My naive idealism was a thing of the times. I thought I could change the world, one juvenile life at a time, if only I was given the chance.
I had no previous experience, but I was welcomed with open arms, despite the reservations about my age and small stature. While I spoke about the difference I wanted to make in the lives of others, my dream to make it back to school to finish my psychology degree, and my new experiences as a mother, I could see the director glowing with my infectious enthusiasm. I poured out my plans, and he drank them up with delight as if they were an elixir that would make him a young dreamer once again.
A cloud was cast as he warned me about the potential hazards for a woman of my size to be employed at his place of business. At 5’1″ and 95 pounds, I did not have a lot of force behind me to defend myself if I were to find myself in a…difficult situation. I did not heed his warning at the time, being caught up in my idealism and all, though I should have.
I got the job.
For three months to the day I worked all the shifts I possibly could. I feared work and craved it. I wanted to be there, I wanted to learn, I wanted to help… But I walked through the door each day, terrified of the potential for disaster that was always lurking overhead.
I was trusted with the lives of damaged goods that just needed someone to care. I felt I had found my calling at last.
I was troubled and fascinated by each girl’s tale about how they had wound up in such a place. I found each of them interesting and dark and demented… All of the things I saw in myself but had somehow repressed just enough to remain undetected. I wanted to understand them – to understand myself.
After three months to the day I had to put all of my training to the test.
The young girl, half my age but larger than I, could not repress herself as I had always done. She acted on every rage that had ever stirred in her abused body and sought out to inflict pain on anyone that stood in her way.
I was in her way.
I had never known such terror in all of my twenty-something years. I had never had my hair ripped out of my head in such sizable clumps. I had never been pushed or pulled like a rag doll from one room to the next, all the while trying to free the grasp from my hair and defend my scalp from being bitten.
I had never known I could scream like that.
I had never known that a child, so full of anguish brought on by others that should have cared, could also cause so much pain and destruction.
Three months to the day from when I met the girls, I spent my last day with them – my first Mother’s Day.
Once in awhile I find myself driving down Camp Street… I hold my breath as my eyes well up with the stale emotions I can no longer express. I can still look through the eyes of that moment, and I am washed over by the words and sights and smells of the place I had thought was a new home to me…