Summer eclipsed as a bird in swift flight at the inception of an opalescent autumn day. It reflected an immortal splendor. The leaves fell softly from the trees, slowly descending as the sun rays bathed them in panoply of light. On the ground they appeared vibrant, fluttering from a light inflow of wind. The aromatic scent of gardenias permeated the air, and birds chirped skillfully their morning symphony. The bustling of children and traffic bestirred the streets. The elementary kids could be seen walking on the sidewalks in groups. They were from various ethnicities, nationalities, and races, though a large portion was Hispanic. Wallace and I walked alongside my mother. She would have to take us to the school office to get my brother and I registered. At Coldwater Canyon Av, and Basset intersection crosswalk we stopped to await the crosswalk guard. Usually a female, although a male worked the morning shift sometimes, the city employed worker held a stop paddle in hand, raising it to halt the rush morning traffic whenever pedestrians crossed the street. My mother, brother, and I scurried across, thereby reaching the school premises.
Walking into the office, my mother spoke to the academic counselors. Thereafter, Wallace and I began our first day at Coldwater Canyon School. The institution opened its gates for the children at 8:00a.m. Ordinarily, my brother and I made it to the school prior to this time. We stood outside with the other kids. Classes started around 8:30a.m., and children remained inside until 10:00a.m. At this hour children were released for recess. It lasted for fifteen minutes before students returned to the classrooms. Teachers would lead children outside to the school playground, and allow them to interact with another. Games such as Duck Duck Goose, Catch Ball, Handball, and swinging on Apparatus Rings were frequently engaged in by children. The instructors supervised the kids as they socialized, and participated in those recreational activities. By the end of recess the elementary students were required to go back to class. Teachers rang a portable bell for children to form two separate lines, each class group. Once this was done the kids followed their individual teacher back inside. Academic practice exercises were handed out to students. The elementary kids resumed study from a couple of hours earlier. When noon had come children were dismissed for lunch. They all gathered by the benches outside not too far from the classrooms. After lunch the children involved themselves in more outside recreation. When 1:00p.m. came around a teacher summoned all students to line up with the ring of a hand bell. The same procedure was followed as all went back within class. Teachers would then read students a story from a children’s book. One hour later a second recess was permitted. Upon it ending the kids entered the classroom for the last time of the day.
Teachers continued to drill children in some arithmetic or reading practices. As 3:00p.m. arrived instructors let students out of class the rest of the afternoon. Homework was assigned to the school children. The hours in the classroom terminated as students left with only play time on their minds. A flurry of kids poured out of the front gates. It was not infrequent children were seen going to a friend’s house. Most kids lived in close proximity. Some however, did not stay close to each other. Although parents of both groups gave permission or refusal to let their children to go someone’s house or apartment, it wasn’t with extreme caution for the former. The latter had to exercise more prudence when allowing their kids to leave from under their supervision. Wallace and I went to classmates’ residence, or they came to our living space. We either watched Television or played around The Coldwater Canyon Apartment Building. Marcus made merry with us as well.
Of the many classmates’ Wallace and I associated with the most, and even my youngest brother was Menelik. My brothers and I enjoyed being in his company. He had a funny sense of humor, a hilarity that caused my siblings and me to burst into laughter. There was one instance in which school concluded for the day. Menelik, Wallace and I were leaving through the gates. We couldn’t seem to make progress egressing. Crowds of kids were going through the portals, but at a very slow pace. Menelik turned to Wallace and me with a sly grin, and said, “Let me show you how to do this”. He began pushing through, “awww…awww”, he released from his lips, “Get out the way”. He laughed wildly. Menelik showed much of this ebullient emotion. It laughed so much my mother labeled him the “The Laughing Hyena”. Almost every day after school he walked with Wallace and me to our apartment. There he, my brothers and I ran around the building. Although our friend seemed to be a lively child he concealed a secret. My brothers and I was not aware of his domestic issues, at least initially. We failed to realize his personal problems at home, that is until my brothers and me found out Menelik never went home, or rarely did he ever when he left our apartment. Wallace, Marcus and I discovered something wrong when we observed him going to the apartment building next to us, where he slept on a couch that had been disposed of by the trash can. Naturally, inquisitive as children my siblings and I asked Menelik why he chose not to go home. He did not say only that he didn’t want to.
On one evening our mother called for my brothers and me to come inside. We had been outside as twilight appeared. Before going in, my brothers and I were suddenly approached by Menelik. He was shaking, and just fled from his house. He asked if he could stay with us. He finally intimated to my brothers and I his mother physically abused him. Wallace, Marcus and I communicated this to our mother. When she looked upon Menelik she instantly knew he wasn’t lying. His trembling and the distress in his eyes said it all. My mother did not deny him a refuge in our living space, though it was at a great risk. She welcomed him in, yet he did not even spend a full night when someone knocked on the front door repetitively. I have this memory of my brothers and me trying to hide our friend under the bed. We thought it was his mother, and we were right. However, she was not alone. Two Police Officers escorted her. My mother made an effort to protect the Menelik by lying, but as the officers explained to her the penalty for this, incident to the abduction of someone’s child, she told them he was in her apartment. He was brought from our bedroom.
Menelik’s mother questioned him as to why he ran away from home. Though she inquired gently, and expressed no passion on the surface, beneath there seemed to be a restrained rage waiting to erupt. I was fully persuaded when she should take her son back home, he would feel that anger, to what degree? I can only guess. The day following justified what I thought the previous night. As my mother, brothers, and I were walking pass Coldwater Canyon School on a weekend, we saw Menelik and his mother. She was parked in front of the facility. Her son stood before the vehicle, refusing to get inside. She scolded him to seat himself in the car, but he put up a resistance. Finally she struck her son across his face, and propelled him in the vehicle. My mother could only watch. She had her own children to protect. Anyhow, she probably didn’t know at the time a person could report a case of abuse. Menelik was in the vehicle as his mother drove off. Wallace, Marcus and I never saw our friend again. He stopped coming to school. I am positive his mother moved to another vicinity where she continued her mistreatment of him. His was a face at the bottom of the well, yearning for someone to hear his sad story; such are many with the internal screams that few could hear, in a case of abuse.
You need to be logged in to comment