#12 ............ The Girl in a Box........... Kathy Whiteside

photo credit: http://laissezfairedesign.blogspot.com
I was only 7 or 8 when we moved to Shelby Drive in Richmond, Va.  The house was awesome , it was a two story brick cape cod.  It had a garage and a screened in porch.  I don't have many memories from there as I only lived there a little over a year but I can remember the layout of the home and the details of the rooms.   It was in this house that the beginning of the end of my parents' relationship occurred.  I do remember that vividly.

Our next door neighbors were a happy family.  A mom ,  A dad , two older brothers and a younger sister. The youngest sister was "Kathy" and she was a couple of years my senior but she was my friend.   We didn't go to the same school but we were friends and hung out together over at least one summer.

Kathy was "deaf and dumb" I was told, sort of like "Helen Keller."   I didn't know what either of those terms or groups of words meant but was soon on a mission to find out.   She definitely was not blind and could talk when she wanted to........I heard her.  When she was angry she could muster up sounds that made words i could understand when she called her brothers "stupid" and told them to "shut up" ............she wasn't "dumb" in any sense of the word and I was convinced of this fact.  Her voice sounded strained when she talked and kinda like she had a cold...........but she COULD TALK. 

Kathy could also talk with her hands.  She knew sign language.  She knew many words and taught me the entire alphabet one letter at a time, I still remember this.  She also taught me a few words only a couple of which I remember now so many years later.  We would sit in a cardboard box that an appliance arrived in when we moved in.  We made it into our fort, our clubhouse .........complete with windows that opened and closed .......cut out of the sides.   I would write a word with a crayon ( sidenote:  I was taught that this was /is pronounced CRAY-AHN until I moved here where many people call them "crowns" for some reason) on the inside of the box and she would show me how to say it with my hands.  I wish I remembered everything she taught me but I don't.

My Father was and is an animal lover.   He has always had pets and in many ways relates much better with animals than he does humans.  He decided while we lived there on Shelby Drive to breed  White German Shepherds.   We had one, named after me..............."Lady Angela"   Its funny that he would choose that particular place and time to do this as the White Shepherds .....were so very similar to ms. kathy whiteside, who could be....."  quite vocal, tending to whine, mumble, and grumble in attempts to communicate with you".

It was near Easter............I remember that............someone had brought over their male German Shepherd to breed with Lady.  I didn't know what that meant and I think my Dad told me that they were going to "make puppies" but no one went into any detail.   I was in my room and Kathy came over to play...........she was very excited and trying to tell me something.  She was making this hand movement with her fingers that I did not understand............it looked like she was trying to say OK with one hand and her finger from the other hand was going into the "O" part.   You get the picture?   I didn't.   She became very frustrated and dragged me over to the window and said the "F" word very clearly and drawn out.  The dogs were "stuck" outside and appeared to be upset and crying to me.  I ran downstairs and told.  My Dad sprayed them with a water hose and they ran apart.   It was very traumatic...........no one wanted to explain anything and no one did..........

After that experience I wasn't allowed to play very much with Kathy.............as she was older and obviously knew about topics that I wasn't  privvy too at the time.   The next vivid memory I have of Kathy growing up was when my parents got into their final "war of the roses" and my mother pulled me from a neighborhood softball game over to Kathy's house and then from there we were whisked to a hotel. 

Years later............... I was working at Olan Mills and met Kathy there............ she was being photographed with her fiance, she said she remembered me but I didn't see that tell-tale sign of recognition.   I didn't make that big of an impact on her life I am sure............but she did make some lasting memories for me..........
my friend the deaf girl who definitely was anything but "dumb" in my book.......the girl from inside the box.

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