‘Tu eres una Mierda! Tu eres nada! Tu no tienes nada! Tu no tienes a nadie!’
translation – ‘You are shit. You’re nothing. You have nothing. You have no one.’
These words were yelled at me while I fed my grandmother. The words came from her daughter.. her eldest daughter, what can classify as an aunt.
‘Why are you insulting me?’ ‘Are you listening to the things you are saying?’
‘Yes!’ she replied, ‘porque tu te crees demasiada mierda y tu no eres nadie!‘
translation: because you believe yourself to be hot shit and you are no one
I continued feeding my grandmother as I raised my voice, ¡Soy alguien! Sé lo que valgo, sé quién soy, y no tener dinero ni casas significa nada. Esas no son las cosas que dicen cuánto valgo como persona. ¡Usted está equivocada!
translation: ‘I am someone! I know my worth, I know who I am, and not having money or houses means anything. Those are not the things that say how much I am worth as a person. You are wrong!
‘No me abra tu boca!’
translation: ‘Don’t yell at me!’
But I did. I yelled back and louder than I ever have.
Unfortunately, that was my childhood normal growing up. Verbal violence was the way to communicate in the house I escaped at 17 and came back to live in as an adult. And I had enough.
I never thought I would have to keep defending myself to my family after all I have lived. I thought that because they knew my story, my struggles, witnessed my pain, they wouldn’t hurt me, but I was wrong.
She had this look of hate in her face that I just can’t erase.. my family hates me.
That wasn’t new. I grew up as a ‘recojida‘, what many refer as the ‘step-child’, and many never let me forget it.. this person was one of them.
‘You should’ve never taken that one in’ she told my grandmother in my presence about deciding to raise me after her sister, my mother died when she was 21, ‘look at how she repays the favor’.
When I came back from living in a foreign country after 5 years, I asked my grandmother to move back and her response was, ‘I’ll ask your aunt’. It was her apartment but she had to ask her daughter’s permission. The verdict? ‘Your aunt said she doesn’t want people living here.’
And ironically there are many things that she did and has done that could make you believe I am a liar. She can be a kind, generous, loving person yet that day, the hate that emanated from her mouth destroyed all of it.
When you grow up in a household where the ability to communicate does not exist, it’s like living on a terrain filled with hidden land-mines.. you don’t know what will set one off. Some children grow up to avoid, just avoid to feel peace, some children grow up to forget, repress or deny what is real or what happened and some children just build scar tissue and toughen their hearts and live by the thought, if those that I call my family treat me this way, what can I possibly expect from the world?
These are dangerous ways to begin the rest of your life.. and all because of the choice of words or absence of them. My past taught me the importance of choosing the right ones and offering kind ones over none at all. I was able to remove myself from using them to hurt mostly because of what I do.. you cannot face a child with anger in your heart and believe you will say the right thing.
When I have a student, a child before me I see me.. I see the once fat and sad, misfit teenager that lived with fear yet fearless and wanted nothing else but to be loved and belong.. and I talk to her and I choose the words she needed. She may have survived a world where words never really mattered, but the teacher she became today knows they do.
Words do matter.