By Michael Howlett
August 6, 2014
You know how people undergo therapy, then announce all the problems they’ve had in life are due to them being abused as children. They say things like “I could have been the president of these United States, or Sham Wow spokesman, instead of a janitor at the inflatable sheep plant, if not for the abuse I suffered as a child.”
Well, my friends, I used to think people who needed therapy to realize they had been abused were, how we say, nut jobs, but I have changed my mind. I have had an epiphany. Yes, some of these people are apparently telling the truth. I say this because I have come to the realization that I too was abused. Oh, not in that way, you silly monkeys, no, there was no fiddling about. No, this is another form of abuse. I realized that I was a victim after reading about a Florida mother who was arrested and charged with child neglect for letting her 7-year-old son walk to the park by himself.
The walk to the nearby park only took 15 minutes and Little Dominic had his cell phone, but, nevertheless, his mom is now facing charges. It seems a person at a public pool along Dominic’s route called police after talking with Dominic and finding out he was unsupervised. The police nabbed the little guy and took him home, writing in their official report that he was alone and “numerous sex offenders reside in the vicinity” of the park.
My first question is, “Are numerous sex offenders allowed to roam a park frequented by children?” My second question is “Why in the hell are numerous sex offenders allowed to roam a park frequented by children?”
Anyway, back to my abuse. I grew up on Virginia Street, about a 15-minute walk from Hillsville Elementary School. I think I was driven to the school each morning during my first year of school, but after that my fellow school-aged denizens of Virginia Street and I walked. We were shoved out the door and left to our own devices. Of course, at the age of seven, we didn’t have many, no, check that, no devices. We simply did what we were told, which was “Go to school.” I received a kiss on the cheek and walked out into the world without a care. Little did I know at the time I was being abused.
During those years of walking to the elementary school, I don’t remember anything bad happening to anyone. Oh, somebody might get hit with a rock once in a while, but that was about it. Considering our inventive and somewhat dangerous activities during our neighborhood play, a rock to the back of the head was nothing to be concerned about.
After surviving those 15-minute walks to elementary school, it was only natural that I made the walk to Hillsville High School once I reached the eighth grade. That walk, however, came in at about a mile and a half. The abuse had intensified. To be honest, if it was raining or extremely cold, my parents did drive me to school. However, if the temperature was above freezing and dry, I was Woody Guthrie, traveling the highways and the byways. Hell, if I had had a train, a guitar and some musical talent, I might be famous now.
On the way to school, there was always a stop at the Carroll Drug in the morning for coffee and donuts with ice cream, and socialization. On the walk home there was a stop at Nuckoll’s Drug for drinks and food, and more socialization. I was a mover and a shaker in those days, always on the move, keeping it fresh.
Of course, my abuse didn’t stop with being forced to walk to school. Oh no, before I was of driving age, and even sometimes after, if I had ticked off my parents, I had to walk to the teen dances at the VFW on Saturday night. That walk was about a mile, but it was well worth it, because the dances had a tremendous amount of moving and shaking, as well as other activities normally associated with hormone-infested teenagers. Yes, today’s youngsters just don’t realize that back in the 60s the VFW was a hotbed of young lust, but that’s a story for another time.
In the summer, it was normal for a kid to leave the house in the morning and not return until dark. Whether walking or riding our bikes, we moved and grooved to the beat of our own drummer. Heck, sometimes, I and my friends would just walk or bike without a defined itinerary, and sure enough we’d end up somewhere.
When we were too young to drive a car, it seemed our parents had not a fear in the world for our safety. However, once we reached driving age, things changed. Then it was one question after another, “Where are you going?” “Who’s going with you?” “What time will you be home?” “You’re not going to get anyone pregnant, are you?” Yes, the carefree days of being a kid had become the inquisition associated with the teen years.
In recounting this glorious past, especially the earlier years when we were just a bunch of Boxcar Willies, I think I’ve had another epiphany. I don’t think l I was abused at all. No, I think I was empowered. Yes, that’s right. My parents empowered me, not abused me. But, of course, I grew up in a much different world than little Dominic, whose only playground option is a pervert-infested park. When I grew up, we didn’t have a park.