When I was in grade one, I had a girlfriend named Mary Foudy. In the early fall, I asked my mother if I could go home with Mary after school and play. Now, my mom had met Mary at my house and liked her very much. When she asked “Will Mary’s mom drive you home from school?” I answered, “No, they live so close that Mary’s mom can just walk over and meet us.” You will note that I said her mother can, not her mother will. This is a fine distinction, and a perfect example of how, at age six, I was already a proficient liar. It is also a very clear indication of the time and place that my mother didn’t consider – even for a moment -that Mary’s mother wouldn’t be there after school. But I knew. Mary’s mother worked. For real. At a real job. She was the only mother I knew who worked. It seemed the utmost in grownup responsibility to see Mary’s house key hidden on a string around her neck. If my mother knew that two six year old girls would be walking home and entertaining themselves in an empty house, she would never have let me go. So I lied. I was very excited. We got to Mary’s house without incident (she even let me use her door key – a first for me!) We made ourselves a snack and I felt extremely grown up. Then she suggested we go and play outside. After a few minutes an older boy from her neighbourhood came into her yard. He was carrying a hockey stick. (This was Canada, after all). He said to Mary very slowly… “I know you – I’ve seen you around here.” He turned and stared at me. “But I don’t know her.” Then he swung the stick and hit me in the face. I woke up in Mary’s neighbours house. She was an older woman and more than a little freaked out at my unconscious body and rapidly swelling face. She got my name out of a hysterical Mary and called my mother. My mother arrived quickly and rushed me to the doctor. I recall being woken up through the night so I guess there was a fear of concussion. A greater fear was the state of my eye that couldn’t be checked as the swelling was too great. A few days later, I was still kept home from school and enjoying tea and cinnamon toast in front of the game shows with my mom. My eye was undamaged – certainly very lucky as they told my parents a tiny bit to the right and I would have been blinded.
My mom waited a couple of days and then took me over to the house where the offender lived. She knocked on the door and when the father answered she said, “Look what your boy did my to little girl.” The father looked at my bruised and swollen face and called for his son. The boy came around the corner and looked at me. His eyes widened and he turned to run but his father grabbed him and with one hand on the back on his neck, put him on the ground. With his other hand, the father removed his belt and started full out whipping the boy across his head and back. He cowered on the ground and tried to protect his face but he didn’t cry out. He didn’t make a sound. Without a word, my mother turned me around and we got into the car and left. I was absolutely shocked by the violence. It was so far from anything I had ever experienced – even the attack with the hockey stick. Of course, that wasn’t the end. Turned out the boy was about 14 and still in grade 5. He had what would today perhaps be called ‘developmental issues’ but back then was called ‘slow’. He had been held back for many grades and was receiving no special education or counselling. My mother sprang into action. She was already a volunteer with the Catholic Children’s Aid. She ended up having the boy removed from his abusive home and placed in a group home that she knew well. She supervised his transition and actually visited him for the next several years, taking him clothes and books and spending time with him. This was how my mother changed the world – one kind and responsible action at a time. Now the rational adult part of me knows that this was an incredibly generous act on her part. The six year old brat inside can still remember that I was jealous of him getting her attention. As a parent, I can also hardly imagine two six year old girls going home to an empty house. Of course the good news – my mom was so overcome with fear at my condition, and then relief at the outcome that I never did get punished for lying about going to Mary’s house. I guess she knew the lesson had been learned.