One of the prompts from Cricket’s Slice Of Life this week is The Light of Reason.
I have wracked my brain for a couple of days trying to come up with a moment in my life where reason prevailed, but all I could think of were examples of my unreasonableness.
Today was one of those moments that I put down to happenstance where stories from the past and stories from the present collide.
It is very hot in Sydney today. 38 degrees C and counting. One of those days where the bitumen smokes beneath your feet and restlessness fills every sinew. The birds droop in the trees and the butterflies shudder under flowers, panting for shade.
I was bringing in my bins from the back lane and saw my neighbour wiping her face with a tissue. At first I thought she was feeling the effects of the heat, but then I realised she was crying. I thought that maybe I shouldn’t intrude on her grief but she saw me and came over.
Her 15 year old niece has run away from home. She’s been gone for five days. She hasn’t contacted her parents once. If her friends know where she is they aren’t saying.
I felt like crying myself because I have met Libby and she is a lovely girl. Very quiet, small in stature, makes her own birthday cards full of wonderful scenes from nature. I couldn’t imagine her spending five minutes on the streets, let alone five days. She would fall prey to all sorts of unimaginable horrors.
Officially, her father, my neighbour’s brother, is saying Libby ran away. Unofficially, he has admitted that he threw her out.
I cannot imagine what sweet Libby could have done to warrant being thrown out of her own home. My mind rushes to an array of scenarios – the worst of which is that she was being abused; the least of which is she was caught stealing booze from the drinks cabinet.
Drugs, drink, underage sex, running with the wrong crowd, shoplifting, smoking, or just out and out cheek and defiance. These are vices your average teenager may succumb to at some stage. I think it is unforgivable for a parent to throw their child onto the streets for any or all of the above. Or for anything else that I haven’t listed.
A parent is responsible for a child until they are at least 18 or able to fend for themselves financially. I’ve seen a lot of kids thrown out of home. I used to volunteer with a group of teenagers who were homeless. And every story broke my heart. There is no excuse for throwing your child out of home. That is your child. Your own flesh and blood. I believe such an act is tantamount to committing a felony.
You may think I’m ranting a bit, but because I have seen the misery that results from what is often a temper tantrum by the parent, I feel very strongly about this issue.
And I have experienced the brunt of it up close. In my own life….
[Image by RunWhiteRabbit at deviant Art.]
As a teenager, my sister Shelly was a real rebel. Wore eye make-up so thick you needed a trowel to get it off, Doc Marten boots instead of the regulation school shoes, black nailpolish. She loved Debbie Harry from Blondie and had a hairstyle exactly like hers – platinum blonde at the front, black at the back.
The nuns viewed her with distaste, keeping her at arms length as much as they could. I always remember with pride the day where Sister Assumpta told my sister having dual coloured hair was unacceptable and that she should dye it back to its natural colour. ‘I can’t remember what the natural colour is,’ Shelly replied, sending Sister Assumpta into one of her famous turns where she frothed at the mouth and spoke in tongues. It was the talk of the school for weeks.
Despite this look of rebellion, Shelly was actually a very good kid. A gifted artist, top of the year in Ancient History and Art Theory, she was a conscientious student, and back in the day before it really was fashionable – a staunch environmentalist.
That’s why I laid down my life for her. So to speak.
When Shelly was 15 she got involved with a biker gang. Well, it was one guy with a Honda 250cc, who was 17, but he did have a cool leather jacket. And some of his friends had little pretend motorbikes too. They got up real momentum on the hill that led down to the beach.
That bike made so much noise, I swear it had a two stroke motor in it. Robbie’s arrival was always heralded by a series of backfires and a plume of foul-smelling smoke. He started picking Shelly up after school. The other girls laughed. The nuns clutched their crucifixes and uttered curses under their breaths.
Then came the letter from the principal, stipulating that Shelly had to stop being picked up from school by that unsavoury character, and had to change her appearance or she would be suspended indefinitely.
My Dad hit the roof. Literally. I can tell you for a fact that white men can jump. He told Shelly she had to stop seeing Robbie immediately or else.
Or else she would be thrown out of the house.
Mum and I thought he was joking, but after another letter from the school confirming Shelly’s suspension, we came home to find a line of suitcases by the front door full of Shelly’s things. Mum and Shelly panicked, dropping onto their knees in tears. I called the Department of Youth and Community Services thanks to a heads up from my friend, Mickey, who later went on to become a human rights barrister; telling them my Dad was throwing my 15 year old sister onto the street with no money and no place to go.
A social worker came over that night and talked my Dad out of it. If looks could kill I would indeed be just a figment of your imagination now, but thankfully, unless you are Superman or another superhero with lasers for eyes, humans do not have that power.
My Dad always thought my sister was the rebel, but I was the one who was rebelling on the inside – a much more dangerous proposition than punk attire and a cheeky attitude, if you ask me. I thought I was going to throw up, wither into the woodwork, but I had to stick up for my sister.
Things were awkward for a while. I convinced Shelly to fix up her hair and to get Robbie to pick her up around the corner from the school – so her suspension was revoked. My Dad eventually started talking to us again and things were actually better than before. The air had been cleared.
I hope little Libby comes back. I hope that whatever lies between she and her father is salvageable. I hope she is getting enough to eat and is not afraid. I hope, I hope, I hope. For no child deserves to live on the streets.