Lemonade & Stitches
Throughout my childhood, wherever we lived, there was always a vibrant, organic community made up of friendship, trust, and a sense that we were all in this together.
It was common among the six siblings to become buddies with siblings from other families in the community. That's how it was with Hannah and Mary. Mary and my older sister were best buds; both were totally cool girls in school. Hannah was Mary’s younger sister and my friend. We preferred riding our bikes and repurposing anything with wheels on it to being cool. These sisters lived directly across the street from us with their parents and two brothers. They hung out at our house a lot. But their parents were different, and we weren’t allowed inside their house.
The hot summers made lemonade and Kool-Aid stands pretty popular and a great way to supplement our allowances. Hannah and another friend, Tracy, and I decided to launch our own stand a few doors down at Regina and Tracy’s house. We set up our stand on the sidewalk, made a big pitcher of freshly squeezed, sugar-laden lemonade and we all hung out on their front porch talking and taking turns manning the stand. We hadn’t noticed that the kitchen knife we used to cut the lemons was missing. It was a lull in business that caused us to notice the heated discussion between Mary and my sister on the porch. Seems they were arguing about a blouse that one had lent the other. It wasn’t their first disagreement, but it would be their last, and the final day of their friendship.
Tracy, Hannah, and I snickered and went to the porch to hear the details just as they started to physically fight. There they were, tussling on the porch. It looked harmless and innocent, but none of us had seen the knife in Mary’s hand. It wasn’t until she stood up over my sister that we saw the blood. Tracy, Hannah, and I were frozen, and my sister was lying on the porch, trying to get up. Mary turned from my sister to me, looked me in the eyes, and said “I’ll stab you too.” I saw her swing the knife into the upper part of my back. I didn’t feel anything. I remember thinking maybe she meant something else? Maybe she was pretending? Had I really seen the knife? My ten-year-old brain had no point of reference. Things were moving in slow motion and felt more like some of my vivid dreams.
It was Regina’s scream that jolted me. She ran from her porch toward our house, screaming “she stabbed them!” I stood there asking myself, who did she stab?
By then, Mary had left the porch and started walking toward her house. I saw our mom run across the street, confront her, and take the knife. Then in the next moment, our mom was there with my sister and I getting us to our house as police cars pulled up. My sister and I rode to the hospital in the back of one of the police cars. I watched them put Mary in the back of another car, and I caught a glimpse of my friend Hannah. She looked horrified and frozen.
My sister was in a lot of pain and screamed and cried all the way to the hospital. But I was totally silent; even after glancing over my shoulder and seeing the wound that Mary had inflicted, I couldn’t feel anything.
The doctors stitched us up and sent us home with no thought of the trauma that came with it all. My mother tried to get us professional help but couldn’t afford it. She tried talking to Mary’s parents to get her some help. They refused to even try. The police hadn’t kept her, there was no trial or charges. None of us wanted that anyway.
My mom nursed us back to health and kept an eye on us, ensuring that we talked about our feelings. Hannah and I would see each other in school and greet each other. There was no anger between us, but we didn’t know how to bridge it all. We didn’t see Mary outside much. She had changed.
We moved away about three years later, but we kept in touch with our other friends in the neighborhood. We found out that Mary had started to come out of the house and seemed like her old self. She and one of our friends started dating and later had a child together. They broke up.
Mary was still living with her parents when she stabbed her infant child over 20 times. She was institutionalized and would later stab her mother.
Hannah became a social worker and has since passed away.
Being stabbed and the unacknowledged and untreated trauma placed me at a crossroads. Fear, distrust, and confusion all caused me to withdraw for a while. It was my mother’s persistence in keeping me and my sisters around family and encouraging us to make new friends while providing a safe space that got me through it. Every day I work with families who have lived through trauma. I find that, more important than providing clothing and shelter, is providing empathy and compassion that says: I know something has happened to you… and I see you.