or seven, and she was OK with us for a couple years, but then she wasn’t because we began to develop our own minds. She wasn’t good with that. She was an absent parent. I thought that that’s what teaching meant, that if you were a teacher you gave all your time to your student kids, not to your (own) kids. And so I swore that I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever teach because I wasn’t going to do that to my kids. One year between my Bachelor’s and my Master’s (degree), the only job I could get was teaching at a elementary school teaching first grade reading. I found I liked it. I really liked teaching but (thought), “I can’t do this permanently because I’ll ultimately be taking time away from my kids. ” Of course, teaching for me is fun. I enjoyed when I taught at Hyde (School). I taught sophomore and senior English and I taught all the subjects in 8th grade and I taught a Women’s Studies class and literature and some other things. I enjoyed that but I would never do it full time. I would never teach in the elementary system full time. I would
never teach in the college system full time. I know that I wouldn’t want to be in the same
place doing the same thing every day, I Re what I’m doing. I’m teaching this one class for UMA. I did teach at Andover for a wHe‑‑English and History and Psychology and Sociology and Personal Dynamics. I enjoyed being down there. I enjoy teaching. I think I Re the workshop format better but that’s how I run my class too, so that works out.
I feel that a parent’s job is to teach children how to be healthy as an adult. That’s what it’s all about. Not to live our life through them, not to correct our mistakes, but to teach them how to be functioning, healthy individuals, happy individuals. Scott has learned that he can rely on me. We have a good relationship. We almost always had a good relationship. We had a few rocky years when he was fifteen (or) sixteen as most do but it never got disastrous and I know that he trusts me in a positive way. I know that when he was away at college he would have his fhends, males or females, call me when someone needed to talk about sex because he knew I would be honest with them and open and give them the straight scoop. It was not uncommon for me to pick up the phone and (hear), “Fh. I’m So and So. Scott said I could call and talk with you.” I felt that was a real compliment that he felt that good about it. I know that he was dating a young woman down there (who) was a virgin and he wanted to engage in a sexual relationship and she wasn’t sure she wanted to. So he said, “Well, talk to my Mom, she’ll be open with you. She’ll tell you what you need to hear, not what she thinks you want to hear.” So she did call me. We talked and she said, “But I want to please him.” I said, “You do what you want to do for you, not for him. If you want to do it, then you do it, and if you don’t want to then you don!t. If he doesn’t understand, that’s too bad, That’s his problem.” So we talked and she was able to reach the conclusion she wasn’t ready at that point. That was fine with him. He wanted it to be mutual. He didn’t want her doing it just because he did. Later when she changed her mind, things were different. We were friends. They became engaged and moved here and ultimately didn’t stay together. But it felt very good that he felt that confidence in me. He talks to me now when he’s having a problem. He asks for my advice. He asks me what I think.
1 love the woman he’s about to marry. She’s very good for him. She’s wonderfw with his sons, and I’m so glad she’s coming into the family. I’m so glad for him. He’s a very loving man and his first wife hurt him very badly. I knew he deserved happiness and I think he will really find it with LHa. So I’m really, really pleased for him. She sort of roughs out some of his edges and helps him. And she loves him. She really loves him. So I’m very glad about that. They want to have a baby and I’m SO keeping my fingers
crossed it’s a girl. Of course, they want a girl, too. They already have two boys. Trey (Scott’s son by his first marriage) and his stepson (his first wife’s son). Scott’s the only father he’s ever known, That’s the other thing I’m proud of. I taught him that love for children has nothing to do with birth or whatever. He’s loved Kenton since he met Kenton and he continues to love him even though the marriage was a disaster. He doesn’t let go of him. Even when Kenton was angry with him and didn’t want to visit, Scott hung in there. He’s finally reached a point again where Kenton is wanting to visit and wanting to spend time with him. I think he was afraid (because) his mother has so many people in
and out of her life. I think that he was afraid that that was going to happen, so he pulled away preparing for it. He’s finally realized that that’s not going to happen, that we’re not going to put him out of our life because she’s out of our fife. Scott swallows and it’s hard for him, but he knows that in this house, this is the only place where (the children) will always be able to have both their parents. We do all the family celebrations here, and February was Kenton’s birthday. We did a (birthday) dinner for him. So his mother was invited. Scott knows that. That was not something I could have and I will not allow them to argue or fight or do anything to hurt the other person while they’re here. The children have to have someplace where they don’t have to pick which parent they’re going to be with. Scott understands that. Dee doesn’t really understand that, but Scott does and that makes me proud. He’s willing to put aside how he feels. I mean, hell tend to come down (in the basement) and stay down here and watch TV or play one of the video games or something, but he’s still in the house with the kids so the kids can come in and see him.
She’s upstairs with my daughter in the living room or the kitchen or whatever. He knows that that’s very important to me that my grandchildren have that opportunity like I didn@t have. So that’s something else. He can be open enough to do that and open‑minded enough. He’s not inviting her to the wedding. There are limits and I didn’t want him to invite her to the wedding.
(Scott) turned 31 this year and I know during the last year he was thinking, “I’m 30 and I’m nowhere near (where I want to be).” He did one year of college and he didn’t go back and he’s worked steadily since he was an adult. Yet never gets ahead financially.
The tax returns comes and he thinks he’s going to be able to do something special and the car breaks down. It’s always that kind of thing. He was feeling bad. “Why do all these bad things happen to us?” I said, “You know, you need to look and realize that you have a son that you’ve been raising as a single parent and doing it well. And you have a stepson that you’ve been giving attention to and his mother really doesn’t do that very well. You have always worked. You’ve worked your way up the ladder at your previous job and at this job and you’re an honest man and you’re caring. So you haven’t gone to school. You gotta look at really how wonderful you are. ” I said, “Hey babe, do I look like I’m where I want to be?” So he felt better. Pm proud of him. He’s grown so much in the last six
years. He had a problem with his temper. He had a problem relating to other people. He and his wife were having problems. So he went into therapy, and he grew. He changed, and she didn’t. He didn’t have to but he did. He became even better in his eyes.
I have another son who’s in Georgia. He hasn’t lived with me since he was nine.
He was my adopted son. It reached a point (because) he had mental problems (that) I was afraid he was going to get up in the middle of the night and kill us. So I was lucky enough that I had a cousin that he related very well to. She agreed to take him because the professionals were recommending that I find an institution for him. I wasn’t willing to do that; I was going to have to, but I didn’t want to. She said she’d take him. It worked out OK. He’s alive. He’s had some trouble; he’s been in jail, but nothing real serious. He has
someone that cares a lot about him and they have children, so I’m hoping he’ll settle down now. He was my foster son and he had been with Scott and I for four years when his parenw rights were terminated. So Scott said, “Well, we’re going to adopt him aren’t we?” I said, “Do you want to?” And Scott said, “Well, he’s already my brother.” So we did adopt him. I say “We” because it was a mutual decision. It had to be.
Nancee is adopted. I got her when she was 3 months old. It took me years. I always wanted a daughter so I applied at the same time (as I applied to adopt my son) to adopt an infant girl. They said, “Well, take care of this one first. Do this adoption first and then do another one.” They kept putting me off. I had put in my application at the time I had applied for David. (Finally) after four years, I began saying, “What’s going on here?” I’d had several different caseworkers and they all kept discouraging me, (saying), “Well, maybe you don’t need another child. Maybe you just need to get your family settled. ” I said “Settled? Hell, I’ve had him since he was 18 months old, What is there to settle?” I had a friend who worked in a different department at that point for hard to place children. (So finally) I was talking to her one day and I said, “Something’s going wrong. I just don’t understand. They keep putting me off.” She said, “You’re dealing with one person and maybe that person has an issue with you.” And I said, “No, I”m not dealing with one person. I’ve had this caseworker and she left, and I’ve had this one, and I’ve had this one.” And she said, “But they’re all hired by the same team leader. And she only hires people who share her philosophy. Regulations require them to approve or disapprove an application within six months. And if they disapprove it they need to give you the reasons why and work with you on it.” (I told her), “This has been four years. What do I do?” (She said), “You request a decision.” So I did. I put it in writing that I requested a decision. The team leader talked to me and said, “I’m going to have to turn you down. I’m going to have to refuse it. It would look much better if you withdraw your
application.” I said, “Well, I’m not withdrawing my application. I want to adopt a little girl.” She said, “Well, I’m going to disapprove it.” So she did. What she’d wanted me to
do was withdraw it, because then everything would have gone away. But by disapproving it, I could then appeal it, and appealing it went through a process. It went through the process and it was a hearing. They had to write a report and they’d never written a report, see, of why they weren’t approving me. They gave like seven different reasons and one of them was that I felt I was omnipotent. Another was they couldn’t understand my obsession for wanting a little girl. Another was that I didn’t cooperate with the Department. Now you see, I was working as a civil rights law investigator, so I was used to doing interviewing of witnesses and knowing what to ask and so forth. So I handled it myself and I went in and said, “Now you said that you feel that I have feelings of omnipotence. Would you please explain where that opinion came from?” And she said, “Well, I came and I sat down and I talked with you and I asked you how you handled f”ure.” “And”,Isaid,”Whatdidlsay?” “Yousaidthatyou hadneverfailed.” “And,”I said, “Was that all I said?” “Well, no, you said a little more than that.” “Well, can you please tell the hearing panel what more I said?” And she said, “Well, you said as a single parent and a black woman you tended to have few resources and you had to use them carefully. So before you did anything you looked at all of the odds. And if it was 50/50 or less you didn’t do it. And if the odds were strongly in your favor, about 80/20, you would go forward and that that system had worked and you hadn’t failed at anything you then attempted.” “Oh, so I didn’t say I’d never failed. I said that I selected very carefully those things that I would attempt and that system had worked well enough that I hadn!t failed at any of the things I had attempted. ” “Yes, that’s right. ” That shot that one out of the water. Then there was the obsession about wanting a little girl. I said, “On the
application form, is there a place for people to specify the gender of the child you want? Why is that there? So I have two sons, what would you have said if I had said I wanted another son?” “Well, it just seemed like you were really obsessed with having a daughter” “But is it on the form for me to specify?” “Yes, it is.” So that took care of that one. If I’d said I wanted a third son, they’d have said I was obsessed with boys. You know, I mean,
it was a no win situation. And then the third one, (about) not cooperating with the department. I had been in therapy off and on, of course, and one year, Scott was showing OCD tendencies. It wasn’t called Obsessive‑Compulsive then, but now that’s how I would see it. I called it perfectionist. That’s what they called it then, perfectionist tendencies.
He would spend half an hour trying to tie his shoe, trying to get the shoelaces exactly even after they were tied, which is almost impossible. He would start with them even but they wouldn’t come out. So that had happened. It was the only time in his life he had started this, but I knew immediately I needed to get him a therapist. For me it was never a matter of I had to do everything right. It was a matter of doing what was right. That meant I didn’t have to fix the problem, I just had to find someone to fix it. So I took him to a therapist and he did therapy for maybe six months and he was fine. Nipped it in the bud, just Re that, immediately. But that was his record, that was his therapy, and he wasn’t going to be the parent in this family, I was. So when they (asked), “What do you do when you can’t handle a problem with a child,” I said, “Well if my child has a problem it’s not up to me to necessarily fix it, its up to me to find a way for it to be fixed. So when Scott had thisproblemlgothimintotherapyandeverything’sfine.” Sotheywantedhisrecord. They wanted me to release his records. I said, “I’m sony I won’t do that, That’s his
record, not mine. He won’t be the parent, I am. I’ve given you complete access to my records but I’m not going to give you his. ” So they called that not cooperating with the department. Well, these were three hearing officers appointed by the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services. Now, as soon as this came up I knew enough to go to
the media. I knew that in doing this I was taking a chance. They could have looked in my record and found something they really didn’t like and dismissed my application. It was a risk. But I wasn’t getting a child anyway. I knew I needed some pressure because, of course, these were just private, closed door hearings. They could have just found for the Department, which is not uncommon, (and) issued their report upholding the case
manager’s decision. There was one more appeal process, but that wasn’t on the issues.
That was only on procedure, so that would have been it. So I went to the media. I told them.. (Eventually) what they did, what the three department of human services people who were acting as the hearing board (did), (was) not only find in my favor and overturned her decision but they really lamblasted her. One (because I’d been waiting for) four years, (when) the requirements called for (a decision) in six months. (Two because) they found they’d never worked with me. The reasons they’d given me were totally ludicrous. I had bent over backwards to cooperate with the department. As a foster parent of the Department for something like 8 years, I had an exemplary record working (very successfully) with hard to place children, difficult children. (1) had never had a negative thing said to me, but they had totally disregarded everything foster care had said about me. (The hearing board) just blasted them. Of course, placement of a child is in relation to the date of your application, not the date of your approval. So L of course went to the top of the list, since everybody else’s applications were within six months (to)
a year. And very soon after, I got the phone call. And that was one of my greatest accomplishments when it was all over. There were times I was really discouraged, really tired, really disappointed, wondering sometimes, “Are they right? Am I being obsessive?” I mean, I knew I was desperate to have a daughter. I could have gotten pregnant again, but I couldn’t guarantee a girl. I had gotten to a point where, when I had a friend who
was pregnant, we didn’t speak during her pregnancy until she had a son. It had become very, very pai@l. I had wanted my first child when I was pregnant with Scott to be a girl. When I was on the table delivering, the doctor said, “Do you want a boy or a girl?” I
said, “Girl. ” He thought he heard me say Boy, and when (Scott) was born (the doctor) said, “Congratulations. You’ve got your son!” When he said “Congratulations” my heart swelled. Daughter. (When) he said, “Son,” it was like, “Ohhhhh.” Of course, once I saw him and I held him, it was fine But that piece never went away. I always wanted a daughter. So I would wonder, “Maybe they’re right. Maybe I am obsessed. Maybe this
isn’t good.” But when I got her, when I saw her, I knew we were destined. After that, I
mean, we had the same leaming disability. We’re alike in so many ways. She was supposed to be my child. So I didn’t begrudge the five years it took, because if it had happened three years earlier it wouldn’t have been Nancee. So at the end, I could do that. I couldn’t do that while it was going on. All I could see is that I’m not getting all these children that are being placed. It was wonderful. She’s one of the things I see as a real accomplishment.
Nancee is now 17. She’s interested in photography. Nancee’s much more into photography and art than teaching. I don’t think she ever considered teaching. We’ve talked a little about her birth mother and she considers me her mother. I’ve said. “When you’re 18 if you want to try and locate (her) that’s more than OK with me. ” I feel no threat there. I know that I’m the one who has raised her and loved her and given her what she needs and she knows that and I know that. There’s enough love in this world for her to have as many parents as she wants. That’s why I arranged for Bob and Mary to be her grandparents. I believe children need A the people they can get. I don’t feel threatened by that at a. She was my baby.
(“le) I don’t have anything directly to do with it, my grandson Trey is that other piece. He looks exactly like Scott. When you see a picture of Scott at ten months of age, Trey looks absolutely identical. They couldn’t be any closer. It’s almost like a clone. And he acts like him and like me. So I look at him and I know I wasy@t healthy when Scott was bom. I wasn’t healthy for a long time. I did the best that I could but I wasn’t healthy. It’s so nice to see that same face getting what I would have liked to have been able to give
(Scott) then. I think he’s gotten it a now, I mean, I’ve taught him everything I’ve learned as I’ve gone along. So Scott has grown and he’s doing it well, but Trey is just that
extension of me. He’s reading, he’s in first grade but he’s reading at a second or third grade level. That’s what I did. And Scott and Nancee don’t read. Nancee pointed out the Is other day, “Hey, that skipped a generation. ” Trey reads Re I do. He sits and reads cereal
boxes like I did and do. Wherever I am, I’m reading something. If I’m in a hotel and I’ve
finished the book I’ve taken with me, I get out the telephone book and I read the Yellow Pages. I read and so does Trey. And Trey is that vivacious, He was sitting over here the other night on the computer. I’ve got one of the children’s computer games on there and it has a place where you can follow the bouncing ball and sing “Bingo” or “Itsy Bitsy
Spider”. So he was singing after a while, and then he started to seat to the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” music. That’s what I would do. Scott is the quiet, serious, reflective, drier sort.
So Trey is me. It’s just a ball to see him. Having the opportunity to do it freely and not be under the same kind of pressure I was. I’m looking forward (to another grandchild). .
Nancee and Scott couldn’t be closer as brother and sister. He was thirteen when she was bom so there’s thirteen years difference between them. But he’s her big brother and she loves him and he loves her. He has two other half sisters, his father’s children, but his father’s never been a part of his life. I tried very hard to get his father to be part of his life and said, “You know, you don’t have to have a relationship with me.” He did want us to marry when he found out I was pregnant. I’ll tell you there are some decisions you
don’t know how good they are, but I knew that one and it’s been confirmed over and over and over again. Marrying that man would have been the worst mistake of anything I’d done. He has two former wives now and two daughters. Scott tries to be as close to them as he can. They’re nowhere near geographically close. I always knew not to marry because of a pregnancy, because of a baby. I knew that. That would just not have worked.
So I stayed single until I was forty and then I met Jill. There was one other man that I loved and would have married. I learned early on that what I was was bisexual and that that was OK. As the whole stigma fell away enough, I could acknowledge that. I stopped being afraid of it and just said, “Whoever comes in my life, comes in my life.” Jill was the first. She was the third significant person in my life (but) she was willing to commit to a relationship where the other two were not able to do that. So that’s why we were together. I know my mother turned over in her grave but hey, you reap what you
sow. So that’s how (we got together). Jill had been married before and divorced long ago. When (she) and I got together she had been living as a closet homosexual for years. Never acknowledging (and) never saying what it was. When she would bring a fhend home (her parents) certainly knew what was going on. She didn’t acknowledge even to them, but people knew these weren’t just roommates. You could sort of guess that. They didn’t flaunt it, it wasn!t open like that. It was impossible for her parents not to know,
But it was never talked about (and) never ever acknowledged in any way. When Jill and I got together, they were very uncomfortable and let it be known. We weren’t saying anything either, not in the beginning. I told (JHI), “Well, it’s race.” She said, “Oh no, they’re not like that.” I said, “Honey, the only difference (is race). We come and visit for a holiday, you went and visited with others for a holiday, nothing different, nothing said. The only difference here is my race. ” “Oh, OK. ” So I think that had something to do with it. But I don’t let that bother me, That’s just the way it is. She did in the beginning; it hurt her. I said, “Don’t let it hurt you. We do what we have to do and we don’t worry about them.” Ultimately, that dropped away, no problem. They still didn’t ten. I finally said, “Please do not introduce me as a fliend. Use my name if you want, but don’t introduce me as a fhend. If you’re not going to say I’m your significant other don’t give me any title. ” So she did. Something happened where her brother and sister were coming and bringing their families and (Jill) was asked if she nfinded coming alone. She said, “Marta and Nancee are my family. If they’re not welcome, I don!t come. ” So that clarified that we were then family.
Then we issued our invitations for our wedding. (Jill) wasn’t going to send them one because she knew they wouldn’t come. I said “You don’t issue invitations based on who is going to accept, you issue invitations based on who you want to send them to.” And she also wanted to tell her grandmother and her mother would say “Oh you don’t
want to worry her about that. You don’t want to do that, it’ll upset her. ” Well, (Jill) finally decided “I’m going to do it.” She went over and talked to her grandmother and she said
“You know I just want to tell you…” and her grandmother said, “I watch Donahue, what’s the big deal?” That was OK! I think one of the other things that helped them accept our relationship was that all of the other people who came into her life hadn’t been very healthy. And they were very transitory and I wasn’t. If you have a ceremony you sort of say you’re not transitory, which is why I insisted that we have a ceremony. For Jill it would have been fine just to live together. Well, I had never, I had never, never lived with another adult my whole life. No relationship, ever. In my whole adult life, my whole forty years, I had never done that. Not with Louis, not with Ryland, not with anybody. And I wasn’t going to start now. I mean, we did live together before we had our ceremony, but it was my clear intent that if we were going to stay together it was going to be with a permanency to it. She was more than content to just walk out in the woods and say our thing and I said, “No, if it’s not public, if we’re not before people declaring ourselves to each other, it’s too easy to walk away. I’m not going to do that. ” And it was a deal breaker, I can’t think of any other words. If she was not willing to have a ceremony, we would not be together. I was just not willing to do that. So she said “OK” and she tried, “Well, can we do it in the woods by a stream?” (I said), “No, you had your wedding, this one’s mine. I’ve never been married. You had yours; this one’s mine. ” There were a few compromises. I wanted to wear a red dress. She said, “No. ” I said “OK, I’ll wear a black dress.” So we had a few compromises. (The hard) part of it was who she was going to invite. I said, “You invite based on who you want to invite, not based on who you think’ll accept.” So she made out a list and I said, “You’re sure that’s all?” (She said), “Yeah, that’s all.” So I said, “Now look, I don’t want to be ordering more.” “No, that’s 0,” she said. So we ordered 100 invitations. Then she’s like, “Well, I need to ..1 need …. We have togobackandorderanother25or5O.” Soshedidgetintoit.
I had insisted that she go back to school fulltime. My practice was bringing in enough money. She did work a few part time hours if she wanted, but she had to go back to school full time. She was doing two (or) three classes a semester (and) it was taking
forever. She’d been in school for about seven years and still had two years to go, I insisted she go back full time. So I think her fanffly saw me as a stabilizing force. I was.
In any couplehood, people will say, “Well, who’s the man, who’s the woman?” Well, that’s not how it works. In any relationship some people like to do some things and some like to do another. Well, I happen to be the person who does the kind of female/wife duties of calling to (ask) “When is the family dinner?” “When’s the holiday celebration going to be?” and “What do you want us to bring and what time are we supposed to be there?” and sending out Christmas cards and birthday cards and thank yous. That’s a role, those are things I Eke doing. So I tended to do that and, you know, would call her mother and say, “OK what day, what time, what do you want us to bring?” So they saw me as a secure, stabilizing force, because (Jill) half the time didn’t go or didn’t show up or didn’t get there in time or what ever. And she was back in school. When she graduated her parents were running a boarding home so they couldn’t both come because they couldn’t get coverage. But her father came. She was off talking to someone and I saw him first and so I was standing with him and he said to me “Where’s your old lady?” And that was the first indication that they had accepted us as a couple. And so everything was nice. When he had his last illness, he was ill off and on for three years with cancer and stuff, his last
illness everyone knew he wasn’t going to make it back home. He went from the hospital
to a nursing care facility, and I went to see him just a few days before he died. It was just him and I and we were just sitting there talking and so forth. He knew he was going to
die. I don’t think he was really talking to the family about it but he knew. Held say things to me. I was the open, brash one. And he said that he was glad that Jill was going to have me. So it was nice to have an older, white rural Mainer who could bridge that gap. It took six years but he did.
So it still has its ups and downs. (Jill) has a cousin who sent her a wedding
is invitation with her name because Jill legally changed her name. She’s met with her many times, she’s visited her, she’s sent cards, she’s done all this. And every time she sends a
Christmas card or something she puts ‘Jill Stinson’. She won’t say ‘Jill Stinson and family’, she won’t say ‘Jill and Marta’, she won’t say ‘Jill Pearson’. ‘Jill Stinson’. The last couple times that’s happened I’ve said to Jill, “Jill, I know we have no control over what she does, over her sending it like this, but I do feel offended and I believe you have to tell her. You have the control to at least tell her that you don’t appreciate it, that your name is Pearson, that I am your family. And if she just wants to write to you, that’s fine. But she’s not
doing it through forgetfulness. She’s doing it deliberately because she disapproves. ” Jill acknowledged that. It’s just hard for her because she kept making excuses: “Well, maybe she forgot, maybe she doesn’t think.” I know that’s not true. So the last time she did that, she did go to Annette or call her. I don’t know whether she went to see her or whether she called her and she said point blank, “Ann, my name’s Pearson, You don’t have to approve of our relationship but if you are going to acknowledge me you have to use my name.” The last thing that came in, I think, did say Pearson, I’m pretty sure. So everyone doesn’t accept, but that’s OK.
(JiU’s) daughter had problems (with our relationship) in the beginning. She had to learn to accept it. It wasn’t race and it wasnl orientation, because her mother had had fiiends before and she’d had no problem. It was that this was permanent. And even though she was living with her father, she was a spoiled girl. Jill had been trying to buy her love for many years because they divorced and because the school system in New Hampshire was better, it was better then for her to live with her father. Her father wanted her so Jill said, “OK, fine, you can have custody.” (Jill) let her go to school in the
Durham, N.H. school system which was better than where she was in Lewiston. (She) did it for her good but felt guilty that she did it. And her daughter always played on that. So she did some things to really try and sabotage us in the beginning. She was supposed to come one Christmas and she calls on Christmas Eve and she says, “I can’t come because I doret think Marta wants me there.” Total fabrication. Of course, then, Jill is hurt and crying because she was expecting her the next day. Other things Re that. That was
more, not race or gender, just her feeling the loss of something. Well, I think it’s funny. Her father is now about to get married. It’s the first time he’ll have been married since he was married to Jill. And he too has spoiled Tracy rotten. So now Tracy’s doing the same thing to Bill, complaining to Jill about “Well, he never has time for us anymore.” (1) said, “Look she has a husband, she has two kids, she’s got another one due in June. Live your fife woman. ” I pointed out (that) Tracy did the very same thing (to us). Of course, Jill is trying to bend over backwards to take Tracy’s side. “Well, you know, he could visit, he’s been visiting at least twice a week and he could visit at least once a week.” “Not necessarily, but whether he could or not, Tracy’s making a much bigger deal out of this. Tracy’s done the same thing with us.” “Well, no,” (says Jill). OK, then I know to drop the subject. That’U take a little (time). She was just real fine with him dating Sharon until they finally decided to get married and suddenly “(Sharon’s) controlling his life.” He’s done it all and he’s looking for someone to take control, just as Jill was. So she’ll deal with it. That brings up something about Nancee. I know I’ve succeeded with Nancee. Tracy was married before. She got pregnant, got married, thought she was pregnant.
Well, actually I think she sort of get pregnant because she wanted to get married. But either way, when she got pregnant she got married. That marriage didn’t work real well. Tracy moved out to Colorado for a year with three fiiends and then came back to her father’s home. She couldn’t make it on her own. Then she started dating this young man, got pregnant, and got married. When they began having troubles, she had a mate fiiend. They got close and that became part of the problem with the marriage and ultimately she separated. As soon as that divorce was done, they started living together and got married. And I know when she said she was getting married, Nancee said to me, “Mom, she’s never lived by herself ” And she hasn’t. She has never to my knowledge spent one day, one
night alone. She has never had her own apartment. When she moved out to Colorado, she was with three fiiends. She doesn’t know how to be an independent person. But I didn’t have to point that out to Nancee. She knew it. Tracy asked her to be in (her)
wedding as a flower girl . Nancee wouldn’t give her a firm answer. She wouldn’t say yes, she wouldn’t say no. And she talked to me about it and said, “I don’t approve of her getting married. If fm in the wedding, am I approving?” And I said, “When you love someone, you can point out their mistakes, what you see as mistakes, what your opinion is, and you’ve already done that. You’ve already said, ‘Tracy, do you really want to get married? Do you think you should wait?’ You’ve already done that. You’ve already told her what you think about her getting married. So if you love her, you can be there to support her, whether you agree with what she’s doing or not. So if you decide you want to be in the wedding, it’s not saying you approve of the wedding, it’s saying you love her. Sometimes you just have to be there. If it’s a mistake you have to help her pick up the pieces. ” So I think they’re OK. I think she’ll stay with her husband, He’s a bit controlling but that’s what she wanted. She got pregnant, on the honeymoon, which they planned and had the baby, which was OK, because her son from her first marriage is six and her daughter will be two next month. They didn’t want to wait too long (because of ) the space between the two. She’s having another one in June. Rebecca isn’t out of diapers yet. When Nancee learned that Tracy was pregnant again, you should have seen her.
“How could she get pregnant again? Don’t this woman know that you don’t have to do that right after … Shouldn’tshehavelet…” SoNanceeseesthatandshelooksatDee, Scott’s first wife, and she sees how unhealthy she is. Yet she can be friends with Tracy, she can be fiiends with Dee, but see their mistakes and errors and not want to repeat them and not do the same things. And that makes me feel very good. Jill worries about (Nancee). “She’s spending an awful lot of time with Dee. ” So?? She ain’t going to do
what Dee does. She disapproves of many of the things (Dee does), but that doesn’t mean she has to stay away from her. She disapproves of Tracy but she spends time with her.
Often Jill’s and my arguments are about Nancee. I mean, I don’t argue about it, because (1) just wowt. As THE parent, I mean she’s co‑parenting, but as THE parent and the one that I feel has the better understanding of child development and how Nancee has
developed, my decision is going to be the final one. So she gets upset, “Well, how are we co‑parenting if your decision’s going to be the last one?” In any relationship, if you don’t agree, one’s going to make the decision. So Nancee was watching a lot of TV. She didtft always watch a lot of TV. She was on the soccer team, and she was playing flute at school and she was doing well with school AND she watched a lot of TV. More than most kids, but hefl, it wasn!t like she was always in front of it. So Jill was like, “Well don’t you think you should cut back on how much … ?” Why? She goes outside to play, she goes over to fhends and plays, she talks on the telephone, she does this, she does that, AND she watches a lot of TV. If all she did was watch TV, maybe I’d be concerned but she wasn’t. So those kind of things. (Jill) worries about things like that. Now with Nancee’s homework and school, she has a part time job and a car. The other day (Nancee) said she wanted to get her bellybutton pierced. She wanted to get her nose or her lip pierced. NO. NO. Then she wanted to get her tongue pierced. All of that feels like it would hurt to me. (When) she got the second earring I said, “You want it. You can have it.” Hey, I got two. They did mine when I was six. I’d never do that. I’m not getting any more holes in mine. That hurts. (But) she wanted (it) pierced. So finally she said, “Bellybutton. ” “OK, (I said), “I’ll think about the bellybutton. You find a place.” So she asked Tracy. Tracy found a place in New Hampshire that would do it and that was a clean, you know, good reputation, and so forth. So I said, “OK, you pay for it, you can do the bellybutton. I’ll take you down. I’ll sign for it.” So she did that just a couple weeks ago. (Jill said), “Well how did she have money to do that?” I said, “Look if she wants to spend her money that way, that’s fine.” “Yeah, but …. 11 I said, “Look,” and I told her this before, “she’s paying for her school lunches, she pays for her gas, she’s making her car payment, she pays for her telephone and she’s buying all her other incidentals like deodorant, shampoo and sanitary napkins and all that. I think that’s pretty responsible.” (Jill said), “Well, OK, I guess so.” She’s doing all that on her part‑time job and keeping her grades up. She has curfew, she has to be in at 9:3 0 on a school night and !: 00 on the weekend, and she’s
usually out until the full time. (Jill says), “Don’t you think she should be in?” I say,”Look. She’s 17. She’s a junior. She’s graduating in a year. This is the time for her to find out if she can budget her own time, if she can do all (this). It won’t do me any good to tell her to cut back. She has to learn that.” And that’s something that Jill doesn’t have any real experience or understanding of, so it’s real, real hard for her.
I think I always had a natural inclination toward what being a parent was, and what being healthy was and that’s how I could effect my own healing and make it stick and make it work. I just use the same principles with kids. It feels real right with me. (Nancee’s) doing well. She needs my input every once in a while. She needs my help with suggesting things but for the most part she’s doing real well. She went and got the loan for the car and she’s ahead on her payments. Her payments are $75 a month, (but) she’s doing$100monthsoshecanpayitoffearly. She’sdoingherphonebillandshetreats herselftodinneracoupletimesaweek. Andshe’spayingforhercarinsurance. Shegives me the $25 every month toward that. I mean, I’m surprised how well she does do on what she’s earning. She’s doing fantastic. No money’s going into savings yet, but …. She did have $800 in savings which is what she used as a down payment on the car. Her tax
return is coming in and that’s coming to me because she just had to have work done on the car. It was going to go into savings as an emergency for the car, (but) the emergency happened before it came. She’s talking about “Maybe I’ll get married at 24 or 26 but I ain’t having a baby right away.” So she’s got a level head and I feel confident about that. And she’s very loving with her nieces and nephews.
I think she’s grown to like and respect Jill in areas of her strength. Jill wants love. Nancee was nine when Jill came into our life. Personality‑wise, I don’t (think) Nancee’s ever going to love Jill. I just don’t think she will. You know they say you marry your parent. I married my mother. Not as bad, but (Jill) has elements of my mother. She’s concerned about what people think She’s concerned about how to present herself. One of the early things we had to deal with (was when) we’d go out to a restaurant. Of course,
she hadn’t raised her daughter from about 10 on up, so she had this long gap in chdren’s development when she hadn’t been around a child a lot. When we’d all go out to a restaurant as a fanffly I always made sure that we went to a family oriented restaurant, not a formal place where you’d need to be quiet, polite and proper. Nancee wouldn’t make lots of noise but she’d make noises, she’s get up walk around and come back and blow her straw and that would just drive Jill crazy. So we had an argument, a big argument about it one night and I said, “Look, if you want, you and I will go to dinner, and I’ll take Nancee, but I am not going to make her sit there and look good because someone may be
watching. That’s their problem. That’s how I grew up. I’m not doing that. I’m not going to go overboard and let her be outrageous like some kids I see, but what she’s doing is within the limits. ” So there was a lot of learning that had to go on there, because those were the kinds of things that concerned (Jill). That came from her upbringing, ftom her childhood. And we had to deal with that. But it wasn’t until those things happened several times and things like that, that I said, “Oh my God, my mother. It’s a lesser version of my mother.” “What will the neighbors think? What will people say?” That was my mother’s lament.
That was very important to Jill. She’s worked through it to a great degree. She’s no longer uncomfortable introducing me as her spouse. She’s OK with that. And it took her a while. It wasn’t protecting herself with that one. It was protecting me. That
because of my profession and what I was doing she was afraid that people would turn
away or not use my services. If someone was willing to walk away from a quality service because they don’t approve of something I’m doing with my personal life, that’s not somebody I want to work with anyway. I’m trying to teach people to be themselves. And how can I do thatif rm hiding who I am? I don’t flaunt it . Like my class that I’m teaching now. I believe, I have always believed, in using gender neutral language. So I have
always said “Spouse” as opposed to “Husband” and “Wife.” I mean, if I’m talking to an audience of people I don’t say “Husband” and “Wife” because there’s both male and
female. I say “Spouse” and that covers everybody. I say “Sibling” not “Sister/Brother.”
So I’ve always done that and I continue to do that. In class last week I was talking about something my spouse had said or did and someone said, “Is the same husband we’re talking about?” I said. “It’s the same spouse.” Now at some point I will clarify for them that they hear (the word) “Spouse” and, because I’m female, they’re interpreting that as “Husband.” But I never said “Husband” and I won’t say “Husband” and I won’t say “He.” I won’t lie. I won’t push it in people’s face. At some point, someone’s going to say “What does he do?” and I’m not going to be able to phrase it in a way without using the “she” pronoun. That’s fine and I’ll deal with it. Nobody’s ever had a problem with it. As a matter of fact, everyone says, “Oh, you’re right. You never did say nothing. You always did say “Spouse.” And it’s a learning lesson for them too. So at some point I know that’ll happen. But at that point I said, “Yes it’s the same spouse. I didn’t need to say “She” or ofife. to
So I don’t push it, but I won’t hide from what I am. I had to do that as a child too because of my race. You know, there was one time when (Jill) said in the heat of some argument early in our relationship, “Don’t be so uppity. ” WHOA! I sat up straight and I said, “You can say what you want. You can call me what you want. (But) doiyt you ever, ever, say THAT to me again. Don’t you ever say I’m uppity. ” And I mean, she had no idea of what she had done, absolutely no idea. And I said, “You never tell a black person, black woman that she’s uppity. You just don’t.” “But what does it … ?” (I said), “You
doift need to know what it means. You just need to know that you don’t do it. ” She never did again. The other night we were watching something on TV and someone called a black woman uppity and I said “See,” because it was a put‑down and the other person responded and all I did was say “See” and she said “Uhuh” and this (argument) was years ago. I never even had to say what I was talking about just “See” and she said “Uhuh”. So I said, “You don’t call a black man or even a black boyboy’and you don’t call me
Uppity’. You don’t do that. ” It wasn’t that she meant it. But I had to tell her that that was one of those things that would just set me off. You just can’t do that. So she never did it
again. I don’t know if she’s thought it, but she’s never said it again. Those are the kind of things that we had to learn as we were blending our races together.
As a child I lived that. I always worked hard to show my worth. To my mother (I tried to) prove my worth, (and) to others show my worth. In junior high, seventh and eighth grade, Columbia Junior High, I knew that they had an award given to the outstanding eighth grade boy and girl, both academically, socially, community service, all of that combined to give them an award, the American Legion Award. And I knew that was something I wanted. This wasn@t something I really wanted for my mother. This was one of the things I wanted. I really wanted that. I worked hard for both my seventh and eighth grade year for that. Real hard. I kept my grades up, I did community service. But I had a good time doing it. And when I was in eighth grade, toward the time when they were making the decisions, a teacher came to me and said, “Marta, you are going to get an American Legion Award and John is going to get the other award and Terry is going to get the award. ” I just waited because I knew something more was coming. They never gave three; it was always two. And the teacher said, “Marta, all of the teachers selected you as the girl to get the award. But the American Legion would not accept your name because you’re colored. And they thought that would be a slap in the face for all the white girls even though you are the one who has earned it. But the teachers wouldn’t back down, and so they reached a compromise. That’s why Terry Harrington will get an award too.” They would not withdraw my name, so the American Legion compromised and said, “OK. (We’ll give out three.)” So I walked across the stage and I got (my award) but it wasn’t the same as when I watched the seventh grade girl and boy go and get theirs. I knew everybody else knew why. I think everybody else in that building knew, too, that I was
the one who had earned it, because if I hadn’t, there wouldn’t have been three. Everybody knew. But it didn’t make any difference. It wasn’t the same. It was one of the few times I did not want to share the spotlight.
So there were always those kind of things happening. I remember one year our school was overcrowded, and so they bussed a whole classroom to another school, Lincoln, that didn’t have as many students. It was underpopulated at that point (so) I think they bussed two of our classes over there. It must have been second or third grade, because I really wasn’t very old yet. I went to Lincoln for two years so it was probably second or third grade. The area I lived in was a pretty racially mixed area: large black population, white, very few Hispanics. (The Hispanics) were primarily in the next town where my mother taught, but (there were a) large percentage of black students in my school, in Riverside. This (move) wasn’t for desegregation or anything, this was just they picked up a second grade class and a third grade class and just plopped us over there with our teachers and everything. They just didn’t have enough room in the building. The school we were bussed to was in a completely white area so there were no black students in that school. I remember being outside for recess several times and there was this little boy who went to Lincoln. (He was) not from Riverside. (He was) one of the Lincoln kids. We were out at recess all the time at the same time and I liked him. He was nice
and he was fiiendly and he liked me. He was nice and he was fiiendly, and so we played together. We ran around and swung and slid and (played) on the jungle gyms and everything, played together every day, tag, you name it. We were frequently just the two of us but we’d often be with the other kids. And one day we were out there and it was just the two of us and he came up and he kissed me on the cheek and he said, “I like you.” I said, “You can’t,” and I pushed him away. And he said, “But I do like you, why not?”
And I said, “Because I’m colored and you’re not.” So even as early as seven I knew that you can’t do that. I knew that and he didet. He had no contact,@Nith colored people, so nobody’d ever taught him yet. There’s no better proof (that) kids have no idea. You have to be taught to hate. You have to be taught to feel prejudiced or to see the difference.
And he hadn’t. Nobody had taught him yet because there was no reason to. And I taught him. I had to. Those kind of things happened.
I lived in the North, in a so‑called integrated society but it wasn’t that. We had the semblance of it but underneath we knew. I know one of the last times I went to Kentucky (was when) I was 12. My fiiends and I took the bus downtown and we went to the
movie. Then we were going to go back home on the bus but we decided to walk a few blocks from the theatre to a White Castle (restaurant). So we went to White Castle and everyone asked for (their orders) to go. Well, (it) was going to be twenty minutes before the bus came and I said, “Let’s sit here and eat ’em.” And they said, “No, let’s take ’em and go.” I said, “Let’s stay. I don’t want to go out there. I’d rather eat them here.” They said, “We can’t sit in here. ” Well, that’s 1962. But I wasn’t used to that. They knew we could not sit at the counter in White Castle in Louisville, Kentucky in 1962. And when they told me that (I said), “Well I’m sitting here.” So I got my bag, because I had asked for mine to go just like everybody else and I said, “I’m sitting here.” So they’re grabbing me and pulling me outside, but I was going to sit there. Well, I got on the bus and went home with them. I was twelve then.
When I was sixteen or seventeen, before the incident with me cutting myself, urban renewal was coming in, buying up all the property and so forth. It hadn’t happened yet but it was gonna happen. It was going to happen. My mother and stepfather had already started around looking at other places. My stepfather was from Oklahoma and he was part Indian. He was Afiican‑American with a lot of Cherokee Indian. Most of his
brothers and sisters had skin about my skin tone, and more Afiican American hair. But his skin tone was white. If you didn’t know, he had straight hair, Caucasian, Indian hair of a light color. So he didn’t look Indian, he looked white. He made good money where he worked, and my mother had been teaching long enough, (so) she made good money, so with the combination we always lived well. They were going to get a pretty good price for our property, plus what they had already saved, so they were looking in some really
nice places. My stepfather went to this fairly new area at that point called Munster. He was driving around Munster, stopping and looking at a couple of the signs. He stopped at
a couple and I think he went to a realtor and said, “I’m looking for a house. My wife’s a teacher and we’ve got two kids, a junior and sophomore in high school, and we’ve heard that Munster is a good place and so forth and so on.” The realtor said, “Yeah, we could probably fit you in for the right amount of money. We’ve got things that would accommodate you. It’s a very nice professional community.” And this guy goes on, “You don’t have to worry about them moving in here.” (And my stepfather said), ‘Them?” The realtor said, “Well, you know, those colored people, pushing themselves on people.” (MY stepfather asked), “Oh, why not?” (The man answered), “Well, you know, we’re an unincorporated area so we don’t have a fire department. Just a volunteer fire department. And we’ve already sort of decided that if one of them moves in here, gonna be a fire and the fire department ain’t gonna respond. ” (My stepfather) was RIPPED. He came home and I heard him talking to my mother. Oh, he was so angry. He was ready to go and buy a house. He said “I’m gonna go buy a house and I’m gonna round up the darkest,
colored, blackest kids I can find with the runniest noses and the loudest voices and the nastiest heads and I’m gonna move them in.’ He was furious. Needless to say, my mother prevailed and they didn’t do (it). But that was 1966 or 1967.
1 don’t really see the whole issue of racism , I don’t see the issue of sexism as any better (today). People have just sort of, as long as it’s underground, not open and overt, people can pretend it’s not there. But it is there. I had hoped that my children would not have to experience it. But (Nancee’s) had to worry about whether or not a young man who liked her, if his parents would allow him to date her because of her race. I guess I
sort of hope my grandchildren won’t have to (worry). Yet it’s been a hard struggle the last few years. I’ve become cynical enough to just sort of lose my faith in people. People aren’t really trying to change‑ they’re just trying to keep the status quo. People have
gotten so tired. They don’t care enough about themselves, let alone anybody else. I try not to feel hopeless, but I have to work real hard not to feel hopeless. I don’t see real change. And I think what’s most fhghtening is, I see people pretending there’s change and
if they pretend there’s change, there (isn’t) going to be any change. So I don’t see the issue of race or gender or sexual orientation really being solved. I see it as a matter of fear; and as long as someone’s afraid that they’re going to be at the bottom of the ladder, they’re going to find somebody else to put underneath them. And that is what our society teaches us. It doesn’t teach us to cooperate. You know, when people talk about the melting pot, I can’t think of anything that would fhghten people more. To lose your identity and be a melting pot, that’s not what its all about. We’re supposed to be a salad, because salad doesn’t lose its individual flavors, You’re still tasting the onion and the carrot and the broccoli and the lettuce and the cucumber and the tomato. It’s all there. But we don’t think of that. We think that one vegetable is better than another because it’s this or
because it’s that. One thing that always, always has confused me is that when I was a kid there were a couple places that I couldet go swimming. It’s like, is it going to rub off.? But then I would watch them work so hard to get a tan to be my color. Duh! I mean, what is this? You don’t want people because they’re darker in color, but you work real hard to achieve that same thing every summer. It was so strange as a kid. I couldn’t understand it. That always just struck me as stupid and funny, not as disgusting, just real stupid. Think about it people! Think about it!
I know that finding the ULJ Church was very important for me. I was out of churches for over IO years. I had reached a point of atheism and I was swinging back towards agnosticism. I knew that was about as far as my pendulum was going to swing. And there aren’t a whole lot of churches out there who allow you to be an agnostic and be part of them. Ever since slave days, the Black Church has been the center of the Black community. Not the family; the family existed to serve the Church and God. So the
Church has really been the center. For me, to leave the Black Church was Re cutting myself off from everything. It was hard, but it was also the only thing I could do because it didn’t fit me. It didn’t fit my beliefs. So I was out of Church for a long time. I did research, I read about churches, I visited different churches, I converted to Catholicism
and ultimately realized that was like out of the pan and into the fire. I tried Lutheran and several (other churches). I finally said, “OK, I’ll find my own spiritual‑whatever‑l‑need at home. ” But church is a place not just for spiritual growth but for community. And, ultimately, I reached a point in another period where I had gotten much healthier but I was very, very depressed. I had a lot of things happening in my He. I lost my job, I had an accident, totaled my car and wound up in the hospital, had a robbery at my home: one thing after another. I was getting depressed and I knew I needed people. I had a friend who I worked with who had, for three years off and on, (talked about her church) every time religion would come up. It was always me who brought it up, not her, and she’d say, “Well I go to this church and it’s really different.” (And I’d say),” OK, heard that before. Change the subject.” Finally I was feeling really, really bad, and I said, “What’s the name of that church? Where is it? When’s it meet?” And I went, and I liked it, I really liked it. And my kids liked it, which was even stranger. You know, there were always churches that would send a bus around to pick up kids, and I would send them because just because I was an agnostic I didn’t believe that they had to believe the same thing I did. That meant they had to have some experience so they could make an informed choice. And they
always hated it. Every single one of them. But this one they liked and they wanted to go again. We went again, and we went a third time. So now I’m worried. So I made an appointment with the minister, Bob, and I went in and said, “You know this has really been nice. I’ve enjoyed it. The kids have enjoyed it. (But) it’s like waiting for the other
shoe to drop. What’s going to happen when people realize that I’m an agnostic and don’t believe in God.” He said. “Well, the true believer on your left will probably grab one hand, and the atheist on your right will grab your other hand, and you’ll feel welcome. (So I said), “Oh, OK.” In all my reading, I had never run across anything on the UU Church. It was right for me from the very beginning. It allowed me to believe what I wanted to believe and still be able to belong. I didn’t have to believe what They wanted
me to believe. So that’s a very important aspect (of my life). One thing that I really like is
Scott is coming back. He was very active in our church in Kentucky, He had just gone through a Coming of Age ceremony and Nancee had had her Christening. I’m glad that he’s beginning to return and that Lila was. Her parents are Mormon and she had no interest in being Mormon, so she was sort of glad to find a church that she could like.
Jill’s parents are Mormon. They kept trying to get her back and sort of raized that ain’t going to happen at this point.. When I went in (to the UU Church), I certainly didn’t know their feelings about sexual orientation, but that came in handy. Worked out nicely!
So I guess, I started (this story) back when I was three, and III be 50 this July. I thought about that last year. For me, I had not planned on living past 15. After that I existed for many years. Finally, around twenty six, I effected my healing. That’s really when I began to live. Before that my birthdays were always sort of depressing and to be avoided. After that I began to enjoy them and have a good time. Jill’s the same age.
She’s two months older than I am. Her birthday’s in May; mine’s in July. With her 50th birthday coming up this year, two months before mine, I figured we’d have a big party or something. I just felt like that was going to overshadow mine. Like when we did her forty‑fifth it was big, (and) mine felt anti‑climactic. We did something different but it was still second. So I was thinking, “What can I do? I really want to do something special.” For me this is really important. It’s important because my mother and my aunt died very close to fifty and I’ve always been fairly worried about just making it to fifty. After I wanted to live, I worried about making it to fifty. So I thought about it. So what I’m doing is (this): (Since my birthday’s July 25) 1 decided that I was going to celebrate the twenty‑fifth of every month from February of this year to February of next year. Except for Christmas, except for December. And so for twelve months, I’m celebrating my birthday. For the weekend of July 25th, I’m going to have a women’s camp‑out slumber party down at our camp in Wells. Slumber party and movies and swimming, whatever. I put together an invitation and a letter and I’ve given it out to about 60 women friends. I’ve got about 30 more to give out. I’m inviting them to join me on the twenty‑fifth of
each month or, if they can’t join me, to do something nice for themselves and to think about me and think about themselves on that day. So that’s how I’m going to celebrate. It started last month. We had a snowstorm. So many things had happened recently that I was really tired and, because my computer crashed, I couldn’t get all the invitations out.
So what I decided to do was tell everyone who said they wanted to be involved to just do something nice for themselves. Then we had the snowstorms hit, so I was really glad we hadn’t decided to get together. But I really, really, really, really wanted a massage. And I hadn’t had time Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday to call and arrange one and I dowt have a massage therapist around here that I use. I haven’t used one in several years. I was doing a workshop down in Portland, so I didn’t even have that day to call around. At one of the breaks, I went and got the Portland phone book and looked around and there was an ad for (a massage therapist in) Freeport that had same day appointments. I called and she had one open at 5:45 and the workshop ended at 4:00. 1 went to Freeport, spent a half hour with my best friend who got me here, Pam, because she’s in South Freeport and then went to the massage. I had a massage and drove very careuly home because I was in an alpha state and it was still snowing. So that’s how I celebrated last month.
I know sometimes I think I cannot remember ever having a kiss from my mother or a hug. She wasn’t that type. I can remember a little bit of praise that came after I was an adult, when I made it through college. It makes it nice. My mother and I actually ultimately had a very good relationship, (but) not as mother and daughter. She could
never be my mother, but as two adult women we had a good relationship. That happened because I knew that if anyone was going to change it had to be me first. When I would
not put up with her stuff, when I made the relationship conditional on her treating me with respect and the honor that I deserved as another adult, we ultimately had a very good relationship. I can remember her writing me a note shortly before she died that said she was proud of me. And I miss her now since she died.
My father, I didn’t say a lot about him. My father and I had a rough time. I loved him as a little girt. He was so special. I didn’t get to see him often because, after I was three and they divorced, he lived on the East Coast in either Washington or New Jersey. So I didn’t see him. He would come in the summer and pick my brother up and take us back for about a month to wherever he was living or to where my grandmother was. So it was always special. I can remember a couple of times. One time I was at vacation Bible School. He came to the site. It was out in the country and we were having a picnic. He came and I was way over there and I saw him and I went running. I couldn’t have been more than six. I remember that. And I remember another year (when) I was about 8 or 9. He had broken his leg playing softba. He drove to pick us up anyway, driving with one foot. Scary, but it was OK, I was going with my daddy. I remember one time that I had my first crush on somebody and I talked to him about it. I asked him “What do I do?” I didn’t see him after I was twelve until I graduated, so I must have been about ten or
eleven. He talked to me about it. I remember one time (when we visited my) my great grandmother. She favored boys. She liked boys. She didn’t like girls. She didn’t like me at all. She didn’t like my cousin. She loved my brother, she loved my father and she loved Scott when he came along. One summer, she had gone to D.C. with us so she could
watch us while (my father) was working. She said I did something which I hadn’t done. He didn’t even listen to what I had to say and he spanked me. I was never so hurt in my whole life. My father died about two years ago. I tried for years. Remember when I said I did that article? Well, I started doing more after that, and that was the first one I did where I used my name. So at that point I talked to Scott and I told him what I was doing, (and) that I’d been abused. I talked to my grandmother, (but) my mother was long dead, (and) I didn’t have to tell (my stepfather) anything. My father happened to come for a visit and I just thought that if I’m doing this publicly on the radio whatever, who knows where it’s going to go and I don’t want them just turning something on and hearing it. So I was disclosing to close family so that they wouldn’t be surprised. Part of my philosophy is you
don’t disclose to people as part of your healing process; you only disclose after you’ve healed, when it doesn’t matter what they say or do. So I was just letting him know. I wasn’t asking him for anything. He came for a visit. He said to me, “I thought something like that might happen.” Now see, if I’d gone to him for something, that could have devastated me, but because all I was doing was releasing information, releasing a secret, I said, “It doesn’t really matter what you thought or didn’t think. Fm just letting you know (so that), in case you hear the name, you’re not blindsided. ” He then said, “Why didn’t you tell me?” I said, “Well, look. I lived in the same house or next door to the same house my whole childhood, because we lived in my grandmother’s house and then we lived next
door. You always knew where I was, you knew what school I went to, you knew where I was. I was a child. You were an adult. Mother didn’t let me know where you were. I didn’t get any of your letters, if you sent letters. I didn’t get any presents, if you sent presents. I couldn’t find you. So I couldn’t let you know. ” And he said, “You should have tried. ”
And at that point, I got angry because I knew what was happening. ffis guilt was making him need to find someone to blame. And there was nobody else to blame so it had to be me. That I didn’t try hard enough to find him, to get out of it, to let him know. I said, “Look, that’s not what this is all about. I’m not blarffing you, so don’t you blame me. I’m
not holding you accountable and responsible, so stop it. I’m just letting you know.” I don’t think he was ever, ever able to let go of that. After I was here (in Maine), there was a movie on TV that was about abuse. I saw the first part of it, and it looked really good. I had tried to talk with him and was never very successful. I called him and I said, “Look there’s this good program on. Why don’t you watch it, get some information about it, give me a call and we’ll talk.” I didn’t hear from him for a long, long time,
Then I happened to be talking to a friend about 3 months later and she said something about, “How are you doing?” I said, “OK. Everything’s going pretty well here. 1 like Maine. It’s OK. ” She said, “Well, I was surprised I didn’t see you at the funeral. ” I said, “What funeral?” She said, “Your grandmother’s funeral.” I said, “What are you
talking about?” She said, “You didn!t know? Your grandmother died.” I said, “No, I didn’t know. ” My grandmother had died, his mother. When I lived in Kentucky, I lived with her, in her house, for five years. then I moved to my own apartment within a few blocks, and then I moved to Lexington. But (when) I moved back, I lived with her a couple more years and I bought my own house right up the street. I was the one who took her to doctor’s appointments and shopping and helped her pay her bins for seventeen years. He was in and out. He would visit maybe once every three years. He didn’t call
me and tell me she’d died. So we had no contact for many years after that. That was just mean. That was mean. I didwt make any effort to contact him. When I met Jill and we were going to get married, this was a reason for me to contact him, I sent him an invitation, I didn’t get a response. I called him a year later. He was polite. He said, “What’s her name? Jane?” “No, Jill.” “Oh, how’s Jill? Goodbye.’ He never called. I’d call again six months, eight months later to say, “M.” He could never remember Jill’s name. I asked him for my half‑brother’s address because I wanted to write him. He was an adult. And (my father) wrote me this scathing letter, (saying) that he wasn’t going to give me the address so I could use him and mooch off him. All I was trying to do was arrange a family relationship between my children. He didn’t have any interest in seeing his grandchildren. I asked him. I invited him. He didn’t want to come. So finally the last time I called and he still didn’t know Jill’s name, I said, “That’s it. I keep reaching and he keeps biting the hand, he keeps cutting the hand off with a machete. That’s it. I’ve done everything I can do to try and establish a relationship. He can’t get past his guilt, his feelings. That’s not my problem, and I’ve tried. I can’t do it any more. I won’t do it anymore.”
Well, he died two years ago. It was the week I was about to go to Pennsylvania. A family fiiend called and told me as soon as he died. She had been called by a fraternity brother of his or someone. And she let me know. I knew that his wife was not going to
let me know. I knew that. Gloria had gotten all the information of where was going to be the funeral home and the church and what time was the service and everything. I got the
directory of UU Churches from (my minister) Brad and found someone there to come in. We were driving overnight from here, so I needed a place just to go in and bathe and put on dress clothes for the funeral. So we found someone who was more than willing to let Jill and I do that. So we went and dressed, you know the power suit, I put on my black pinstriped suit with red shell and heels. I looked good. I walked into the funeral down to the front, down to the front pew, past the wife/widow, past my half brother, his wife, past whoever else they had sitting with them and sat in the front pew. I opened the program. (it said) “survived by his wife and son, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, not a mention of my brother or 1. ” I don’t get mad; I get justice. So the mayor got up and spoke about what a wonderful family man, citizen, community citizen he was. Roland, my half brother, got up and spoke about how he was going to miss his father and how wonderful his father was to him and related a couple events from his childhood and his adult life. And then I got up. I walked up. Of course, I wasn’t on the program to speak. So I got up before the next thing happened (and said), “I’d like to introduce you to another part of Ronnie’s family. I’m his daughter, his eldest child, Marta Marie Pearson, and I
have a brother, Cory, and he had X number of grandchildren.” I gave the names of them. I said, “And I too remember times with my father. I remember when I had my first crush and we talked about that, and I remember the time he came and he picked us up when he had a broken leg and I was scared a the way but it was my daddy driving the car, and I went on and on and on and on and on. I want to thank you for allowing me to share the rest of Ronnie’s family with you. ” I turned around and sat down. Afterwards, I never said a mean thing about her or anybody else, didn’t say “didn’t invite me”, but of course everybody had their programs there (and said), “She’s not listed”. I didn’t look like a fool; they did. Afterwards many people came up who had known him for many years and said, “I knew about you. Ronnie had talked about you and your brother. We’re really glad you is got here. We’re really glad you’re here. It’s a shame that you were excluded.” So, I did
fine. Everybody else looked like a fool. I looked OK. I’m a public speaker. Hell, I know
how to do that. I do this for a living. You think I don’t know how to get up here and shine? That’s both of them. They’re both gone. My mother I miss, because we did have a good relationship as adults.
I think I hit the highlights (of my life). I could think of lots more. (But) I said the things that at this moment I needed to say. Some of them jogged something else I needed to say, or wanted to say. I’ve created a famfly. I’ve created a immediate farnfly. I’ve created an extended family. I hug my kids, I kiss them, I teach them how to love. I nurture them. I nurture adults. And we’re doing OK, a of us. We’re doing OK.