Sunday, 18 August 2019
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Proloque

 

Prologue

I had been traveling on my life's journey a long time before I ever put pen to paper. Many memories of my past were evoked by the music I was ex- posed to while growing up. The lyrics of a particular song, a certain melody or the sound of a tenor's voice took me back in time. Looking through family pho- tos brought back things I had long forgotten. The stories told to me by members of my family found their way into my head and my heart. Whether the experiences were good or bad, I locked them safely away in the recesses of my mind waiting for the day I would finally write them down.
One of the most vivid memories of my early childhood was my first ballet solo. I pictured myself at four, dressed in a black leotard with a pink tutu my mother had made for me; my fine blonde hair was curled around my face, and my blue eyes sparkled. I remember looking back over my shoulder, to acknowledge Mom's encouraging smile as she gently pushed me onto the stage from behind the curtain. With shaking knees, I slowly made my way to the center. When I was ready, I glanced at my father sitting at the piano, signaling him to play. Soon the melancholy notes of "Melody of Love" floated from the piano as his fingers gracefully moved across the keys. After I had finished my performance and the applause began, Mom and Dad joined me on the stage. We stood together holding hands, while we all took a bow.
This moment, etched in my mind, represents a time when we were a close-knit family of three, and my parents were deeply in love. That love would fortify me with the self-confidence, drive and security I would need to get me through some extremely difficult times during my life. My four younger siblings were not as fortunate.
Whenever I hear the smoky voice of Dinah Washington singing, "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes," I'm taken back to darker times, when in the wee hours of the morning,  I'd see the glowing ash of my father's cigarette as he
 
stood in the darkened hallway waiting for my mother to return home. A ferocious battle ensued when my mother stumbled into the apartment and began slurring her words. My parent’s loud shouts could be heard throughout our second-story apartment and probably half-way down the block. On those nights, I'd bring my younger sisters into my bedroom and cuddle with them throughout the night.
The sound of an ambulance passing by my house reminds me of the night of my mother's first suicide attempt. I can still see her coagulating blood slowly dripping down the walls of our bathroom. I vividly remember trying to clean it off before any of my sisters could see it. This was one of many nights I would cradle Judy, Kim, Linda and Lisa into my arms, while trying to shelter them from the chaos of our lives.
This is the bittersweet story of growing up in an extremely dysfunctional home in the 1950's and 1960's. As the oldest child of my biological moth- er, Bonnie, and my adoptive father, Stew, I was the only daughter who benefit- ed from the strong love my parents shared during the early years of their marriage. Shortly after the birth of my first sibling, Judy, their marriage started to crumble. As it rapidly eroded over the next decade, I assumed the 'mother role' at the age of twelve. I believed it was my responsibility to guide and protect my four sisters through the traumas of alcoholism, the instability of frequent moves, my parents' violent arguments, marital affairs, separations, molestations, and suicide attempts.
While guiding my sisters, I held fast to my dream of escaping the turmoil and drama in my life by attending college. I planned to obtain a career that would financially enable to me reach out to each of them and pull them out of the dark abyss of their lives. To achieve this dream, I had set high goals for my- self and worked hard to accomplish them.
The first part of my memoir paints a picture of a happy little girl growing up in a sound environment, surrounded by the love and adoration of her parents. I spent a good deal of time sharing the stories of my early years to illus- trate how vitally important a strong, nurturing foundation can be during the first five years of a child's life. Unfortunately, my four younger sisters did not have the same benefits.
As you travel with me on my journey, I will share with you the devastation caused when the family unit is destroyed by alcoholism, marital affairs and
 
incest. While intertwining many stories describing my climb, I also include the story of my fall.
At the age of sixty-three, I decided it was my responsibility to tell the story of our chaotic lives. After reading many memoirs, I realized that our story is not as tragic as some, but nonetheless, it was very painful for everyone growing up in the Smith household.
By writing this book, I hoped to bring some peace and understanding to my three surviving sisters―Judy, Linda and Lisa, and to honor the memory of my sister, Kim, who passed away in 2005. Writing this memoir has been a cathartic experience that has brought me peace.
Looking back at my life helped to convince me that the future can be what you make it. But in order to do that, you have to believe in yourself. I did!

I invite you to join me on my journey through The first twenty-seven years of my life.

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