It was 1967. I was 4. For a couple of years I had been going to a daycare place a couple of streets over from my grandparents’ house. I never liked being there. The owner and her daughter were mean and would spank us or threaten to spank us over the most trivial things. One Thursday the owner read some story to us about a farm. Then she had us line up single-file and she asked us where cows were found. The thing is, if you didn’t give her the answer she wanted you got your hand swatted with a 12″ ruler.
Every kid was saying the wrong thing. There was even a girl ahead of me who said, “in the country where the farms are,” and she got swatted. I had seen a few Tarzan movies and probably had looked at one or more of the comic books. So when my turn came up I said, “In the jungle.” She hit my hand several times with that ruler, and it stayed sore the rest of that day. When she was done with her interrogation of the last child in the line she told us that a cow is found on a farm. I may or may not have seen African buffalo in the movies, but the female of the species is referred to as a ‘cow.’
After I got back home I told my aunt that my hand hurt. It was red but not swollen, as far as I can remember. She asked what happened and I told her that the woman read us a story and hit us if we answered a question wrong. My aunt told my mom and grandmother, and they had to talk my mom down from going and confronting the woman. And I started going to a different facility after that.
I have a memory of my aunt coming to me and telling me that they were taking me to this woman’s home to watch me for a while, while the adults all went and did something. I remember being there for several hours. I did not trust the woman, and I was scared of her. Three or four hours seems like an eternity to a 4-year-old. It was so long that I started crying. And eventually my aunt came back to get me.
Recently I told my mother about that day from 50 years ago, and I asked her if she remembered what everyone was out doing that necessitated leaving me with that woman after what had happened. She said that they hated that woman for what she did and that none of them would have ever taken me to her home to babysit me. She suggested it was either a dream or something my mind cobbled together due to trauma. I have bits of memories from dreams over the years. This has always felt like it actually happened. There wasn’t anything ‘off’ about the surroundings like you’d have in a dream. kind of the way you can tell the CG effects in a movie from actual scenery outside.
I’m going to take my mom at her word, that they wouldn’t have put me through being babysat by that woman. I may have in fact dreamt it but it didn’t fade like most of the other dreams I’ve had, and it’s always felt so real.