Home Is Where The Hurt Is: Mary’s Story, Part Four

Home Is Where The Hurt Is: Mary’s Story, Part Four

HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Mary” is a pseudonym. The following series is an original non-fiction story that spans 33 pages of single-spaced sentences. It will be divided into 10 parts. The story begins during the author’s early childhood and goes up to the present. At each stage the author writes according to the age she is at.

Trigger warnings: various parts of this story contain descriptions of graphic, often sadistic, physical abuse of children, apologisms for religious abuse, deprivation of food, as well as references to rape.


In this seriesPart One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine | Conclusion


Part Four: Crackers and Cream Cheese

It is finally 6:15 am and time for family devotions.

“Mom yells at me that I am faking this to get attention and that if she sees me limping anymore I will get fifty more.”

Everyone else gets up and comes in the living room. Mom says that we can’t sit on the sofa because she knows that we will fall asleep so we have to stay in the desks. I am trying not to fall asleep in the wooden desk I am so tired. But I need to focus on what Mom is reading because she will ask us questions at the end. If we cannot answer them then she will start over and make us write papers about it. I am able to pick one verse and mumble something that I learned from it; just enough to satisfy her so we can move on.

She is finally finished discussing what we read and I feel a little hope that maybe we can leave for chore time. I think that if I get my chores done fast enough then maybe I can sneak somewhere and take a little nap. I am not so fortunate!

Mom just announced that we would be having drills all day today because of not getting our chores done yesterday.

I want to scream and cry.

I hate drills and all they ever do is get me into more trouble. Mom seems like she is having fun as she goes through the house ransacking every room in it. She says that we have fifteen minutes to each get our assigned rooms spotless. She says that our character is more important than our school work and that if we never get any school work done that is fine with her. She says that any school on our assignment list that we don’t get to because of doing chores will just have to go on our undone lists.

My rooms of the house this week are the living room, dining room and back porch along with my bedroom.  I try not to panic — there is no possible way I can get all of those clean to Mom’s satisfaction in fifteen minutes! I work as hard and as fast as I can but it is no use. Mom keeps coming in and out of the room yelling at me that I am not working fast enough. I want to yell back at her that I am working as fast as I can on an empty stomach of several days and no sleep for the past 24 hours!

I dare not actually yell at her though or I will be dead meat.

The dreaded sound of the timer going off, cuts into my thoughts. I know that I might as well head towards her bedroom because I am in for a spanking again. Nobody got their rooms done so we all have to line up. Today Mom feels like spanking our feet instead of our bottoms. I have to lay on her floor on my tummy with the bottoms of my feet up. I wasn’t able to put a pair of socks on this morning so she is spanking my bare feet.

I can’t stop screaming because of the pain and I try to pull away. She grabs my legs and yanks me back and then sits on them so that I cannot move. All this time she is yelling at me that, until I stop screaming, none of these are counting. I bite the inside of my lip till I taste blood trying not to scream. I am focusing so hard on not screaming that I lose count sometime after forty.

She is finally done but I cannot feel my feet to stand on them. Mom yells at me that I am faking this to get attention and that if she sees me limping anymore I will get fifty more. I try my best to walk out of her room without limping and as soon as her door is shut for the next person I get down on my hands and knees and crawl to the living room.

Now that round of spankings is done and she has just finished ransacking the house for round two.

Dad just got home and we are still drilling. I have lost count on what round we are on and I feel like a moving robot. The last round that we did, Abby and I finally got our rooms done but John and Henry did not. It doesn’t matter for me and Abby because we are still going to have to do it again. Mom says that our family is a team and if one part of the team fails than we all fail. I am so mad at John and Henry — why couldn’t they have gotten their rooms done?

It is now time for the evening mopping and we are still drilling. Mom finally says that we are done for the day because she is tired and we have to get our mopping done. I am only partially relieved. I have dust mopping this week and that is the worst one to have. I never can seem to get all the dust off the floor and I am always missing spots. Mom says it is because I am lazy and stupid and don’t care. I think she is too picky. She is always telling us that we are lazy but we are the only ones doing the work around the house. All Mom ever does is play solitaire or free cell on the computer or lay on the sofa and watch us work.  I know that she is the lazy one, not me and not Abby.

I am so angry with her all the time and I think I am starting to hate her and I don’t even care. Mopping time is over and mine does not pass her inspection again. That means that I get another $15 fine to add to all the other ones I have gotten. That also means that I will have to redo it tomorrow morning during breakfast time because mopping time is over then it is bed time.


I climb into bed and pray that I will be allowed to sleep all night long.

I am so tired and hungry that I cannot think. Everybody else is asleep now but even though I have not slept in over 24 hours I cannot sleep. I am so hungry that my tummy will not be quiet. I am hungry enough to try to get some food.

My room is right across the hall from Mom and Dad’s so I have to be very quiet. Mom is a very light sleeper and wakes up at anything. I tiptoe out of my room and very carefully down the hall. I know where all the squeaky spots are and am very careful to avoid them.

I make it all the way to the kitchen without turning on any lights. I then go into the laundry room and turn that light on. That light is left on all the time and maybe Mom wouldn’t notice if she came out. I open the cabinets as fast as I can to keep them from squeaking and I find a column of crackers. There are a few in there so I feel safe to take one.

I go in the laundry room and get a clean shirt out of the dryer and wrap the crackers in the shirt so they won’t make any noise and so they will be hidden if Mom comes out while I am walking back down the hallway. I listen and do not hear anyone moving so I get a little braver and pull the block of cream cheese out of the fridge. Mom gets the big Sam’s blocks of cream cheese so I know I can cut off a chunk without any being missed. I wrap the cream cheese in a napkin and then put it in the shirt too then turn off the laundry room light.

I start heading back to my room and am just starting to go down the hallway when I hear Mom’s door opening. In utter terror and panic I rush into the living room and hide behind the chair up against the back corner. I see the hall light come on and I peak out from behind the chair to see Mom heading towards the kitchen. I am terrified that she heard me, but I guess she didn’t because she got something out of the medicine cabinet and went back into her room turning off all the lights.

As soon as I hear her door shut I run back across the living room to listen. I hear another door shut and I know that she has gone into her bathroom. I know this is my chance so I dash down the hallway as fast as I can without making any noise and get back to my room. I climb in bed just as I hear her come back out of her bathroom.

I lay very still with the food hidden under the covers for a very long time just to make sure she has gone back to sleep. I sneak into my closet to eat and I have a flashlight hidden in there so I can see. Abby wakes up when she hears the crinkle of the cracker paper and she comes into the closet with me and we both eat half the crackers and cream cheese. It is not nearly enough to make me not hungry but at least I can go to sleep. I wad the cracker paper and the napkin as tight as I can and then go to the bathroom to flush them down the toilet. I am not scared for Mom to hear me walk to the bathroom because if she comes out all she will see is me going back to bed after using the bathroom. She does not come out though and I know I am safe for now and I am finally able to sleep.


Today makes the fifth day that I have not been allowed any meals. The cracker and cream cheese that I snuck a few nights ago didn’t last very long on my tummy. Every night since then, I have managed to get a little something, but no meals.

It is lunch time right now and John, Abby and I are all standing in the corners in the living room. We have been standing here for 1 hour and we will be here for 9 more. Somehow we all earned 10 hours in the corner and now is when we have to spend it.

Mom left the room for a minute to go check on the little ones eating their lunch. I take this opportunity to sit down for just a minute. My feet already hurt very badly and I don’t know how I will be able to make myself stand here for 9 more hours. I am so weak and tired and hungry that I feel like I am going to faint. Abby and I start trying to make signs for each other to help pass the time. Mom sees us moving and yells that if we don’t stop, she is going to start our time over. I put my elbows on the shelf in front of me and rest my chin in my hands.


I wake to my head hitting the shelf and the wall as I collapse onto the floor. Mom is standing over me in a minute with the belt in her hands yelling that I had better stand back up this instant or she was going to start spanking. I pull myself up as quickly as I can and turn my nose back toward the corner.  I manage to glance at the clock as I turn back around and see that only 25 minutes have passed. It is taking everything in me not to burst into tears right now. I can’t and won’t let Mom see me cry! I refuse to let her know how much this hurts. I don’t want Abby to see me cry either, because I am her big sister and I need to be strong for her. 


We now have three hours left.

There is no feeling in my feet.

I have been switching the foot that I stand on for hours now. But now I can hardly pick up either foot.  I don’t dare let myself fall asleep again but I have to find something to do to help pass the time. I finally work up the courage to ask Mom if I can get some school assignments to work on while standing. I makes me so happy when she says yes. I go to get my work and sit as long as I dare and then head back to the living room. Done!  Our corner time is finally up but it is now past supper.

I know I will be sneaking food again tonight.

To be continued.


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  • I really relate to your story. I was homeschooled and my abuser was my mom too. She’d have us skip meals, give us impossible tasks, beat us with a leather strap and get us up to work too. I’d sneak food to calm my stomach. I’m so sorry you went through this. It wasn’t your fault. Sleep deprivation, starvation and flogging around the feet are forms of torture…I can only imagine how tough it must have been for you. Sending caring thoughts your way.

  • This post makes me so sad and angry at the same time.

    I hope Mary can find some peace in her life despite all she has been through. It’s often hard for me to talk about my past, which seems like a cakewalk compared to this, I couldn’t even imagine….

  • This absolutely breaks my heart. It’s so hard to believe that a parent can be so very cruel to the children they are suppost to protect.

  • This is bizarre. We home school our kids (we have three, only one is school age), but my goodness, I think in the last 3 weeks I lost my temper for a grand total of 11 minutes, spread out over that time and all I did was yell at them and then apologize. My goodness. Our kids have chores and they are supposed to be cooperative, but being cooperative is different than obeying–cooperation implies participation of all parties, including the parents. Our kids go to bed at 8 and sleep for about 12 hours. Every night. The only edibles ever withheld are candies and other deserts, but not usually those either. I love the fact that we have the option of homeschooling because we have more time to play, see friends, go to special activities and classes, vacation at odd times, etc. It makes us more free, not more isolated. I’m an advocate of a fairly regulated homeschooling experience. I don’t agree that kids should be isolated from the wider culture–they should at least know what is out there even if they don’t do everything available.It’s possible to make home schooling a great social and academic experience. Public school doesn’t necessarily offer that and the schedule is grueling and for some, mind numbingly boring. This type of abuse can still happen even with a child showing up to school every day. However, at least they have some other options of who to talk to and possibly get help. It should be required that parents have a college degree (I have a teaching license and knowing what it is, I don’t think it ought to be required for home school), curriculum should be monitored and an extensive portfolio should be submitted as well as standardized testing. If more state involvement occurs when a child is deemed to be far below grade level, at least some of this abuse could be flagged. Again, placing a child in school does not mean the abuse goes away, it just gives a few more outlets.

    • I was homeschooled, and my experience was more like your kids’. Sadly, it’s people like “Mary”‘s parents who give all homeschooling a bad name. I’ve finished 3 years of college at a difficult college with a 3.7 and have a year-and-a-half left to get my bachelors and masters combined. My parents had college degrees and my mom homeschooled us because she felt it was best for us.

      My heart goes out to Mary, though. No child should ever be treated that way, under any circumstance.

  • Mary, I am so thankful that you can tell this story of your life. I hope it’s healing to you to write it down. It is very hard to read what happened to you. I remember similar things from my childhood. I’m thinking that they were more wretched than they feel like in memory. I feel more pain for you than I do for myself when I remember those days.

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  • Lois Brown Loar

    Thank you for sharing, Mary….but how does anyone justify not feeding their children?? I am so, so sorry for this abuse you suffered. My heart hurts for you.

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  • Emily, thank you for a summary of your homeschooling. You sound like one of the better homeschooling parents, even to the point of getting your credential. It’s obvious from your writing that you are able to teach English writing and probably literature. I do, however, wonder if you teach civics, specifically that the Constitution is the law of our land and not the Bible. Also, will you be able to teach your children science and math up to and through high school years? I know I wouldn’t have been able to even with my high school credential and was grateful for my children’s public schooling: Daughter now a veterinarian and son a manager with Directv. Will you have them tutored?

  • Another Halocene Human

    “She is always telling us that we are lazy but we are the only ones doing the work around the house. All Mom ever does is play solitaire or free cell on the computer or lay on the sofa and watch us work.”

    Wow. That was my mom. She was depressed, too. But also narcissistic or nearly so. She also dominated my father. She made home life a misery. I thanked her fear of the authorities every day because I was allowed to go to public school. A decade later and I think we would have been homeschooled. School was escape. Of course once school homework started and tracking started she started inserting herself in my education, too. I still have massive anxiety issues. I wasn’t beaten as frequently or (usually) as severely as you describe, but it was enough. We were afraid enough she didn’t have to keep beating us, I think.

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