The summer after 3rd grade I was at home, packing for a trip to visit my biological father. He was coming to our house to pick us up for the summer.
We had moved to Florida about 9 months earlier. I remember, even at that age, being depressed and withdrawn.
There was always so much turmoil in our home. Drinking, drugs, loud voices, cursing, and physical altercations.
My mother was not well in those days. Both physically and emotionally.
When we bought this property in Florida is was covered with tall pine trees and palmetto brush. Every day all of us children had to go out and pull roots and weeds. Saved our parents a lot of money. At the back of the property we would take the yard brush and burn it.
This particular evening, my mother yelled at me to go throw some things on the burning pile of brush. What she gave me was in a plastic bucket. (Or garbage pail. I really can’t even remember what was in it).
I took the pail out to where the fire was and attempted to throw the contents onto the fire. (Yes I was 8).
As I am heaving the pail, I accidentally let go of it. I stood there in disbelief. I started crying. I knew I would be in so much trouble. I was always in trouble.
At that moment, I made the decision to go after it. After a couple of steps, I sunk in hot ashes. Almost up to my knees. I didn’t realize there were hot spots from where the fire had previously burned.
I didn’t feel anything, but I pulled myself out and when I did, I could see that my bare feet were charcoal black and the skin looked funny.
I ran up to the house crying to my mom that I dropped the pail. And then I said, and I think I’m burned.
My step-dad came in and confirmed that I was burnt. He said that they had to get me to a hospital. In usual style, my mom said she would wait at home.
I arrived at the hospital with 2nd and 3rd degree burns. The wounds were washed and dead flesh cut off. Both feet were bandaged up to my calves. My step-dad took me home a few hours later.
I remember the shame I had in my inability to do anything right. I knew I couldnt complain about the pain.
My biological father was a medic in the military, so he picked us up the next day and I went home with him. Thankfully my mother did not have to be burdened with me.
That whole summer I had to be carried around. The day bandage changes were excruciating. But at I took it like a soldier because I felt so bad for burdening everyone.
Looking back, the whole scenario is unbelievable. But it really did happen. And it happened to me.
Thank God, I have no physical scars from that day. But the shame of making that mistake was always with me.
Today, I can forgive myself for being 8. I can forgive myself for being human. With the help of God, I’m working on forgiving those that didn’t protect me.
Until next time – I am being MJ every day.