A grey kitty cat hiding behind some branches

On Being Torn Apart

by Esther on 25 juni 2011

When I was about 8 years old, we lived next to a family with two younger boys and a black-and-white cat. I didn’t play much with any of the three – I preferred to be alone anyway. Until one particular day, which I remember well.

That summer day, their unfortunate cat was attacked by a bull terrier living a few blocks away.

The poor thing was pretty much torn apart, despite trying to hide under the neighbor’s car that was parked in front of our house.

My father helped the neighbors call animal rescue. I’m pretty sure he had already noticed it was too late for the kitty, but they tried anyway.

I was playing at the back of the house and hadn’t seen anything, when my dad came up to me and asked me very seriously if I could please play with the oldest of the two kids to distract him. The boy was obviously curious and dad didn’t want to confront him with the mess that was going on at his front porch.

So I went up to him and asked him if he wanted to play ball. He didn’t really feel like it, and I could sense the surprise: why the sudden interest from the solitary girl next door?

But I insisted. I absolutely had to prevent him from seeing his cat die!

I suggested a couple of more games, smiling the brightest smile I could produce under the circumstances. Finally, we settled for playing frisbee.

We must have played for half an hour while the boy kept looking over his shoulder towards his home, wondering why it seemed his mom was crying, and I kept him from going inside with I don’t know how many tales and white lies and stupid arguments why he just had to continue playing frisbee with me.

In the end, he didn’t believe me anymore. He was bored and fed up and I couldn’t pretend that I really wanted to play anymore. He went to his parents.

I could only hope I had kept him busy long enough.

I never found out whether I did.

I just remember how shaky I was, and it strikes me that I can still recall this episode from over 20 years ago.

It got me thinking: is this where my sense of responsibility originated?

Did the seriousness of the event take the fun out of playing for me?

Is this where I started to want to make my parents proud?

Or to shield the innocent from seeing horror?

Probably not.

I just can’t help but wonder why I have clung to this childhood memory above so many others.

What childhood memory has stuck with you forever? How has it shaped your identity?

  • Martinique

    Good story Esther, I can imagine this having had a large impact on you, especially at that age.
    I have lots of childhood memories of course but the one that comes to mind now is an afternoon at school when I was 8 or 9 years old. Our teacher told us to come sit with her because she had a story to tell. I don’t know why she decided to share that particular story with us at that moment or why she shared it with us at all. She told us about a little girl who was once in her class but who had died. She told us, just like that, out of the blue, that the little girl went home for lunch one afternoon and never came back. At home she had gone to the toilet and died there, from carbon monoxide poisoning. She cried, started screaming about how she didn’t understand why the little girl had to die … We were all sitting there, wide-eyed, looking at her.With no idea what to say or do. After a while she calmed down a bit and told us. the 8 and 9 year old’s, about the dangers of carbon monoxide. This was something that happened 10 years earlier so I never understood why she suddenly told us that. This has effected me though. Ever since that I’ve always been very careful with things that could cause carbon monoxide poisoning. When my boyfriend and I started to live together I insisted we get those carbon-monoxide/smoke detectors. And when I was home I always told my Mum to get them. It just stayed with me in my mind I guess. Whenever I hear another case where someone died of it, I always remember this story. I think we were way too young to be told a story like that, especially in the way she told us, but I’ve never forgotten it.

    • Wow… that’s indeed heavy stuff to hear when you’re that age! To your teacher, it might have been a good experience to share the emotions and give out a carbon monoxide warning at the same time. But to the bunch of you, it was shocking and hard to understand, especially without context.

      I wonder if these stories can impact us more than we (or others) notice at first. To an adult, it’s just a sad story and they move on from there. But a kid can have it on ‘repeat’ in their mind and build up a fear for death or a strong sense of responsibility.