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by John Gaudet-Aubichon
My life as a boy was filled with violence, blood and hiding places. My siblings and I were shuffled back and forth between our violently alcoholic parents and a horribly abusive convent.
We were living in a small Saskatchewan town called Swift current with my parents during these rough periods and school was just a blur of new teachers, taunting faces and lonely lunches.
I carried the abuse inside me like a brick. I just felt like I had so many bad secrets that I wasn't supposed to tell anyone and I was so scared to let them slip that I stopped talking. I was also in perpetual mourning for my brothers and sisters. We had made so many promises to each other hiding under the bed crying while real monsters roared and no heroes came to the rescue. We promised that no matter what we would always be together. Well this was easier whispered from a terrified child than done and we were inevitably split up and thrown to the mercy of the convent again.
At best you could say I was barely surviving when I met a very special lady. You have to understand that with all that was going on with my mom and the nuns at the convent I had never had any positive contact with women in my life. That's why I was filled with dread when she asked me to stay after school.
Her name was Mrs. Shannon and she was my second grade teacher. I spent the afternoon filled with anguish as the clock ticked the seconds by. What new torture was I in for now? What ever had I done? I remembered taking a half empty milk carton and a carrot off another child's desk at lunch and eating them. (I was so desperate for milk and real food that I just couldn't help myself.) I thought that this may be what I was to be detained for. At the end of the day the final bell found me numb with fear and anguish.
I sat at my desk as kids bustled by me with taunts of "you're really gonna get it this time" and " what kinds of flowers you want at your funeral," etc...
The classroom soon emptied and it was just her and I. She smiled and said that I wasn't in any kind of trouble and that she just needed some help cleaning up. I was only slightly relieved as we started tidying the classroom up. While we worked she talked to me about everything.
Somehow she seemed to know that I was afraid to talk so she talked for both of us. She told me what it was like on her family farm and of the animals there. She talked about school, her love for kids and and how she became a teacher. I heard with loving detail stories of family and friends that I secretly longed for.
She began to keep me after school every day and I began to look forward to these sessions with this kind woman. Once she gave me a sparkly eraser and I kept it in my pocket for weeks fingering it with a smile on my face.
She encouraged me to read and showed me that not all adults were monsters. I was told that I could be someone, and if I really tried I could do anything that I wanted. She gave me hope.
Well I would like to say that was the start of a new life for me but it wasn't. I was soon moved back to the convent and I lost touch with Mrs. Shannon.
Eventually the department of social services moved me back with my dad as he and my mother had finally divorced. This proved to be a bad mistake and soon he began to drink and get violent. It all escalated until one June day when he took his own life in a fit of depression.
I kicked around after that, moving aimlessly through life until one day my sister called and said she found some things in the attic. In them were boxes of old toys and in one I found the sparkly eraser Mrs. Shannon had given me. I started to cry for this woman and the gift of kindness she had given me as a child.
I changed my life that day. I stopped drinking and started to write. I found God and have turned my life around completely now. I am married with a thirteen year-old daughter who also loves to write. I owe it to a lady who gave me my greatest gift as a child, kindness, hope and a sparkly eraser.
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