Vol. II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, The Spanners Series, by Sally Ember, Ed.D.
Cover and logo art by Willowraven.
Cover reveal for Volume II: April 15, 2014
12th Serialized Excerpt, 3/31/14
CHAPTER SNAPSHOT #1
Snapshots of Clara’s Daily Life: Fourteen Octobers, 1963 – 2017
I am a little over seven years old. My younger sister, Cassie, is a year-and-a-half. In Bayonne in those days, pediatricians still make “house calls,” meaning, our mother calls when we are sick or she has no way to get to the doctor’s office (in those days, most families in our suburban neighborhoods either have only one car or their mothers don’t even know how to drive). The doctor then comes before or after office hours to our house to check on or treat one of us.
On this day, right before I leave for school, my mom tells me that the doctor is coming to give Cassie a check-up because she’s been coughing a lot. I think my mom tells me this because our house is right across the street from the school and she knows I can see it from the playground.
“When you see the doctor’s car in our driveway,” she tells me, “you will know the reason he’s here and not come running home, scared that something bad has happened.”
I’m walking through the hallways just before the morning bell rings for us to signal the end of before-school morning recess, telling us to go to our classrooms, when I am hit with a physical pain in my butt, on my hip. It feels as if I have been stabbed by something sharp. I look around, but there’s no one and nothing there but me.
I stagger and almost fall into a small staircase next to the stage in the cafeteria/gymnasium. It is so narrow I can put my arms on each wall as I stumble down the few stairs, limping from the pain in my hip.
My vision of the stairs blurs as I “see” my baby sister on my bed and not in her crib. She is crying. The doctor stands over her, our mother next to her, soothing her. The doctor then puts an empty syringe (a “shot”) into a small container which he puts into his black doctor’s bag.
The doctor just gave my sister a shot. Why does my hip hurt? What is happening?
I lurch into the office at the bottom of the stairs, which belongs to the gym teacher, and blurt out: “My sister got a shot and my hip hurts.”
The gym teacher, startled, looks up to see me almost falling over and reaches out one hand to steady me.”What?” she asks me.”Clara, what are you talking about? What’s wrong with your hip?”
I start to cry.”It hurts. It hurts. Tell him to stop.”
“Who, Clara? Who is hurting you?”
Suddenly, the pain stops, my vision clears, and I see where I am.
I shake my head and look at the teacher.”What?” I ask her.”What happened?”
“You tell me!” she demands.
“I saw my sister getting a shot from the doctor. He’s at our house. It hurt, but now it’s fine. I have to go. The bell rang. My hip doesn’t hurt at all anymore.”
“Are you sure you’re all right?” she looks at me intently.
“I feel fine, now. See ya.”
I bounce out of her office and run up the stairs. I walk extra slowly past the principal’s office, sneak around the corner, then race to my classroom as the second bell rings. I throw myself into my seat.
“Made it,” I announce, to no one in particular, panting.
My second-grade teacher, not a nice woman, remarks,”Clara, if you are late to school you have no one to blame but yourself. You live closer than anyone else.”
“Right!” I say, falsely bright.
I lift my desk’s flip-up top to get my pencil, but really so the teacher can’t see my face. I grimace, rolling my eyes at my best friend, Paula, sitting next to me, and stick out my tongue insolently at my teacher, safe behind the wooden barrier from her mean eyes.
Paula grins at me from behind her now-raised desk, rolling her eyes, too.
Class begins and I almost forget about the entire thing.
ESPE: Do you continue to have physically empathic reactions every time you timult?
CLARA: After that experience, I can only recall a few other times when I feel what others are feeling, physically or emotionally, during a timult. I usually get situational concepts or ongoing thoughts more than sensations or feelings of others.
Plus, I figure out on my own how to shield and re-direct fairly soon after this incident. I have to.
Even though I am not a full-blown empath, when a person in a timulted scene is a family member or close to me emotionally, I can still sometimes get empathic bleed-through, feeling their physical or emotional states briefly. My ESP training helps me keep the altered experiences and bleed-through to a minimum in terms of both duration and intensity, now. When I am younger, though, timulting is often problematic.
I also sometimes get empathic contact when I’m intentionally pre-cogging and accidentally, during dreams. In fact, empathic contact and the concomitant sensations are often my first clues that I’m having a pre-cognitive experience. More about pre-cogging in later Octobers in this Volume, all right?
ESPE: Sure. What else do want people to know about your elementary school years?
CLARA: About my being a feminist before I even know that word.
The part of my family that lives in Bayonne and near there are on my father’s side: his parents, his mother’s parents, his sister and her new husband, his mother’s brother and family, his mother’s single sister. We see them quite often.
I become an advocate for girls’ equal rights in my family and because of this school and its misogynistic policies. The need for this type of advocacy is all part of the era of my upbringing, unfortunately.
To anchor you younger ones: women my mothers’ age are the first generation of women who grow up with the right to vote in the USA, but women still can’t get credit, loans, property or inherit in their own names in many states until the 1970s. Even these “privileges” are accorded only to white women, remember: African-Americans of both sexes don’t get the “right” to vote until the late 1960s, when I’m in junior high school).
Men “own” their wives and can beat them up, rape them, force them to do whatever they want and the laws upholds these “rights.” Parents also “own” their children; child abuse, incest, neglect and abandonment are commonplace in some communities and there are no laws protecting the children.
There is an incident at our Reform Jewish Temple when I am four years old that is imprinted forever. In the great scheme of injustices and harmful moments, this one is not the greatest or worst by any means, even for me. But, it is pivotal in my feminist awakening.
I do not remember what holiday is being celebrated, just the incident.
We are all there, this aforementioned family of my father’s, along with my parents and my older brother. At one point in the service, my great-grandfather (my grandmother‘s father), my grandfather, my father and my brother are called up onto the pulpit (the small stage in the front of the congregation) to have their photos taken and be honored as “The Four Generations.”
I am furious. In my understanding, the “four generations” members being honored should have been this group: my great-grandparents, my grandmother as their daughter with her sister, my great aunt; my father and his sister; my brother and me. These are the four generations present today in our family, all of us.
Makes more sense, right? I suggest this, but my mother shushes me. She says, as if this explains it all,”Only men are allowed up there.”
I get angrier, especially when my brother senses my jealousy and smirks at me from the pulpit. I stick my tongue out at him. Well? I’m four!
Thus catalyzed, I am sensitized to sexism without having a word for it. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I am enraged a few years later when I encounter our elementary school’s sexist policies. For instance, there are no girls allowed on the so-called “Safety Patrol,” which infuriates me. I complain about it starting in 4th grade even though the Patrol boys aren’t selected until 5th- and 6th-grade years. I get nowhere.
I am pleased to report that, by the time Cassie comes along, five years later, girls in her class are allowed to be in this elite group. By then, selection is solely based on academic performance. I know that’s also a specious winnowing tool, but it purports to be “gender-neutral.”
Why do I militate to be “on Patrol”? Because it’s VERY COOL! On the days they’re officially “on duty,” the Patrol Boys get to wear a sash and a badge, which look very grown-up. While “on Patrol,” they get to come to class late every morning and leave early every afternoon in order to help the adult crossing guards at the intersections. This “important” work involves herding most of the students to where we’re already going, anyway. They also walk the kindergartners in and out of school for fire drills and situate them for air raid drills.
It’s not the tasks I envy; it’s the status. And, my prime motivation is the general principle of fairness.
(Yes, we have nuclear bomb air raid drills: we are told to hide under our wooden desks or whatever is nearby. The “Cold War” is in full swing while I’m at this school.)
More to be enraged about are the sexism and impracticality which dominate the school clothes rules. We do not have uniforms, but strict policies: girls are not allowed to wear pants or shorts. We have to wear skirts or dresses to school, every day.
Imagine climbing all over the “monkey-bars” (“jungle gym”), doing gymnastics, playing sports and sprinting around in dresses and skirts? We have no gym uniforms until junior high school, either, so we have physical educational games and activities in our regular clothes. Climbing ropes in skirts? Really? Skirts/ dresses really do not function well for active, sports-inclined girls, which many of us are.
As a work-around, passed down from some older girls, my friends and I wear shorts under our skirts every day or long pants in the winter. It’s so ridiculous and also infuriating. We protect our modesty and privacy (no one can see our underpants when we’re climbing or running around) but the double layers are bulky, slowing us down while making us uncomfortable and too hot in the warmer weather. I hate these rules and argue constantly to change them.
Also, my first “civil disobedience” nonviolent resistance leadership actions occur because of this. In fifth grade, I am 10 years old. That spring, as soon as the warm weather comes and we go outside for recess, I get on the playground and take my skirt off, hanging it on a less-used horizontal bar. I wear just my shirt and shorts, same as every day when I get home and all summer.
Many of my friends see me and do the same. We hoot and holler, running around, climbing freely, having a great time, daring the playground supervisors to send us to the Principal’s Office, but they studiously ignore us. When the bell rings, we put our skirts back on and go back to class, triumphant. Small victories.
CLARA: Even odder, we go from this strict, sexist dress code in 1963 to no dress code at all by 1969. More about that later.
ESPE: You become an advocate for girls, you know you can timult, you write stories and songs, you get up to reading over 100 books in one year, and others see you as either a leader or rabble-rouser, all before you’re out of elementary school?
CLARA: Yes. I don’t even see myself as unusual, yet.
ESPE: That’s the weirdest part!
Stay tuned on Sally’s blogs on WordPress (which has all links) and Tumblr, and on The Spanners Series‘ pages on Facebook and Google+, for each of the upcoming Excerpts from Volume II from March 16 – April 18, about one/day.
4/18/14, Volume II becomes available for Pre-orders via Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks and nook for half-price: @$1.99, through June 8, 2014.
On 6/9/14, Vol. II goes LIVE everywhere ebooks are sold for $3.99.
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