Once upon a time in the land of my childhood, there was an alley running between our property and the neighbor’s property. You don’t see too many alleys anymore, especially in big cities, but in our small town they were a significant part of life. Kids could congregate there, learn to ride bikes without traffic, play with their friends. And trash was collected in large steel drums generally placed near the alleyway. Periodically you could light a match and revel in the pleasure of watching your trash burn.
Not gonna lie, I miss burning the trash.
Isn’t this a beautiful plant? Our particular alley was covered, I mean COVERED, with this plant. Such a deceptive plant. Dainty little yellow blossoms that just begged to be admired. Until…. this happens to those flowers:
Ugly, evil goat head stickers, or thorns, or sand burs as we called them. Step on these a couple of times in your bare feet and the above dainty yellow flowers lose every bit of charm they may have ever possessed.
Riding your bicycle through the large patches of these put a rapid end to your journey. They were just evil and painful. And everywhere it seemed.
I have a landmark childhood memory of one summer day in the sticker patch.
Across the street and down a bit from our house was a mobile home park. Trailer park. Where now there is a parking lot for a rest home, it once was periodically the home of temporary workers in the area. They came, they worked a bit, they moved on.
Often the temporary workers brought families who lived there in the trailer park with them. On this memorable hot summer day for whatever reason I became the object of contempt for three older boys from the trailer park. I’m not certain my age, but probably kindergarten at the oldest. I have no recollection of why they hated me so much on that day, but I do recall that they chased me down our alley in broad daylight. The three of them picked me up by the arms and legs, and threw me into the largest patch of stickers in the alley. And they made sure there was skin contact between me and the innumerable stickers. By pushing me down with their hands firmly toward the ground. Then they ran off laughing.
I did not laugh. I screamed in pain, I cried loudly in fear, I was terrified. And covered with goat head thorns.
That much I recall clearly, but honestly most of my memories are so vague of this incident. Except for one very significant part. My parents heard me screaming. My mom held me close and I remember telling her “I think my heart broke” through sobs that wracked my little body. My dad removed the stickers one by one. And then, though he was more of a “make you laugh” type of guy and not really confrontational, he walked across the street and down a bit to the trailer park to have a serious visit with the three boys and whatever parent might be available for conversation.
Dad returned with no visible bruises or signs of combat. I’m certain there was no combat, of course. But he made it clear to me that such an awful experience would never happen again to his little girl. Words he spoke to the offenders were sufficient.
Dad and I only had seventeen years total together before he passed away. And though this one experience on that hot summer day was ugly and painful, I must say it was an experience that sealed my dad’s love for me. Made me feel safe. I’m grateful. Yes, even for the thorns. The thorns would forever remind me that my Dad really loved me so much. It would be important for me to remember that as the years passed.
Nothing makes you feel safer than your Father’s love.
My little landmark memory doesn’t really begin to compare to the abuse some children suffer. We should all say “I think my heart broke” because of the tragic lives we are surrounded by. Father God, hold close the children who have no one to physically tend their wounds. Father God, lead us to be your hands and feet for these little ones. Father God, break our hearts for what breaks yours.