Canned Spinach- eating and abuse


I was in the third grade and although we were separated into individual classes, the partitions were often removed so all eighty third graders and four teachers were interacting. There weren't a lot of foods that I liked as an eight year old. I was OK with burgers and fries but that was about it. My stepmother, Carol, weighed about a hundred and twenty pounds and was five foot nine inches. The woman was crazy when it came to food. Whatever she put it in front of you, you ate it.

I would sit at times for two hours staring at a bowl of cold, mushy, canned spinach, until finally, exhausted, I would gag and gag it down. My stepsister, Susan, hated ketchup and I watched in horror one night as Carol jerked her head back by the hair and smeared a handful of ketchup inside her mouth. Susan gagged it down while Carol screamed, "Eat it!, Eat it!" So, included in our long drives to school was always instructions to eat all of our school lunches. Every day after school she asked if we'd eaten all of our lunch, and ever day I lied and said that I had! One of the teachers was Ms Johnson. She was the same age as my awesome grandmother and knew her as well. She reminded me of her very much. Now, Ms. Johnson sometimes doted over me and would watch me peck at my lunch and say, "Elizabeth, if you ever eat everything on your plate, I will dance a jig right here in the cafeteria." Then one day came, it was hamburger, french fry, tomato and apple sauce day. I ate it all... except for the tomato which Lisa Harness quickly snatched up and ate for me. :-) We sat in groups of eight in big square desks, four facing four, and all the kids in my group started yelling at Ms. Johnson, laughing proudly that, "Elizabeth cleared her plate." So everyone watched as Ms Johnson danced a jig... a really funny jig that delighted all the kids and caused quite an uproar. It was so fun and just made my day. Later that day, my stepmother came to the class to pick me and my sister up after school. I didn't find out until later that Ms Johnson had told Carol the whole story. She told her that I had never before eaten all my lunch and that I did for the first time that day and that she danced a jig to celebrate. Because my dad and stepmother were basically hiding me and my sister from my mom at the time, we would have to drive thirty miles home from school. That drive seemed like forever. It was cold that evening and I had on my coat and my hood was up. Carol was already inside as dad ushered me and my sister in to the house. Just inside the door, I pushed my hat off of my head and immediately felt burning pain across my cheek and mouth that rattled my teeth...it hurt so bad!! Carol had slapped me across the face. I was completely shocked and confused. In a flash I tried to figure out what I'd done this time. My dad, who never protected me from anyone, especially the women in his life, was even surprised. All he managed to do was to loudly say, "Hey!" Carol shot venom from her mouth and responded, "Shut up, Steve!" Then she got so close to my face, I could feel her spit on me as she spoke. "You little liar...all this time you've bee lying to me ever day and today I found out the truth!" Then I went to my room.

Through Story Exploration:

There is good in this story, 'I loved school and all my friends and they liked me. Ms Johnson saw the real me and loved me and it's even possible for little me to cause a big, fun celebration.' But there were serious lies burned into me that day and re-enforced on other occasions. These are a few of them:

  • Hiding my face is the safest option

  • It's normal for others to abuse girls bodies

  • I will never have a home that is safe

  • Cleaning a plate of food I do like will make me and others happy

  • Certain foods are evil


The Truth: I originally chose this story because of being slapped in the face and my dad not doing anything about it. It was a shock upon sharing and exploring with the CoEd group that these years of my childhood was actually the foundation of forty years of eating and body image problems. After our six weeks of Story Group, I had clarity, more power over my choices and less fear in allowing myself to be seen. However, it was during my follow up Story Coaching session that the simple question, 'Tell me about your grandmother?' would lead to an even bigger breakthrough. My grandmother, who me and my sister lived with for a few years was really a 'mother' to me and fun story after story poured out of my soul about all of the ways in which she loved us. I actually wasn't an orphan, abandoned.