By A. Hosack, P. Berman, & K. Hecht
These kids are a burden. No matter how hard we work, we can’t get a head. We hate this life.
Gail and Bill had their five children in quick succession. After their third child, they couldn’t stand living in their two-room apartment anymore; they could escape the sight of their children anywhere. It took a lot of searching, but they finally found a small house to rent that they could afford. All of Claire’s memories are tied to this old house, where there were lots of places to hide outside and in when she didn’t want her parents to know where she was. The house was in a rural community where every home was at least a mile away from everyone else’s. Thus, Claire and her brother and sisters had plenty of running around space outside. It also meant that neighbors never noticed how often the Caldwell children were home alone in the house. Neighbors did frequently yell at the Caldwell children for climbing their apple and pear trees and taking fruit without permission; they noticed how fast the fruit was eaten- but didn’t think much of it. The children didn’t go to a pediatrician, so no one noticed the scars on the children’s backs from the discipline their father gave them.
The children didn’t go to a pediatrician, so no one noticed the scars on the children’s backs from the discipline their father gave them.
Claire feared her dad and hated her mom. She wanted more than anything to find someone who she could love and who would love her. Once she started going to school, she saw some kids who got taken to the bus stop by their parents; they got hugs before their climbed the stairs into the bus. Claire always wondered if this was a shame put on for the driver or if these kids were good enough to be really loved. When Claire entered High School, she finally met someone who said nice things to her. Larry never criticized her clothes; his were from Kmart too. He hung out with her at lunch and didn’t laugh that she was on the “poor kid” food program; so was he. When they began to cut classes and hang out in the woods, he expected her to have sex with him. Claire didn’t complain even though it often hurt; she wanted Larry to love her. During sex, she felt closer to Larry than she had ever felt with anyone else; it must be love. She did anything Larry asked- she couldn’t bear the idea of losing his love. When Claire realized she was pregnant, she didn’t tell Larry right away; she was afraid he would never want to see her again. Eventually, Larry did notice that she was pregnant; he didn’t get mad, but he told her he was too young to be a dad. He still sat with her at ate with her, but the trips to the woods were over. When Claire began throwing up at school, a teacher realized she was pregnant and called her parents. Claire came home from school, to find both of her parents sober and waiting for her. Her father kicked her hard in the stomach, saying he hoped she’d have a miscarriage. Her mother called her a “slut” and told her she’d have to “care for her bastard on her own.”
Claire’s only knowledge of God was that he wanted her dad to beat the devil out of her and that he might send her to hell for having a bastard. She began to pray to God at night. If this child she cared would just love her, she would do everything she could to reform her life and be a good person. Once Claire’s contractions started, her dad dropped her off at the local hospital and told her to call when it was all over.
What does it mean to be a good person?
What else might Claire have done that she considers bad?