The thing is, they abandoned us, all those adults racing about, dealing with the fallout of their grown up lives.
Not abandoned-by-the-side-of-a-busy-road in the literal sense but really, it felt no different. People rushed by us in blurred colours and with loud noises passing like trains, they way the sounds of trains keen and wane. We were there, mostly invisible except for those moments when we were trodden upon by unkind comments or angry outbursts that didn't belong to us but crushed us all the same ....
It was the middle of 1960s. The post-war years were becoming memories and the sexual revolution was in full swing. People born in the latter part of the 19th century reeled against the cataclysmic shift from Victorian sensibilities to the crackling, disaffected, often naked revolutionary years; and their children, the depression people, so used to and comfortable with the austerity of their childhoods and again in the war years, scrabbled to keep a grip in the wildness of the 20th century's middle age.
Divorce was not yet common, which is to say it was, but allowing that reality to see light was not yet permitted. Divorce was a secret cloaked in affairs or some catastrophe of differing opinions, and there was always anger; and there was the ever-present, oppressiveness of the still reining religious life that everyone lived. Anger, fighting, yelling, blaming, abandoning one's children to the war - it was just what one did in such an atmosphere of shift. Rebellion. It was how divorce was done.
In our lives, the time, the era, the divorce, my mother's simmering anger - at what, I couldn't fathom. my father's discomfort being a stranger in a world bearing no resemblance to that of his strict Baptist upbringing, the physical building, the church my father built and the skeletons and stories living there - a behemoth casting its daily western shadow on us, towering from across the street from our house - these were the playmates we had in our abandonment.
We were surrounded by the grown ups, whose lives swirled about us with a violence and self-absorption so deep it sucked the breath and childhoods from our bodies - the three- and five-year-olds we were then, alone but surrounded by the vortex of our parents' and family's razor-laser honing in on the beast that was The Divorce, slowly becoming hard and ancient in our tender years.
They didn't know they'd abandoned us. We went to church and visited other families and with our cousins but we, my little sister and I, were curiosities. We were the only children whose parents were divorcing in our insular community. In our church, we were alone in that state. In my father's school, we were oddities, the codicils to our father and his divorce. In our mother's life - the pitied single parent she was (SUCH a shame), we were the appendages which elicited such fawning.
Never did they sit with us in all that chaos and never did they consider how hard it was to breathe. Never did it occur we were alone. Never did they see - it didn't occur they should - children still being in a state of 'be seen, not heard' - what we had lost and what we would never regain. "They'll be fine," they said. The counsellor we thought was an adult playmate concurred. "They'll be fine;" intoning the white-noise we woke and fell asleep to.
Abandoned children, those who are fortunate to find benefactors, or who still live with those who abandoned them, often survive. But those who abandon them are either gone entirely or are so distant the see not what scars lay under the tightly-drawn skin of such children.