I ran as fast as I could. Ted was chasing me and wanted to beat me up. I ran around the living room table, then I managed to get out the door into the hallway. There I heard the washing machine running in the bathroom and hoped Mum was there. I burst through the door and Mum stood next to the washing machine with a cigarette in her mouth waiting for the spinner to stop. I grabbed Mum’s apron and cried, “Help me! Help me! Ted is after me, help me, Mum!” The feeling of being so near Mum with Ted chasing me, gave me a split second sense of safety, that is until I suddenly felt an excruciating pain across my face.
Mum grabbed me by my hair and dragged me out of the bathroom. She continued hitting me all over my head, particularly across my face and nose. She dragged me through the hallway saying nothing, just hitting me all the time, then up the 12 stairs, across the hall and into the bedroom before she threw me into my cot. Then she stalked out of the room, slamming the door behind her. I sobbed with pain and I was in a kind of shock to think that Mum would beat me up for expecting her to rescue me from Ted! I felt wet all over my face and I tried to wipe it with my hands, but what I thought were tears was blood. It covered my hands. It continued to flow and I thought I would be unable to stop the bleeding.
Moments passed and suddenly there was a pool of blood in my cot. I felt very dizzy as I stepped out of my cot and wobbled across the floor towards the windowsill. The window was already wide open. I slowly leaned forward and hung half my body out through the window. My bleeding nose continued to flow and the blood hit the ground like raindrops falling two floors below me, until it formed a pool.
I lifted my head slightly and saw a beautiful summer day. The fields were covered with thick long grass, with beautiful summer flowers in all colours, the mountains stood tall and strong and each mountaintop was covered with a white cap of snow. I heard the birds singing in the trees around the house. I glanced towards a blackbird sitting on a branch in the tree. Suddenly it lifted its wings and flew off. I thought to myself, why didn’t God create me to be a bird, why did he make me a girl? If I had wings I would fly off over the tall mountains and far, far away from here.
In the midst of the beauty all around me, I felt like giving up and just letting my body fall out of the window. I thought that if I did, my neck would break and I wouldn’t have to cry anymore. I slowly leaned further forward and my belly was now almost over the edge.
Then out of nowhere I heard one of the girls from the neighbouring farm shouting, “Be careful! Pull yourself in!” She was walking down the road alongside Sally. A slight moment of embarrassment hit me as I pulled myself back into the room. Before I knew it, they had quietly run up the stairs and come into the room without anyone seeing them. They tried to wipe off some of the blood from my face with a towel. Then they took me by my hand and quietly guided me across the floor, out of the house and took me for a walk. They asked me what had happened and I told them. Sally told me not to care and not to worry. I was safe now. I was grateful for their kindness to me, but each time, I experienced the horror of being beaten, I felt more and more empty and the sense of hopelessness got stronger and stronger.
Every year on the 17th of May, Norway celebrates National Constitution Day. It is the biggest national celebration of the year. The whole country is covered with Norwegian flags. Many homes have big flag posts in their garden and the flags flying make a beautiful sight. By mid May the trees are just starting to bud and a vague blanket of green is seen over the hills. Small birch trees are chopped down, tied in various places and decorated with flags in the centre of the villages. All the children are given brand new outfits for this event. The sound of snare drums, trumpets and clarinets ring throughout all the villages. Orchestras parade proudly with flag carriers, followed by huge parades of people singing traditional folksongs. After the parade, all sorts of games and competitions are held, almost like a funfair, and prizes can be won. This was a day I loved, but also hated.
Mum always sewed new clothes for the kids for this event and I always felt I looked very good and was proud to have something new. Mum ironed the flags kept from previous years and stuck a little ribbon the colour of the flags, red, blue and white, onto our coats. The girls’ ribbons were fixed on the right side of the chest, Dad and Ted wore them on the left side of the chest.
We always had to be at the village, which was 12 km away, early in the morning to join our own school class, lining up to participate in the parade. First came the musicians, they were at the front, forming straight lines and wearing blue uniforms. Secondly, the school’s first grade joined in behind the musicians and then all the other grades, up to the last year. The Primary School and the Comprehensive School held about 100 kids in total. In those days school didn’t begin until you reached the age of seven and then you left school at the age of sixteen. Our Primary school was from the age of seven to the age of thirteen. At fourteen years old you entered the Comprehensive school and then left at sixteen. In our village all the children went to the same school because it was such a small community. In my class there were three girls and six boys, the nine kids were together in the same class for the whole of the nine years.
I dreaded the long walk of the parade. We walked right through the village, up a very steep bendy road to the top of a hill, (in Wales it would be called a mountain!). I had such a bad cough all the time. The walk would make me short of breath and then I would start to cough. To keep up with the fast speed of the parade was a nightmare, but it was compulsory to be in the parade when you were a school kid. Every kid that finished the parade had a free hot dog and a free bottle of pop. So for me not to starve all day I had to finish the parade and I always did, enjoying afterwards the lovely taste of a proper hot dog. This was a treat I had just once a year. Mum never had hot dogs for dinner.
While we were out and about, Mum and Dad would meet up with some friends from the village and have their own party. They would then sit with them and get drunk! Everywhere kids would be playing games and joining in races to win great prizes, but you had to pay about one Krone (10 pence) to be a part of each game. I never had any money so I just walked around looking at everyone else having fun. All the kids were stuffing their mouths with chocolates and ice-cream one after another. They competed over who had managed to eat the most sweets and ice creams. On this particular day of the year, that was the tradition, the kids were allowed to eat all the sweets they wanted.
I kept my bottle of pop for as long as I could, so it would look as if I had goodies too. But in the end I had no more pop and I was longing to have sweets like everyone else had. There was one race that I participated in that didn’t cost money and that was the 3 wheeled bike race for toddlers. The organisers said I was too old for this race; this was only for the smaller ones! I was now seven years old but still very small. I pleaded with the organisers to please let me have a go! I was not that much taller than them. In the end they let me have a go. I was too tall to sit on the seat, so I sat at the back of the bike and raced as fast as I could so that I could get a prize of some sort. I won the race of course, and I got my prize! To my great disappointment it was a very big green apple. I took a bite out of it and it was not sweet at all, it was the sourest apple I had ever had.
From early in the morning until late afternoon, for most of the celebrations during the Norwegian Constitution Day, all I had was one small bottle of pop and one hot dog. Sometimes though I got very lucky and Mum would give me one Krone for one small ice cream. But the times when Granny was around during the celebrating of the Constitution were different. I stuck to her like Velcro, knowing she would always give me special treats, like ice creams and chocolates.