Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Little Dutch Girl Who Was Adopted by a Blue Eyed Crow

In ways that are difficult to explain ::: or understand ::: I grew up alone.

My Mom wasn't like other little girl's Moms.  She was beautiful, intelligent, loving, cruel, brutal and unpredictable.  What I didn't know or understand in those days ::: she was bipolar and a paranoid schizophrenic.

When I was little she loved to dress me up. On good days ::: she told me I was her golden girl ::: her beautiful baby girl.  On bad days ::: when I was sick or cried too much and she became overwhelmed ::: life could be ugly.

I grew up in Santa Ana California.  1960's Santa Ana wasn't anything like the huge city it is today. 

Our home was located in what had originally been military housing.  Our neighbors were squeaky clean, pure white ::: Americans through and through.  Which meant my immigrant family stuck out like a sore thumb ::: even though we were white.

I started Kindergarten at age 4 ::: I was almost 2 years younger than most of the other children in my class.  I remember my first day at school.  Mom dressed me up ::: drove me to school ::: then dropped me off at class.  No forewarning or explanations ::: she simply dumped me and walked off.

The problem was ::: whenever Mom was angry at me (which happened A LOT) she'd threaten to banish me to some far away school.  Not knowing what I'd done wrong ::: and never having been away from home ::: I flew into a wild panic.  The teacher held me back as I screamed and cried for my Mother.  I remember feeling inconsolable grief while watching my Mom walk away ::: never stopping ::: never looking back.

Was small for my age ::: had long red hair, pale white skin, spoke with a Dutch accent and wore clothing from the Salvation Army. While elocution lessons (years later) eventually removed all traces of my accent ::: nothing could erase the fact my family was poor.   So I became a target for the middle class "American" kids in their bright new Kenny Shoes and Sears outfits.

My first day of Kindergarten was hard ::: My first week in grade school was absolutely brutal.  Some older kids invited me and a bunch of other first graders to the playground to sit on the Merry-Go-Round.  I'd never been on a Merry-Go-Round before ::: and didn't know what to expect.

An older kid picked me up and placed me on the Merry-Go-Round ::: then said "Hold On" and laughed.  The harder the big kids pushed the Merry-Go-Round ::: the faster it went.  I could barely hold on ::: fear welled up inside me ::: I wanted to throw up.  Suddenly I slid off the edge ::: landing underneath the Merry-Go-Round.

Every time I tried to get up my head hit the bottom of the rapidly spinning Merry-Go-Round ::: and I rolled around underneath.  The children above me were kicking and screaming ::: their feet landing on my face, head and body.  I screamed for what seemed an eternity ::: but the sound of my voice was drowned by the noise and laughter around me.

When the Merry-Go-Round stopped, a tall skinny boy with pitch black hair and vivid blue eyes picked me up from the ground.  He looked at me with a worried face.  "Are you OK?"  Stunned ::: I could only nod.  "That's good, my name is Ray ::: Raymond Fredrick Patient.  They did the same thing to me when I started first grade."

I was the only one of my family born in America ::: yet I still spoke with an accent ::: something I didn't realize until it was pointed out to me be a teacher. A few weeks later my parents were told I had a speech impediment (lazy tongue). The school said I needed "speech therapy".   As this so called speech therapy was going to be on the school's dime ::: my Mom said OK. Thus started my weekly transformation into a true American via elocution lessons.

The area I grew up in was originally mostly farmland.  There were bean and strawberry fields. There was a dairy farm down the street from my home ::: with lots of cows.  Our backyard overlooked Raitt Street and seemingly endless bean fields.  Sometimes on cool winter nights ::: when sound carried further ::: the rumble hum of occasional passing cars mirrored the sound the sea made as it crested on a distant shore.  Some nights ::: when I was sad, scared or overwhelmed ::: I'd close my eyes focus on that sound ::: and fall asleep dreaming I was sailing out to sea.

Towards the end of Summer ::: when the beans were harvested ::: I remember the dozens of crows which came to feast on the freshly cut beans as they lay spread out upon the field to dry.  I'd sit, my face pressed against our chain link fence watching the crows laugh and talk and soar high above my head.

A friend of my Dad called the crows tricksters.  He told me stories his Grandfathers had told him when he was a boy.  "A crow chooses the man ::: if he chooses you at birth he will never leave you."  "How do you know if a crow chooses you?"  I had asked.  He just looked at me and smiled.

My Mom called crows thieves. "They like to steal shiny things and take them to their nest."  "Why Mama?"  I had asked  She just looked at me and smiled.

The Autumn I turned 5, before the last of the bean fields were plowed over and seeded with cement to grow hundreds of houses ::: I sat silent, face pressed against the chain link fence ::: watching the crows each afternoon ::: hoping they would swoop down and play with me.

My friend Eileen was raped and killed that same Autumn ::: and buried alive near a new housing tract.  Killed by the silent older boy who used to follow Eileen and me home from school.  He had simply walked into her house ::: went to her room ::: then carried her from her home.

The night Eileen was killed I dreamed I saw ghosts at my window.  I woke up my Mom and told her what I'd seen.  She told me it was a dream ::: then looked at me and smiled.  "Go to sleep."

The next morning I learned of Eileen's death.  The police had found bits of her clothing near my bedroom window ::: snagged on a nail ::: along with some finger prints which turned out to be the boy's.  He had come to take me as well ::: but all our doors and windows were locked.

That afternoon I lay down in the deep grass in our backyard ::: face pressed against the chain link fence ::: crying and watching the crows.  I could hear the sound of them all around me, which made me cry more.  My Mom had told me they were going to build houses over the rest of the fields.  I loved looking at the open land ::: and feared for my beloved crows.

I heard an unfamiliar clicking noise next to me and looked up.  A small crow ::: with the brightest blue eyes ::: was standing in the tall grass looking intently at me.  She was so beautiful I wanted to reach out for her ::: but something held me back.  So I sat ::: as still as I could ::: and simply watched.

Suddenly the sky above me was filled with dozens and dozens of crows.  They were swooping and soaring ::: sitting on the chain link fence ::: and walking in the grass.  A big crow walked up to the little crow next to me and made a loud "caw" sound.  The little crow jumped up and landed awkwardly on my left shoulder. 

Startled, I climbed quickly to my feet.  As I did ::: the crows took flight around me ::: filling the air with the sound of their laughter.  Head up ::: looking towards my friends ::: I began imitating their sounds.  I stretched out my arms and twirled until I became so dizzy I fell down on the ground.  As I lay on the ground ::: the little crow with the bright blue eyes ::: landed next to me one last time.  She tugged once on my left sleeve then flew away.

The next time I saw my Dad's friend ::: I told him what had happened in my backyard.  He looked at me and smiled.  He said the crow had made me part of her family ::: that she and I would be friends forever.

The little crow with the bright blue eyes grew bigger ::: and her eyes grew dark.  For almost 30 years ::: she returned to my backyard in the Summer and Autumn.  Ever fearless ::: she dived bombed our cats whenever she found them lounging in the grass.  One memorable Autumn she returned and brought along two tiny crows with bright blue eyes ::: who grew into large dark eyed crows with little crows of their own.

I remember the afternoon I moved from my Santa Ana home ::: over 30 years after the little crow with the bright blue eyes had come into my life.  My backyard was filled with her family and friends ::: dozens of crows ::: I looked at them one last time and then turned around.  I was crying when we drove away.

I miss White Cloud ::: my Lakota teacher ::: and the stories he told me of his life in the plains.  I miss Ray F. Patient (my grade school savior and best friend) who walked me home from school every day after Eileen's murder.  Ray encouraged me to be an artist ::: to draw ::: to sing ::: to write.  Ray died of AIDS in the 80s.  Most of all I miss the little crow with the bright blue eyes who chose me ::: and allowed me to be part of her family.


  1. I remember driving to South Coast it was an oasis in the middle of nowhere...I hope you have some happier memories of your childhood...Like the time we went to church camp and waited for the birds to run into our gunny sacks...What were they called?

  2. Did the Ray Patient you knew go to Smedley and than Saddleback HS?

    1. Sorry to take so long in responding. I've been dealing with health issues, and haven't visited this blog much.

      I don't know if Ray went to Smedley. When I first met him it was at Diamond Elementary. He did however attend Saddleback.