Copyright 2009 by Dody Johnson
Photo courtesy of Pexels.
Mr. Salt, my third grade teacher was fired. The school officials ordered that I see a doctor to be evaluated as a result of my year with him. My parents did not believe in therapy but were forced to take me. Therapists were quacks. Only the spineless and weak went to see quacks. And, they were so feeble minded, they didn’t even know they were seeing a quack.
On a Saturday morning, my Mom and I got ready to go to New York City. She always took me with her to Gimble’s and Macy’s when they had a sale. I never looked forward to sale days because I was little and would get lost between the tables heaped with clothes and a sea of large monstrous bodies rummaging through piles of fabric. I couldn’t breath and most often fainted. It’s a miracle that I was never trampled over. On this Saturday morning I figured we were going shopping in the city. My Mom frantically circled the parking lot anxious about missing our train. I loved riding the train. I loved any opportunity to pretend I was escaping.
We arrived in the city and walked until my legs ached. We walked past Macy’s and we walked by Gimble’s.
“Mom, how come we’re not going in?”
“Because we’re not shopping today, we’re going to see someone.”
New York City always scared me. It was too dark, always walking in the shadows of the tall grey buildings. I wanted light and color. We walked through the revolving door of a grey, drab building and into the elevator. Again, I was lost among a forest of legs, like tree trunks, and just when I thought I was about to pass out, the door opened. We walked down the hall slowly as Mom counted out the numbers on each door. We stopped in front of the one she was looking for. The numbers 1609 were etched into the glass window framed by an old large wood door. She opened the door and we left the dark corridor and walked into a brightly colored room filled with toys. I had no idea where we were, and why did this room have so many toys in it? A lady with a nice smile and soft voice said, “Mrs. White?”
“Yes, we’re here.”
“The doctor will be with you soon.”
Doctor? What doctor? I was scared. This must be a doctor for kids and that’s why there are so many toys in here.
“Mom, am I going to see the doctor?”
“Do I have to take my clothes off?”
“No, he’s not that kind of doctor, he’s just going to talk to you.”
I never heard of a doctor that just talked to you, especially when there wasn’t anything wrong with me, unless it was about my fainting. I knew not to ask Mom any more questions, she was getting that look. A big man with a big face and a big smile opened a door and invited my Mom and me into his office. He was the biggest man I ever saw and he didn’t look like a doctor at all. He dressed like the men on the train. He wore a black suit with a white shirt and black tie. He had an office that didn’t look like a doctor’s exam room, it looked like nighttime. The only light came from a lamp on his desk. One wall was darkened with heavy drapes. Two walls were covered in beautiful wood paneling, and one wall had only books on it from floor to ceiling. He had an enormous wood desk in front of the drapes, and the floor was covered in a deep red print carpet. There was a pair of chairs where my Mom and I sat at the doctor’s desk facing him. Mom and the doctor talked while I examined the room, and not paying attention to what they were talking about. In the corner of his office was a cozy sitting area with a large brown leather sofa with a matching chair and a table between them. There was a coffee table to complete his little living room.
Mom left the office and I was left alone with this big man who towered over me. I was still scared.
“Dody, would you like the curtains opened?” I didn’t answer him, and he opened the curtains. I don’t know why I decided not to talk. This was out of character for me, I was usually so obedient. I always answered when spoken to. The doctor asked me lots of questions. I wouldn’t open my mouth and I didn’t know why I was in this room with this strange man. That’s all I remember of our first session together.
Next Saturday, my Mom and I repeated the steps of the prior Saturday. This time Mom said good-bye to me when the doctor opened the door. She said she was going shopping. The big man led me into another room. It had more toys in it than the waiting room. We played house, and I still wouldn’t open my mouth. He did all the talking. I liked watching him play. I never saw a big man play like this before. I thought when you got big you didn’t play with toys, but not this guy. He was really good at it.
Although, he was much too large for the little chair at the table, that didn’t stop him, he sat in it anyway. He looked very funny and I wanted to laugh.
“Dody, won’t you please sit down and have tea and desert with me?” I sat down and in the center of the table was a large bowl full of malted milk balls, my favorite.
“Dody, please help yourself to a malt ball.” I started to take one and he reached for one also. I pulled my hand back and he ate one. He said again, “Please have a malt ball”, and I reached again, so did he. I pulled back and he ate another. We played this game until I think he had a stomach ache. He ate a lot of malt balls and I ate none.
Next, we went to his office to talk. I mean we went to his office and he talked. I was starting to want to talk, but couldn’t. Mom arrived and off we went. I still couldn’t figure out why I was spending time with this man and why my Mother was letting me. It felt very special that we would take a train into the city, walk forever just so I could play with this big man.
We did the same thing the next Saturday. Mom went shopping and I stayed with the big man. This time we spent the whole time in his office. I was starting to like him. He was funny and nice. He knew how much I loved his big window, so the first thing he did when I walked into his office was open the curtains. We spent a lot of time looking out the window. He told me about all the things he saw and asked what I saw. I said, “See that lady walking fast in the gray outfit. She has to hurry or they’ll catch up with her. See her looking back, she needs to find a place to hide.” I started talking to him about the people walking on the sidewalk many floors below us. There were so many people and each one had a story. I told him what they were thinking and where they were going. He showed me some black and white pictures. They looked like someone splattered black ink on white cards. He said even though they don’t look like much, some people can see pictures in them, like when you look up into the sky and make pictures out of clouds. He asked me what I saw. Mostly, they looked like butterflies or airplanes.
The big man was still asking me a lot of questions, and I remember thinking, I’m going to tell him next week. I was scared to tell, but I couldn’t think of anything else to do. This man will help me. I trust him. He won’t let anyone hurt me. I thought about telling him then, but it seemed like a lot of time had gone by and Mom would be back soon. No, I better not get started. It won’t be good to leave in the middle of telling him. I will tell him first thing when I come back next week. We’ll have the whole time to talk about it and decide what to do, and he will tell me what will happen.
I woke up early the next Saturday morning. I thought about it all week. I couldn’t wait to tell him. I didn’t want to be scared anymore, and I believed he would help me. I was also sad. I knew I would probably be taken from my home. I was going to miss Artie a lot. But, maybe everyone will be able to leave. Maybe all us kids will live together, and maybe Mom and Dad will go to jail. This also made me sad. The thought of them living behind bars made me think of animals at the zoo. They looked so trapped and lonely. At times it was too much for me to think about. What would happen to my family if I told? But, the big man kept telling me I could tell him anything and he wouldn’t let anybody hurt me even if I told him the biggest secret in the whole wide world. I have to believe he will help my family too. So by the end of the week, I decided I would tell him, and we would just keep it our secret if it meant my family was going to be hurt. In fact, I’ll ask him that first.
Saturday morning found me taking a bath and then putting on my favorite pink dress. It was a party dress that I could wear only on special occasions. This was the most special day of my life so I was going to be my prettiest. I put on my white tights and my black patent leather shoes. I wanted to look very pretty in case they took me to a new home. I wanted my new family to like me and see how pretty I was.
After I got ready, my heart pounding the whole time, I went into the kitchen and Mom was standing there in her bathrobe.
“Mom, aren’t you going to get ready to go to the city?”
“We’re not going to the city today.”
“Are we going next Saturday?”
“No, we’re not going to the doctor’s anymore.” I remember the tears rolling down my face as I walked up the stairs to my bedroom. That was the last thing I remember until three years later at the end of sixth grade. I never did remember what I was going to tell the nice doctor, only that I had something really important to tell him.
I am self-employed with my furniture and
decorating business in Minnesota. I live in the country with my
husband and we spend our free time on his Harley, in our canoe or
hiking on the North Shore. I am currently working on my Memoir.
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