Story time: My kokum’s favorite story
Holy, has it been a busy week!! So sorry I did not have time to post much in the past little while. Crazy schedule these days 🙂 But I am back today with a new post, another part of the Red man’s story. A crazy part. But an example of some concepts and fears that were taught to some Native people by the church. And they were successful at times. Lots of fears were created from stories such as the one you will read about. It has been many decades (well like 3) since the Red man sat there listening to his grandmother telling this story but yet he remembers it as though it was yesterday. I spoke to him recently and he said something interesting. He said “that’s why I did or said all the things I did, because I was so sick and tired of hearing the same things over and over again from my grandmother. Either way I was going to get it so might as well do something to get it”. Okay here we go!
Growing up with my kokum
Growing up with my kokum was a frustrating trip. Nonsense, superstition and straight up verbal trash were a constant and normal. I would like to share with you a few of those frustrating lessons and how I responded to them, as the days were rare when my kokum did not go on a monotonous rant that would last for hours. Let’s start with her favorite one, one that after a good whipping or a sudden back hand across the face, I would hear over and over again.
So my kokum began: “There was this young couple who never hit their kids. The kids would run, scream and holler around. In public, the little kids would hit their parents and embarrass them and still the parents would never hit them. Then one day, one of the kids died so they buried him. A few days after the funeral the parents went to visit the grave site and guess what they found?”
“What?” Even though I had heard this fucking stupid story a million times, I would always have to say something or risk a sudden flash of furious violent rage. “What, what, what, what, stupid, stupid, stupid, shut up, shut up, shut up!” That’s what I would think while I had to sit quietly and listen to the bullshit story.
And then the story got weirder
“When they visited the grave they found the child’s arm was flopping outside the grave!” “Can you believe it?” No I couldn’t believe it because it was the stupidest story I had ever heard, and the craziest.
But I said “Really, wow!”
“So the parents ran into the church to get the priest. They told the priest about the arm flopping outside the grave and asked him for help. The priest walked out of the church silently, the parents following behind. Without a word the priest went to a willow tree and broke off a branch. He handed the parents the branch and told them to whip the arm. So they did what the priest told them to do and guess what?”
It killed me slowly each and every time I heard this story. By this time in the tale, I wanted to run and hide or run and do something, anything other than this, anything other than listen to this garbage assed stupid story.
And then the icing on the cake…
“The hand went back under the ground, it disappeared right back into the grave. The parents were shocked by what had just happened and asked the priest “what happened father?” Well the priest looked back at them and said “the kid’s arm was flopping out of the ground because you did not hit the child when he was alive. So it begged to be hit while he was dead. If you spare the child the rod, you do not love them. The child wanted to know that you loved him”. But it made my kokum feel better…
I know that this story made my kokum feel better about herself after she beat me up. This story was a parental precept that the church taught the Indian people to use when dealing with their young little ones. When I got older and could put my thoughts in good or good enough order anyways, I wrote to my kokum. I said to her “Do you remember the story you used to tell us all the time, the story about the child whose arm was sticking out of the ground? Well if my arm was sticking out of a grave or a hole in the ground, I would hope that you would grab my hand and pull me out instead of hitting my arm and burying me alive”. She never told me the story again, she never mentioned the letter.
As we have learned over time, the Red man has had a confusing and tumultuous relationship with his grandmother, who was mom to him. I agree that telling the story probably made his grandmother feel less guilty about beating the Red man up. He just told me “I have never seen my grandmother hit anyone like she hit me. But me, I would get it all the time”. What I noticed when he said that was that he said it with a smile in his voice. As though he was trying to hide the pain he really feels or somehow feel special as he was the “chosen one”. And I am saying this without any judgment. I just mean that our relationship with our caregivers are very complex, especially when the caregiver is abusive. And his kokum was very abusive. Yet he loved her so much. And as a kid, he heard the same crap over and over again. So he often acted out just to get away from it. Or maybe to feel as though he actually deserved all the abuse he received. But guess what, he never deserved it. But he did what he had to do to survive. You can learn more about his story here or here or here
Anyone of you ever heard that story before? What are your thoughts? Comment below and I will answer 🙂
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