Job - b. 1994
Esther - b. 1996
Ruth - b. 1997
Delilah - b. 1999
Michael - b. 2001
Emmanuel - b. 2002
*Theresa - b. 2004
David - b. 2006
Abigail - b. 2007
Bartholomew - b. 2008
Simon - b. 2009
Mary - b. 2011
Peter - b. 2012
Daniel - b. 2013
Noah - b. 2014
Leah - b. 2016
Christopher - b. 2017
[TW - Child Abuse; Alcoholism]
You Must… You Must Think I’m Strong
To Give Me What I’m Going Through...
Elnora Williams and Clyde Davis met in 1992 in Melbourne. At the time, Elnora was living in a church, having recently been pushed out of foster care because she came of age. Similarly, Clyde had also been recently ejected from his home, though in his case it was because he was a squib and his family was ashamed of him. With no familial support on either side, Elnora and Clyde leaned on each other and on religion. By 1993, they were moving to Bamawm, where Clyde took a job as a logger. They married and welcomed their first child--a son, Job--into the family in 1994.
Life was hard for the Davis family. Clyde worked long hours to try to support an ever-expanding family, leaving Elnora wholly in charge of child care for their ever-expanding brood. Their religious views precluded them from using birth control, and there is no more than a 2-year gap between any of their children--often less.
Elnora didn’t know how to handle her children. Her biblical teachings -- “spare the rod, spoil the child” -- were taken to more and more of an extreme as the family grew, and in time she used the rod for even the most minor of perceived transgressions. Her children were terrified of her.
Enter Theresa, the seventh-born of what would eventually be seventeen children. From an early age, she was a troublesome child, always getting into one thing or another. She pushed her mother’s buttons like no one else. As she grew older, it became less incidental and more purposeful as Theresa learned that as long as her mother was focused on her, she left Theresa’s siblings more or less alone. Theresa leaned into that, taking the blame for anything her siblings did wrong and, when they hadn’t done anything wrong, creating misdeeds so her mother would focus on her and her siblings could escape the day unscathed.
This was the beginning of Theresa’s personality development--the beginning of the belief that it was better to act out than act well--and paved the road for her later experiences.
Meanwhile, her siblings looked at her with a mixture of admiration and trepidation. Often, Theresa was used as an example in front of the other children. The words Devil Child were frequently--and quite loudly--screamed in her direction. She was made to memorize long passages from the bible, which she would be expected to repeat as catechism while her mother beat her. Her siblings’ responses were mixed, with some understanding that she was just trying to be a protector and others--most, in reality--believing that to deserve so many punishments, she must truly be a devil.
It wasn’t just her younger siblings she looked after, either. Only eight years old when her eldest brother, Job, moved into an apartment down the road, Theresa noticed--though no one else seemed to--when he sank into the bottle. For the next two years, she would wake up in time for last call and sneak out of her house to talk a stroll around town. If Job’s car was parked outside of his apartment, she went home. If not, she walked to the single pub in town, carted him out, and--though barely tall enough to see over the steering wheel--drove him home.
Well, forgive me--forgive me if I’m wrong
But this looks like more than I can do on my own...
She was ten when her brother, Simon, fell out of a tree. Even now, she remembers the incident with an intense vividity. He was five at the time, climbing the tree behind their house while she watched with one eye, the other eye on a book--Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing. His foot slipped, and his hand couldn’t grip, and he cried out as he fell. Theresa stood, the book falling to one side as she reached, instinctively, out towards him, though she was too far away to be any use.
And then he was floating, inches above the air, suspended… like magic.
That was how her mother found them: Simon floating, and Theresa, frozen, standing with her hands held out.
It was the worst punishment Theresa had ever endured. Even now, at times, she can hear the words her mother screamed at her throughout.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance ilke the evil of idolatry. Samuel 15:23
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Exodus 22:18
and the worst:
I will set my face against anyone who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people. Leviticus 20:6
It’s that last one that haunts her, for she believes she should have known her mother’s plan. Instead, she passed out from pain and blood loss. When she woke up, she was in an ally in a city she didn’t recognize--Melbourne, she’d later learn. There she’d stay, living off of scraps salvaged from dumpsters, until her letter to Tallygarunga came.
I Know I’m Not Strong Enough to Be
Everything That I’m Supposed to Be…
She made her own to school that first year, most of her school supplies acquired through thievery--either directly, or, more commonly, by stealing the coinage necessary to buy what she needed. For a few weeks, she even thought she’d get away with her new lifestyle, living at school nine months at a time and summering on the streets. But she had a tell, and it was noticed.
Those first few weeks, she was dizzy from malnourishment and--though she didn’t know it--and infection that had settled into some of the injuries on her back. Dizzy enough to skip potions classes with practicals: Even she knew it wouldn’t be smart to pass out into a bubbling cauldron. After a few missed classes, her absences went from drawing her detentions to drawing her attention higher up the food chain. The story--some of it, at least--came out in the process--though the whole extent of her mother’s abuses, and the reasoning behind it, she kept closely guarded.
I Give Up.
I’m Not Strong Enough.
The summer between first and second year, Theresa--now answering exclusively to the name “Teddy” (after all, Theresa was a name her mother had chosen, and Davis her father’s surname, and she was determined not to associate with either of them, even by proxy)--entered the foster care system. And far too soon, she learned a truth that she could not reconcile with: namely, that the ultimate goal of foster care is reunification.
The thought of it terrified her.
Her first visitation with her parents did nothing to alleviate her fears. Her parents were pleasant and polite in front of the social worker, and as soon as the social worker walked away, her mother began quoting passages at her--the same three that she had quoted the day she abandoned Teddy to begin with.
Teddy begged for emancipation. She begged to not have to see her parents again. But reunification, she was told, was the goal as long as her parents continued to meet their “plan”, whatever that was. Teddy didn’t know what that meant. She knew it was bullshit, and that she didn’t feel safe. So she ran.
It was another summer on the streets, followed by a year at Tally, only this time her secrets had been bared for the world to see.
Hands of Mercy, Won’t You Cover Me?
Lord Above, I’m Asking You to Be Strong Enough…
It was another year before her parents officially, legally, terminated their rights to her, the paperwork going through midway through her third year. Teddy thought that was enough, and that she could leave her past behind her, but it wasn’t. There was still an opportunity for Next of Kin to make contact with her.
She didn’t know what to expect the summer after third year when her eldest siblings--the four who by then were old enough to be out of the house--came to visit her in foster care. Reconciliation, perhaps, or at least understanding. But Job sat in a corner, his eyes red-rimmed and deadened from drug use, while her sisters--Esther, Ruth, and Delilah--went into details about all the ways she’d ruined the family. Did she realize that their parents were now under investigation? Did she realize how hard this was on all the kids still living at home? Why couldn’t she have kept her head down, like they had?
Why couldn’t she have died on the streets?
Teddy didn’t say a word to her social worker about how the visit went. But that night she cried for the first time since she’d woken up in Melbourne three years prior.
Strong Enough…. For the Both of Us
The time for Next of Kin to make a claim on her passed this past summer, and Teddy made it through her fourteenth birthday a free woman. Technically, she knows, she’s up for adoption, but it’s not on her radar. She’s only in the foster home a few months out of the year, after all, and she’s a teenager--past the age where people might think she’s cute enough to be worth taking home. And even if all that weren’t true, the words “Troubled Child” are, she’s sure, spelled out in bold letters across her file. No one’s going to want her.
She tells herself that she’s okay with that.