And this coming from a very irregular sort of Irrelephant.
I think I want to talk briefly about rednecks, Thanksgiving, the spirit of the holidays and stupidity.
For Thanksgiving supper, we went to the in-law's home, there to dine with the excellent mom-in-law, Kev-O her equally excellent husband, the two younger sibs, and Kev-O's very disturbed and very funny mother and her significant other, those two luminaries having come down from New Yawk to visit. Also invited were two mutual family friends, both regulars at the house and the table. All in all a nice bunch, people you'd really want to spend the holidays with. And after my family, I was really looking forward to a relaxing evening eating, drinking, and playing cards.
So the evening progressed nicely, the wine flowed freely, and the talk was easy. And suddenly the evening was interrupted by an event whose unfolding made me a dozen times more proud of the family I married into. See, the two family friends are great folk, one from the West coast and the other is a local boy, raised right up the road from me. I didn't realise he had a sister until they were sort of forced to invite her for the evening, because she was fleeing her physically abusive boyfriend with her 8 month old daughter and their as of yet unborn son.
She presented at the house as being VERY young, sort of shy and a little bit naive, and with her very thin but pretty face very bruised, as well as obvious bruises on her wrist and, no doubt, other bruises that didn't show. She was wearing surgical scrubs and house slippers, and I will admit that my first impression was that she was nothing but a hick mouth-breather. And I will also freely admit that my impression of her changed that evening, before it changed back.
The evening got very strained when she first walked in, because we were all sure that someone, somehow, would pop off, or something would be said, or simply that her presence there was going to bring some sort of horrific drama down on us, but we couldn't have been more wrong. The young girl was quiet to the point of being shy, the infant was exceptionally well-mannered, and my in-law family accepted her with gracious hospitality that made my heart swell with pride. This was the family I married into, this family who welcomed a complete stranger into their midst with her infant, ignoring her obvious signs of abuse and stress, and did their all to make her feel welcome, as well as to share their holiday meal and home.
At one quiet moment I was talking to Kev-O's mother, who asked me what the deal was. I told her, with shame in my voice that this was in fact the Old South, and that what she was seeing was commonplace enough that in many smaller towns it would be overlooked as status quo. I know she was as shocked as I was ashamed of it, but even she did a wonderful turn in bringing the girl out of her shell and into the family, even going so far as to take the infant for a walk up and down the block so her mother could get a small break and eat something.
So I sat there for the evening, occasionally dandling the baby on my hip, being quietly proud of these folks who had not only welcomed this young, abused creature into their house but also managed to bring her out of her shell. She left there that evening with a smile on her face, intending to live with her brother at their apartment for a while. They planned to support her until she could get back on her feet again, outside of this abusive relationship. They even went so far that evening as to buy her a case of diapers for the little one and offer to buy her clothes, because she had left the house quite literally with only what she and the baby were wearing.
The holiday passed, the week unfurled into the weekend, and I found out some interesting things--
- She stayed at her brother's apartment for 2 days before returning home to the abusive boyfriend.
- She didn't even have the guts to talk to them in person--she left them a note.
- This was not the first time she had left and returned. This was the FOURTH.
- She had lost their first child when her boyfriend punched her in the stomach.
I don't understand people. I really don't. I don't know what it's like to feel like that young girl, but I do know that after being given FOUR attempts to help her and having her turn them all down I would have an awfully hard time extending that hand again. Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel like we all got a slap in the face for love freely and honestly given.