When summer came and Mom had to work, she found a babysitter that was probably around my sister’s age, or a little older. She was a bit heavyset and had a very strong constitution. It was a little daunting being in her presence, but I knew as long as I stayed on her good side, I’d be okay.
After the 3rd day, it became clear she really enjoyed being with me, and did not like being with John. He was a handful, but it felt like more than that. I think she liked girls, but didn’t like boys. She said she had a surprise for us and pulled out some paint-by-number kits. I picked out the cats, and John picked out the dogs. She had one for herself as well. John found it very difficult to sit and paint for more than 10 minutes. I could have spent hours on my painting. She quickly became fed up with Johns’ energy and I was afraid that after our experience with Ed, she was going to hurt him. Instead, she said he had to stay in his bedroom for two hours since he wasn’t behaving. I was devastated. 2-hours seemed abusive. John was a good kid. He was just annoying her, but he wasn’t being a brat. I said “If you lock him in his room, then I’m going to my room too” and went to my room. She was pretty surprised. She didn’t want me to go – she enjoyed being with me, but she would rather have John and I both in our rooms than have to deal with him. I was really upset. This was the only power play I felt I had. John went willilingly into his room. less than 5 minutes later John tapped on my window. He had climbed out of his bedroom window and was having a great time. He told me it was okay and that I could go and paint more. I smiled, waved, and went back into the kitchen. Once he ran past the kitchen window a short distance away and did a little dance. The babysitter’s back was to the window, and I smiled, pleased with his freedom. When we told Mom what happened, she found us a better babysitter.
We didn’t go out for entertainment much, but when we did, it was spectacular. Mom took John and I to our first Broadway show – it was Jesus Christ Superstar. I fell in love with theater and was incredibly moved by the music and storyline. A few years later I got the soundtrack as a gift, and played it so much I had every line memorized.
I was still in communication with God and I prayed to Him every night. Mom did prayers with me occasionally during this time of my life. She tucked me in and we would say together:
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
Guard me safely through the night
Wake me in the morning bright.”
Then we would thank God for things – for our home, food, for each other.
Then we would pray to God and ask Him our requests – mostly requests for other people, like health for grandpa.
I continued this practice (still do) in some version or other. I was learning the Apostle’s Creed and The Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father, who art in heaven…”) at the age of 10 at church, and practice them at night before I fell asleep. I had to learn them for Sunday School, so it was a good time to go through them. I kept those prayers going before I went to sleep even through college. They brought me comfort, particularly “The Lord’s Prayer”.
I believed Jesus was who He said He was and who the church explained that He was. I saw Him as a beautiful human who did God’s Will. I cried on Good Friday when they would put the black cloth on the cross and feel awful about what they had done to Him. I found myself wondering if I happened to be on the earth when He came back, would I recognize Him. I prayed to God that I would.
Other than that, I didn’t think about Jesus much. I thought about God. My relationship was with Him, not His son. It was a personal one-on-one friendship that was very intimate. Whenever I asked God for help, He was always there. Whenever I talked with Him at night, His Presence was always with me. He was (and is) my lifeline.
Another school year had started, and John went into the 6th grade (the highest grade in the school) and I went into the 4th grade with Miss Bradley. I felt much older this time. I had been through a lot in my previous year and no longer felt that child-like innocence. I was quieter and a little more serious. I liked my teacher a lot – and the work seemed more challenging which was a relief to me. I was able to focus well in school as long as I was there for the teacher’s explanation. If I missed school due to illness, it would be a little hard to catch up. I could read well, but learning new material was easiest for me when someone told me about it.
I was known as Jewel by now, not Julie. There were 4 Julies in my 3rd grade class and the teacher asked if any of us had a nickname. I told the teacher that sometimes my mom called me Jewel, and when I got home that day I asked Mom how to spell it. She could have said, “J-u-l-e” but instead, she spelled it like a gemstone, which later seemed odd to me. Mom explained to me that I was her “Jewel”. I liked my new name for my new life. John would often call me Jewels. It felt right.
At some point during this time, our cat Diamond disappeared for about 3 days, and it left us feeling worried and fearful about another loss in the family. Then one day after school Mom announced that she found her. She was in the root beer barrel (Mom made delicious homemade root beer once in a while) where she gave birth to 5 adorable, beautiful kittens. I was in love. We watched them grow until it was time to find them homes. I don’t remember where they went, but I’m sure Mom took good care of them. (And for those of you who are wondering, no – she didn’t make any more root beer in that barrel!)
Marla started coming over more often. She came one Saturday while Mom was at the grocery store and she and John were playing cards in my bedroom.
“What are you playing?” I asked, wondering why they were in MY room.
“You’re too young. You wouldn’t know how to play,” Marla said confidently.
“It’s cards. I know how to play cards.”
“We’re playing strip poker. Do you know what that is?”
“No. But I know how to play poker.” (We played a lot of cards and games with Mom.)
She looked at John. “It’s okay,” he said. “She can play.”
She shrugged her shoulders and continued to explain. “Instead of paying with money if you lose, you have to take off one item of clothing.”
That’s kind of weird, I thought. What’s the point of that? I didn’t want to be left out, and I didn’t want them in my room without me, so I decided to play. I was good at cards. I figured I’d win anyway.
I remember we were each losing pretty evenly. I was feeling the tension in the room. When I was down to my shirt and underwear, I took off my underwear, knowing I could cover myself up with my shirt. I took off my underwear, folded up my shirt over my knees and sat on my knees. Marla laughed at me and said, “Look, she doesn’t even know which clothing to take off and which one is worse to show!”
I was perplexed; I thought my logic was really good. I began to get very uncomfortable. After a couple of more hands, John ended up losing. Then Marla said, “You know what that means, right?” John shook his head no. (I had the feeling he’d never played this game before either.) Marla continued, “It means you have to go in the closet with me.”
John hesitated, but then followed her into my very tiny and crowded closet. I did NOT like the fact that they were in my closet. I had no idea what they were doing in there, but was too scared to oppose either one of them. Many years later, I found out that Marla was giving John his first hand job. And it didn’t seem like he was very happy after he left the closet. He was 11 years old, and looked very uncomfortable. Marla left soon after that. The 3 of us never played that game together again. I don’t know if John and Marla ever did. I didn’t trust Marla, especially since she laughed at me and spoke as if I wasn’t there. It was strange for me to see someone able to boss John around so easily. I know she was a couple of years older, but to see him just go along with what someone else said and do something even though he was uncomfortable was surprising for me. I can imagine it was a very impressionable and traumatic experience for him.
John and I started getting into building forts out of sheets and blankets. One day he got a great idea to put together long portable tables Mom had in the basement and set them up in an L-shape. We hung sheets and blankets from them and had a tunnel and fairly large area that was cozy and airy. We brought cushions down from the couch and lots of pillows, along with some of our favorite toys. We enjoyed it for a couple of days, and then John had the idea of sleeping down there. We were both very excited when Mom said we could.
I have no memories of that night, but I do remember a very odd feeling I had in the morning. When I woke up I felt strangely leery of John and heard myself thinking, “No more forts. Ever.”