“My Earliest Memory” by Barry L. Taylor

This essay is part of the “Telling Your Story” program in which prisoners recount profound memories from different stages in their lives.

At the age of two, my mother left her six children behind when she left my father. My very first memories were of waking in my crib with the light turned off and seeing the soft light of afternoon ooze through the window shades. I wanted my mother and cried out for her. She came into the room, told me to lay down and go to sleep, and left the room again.

Fast forward to my next memory: like a snapshot in a family album, as my dad was giving me my bottle, I was seated in my high chair and the other kids were there. Next, we were all sent to a group foster home which was run by some lady. I was the baby of the bunch. At almost three, my next closest sister in age, Kathy, and I were sent to live with some couple, and here is where the story takes off…

I was in the shower, the curtain was open, and the lady of the house was watching me. Suddenly, I noticed I was urinating. The woman pulled me out of the shower, held me by my ankles, and repeatedly dunked my head in the toilet. I was mortified beyond belief, and it was an extremely unpleasant experience.

The next occasion was similar: I wet my pants, and the couple made me stand against the wall as they berated and humiliated me by taunting and teasing me. They made Kathy participate, too. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for our caseworker to figure out something terrible was happening… but I’m getting ahead of myself here.

The final act was aimed at both Kathy and me. Kathy and I were in bed, and both of them come and proceed to place pillows on our faces and sit on them, laughing their heads off.

It was many years before I began to comprehend the severity, depth, and scope of the negative way in which these first memories of life impacted both of us–and me in particular. I grew up with some heavy issues to attempt to reconcile, and some of them are with me today. I would never profess to imply that these acts are the reason that I am currently incarcerated. However, certain paraphilias and dysfunctional, cognizant traits such as low self-esteem, abandonment issues, and certain depressions through which I suffer are things I directly relate to this incarceration which is now in the 21st year and no end in sight.


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