“When you’re a kid with no one to protect you, everything comes with a price.”
Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra is an eye-opening memoir. This story tells of the impoverishment Regina and her four siblings had to endure throughout their childhood in Long Island.
Each child has a different father (none of which are in the picture), and their alcoholic mother is both verbally and physically abusive. Leaving the kids on their own for weeks, even months, at a time (to spend time with a new boyfriend or drink herself senseless at a bar), “Cookie’s” kids have never known stability. Regina is tasked with keeping her two younger siblings safe, fed, and sheltered. Sadly, this task is much easier when their mother, Cookie, is away.
“To me, feeling secure means the opposite of what it means to most kids. Children are supposed to find their greatest safety and comfort in the arms of their mothers. Instead, Cookie’s homecoming is our darkest danger, like the worst storm anyone can imagine.”
One night, after Cookie stumbles home from wherever she’s been holed up for the past several months, she decides to take out her aggression on Regina. But this time, the damage is too extensive to hide, and school authorities report it to social services. With the promise of keeping her two younger siblings safe and away from their mother’s grasp, Regina is “tricked” into telling her social worker everything. However, she soon learns that kids like her are often thrown under the bus by the system put in place to keep them safe.
“We’re poor. We have no connections and even fewer resources, and we’ve learned not to trust anyone who says You can trust me. We’ve had to put our faith in the people who treat us coldly, who attempt to prey on our vulnerabilities and take advantage of us; but in the end, no one can really save us from our own hard reality. Every single one of us has had to climb out of our childhood and help ourselves.”
“When you live on the fringes of society with no resources, you have no voice, and your complaints are easily ignored.”
Ripped apart from her younger siblings, Regina must learn how to navigate the world on her own (while still struggling to keep her family together). Somehow, through more hardships than most of us can even begin to imagine, she manages to pick herself up and create a good life.
“Maybe my impossible upbringing sets me apart from the rest. I’ve cultivated a strong work ethic and faith in my capacity to take care of myself.”
“The older I get, the more I’m convinced: I’ve suffered for a reason. It’s a reason I don’t know yet, but it’s been circling me—a forecast of something mighty.”
This spell bounding account will have you thanking the heavens for everything you have and help to remind you that there is always someone out there worse off than you. I give this heartfelt piece four out of five stars.