How often are you prompted to “Put On A Happy Face” to hide an ugly truth from the world?
Callie Pretender was ten years old. She had an eight year brother named Mack and a dog named Snuff. When they went to church they always sat in the fourth row to the right in the order or Daddy, Mommy Callie and Mack. Daddy always sat along the main aisle and always shook the usher’s hand when he seated them and when he handed them the offering basket. After church Daddy shook the pastor’s hand and Mommy smiled at the babies. Callie would stand very still as to not wrinkle her pretty ruffled dress and Mack would stand straight and tall smiling at the old man who came by to shake his hand every week but, in truth, frightened Mack. Mrs. Taylor would say to mommy, “What a lovely family you have! I bet you hug those children every night knowing how blessed you are!” Mr. Germaine would tell Daddy, “That boy is going to grow into a great football player. I bet you are so proud!” and mommy and daddy would both smile and nod in agreement. Then they would drive home in their perfectly polished Mercedes. Callie would sit behind mommy and Mack would sit behind daddy. Mrs. Taylor would wave as they passed and Callie would wave back. It was the same every week.
When they got home, daddy would tell mommy what he wanted for Sunday lunch and then mommy would cook it while daddy reclined in his recliner watching a game. Callie and Mack were told by Mommy to stay in their rooms until Mommy called them. Mommy was expected to bring him his lunch on a tray. If the food was burned, too cold or just not right, daddy would fly up in a rage spilling the tray and telling mommy what a bad cook she was and how stupid she was. Then he would smack her across the face and make her clean up the mess that he said she caused. Mommy would clean up the mess and get daddy a new tray. If everything was okay with daddy’s tray, she would set the table for Callie and Mack and call them down to eat. They would come down quietly and eat in silence so as not to make Daddy mad.
One time Callie accidently dropped a glass and broke it. Daddy came charging in from another room, arm raised to beat Callie. Callie backed against the wall in terror. Mommy jumped between them and screamed for Callie and Mack to go to their rooms. While the children were fleeing the room, Callie could hear Daddy beating her mother. Tears flowed down her cheeks and she and Mack both escaped to her bedroom where they took refuge in the closet clinging to each other. That night there was no supper and Callie and Mack fell asleep in that closet.
The next morning Callie and Mack would very quietly sneak from the house to go to school. They learned a long time ago to be very quiet so as not to disturb Daddy. School provided six hours of safety but after school they would be back in the danger zone once Daddy got home from work. Mommy helped them complete their homework before Daddy got home while preparing a meal for the evening.
They never knew when Daddy would get mad. Daddy always told them how it was their fault he got mad. If they weren’t so stupid, so lazy, so irresponsible…. Day in and day out they would live in fear. Most days Daddy would hit Mommy. Sometimes he hit Callie or Mack but Mommy would often try to intervene before Daddy could hurt them.
Mommy was expected to keep thee house spotless. Callie and Mack were expected to keep their rooms spotless. If they had Barbie Dolls or Matchbox cars lying out when Daddy drove in the driveway, they would hurry to put their things away.If daddy thought anything was out of place, Daddy would shout about how lazy and messy they were.
Callie hated Saturdays. Daddy was home all day and so she and Mack would spend the day in their room reading or drawing. They were not allowed to make noise or run around the house. If anything made Daddy mad, he would yell at who ever was the closest. His yelling frightened Callie and Mack and when he started swinging his fists, they would scatter to various hiding spots throughout the house..
And every Sunday they would dress up in their Sunday best and go to church where they would paint smiles on their faces and practice being the happy family Callie imagined they were…. A family that she liked to draw on the back of the bulletin…. A family she called The Pretenders.