As part of my personal healing, I have been working through some childhood memories and experiences I feel have affected my life on different levels. These experiences are not always negative, but they are always significant. One special memory that I have from my childhood in El Salvador is from a night where I almost stabbed someone. No, really. I probably could have.
During my time in El Salvador, I lived surrounded by extended family. My household usually included my grandmother, my mother, at least one aunt or uncle, and a sprinkle of cousins my grandmother raised. I grew up in a highly religious family. We went to church on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays all day.
On a particular weeknight, my youngest aunt who was a teenager at the time, stayed behind and took care of me while the rest of the family attended a weekly prayer service. Not sure how we got away with skipping church that night, but we did. I remember I was eager to stay home with her and not have to go to church for the third time that week. As an only child, I had grown to love spending time with my aunt who I considered to be beautiful and extremely cool through my seven year old eyes.
That night, as I watched television, I saw this neighborhood boy talking to my aunt through the metal bars of the front door. He had recently began riding his bike over to our side of the neighborhood to “hang out” with her through the door. My grandmother was very strict and boys were forbidden from our home. My aunt never allowed the neighborhood boy to come in, no matter how often he asked. I honestly don’t remember hearing any part of their interaction until I saw him bust through the front door and push my aunt onto the living room couch. I remember seeing him hold her down and getting close to her face.
I was confused and terrified. My aunt screamed for him to get off of her. I remember I yelled and pulled his shirt in a failed attempt to save her. As she struggled against him, she yelled for me to grab anything from the kitchen to get him away. I ran to the kitchen, as quickly as I could. I looked around for anything that I could grab that would threaten him.
I looked for a knife, a hatchet, anything sharp. After a few seconds (which felt like an eternity) of me frantically running around in the kitchen, I spotted a rusty ice pick with a wooden handle laying in the recently washed dishes. I grabbed it and ran back into the living room. I felt like the ice pick I’d found met all the requirements for a steady weapon, it was sharp and in my hand.
Imagine the confused look that the intruder had on his face when he saw a seven-year-old girl running at him with a rusty ice pick. He ran. He ran to his bike and pedaled away as fast as he could.
My aunt, tears running down her bitten lips, hugged me and thanked me for saving her. A layer of heat fell over my tiny body, like a heated blanket, once I realized the threat was gone. Soon after, worry filled my mind as thoughts of him coming back to hurt us more.
I remember the rest of the family arriving home after church. My aunt told the tale of my bravery and how I stood up to the guy with the rusty ice pick. In that moment, I had no idea how significant this night was. I can tell you, we were not allowed to skip church for a while. As I look back, I wish I had saved the ice pick as a souvenir because I want to hold on to this memory for the rest of my life. It reminds me of how bold and brave I was and can be when facing a terrifying situation.
I wish I could go back and hug the younger version of myself and tell her how much the adult me admires her for loving so recklessly. I did not think about how much harm I could do with that rusty ice pick. I did not even think about how it could have been used to hurt us. The only thing I knew was it was in my hand and I would do anything I could to defend my family.
I will tell this story to my daughters and sons and hope they pass it on to their children. I hope it inspires them to love deeply without reservations and to stand up for what lives in their hearts and the people they love.
When facing situations or people who want to steal my peace, I remind myself that all I need is a rusty ice pick and a brave heart.
Wendy Funes Pineda is a Salvadoran social worker living in Raleigh, NC. An appreciator of her surviving plants, abstract art, umami flavors, and craft beer. She enjoys spending her free time enjoying life with her loving husband and taking socks away from her forever hungry husky, Zulu.