Monday, May 3, 2010

A Little Angel with Wings of Lead

This title will raise many question marks. So – I will make it clear to you immediately.
This little Angel was I.

In my post: "why it took so long", I've told you about my illness.
One of the first symptoms stands still imprinted in my memory and printed a stamp on the rest of my life.
It was not only this first experience of my illness which I do remember so well, but also the “hardness” of people on that particular day had a big impact on me.

I must have been almost 10 years old. I, and also four other girls, was chosen to act as an Angel in a ceremony of my school's proclamation.
Oh – I was so proud and eager to wear a beautiful angel gown and also large angel wings covered with white feathers.
A few days before the ceremony we had a few short repetitions and it seemed that it would become a beautiful spectacle.
Then came the day where I was so looking forward to. First we got dressed. Our angel gown was made of white shining satin. It was really marvelous. Thereafter they attached the angel wings on our shoulder. They were large and although they were covered with white feathers, they seemed pretty heavy to me.
Meanwhile the ceremony had started, and while the music sounded heavenly, we – the angels, had to mount the stairs very dignified with folded hands.
Oh – I was so proud to stand there at the podium.
After a while, we had to sit on our knees in the praying position with our hands folded on a small platform at a podium which was situated more than three meters high.
After almost twenty minutes sitting there, on a hard wooden board floor, oh – my knees started to feel so painful.
I really got problems to stay in this position. I also could no longer hold my folded hands up. I started to get so much pain in my whole body that I was almost going to faint.
I couldn't understand that the other girls could sit on their knees so long – without having problems. Also my shoulders started to ache.
Those angel wings were so heavy for my little body. It became too much for me.
It seemed almost if I was wearing “*Jumbo” wings instead of “angel” wings!
Because I was afraid that I would faint and fall down from the platform I went to sit on my behind ... and oh oh ... that I better could not have done – that spoiled the total picture, the grand finale!
One of the five angels was sitting down on her bottom and leaning on her arms.
So now and then I tried to sit upon my knees again, I tried again to be a real angel, but I could endure the pain no longer. So, for the rest of the ceremony (almost thirty minutes) I sat there on my bottom, with painful shoulders and frightened that I would faint.
(Actually – now I still can't understand why there was no one wondering what was happening to me, why no one came to help me.)
Oh I was so glad that the ceremony was over. So, I came down the ladder off the podium together with the other girls, when suddenly I heard a very vicious voice. It was my teacher. She was yelling and shouting very furious, pointing her finger at me: “ there” she yelled.
The rest you can guess. There followed a real flood of abuse.
It frightened me so much – how angry she was – without asking me “why” I went sitting down that the most shameful thing happened to me. Purely out of fear I peed in my pants and wet, my socks, my shoes, and also my beautiful angel gown.
Oh -- I was so embarrassed! I cried – not only because I had so much pain but also because she was so cruel to me. I had always been a very exemplary child, this was the first time she had a problem with me and it happened against my will. I had not planned this. I felt myself so guilty. I had ruined not only the total picture but also my beautiful angel gown!
What must have been a beautiful experience for me, and I was so looking forward to, ended for me in a “real nightmare”.
She gave me no chance to explain it. She was only very furious at me, she was so insensitive! Even being such a little child I could not understand that someone could be so heartless and “this” experience became the base of my sensitivity for the rest of my life! I became a very sensitive person especially towards everything that's defenseless, that's vulnerable or in need, because I experienced it: I was vulnerable and in need, and even on that moment I couldn't count on my teacher's apprehension.
On these two pictures taken one month after my angel experience, you see me as a lively happy and healthy child, but it's not all what it seems because: at this very moment I was ill again.

(Oh folks, I almost can't believe it. This is now already 57 years ago ... and I still run.)

This day my father came to visit me on my summer camp and he took these pictures. While all the other girls were playing outside, my father had to wait to see me because I was sleeping upstairs in the middle of the day because I felt myself so tired.
Also, the outside of my left ear shell was covered with large blisters and it was very painful. So they had to wake me up.
( Actually, I can't remember that they went to a doctor with me, but probably it was because I never complained.)

And now – that I became so much older more and more I must think back on my mother.
She had not an easy life. She had to raise three little children while she also had to run a garment store. She worked very hard in her life.
She also became ill at a young age, and then I (who was only 9 or 10 years old) had to take care for her. She must have been 38 years when there went something wrong with her blood (with me the same thing happened in 1998). As I already told you, my father kept me home from school several times (for almost a whole week) because my mother had to have blood transfusions or needed help because she was too ill to stay alone at home.
It must have been a hard time for her and now I understand “why” she was never present when there was a school play or a proclamation at my school!
It was not easy to understand this as a child, and on that area I always felt myself a little ignored and even a little neglected.
Nevertheless -- now I know that she did all she could!
I still can see my mom sitting, playing the piano in the Sunday afternoons when I was little!
These were very happy moments: while she played the piano we sang all together the refrain of the popular war song titled: “It's a long way to Tipperary! (Actually we sang a funny slang version of it.:) In my mind I still can hear how funny that sounded.)
But after playing some time her hands started to tremble. She began to wring and rub them, but it didn't help. She couldn't play further because she had too much pain in her hands.
So after some time she started to play less and less, and after only a few years they moved the piano to an other room. From then on the piano stayed closed, it only went open so now and then for my little sister to playfully strum on it.
From then on my mother played no longer the piano!
Anyhow after so many years I still feel myself guilty because we all teased her, we all said “there was always something” with her. We couldn't understand that she had problems, because often you couldn't see that there was something wrong with her, that she was ill. We only saw her taking painkillers, the one after the other like it were candies!
Therefore as a tribute to my mother: here's a picture of her playing the piano in happier and better times, still healthy!

Born in 1915 -- died in 1976
I hope she forgives me … now I understand!
Now I also feel (a little) what she must have felt, but she was much worse than I.
I am the one who came better off, I'm already seven years older than she became!

PS: I promise you (before you get enough of it, and I could understand if you do), this will be the last time that I talk about my illness. There are more pleasant things to talk about.
Now I'm going to sift trough ideas for Pipke's life story and I have a very good one!
Have a guess?
Till soon


  1. You certaninly need not promise to not write about your illness! I for one do not mind in the least! I feel for you; you have tremendous courage in the face of this burden.

    What happened to you as a young child is horrific, to say the least!
    Teachers (and parents and other mentors, of course) must not abuse children in that way!


  2. i am so sorry for that little girl (you) you were scared enough already since you didnt know why you were aching on your knees like that. sometimes i look bck and wonder why nobody noticed the things tht were wrong with me, i have valgus legs (crooked) and they would ache so badly but i never said anything, i figured if they couldnt see it themselves than i must just be being a does sound like you had a wonderful mother, what a blessing moms are!!