THE NIGHT OF THE PURPLE LOLLIPOP
(A LEGACY STORY DEDICATED TO MY SISTER: TRULA)
THE COLOR OF CHRISTMAS IS PURPLE
When I think of a holiday present that has meant a lot to me, it is one that was almost a "posthumous gift" from my sister. After her death and after a career change for me to work as an Advocate for Domestic Violence and Rape Sexual Assault Victims at a confidentially located shelter, I found myself preparing for the Christmas holidays. I had been melancholy and really having to reach deep inside to pump myself up for the festivities. Very unusual for me when it comes to Christmas but, I was now working for high risk families and the circumstances of their lives could not help but impact my own.
One night, working third shift and thinking of the Christmas gifts needed to see to it that all the children in the shelter would get one. In fact, their mother's need one too. If anyone needed to experience the spirit and meaning of Christmas, it was these moms. I had seen the domestic violence situations play out for years. First, in my early life and then in my career working with people through advocacy and nursing. Christmas was a tough time if you were too old to believe in Santa.
I believe my sister was looking over me that night as I was tried to focus on the holidays and how to help the children. Almost an impossible task, was my thought at that point. Then, while leafing through some papers I had brought with me from my sludge fund collection of old newspapers , my eyes lighted up as I saw the headline of a small news article from the paper.
The story had been written by a local humorist and personal story teller of great repute in our area. He had been a friend of my sisters and she, as a police officer gave him many stories over the years. He had written stories on many of my clients in my work as and advocate to the homeless. The story was recounting a Christmas incident my sister had told me about many years before. It was being written from the perspective of her partner recounting his memories of that night. Suddenly, I knew it was the key to my holiday and had something powerful to offer in creating a momentum for the holiday ahead.
The story was written in the humorist's unique style and was meant to be both heart warming and heart wrenching. It was both. But in truth, the story as told to me by my sister and now by her partner to the humorist, needed no embellishments and the simple truth of the facts spoke volumes.
My sister had told me the story by way of explaining her absence from our holiday meal. She usually worked the busy holidays and always made time to go to an inner city bar in the heart of her beat to serve meals to the street people and the down and out folks of the neighborhood. She had her own squad car and was one of the first female officers in the nation to have one. She often rode alone but on high risk times, she rode with a partner. She would usually drop by to share a bite with us but this holiday she had "slept in" due to the long sleepless night from her shift.
This Christmas took place twenty years ago and she would have only have been on the force about four years. She was riding with an officer that over the long haul became one of her favorite friends in the department. She loved his red hair and bad boy attitude. Like her, he took no guff and nothing over the next years as he moved into the detective bureau would change that. That is, nothing except my sister "T" who had seen his other side and knew the secret he carried around for those twenty years they worked together in the department.
It was Christmas Eve and they'd had an unusually quiet shift and were looking forward to getting off. My sister had five children and Christmas was a hard time for her at best with working and trying to meet family expectations.
A bright spot in their shift had been delivering gifts to kids on the inner city beat. In those days the officers knew who the families were that were likely to have nothing and they would go about collecting gifts and distributing them between calls on Christmas Eve. I have no doubt they had a good story about Santa needing help and who better to ask than the officers who could run their squad lights to get them delivered fast if need be.
Just before shift change they got a call to an address in a tough neighborhood for a domestic violence call. Bad enough being that kind of a call, but on Christmas it seemed so out of place to the character of the holiday. In fact, it's a high rate time for those kinds of calls. Reluctantly they went on the call.
They arrived to find the wife had been assaulted and was distraught. The dad was sent to the station for processing with another squad while the mom was interviewed. The children present were crying and confused and when their dad was removed from the house, they were calling for their dad and couldn't understand why he was leaving.
My sister and her partner were doing their best with the children and in truth my sister was very good with kids. The news article mentioned that her partner mentioned how she took the children on her lap to calm them down. He stated that she was "wonderful".
No one could doubt that if you are witness to your mother being beaten, your dad leaving in a squad car with officers who handcuffed him, you are definitely having a bad Christmas.
It really was near Christmas as it was close to midnight. "T" and her partner tried to help the mom by spending time with the children so she could collect her thoughts and decide what to do and who to call. They had time to really take in the scene and realized at about the same time, there was no Christmas tree. No sign of Christmas could be seen. Too late, her partner had already asked the oldest child, about six, if "Santa had been good" to him.
He relates that the little boy responded to the attention and the question by moving across the room and bringing to the big burly police officer a plastic sandwich bag. It was apparently the only gift the children had received. apparently It was only a sandwich bag of hard candy. The biggest thing in the bag was a lone purple lollipop and it was the thing the little boy was most proud of.
I am sure both officers thought of the gifts they had been able to give out so liberally earlier in their shift leaving not a one to be had now. It was too late to go to store and buy something. No Walmarts in those days and even the small convenience stores were closed for Christmas.
The tough and seasoned officer tells that he literally thought to himself, "God I wish I had some gifts to give to these kids". Especially these kids whose Christmas had been so devastated by all that had gone on with their parents.
Suddenly the officer had a thought. He knew of a promotional items businessman that was always good for a donation to fundraisers and police events. As late as it was he took the chance and called him. He simply stated the facts. There were kids with no gifts, no visit from Santa, and not even a tree. The business man said meet me at my business.
The officer met the business man but on the way there he realized that he was between paychecks and wouldn't be able to buy much or to pay for it right then. The business man told him to forget it and loaded the squad car with toys.
Returning to the house he and "T" now off shift sat on the floor and played with the children and their toys. He says they had been given toys the children had never even seen before ,including a large train set he and the six year old set up together.
As the officers prepared to leave the house the little boy pressed the purple lollipop into the big hand of the officer and simply said, "Here" and "Thanks". The officer admittedly wept.
TWENTY YEARS PASSED
In these twenty years since that night, the officer reports my sister kept after him (and knowing her, harped on him) to share that story. He had been too private to do this despite the fact that he has carried that purple lollipop in it's original wrapper inside a plastic sandwich bag in his uniform vest pocket daily ever since. He only makes an exception when the weather is too warm and might damage it.
So why did it appear in the paper after twenty long years? He decided to tell the story because he said it was to acknowledge "T" and that night because she died on December 23, just a couple of days before Christmas the year before. She had begged him to tell the story, but in twenty years he'd never told it to anyone. Now he did it for her.
He said the lollipop is a sign of faith for him when life seems like crap. He pulls it out and looks at it. He has never encountered the family again but he has never forgotten the "Night of the Purple Lollipop", or the officer and friend who shared it with him.
NOW IT WAS MY POSTHUMOUS GIFT FROM MY SISTER
The renewal of that story and memory of her telling me about it absolutely renewed my enthusiasm for the hope and faith that is Christmas. I remembered it isn't about me or my dreary attitude, it is about the children. And here I was blessed to be surrounded by several families, moms and kids in that same situation.
Our Shelter toys went further on Christmas than anyone could have believed and we even served families outside of shelter that were very much in need. The moms received surprise gifts as did each family for Santa had found his way into each apartment. I even made sure that staff and families got copies of the news story and a purple lollipop.
I felt a special bond with my sister that Christmas and I treasure the memory. The next Christmas my new boss gave me a purple lollipop at Christmas and once again I was touched by the true meaning of Christmas and the Night of the Purple Lollipop and my sister.
When I think of Christmas now, I think of the color Purple and the legacy of the Purple Lollipop. I also finally connected the fact that the ribbon which designates hope for domestic violence to end and the victims to heal, is purple.
THE WITCH IN THE HOUSE WAS REAL IS NOT A STORY OF WITCHES, OR BROOMS AND BOILING KETTLES, BUT RATHER THE TRUE STORY OF HOW TRULA ANN GODWIN BECAME A PIONEER WOMAN OFFICER AND SEX CRIME EXPERT.
THE WITCH IN THE HOUSE WAS REAL ( A LEGACY STORY ) As told by Joyce Godwin Grubbs
UP FRONT; I AM HUMAN AND I ERR
Most of my life I have struggled with what is real and what is not. I think that I have not always used good criteria to make the judgments by. Influenced by approvals, criticism, religious intolerance and just plain faint heartedness (is that a word?), I often let myself be led in paths other than those I believed would lead me to truth.
I know I am not alone, I hear from friends and acquaintances their doubts and questions and I am always open to their experiences, but in the past I waivered at committing to firm declarations of belief. I have decided in view of this story that I have to face my convictions and let them be known.
I admit to the fact that I have a weakness in my character which makes me want to be right, knowledgeable and the expert. Sometimes when I am unsure, I dig my heels in and try to present myself as confident and sure. The story of the Witch in the House is one of those times.
I FAIL THE TEST OF TRUST
My life in comparison to my sisters became a paradox. At the time of this event my sister was a stay at home mom who loved to lecture me on my inadequacies because I worked. I would challenge her right back saying I could be all things my family needed and contribute beyond just the home front, but financially as well. Soon an event would occur that would change our lives forever and reverse our roles.
In truth my working was a necessity due to extreme catastrophic medical bills due to the illness of our youngest child. My sister's husband made better money than my husband who taught school. The irony was my husband went to college, my brother in law was lucky to finish high school and worked in factories most of their marriage. There was the usual sibling rivalry and competition and it had been that way from earliest childhood and I simply saw this as a power struggle I couldn't win.
When I received a call from my sister I could hardly believe my ears. My sister was inviting me over and wanted my advice on a problem she was having with one of her four children. Pregnant with number five I felt it was a momentary lapse due to being overwhelmed and in no way entertained any thoughts that it was a truce or that she was recognizing I had skills in parenting. I accepted and planned it for my next day off.
As a nurse I cherished the time off as I worked nights and was up and down all during the day taking my three children back and forth to the orthodontist where all three were in treatment with braces. But her needing me, my advice and help, was too amazing to pass up. I looked forward to the date and was unprepared for what transpired.
We sat in her living room drinking coffee and chit chatting. That in itself was unusual as my sister never chit chatted with anyone or about any thing. My sister was a no nonsense person with the theory, "what you see is what you get". By nature she would not lie. She just felt she was too strong to do that and if you couldn't handle it, that was your problem. No, you wouldn't hear her say, "oh, that looks good" if it didn't. In fact you might hear, "if you weren't so fat that might fit, but it looks stupid that way".
Her two boys were the ages of my two oldest children. Her third child, a precious little doll baby, was only six days older than my youngest daughter. It was the baby doll she wanted to talk to me about. I was surprised, I thought it would be the youngest child, a little toddler with wild thick hair who seemed to have a will of her own and be a free spirit. (Little did we know that would be a foreshadowing of the future). But, it was the Baby Doll she wanted to talk about and I was somewhat taken aback by her very serious and troubled introduction.
It seemed that the Baby Doll had not been sleeping most nights. She had regressed and began wetting the bed and the event that prompted the call was that she had "pooped in her bed during the night and just laid in it. It was dried all over her bottom and legs when she got up". When my sister asked her why she did that and didn't get up and go to the bathroom just across the lighted hallway, she replied, "The witch was here again. It was in my doorway and it wouldn't leave".
My sister explained she'd been working on this problem for some weeks. Every time Baby Doll had an "accident" she would say it was because she was scared. Then it became that "there was a witch" in the doorway and she couldn't get out of bed as she was too afraid. She said she had to lay still so the witch would think she was sleeping and didn't see it. My sister was at her wits end. Baby doll wasn't the type to be a problem, she had been potty trained and quit wetting the bed long before. She had never been one to lie before this. My sister couldn't abide a liar even at this young age.
THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS
I now admit that in hind sight I think some of my attitude was condescending, my advice was faulty though well intended and I definitely gave her a lot of credible information which all turned out to be useless, and wrong. In my defense, I truly meant well. I loved this little baby doll and wanted to be sure my sister didn't get too overwhelmed and be too hard on her. And the truth was the problem was so progressed at this point yet I was unprepared for my sisters next statement. "Maybe she should come and live with you for a while."
This was an astounding proposal considering my sister's house was very spacious especially compared to ours. My sister prided herself in her children being in her care and no one else’s. It showed her level of frustration. She further elaborated that she was really concerned and that she considered Baby Doll to be completely distraught, crying for hours and absolutely worn out.
I tested Baby Doll who was a true momma's girl. I asked her, "want to go home with Auntie?" Her immediate response was to come to me and crawl up in to my lap. I was stunned. With further explanation she still wanted to go with me. It was at this point I decided I could really help if I just used my nursing skills and explained some of this logically.
After explaining at length to my sister that many children regress when the mom is pregnant and they need extra TLC and that I thought this was more likely the situation. I felt she had found saying she was scared not to be a lie, but it was to her young mind "acceptable" to an adult for her to be scared and need them.
Then I turned to Baby Doll and did the unforgiveable. I lied. I told her that I had at home a "witch killer". If she slept with it she would be safe and nothing could get her. I promised to bring it by before she went to bed. Knowing that her dear auntie would not lie, she agreed to sleep at home that night with the witch killer.
Later, I went to the fabric shop and bought a little cut out clown which I took home and made. I quickly stuffed it and took it back telling her the clown was a secret witch killer and she could be safe from now on,
I left feeling my niece would definitely sleep now as she trusted me and my sister would see what a wise mom I was even if I did work. The next morning the phone rang and I already knew who it would be.
Baby Doll came home with me and began to live at our house. Weeks passed and she started school with our family and was doing very well. She slept through the nights and slept with my daughter. They were like a set of twins being only six days apart in age. I loved having them together and life settled in to a routine.
EVEN GOOD THINGS MUST END
Nothing ever stays the same and we all knew one day Baby doll would go home. For her it happened when she had an atypical appendicitis attack. It began before school when she complained of a stomach ache. It wasn't an uncommon complaint as she often had constipation and felt better after her bowels moved. I sent her to school when it was noted there was no fever or nausea.
Later the school called saying she was complaining more and now complained she was sick at her stomach. Still no fever. I checked in with her mom and she said she'd come out and check her when school was out. Then the school called and she was in the nurse's office and a fever was starting.
Her doctor thought it was the flu so she came back and then became really sick with pain. My sister took her to the emergency room and they literally took hours to diagnose appendicitis even after her mother and I had concluded it was going to be the problem. By the time they had diagnosed her and got into surgery, her appendix had ruptured. She was very, very sick and recovery was very long.
My sister decided in view of all of this, she needed to take her home. We all understood that decision and I as a parent would have made the same decision. We sent her back carrying her witch killer which had protected her the whole time she was at our house, so we guaranteed it to work at her house. And for a while, it did.
THE UNTHINKABLE: THERE WAS A WITCH IN THE HOUSE AFTER ALL
I will never forget the call some time later. My sister had been taken to the hospital for treatment following a rape in her home. I could hardly take it all in.
Her new baby was six weeks old. My sister and brother in law had decided five was enough. My mother had been staying at the house to help my sister so she could go in to the hospital for a tubal ligation. Just the day before the call, my sister had returned home from the surgery and my mom had returned to her home after assurances from my sister she would be fine.
My sister has often recounted that event. Telling it became almost a mantra to shake her demons when she was trying to heal and overcome the flashbacks. In actuality, it took her lifetime to recover though she quit being a victim long before.
She told how mom had left after dinner and the dishes were done. My sister was beginning to wear down and the pain of her incision was coming to life since the pain meds wore off. Her husband was working nights so she went to bed when the children went to bed. The baby was in her bedroom and she had fed him and put him down. She laid down and went right into a deep sleep.
After midnight she turned in the bed and was brought to an alert state by two things. One was she was thirsty, and the other was that her incision pain was intense. The hall light gave just enough light that she could check the sleeping baby and go into the kitchen to get some water. She didn't turn on the light but opened the bedroom doors to check the sleeping children.
She wore only her husband's t shirt and it was big enough to hang loosely but even the slightest touch of the fabric against the incision caused her to flinch. She decided against a pain pill. They weren't really her thing so she'd try to tough it out, then maybe after the baby's next feeding she'd take something if it was still that painful. Maybe even a cold pack later if she could bare the weight. Right now she just wanted to sleep.
She stretched out in bed laying on her right side facing the wall. She tried to get comfortable but the pull on the incision was just too much. She stretched on her back and felt the stretch of her abdomen send a pain across her stomach. She quickly turned on to her left side. In the turning she was now facing the bassinette with the baby and opened her eyes to take another peek. The light from the hallway flowed into the room helping her eyes adjust.
Suddenly, an unintended gasp escaped her mouth before she could assess the situation. She was focused beyond the baby and seeing in the doorway, the definite outline of a dark figure . The silhouette appeared to be a man's and he was wearing some kind of bulky jacket and head gear that was pointed. Later she would realize he wore a hooded sweatshirt.
Instantly she was awake and all the senses and adrenalin were sending thoughts screaming thru her mind. "Oh my God, it looks like a witch in the doorway".
Her mind assimilated the message and the thought instantaneously established for her that this was Baby Doll's witch. She forgot the pain and pushed with her legs toward the wall. She moved away from the doorway inching across the bed to the furthest edge. Too late she tried to just lay quietly and pretend to be asleep as the baby doll had advised when she encountered her witch. The witch was not fooled. He entered the room.
In the hour that followed she would beg for her children not to be harmed, for the "witch" not to hurt her, and for compassion considering she had just returned from having surgery. He was somewhat thoughtful at her last request and asked what kind of surgery she had. She was reluctant to tell him it was a tubal ligation and said it was some internal adhesions. She endured his military commands and the smell of his clothes. There was the smell of automotive gasoline and oil and she felt nauseated.
In hindsight, she believed he did actually treat her more gently than he would have had she not had surgery and a six week old baby laying in the room but it did nothing to give her peace of mind. In a future time she would learn she was the first of many victims . It was a fact that he became more violent with each woman hitting his last victim with a tire iron. And like in my sisters case, the dog did not bark suggesting it had encountered the "visitor" before, and maybe many times. The officers thought he'd been in the house watching them at night and if she hadn't awakened and seen him, it might have continued as a voyeuristic experience.
When he finished he let her go in to the bathroom. He told her he knew her children, her husband’s schedule and he got in with no trouble and if she told anyone, she would be sorry. He would be back and would do harm to the kids and to her. Her first step toward recovery was that she waited until she felt he was gone then she called the police despite his threats.
STEREO-TYPICAL OLD STYLE RAPE INVESTIGATION ENSUES
There is much that could be told of the bungled investigation and the stereotypical response of the cops who asked her "what were you wearing?"
The long years of wondering and the bitter sweet experience of knowing that the perpetrator was caught years later was minimized because of him owning up to every single rape, except hers. And when DNA came into investigations, her evidence had been "lost" so could not be tested ( a suspicious coincidence given she was now on the police force and had made enemies among the "brothers".)
Let's go back to the original premise of this Legacy Story. That the Witch in the House was Real. He was.
I began to learn lessons from this event; never to over simplify and "fix" the fears of others. It is true that there is a definite time and place for fears and for adults to take serious the fears of children. I have thought so many times about my niece and her fears and how it profoundly changed her life. It would seem that in context, it would have made her doubt that her Auntie knew anything about witches and that her Auntie lied.
As bad as all of that is, it is worse that she like all the children became caught up in the need for a mutual recovery after the attack. It really happened to all of them as well and changed their lives forever. So is the nature of the act of rape.
Whatever the "witches" in your children’s lives, listen, listen, listen. Don't be quick to fix things. Some things can't be fixed. Remember that their trust in the truth can be enhanced or destroyed by you so don't create witch hunters as a quick fix. Instead, keep an open mind and accept that you may not be able to answer or explain all the questions and fears.
As for my niece today, she is tough, stands up for herself and fights for the underdogs. She investigates people who abuse children and takes on the bad guys and helps children get rid of the "witches" in their lives for real. And she never gives them witch killers made of stuffed fabric. You go girl.©2006
CHILDREN RUSH DOWN ( A LEGACY LETTER)
This letter was written when I was working in the Domestic Violence Shelter. It was so special because my two son-in-laws, my youngest daughter and one grandson were allowed unprecedented permission to be Santa's elves and help me make after hours deliveries to the Confidential location for the Shelter.
For over an hour they traversed three flights of stairs making sure that each apartment received gifts for their families. Dripping with sweat but very happy, it was a wonderful sharing of the Christmas spirit and the conspiratorial nature of having to keep the secret. Even my young grandson understood that to keep the families safe meant keeping that secret location "a secret".
I wrote this accounting for a Holiday Letter contest for our local paper.
HOLIDAY LETTERS: Children Rush Down
My favorite time of the holidays is that magical time when all the children have gone to bed at the Domestic Violence Shelter. Only Santa knows the confidential location and he always arrives with perfect timing when the last child has shut his eyes. I love that he always surprises the moms, who think they won’t have anything, and actually haven’t had even one gift in years. Early Christmas morning there are moms trekking to the office; they stammer thanks, show surprise, and shed tears. The children rush down to tell me that they are so relieved because, despite all my assurances, they were sure Santa would not find them.
Unexpected “heroes” make this possible, like the skinny 16-year-old who volunteered to help load gifts despite owning no coat, gloves or hat. The CEO who arrived Christmas Eve in a Corvette and covered the last-minute admission of a family who needed gifts. He shopped himself to assist Santa. Embarrassed, there was the mom who had told her kids there was no such thing as Santa, but then got up in the middle of the night, saw all the gifts, and asked to have paper to make a Christmas tree to put them under. She had no idea there would be so much.
Very dear were the clients who stood in awe when the snow started exactly at midnight and said, “It figures, because this is a real Christmas.”
WHY SO MUCH? ( A LEGACY EDITORIAL LETTER )
This is a guest editorial I wrote on behalf of the Domestic Violence Program I worked with getting gifts for the Family Domesttic Violence Shelter. It actually is in response to the over abundant gift giving we had which took truck loads to the shelter and left us enough "left overs" to provide birthday gifts for the shelter children for a year. (Santa said it would be okay). We were able to also serve some families that had been in shelter but were able to leave and start re-establishing homes, but had no means for a Christmas.
WHY SO MUCH ?
The question asked long ago in “Miracle on 34th Street” appeared again in the gift-laden room last Saturday where we sat feverishly wrapping packages. The question “Is there a Santa Claus?” was rephrased as, “Why so much?”
It wasn’t to provoke a debate about commercialism. It was simply a statement borne of amazement. Surrounded by mounds of toys, clothes, and household items donated by a generous Q-C population, the astonished questioner was overcome.
Just then the door opened and Davenport Police Sgt. Bruce McKee walked in with another armful of gifts. This was the fourth delivery from the NorthPark Mall collection organized by Sgt. McKee. Policemen, known to dread domestic violence calls due to their danger to officers, and counselor-advocates, who often push the officers on behalf of their clients, were spending a whole day freezing together on common ground to collect toy donations for children served by Family Resources Violence Intervention and Counseling Services.
As gifts grew into colorful towers, the question was blurted out not in judgment, not in rejection, and not as a result of a belief system. “Why so much?” simply begged the question, “Is the giving so great because people care so much? Or love so much? Or have so much? Do people need so much to know love at Christmas?”
Some felt it was an expression of caring to let the victims know we can’t always stop domestic violence, but we do care it has happened to them. Some felt the victims need the “magic” of at least one memorable Christmas. Others felt it could be tinged with guilt on the part of the givers, and need on the part of the receivers.
The questioner started to answer her question by relating the wish expressed by one client that day “just to be in a safe place with my children.” But the bottom line is this. In the year of a tsunami and hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the eyes of love still fell on the hidden tragedy of pain inflicted on domestic violence victims.
Special thanks to Sgt. Bruce McKee and the Davenport Police Association and Union who organized and ran the toy collection. We also salute the employees and volunteers of Family Resources who made the wrapping and distribution of gifts possible, and finally, the families who inspire us as they continue to strive to heal and regain control of their lives.
PICTURES PERTAINING TO THE WITCH IN THE HOUSE WAS REAL.
My sister after the Witch was gone. She stood as a testimony to survival. Trula at the age she was when raped..
Trula on the day she was sworn in as only the second Police Officer who was a woman; it was the Davenport, Iowa police force and 99.9% of the male officers were not happy.
The children at the age they were at the time of "The Witch Visits"
The picture that earned Amy Elizabeth her nickname and why I named her the "Baby Doll"
Amy (Baby Doll) as an adult and a determined advocate for victims in her own right..
Trula after her retirement as a police officer and when she became an advocate working with Fr. Brian Miclot, her best friend, on homeless services and advocating for victims of rape/sexual assault and domestic violence. Rf. Miclot is pictured with her.