The sting of cold beer hit my face hard on a cold winter evening. I was a sophomore in high school. Like we all did after Friday night basketball games, we had gathered down the far end of Piney Green Road. Barrel fires and victory cheers, girlfriends, boyfriends,red solo cups and the dry, night cold of southeastern North Carolina. Laughing and kegs and everybody from our high school.Every now and then a few from the other high school across town showed up too.Back then the town was small enough that everybody knew everybody and their cousin, twice removed. I was standing around a barrel fire with some friends when I noticed someone gunning towards us. I did not recognize her, but I felt her own inner barrel fire burning.To this day, I can still see the look in her eyes. She was young. High school young. But she moved like an angry, bitter woman. She moved with added years of anger and she was beelining for me. I could feel her energy as she got closer. Hell on fire. Sparks flying from the barrel fire and there she was all at once.
I know you, she said, with a weird little laugh. The kind of laugh you laugh to keep from crying. Or screaming.
I know you. I KNOW YOU, she said. Thick southern drawl.
But none of us knew her.
Aren’t you the butchers daughter?, she laughed again to keep from crying, or screaming.
My boyfriend noticed what was happening and started walking over to us.
You’re the butchers daughter, she said.
I did not understand. Something was wrong, but I did not understand. I smiled the southern way we do when we don’t know someone and want to be polite.
Then it was beer and cold and screaming and fists and other things said I could not make out because it was so sudden.
It was so sudden. And hateful. As if something else was fueling her fire.
She was in my face and I was wiping beer from my eyes and trying to get out of her way. I could feel the wet running down my sweater and someone pulled her away and someone pulled me away and then it was over and I was in shock, and stunned and shivering and cold, smelling like Miller Lite or whatever was in the keg. The barrel hissed.
My boyfriend drove me home. I was crying and confused and who was that girl and why did she think I was the butchers daughter?
The butchers daughter?
And then I remembered.
I remembered the group of men on Christmas Eve holding dead whatevers in mason jars and burning candles. Picketing with signs in front of our home. Every. Single. Night. I pulled into the driveway after my shift at Golden Corral smelling like burnt steak and the buffet. One of them yelled at my car. Mason jar in one hand,sign in the other and like a headlight in the night, his clerical collar. You know, so he could be identified outside the church. The same collar he wore when he was picketing the women’s clinic my father opened years prior. The same clinic that provided health care for women, including medically safe and legal abortions.
It’s the butchers daughter! How does it feel to be the butchers daughter??, he screamed.
I can still see his face. All the other men with their mason jars and candles, came rushing over to take a peek.
And then I remembered. Pieces of the jagged puzzle fell together.
Once I was safely inside our home, and showered, I told my parents what had just happened down the far end of Piney Green Road. How this young girl had come at me, screaming,threw beer in my face and kept calling me the butchers daughter. Just like the preacher who led the picketers outside our home had called me one night over Christmas.
And then my father remembered.
The preacher, in all his Godliness, had a problem God could not fix. On a day not designated to picketing, the preacher knocked on the back door of the clinic and asked to see my father.
The preacher had a problem that needed fix’in. The problem needed to be taken care of sooner than later, because the congregation had already started whispering and he could not have that. No sir. The problem, his daughter there by his side at the back door, needed to be absolved. His daughter, the one he had been raping for months had gotten pregnant. Everybody was talk’in. Everybody knew.His daughter. His problem. His rape. Her pregnancy. She was only 14. The problem needed to be solved sooner than later, so could the good doc do something before next Sunday’s sermon? Quickly? Quietly? Could they enter through the back door?
He was not the first or the last to knock on the back door of the clinic. Most were men who needed to solve a problem. Quickly. Quietly. Some were women. The back door knockers were almost always the same ones who screamed and yelled at those walking through the front door. Not just for safe and legal abortions, but for sterility and fertility care, pap smears, endometriosis care, breast cancer scares,cervical cancer referrals, domestic violence help. Women’s health care, care.
A week later, the problem was solved. Legally, under medical care and professional concern, with follow up care and concern. A week later, the preacher was back picketing the clinic with damnation, mason jars and signs. His daughter went back to high school across town, he gave the Sunday sermon and I held the weight of being called the butcher’s daughter. His daughter held the weight of his body forced upon her. I never knew their names, but I can still see their faces. I can still see the fear and hate in her eyes. Not at me. Not at my father. At her own preacher father who raped her repeatedly during the week, spoke the word of God on a Sunday and screamed at the butcher’s daughter on Christmas Eve. For years my father and our family were on a Prolife Christian Kill list. Death threats, automatic starters on cars, and the stench of hypocrisy. It has taken decades to unburden the weight of being labled the butcher’s daughter.Maybe this is why I left southeastern North Carolina. Maybe this is why I fell on too many a sword.Maybe I grew up knowing health care is human care and choice is a right,because at one time it was not, and women did what they had to do. I left that small southeastern town, which is not so small anymore, and controlled even more now by the religious right. Every Friday for years they still showed to picket until the clinic closed for good. Some men dressed up like Santa Claus, picketing with pictures of dead whatevers around their necks. Some women brought their young children to sit for hours, just beyond the legal line to picket, sat in cheap lawn chairs with their bull horns and with their bloated hate filled bodies, screaming at every car that pulled into the parking lot. It went on for decades. Hate fueling hate. The sweat and stink of hypocrisy is rancid and leaves a mark that no holy water could ever clean.
I invested in protecting women and their right to choose.Our right to choose. Pro choice is just that. The power for a woman to choose to unburden themselves with decisions only they can make. I invested in Planned Parenthood, became knowledgeable about how best to stay safe and advocate for the well-being of women and choice.I escorted women who needed help, stayed with them and stayed true to the will of women.
I had two miscarriages when my husband and I made the decision to try and get pregnant. One of those miscarriages resulted in severe bleeding and I needed immediate help.It was not the will of God who stopped the bleeding, it was a medical professional who knew what needed to be done to protect me and the future of my reproductive choice. I needed a D&C. My mother sat with me while my wellbeing and choice was tended to. I was not charged with criminal intent. I did not burn in hell. I went on to have a healthy full term pregnancy and birth.
My choice. My daughter. Her future choices. Until now.
When I first moved to where I now live, I wore a pro-choice button on my jean jacket and someone, I can’t remember who, let me know I might not want to wear that button around like a badge. Once I had to reschedule theater rehearsals so a right to life rally could parade around a cemetery town square.Some parents of the children, weirdly excited about the parade had their children wear pictures of dead whatevers in mason jars around their little necks, while following an old man driving a golf cart with a statue of Mother Mary on a bale of hay. Some of those same children would be headed to my rehearsal “just as soon as the parade is over”. Some of those same children made different choices with their lives because they had the choice to do so, while some of those same women also walking in the parade, are still stuck in the bitterness of God’s will. They wear their bitterness like a badge. Maybe that weight is heavier than the weight of being called the butcher’s daughter. Maybe a woman’s choice, one way or another is as willful as any God’s.
The Supreme Court decision overturning Roe Vs Wade will unleash more preachers, pastors, politicians and rapists, leaving a swath of traumatized girls and women. Miscarriages, ALL miscarriages, even the ones that God chooses, will be under investigation and could lead to criminal charges. This is not Gods will, it’s the war on women. It’s the war on choice. It’s pro-birthers having a field day, until they have a problem that needs fix’in.