Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing


on 17/02/2015

(Today I am sharing a story I wrote a couple of years ago to teach my teenagers to respect and consider other people’s feelings. It worked. Stories always do. Children should be guided, rather than scolded, whenever possible.)


My name is not of huge importance for this story, so I choose to keep it to myself. Nor does it matter which city or country I come from. Consider this my small confession, my intimate secret weak spot which remains painful even to this day, although it took place so many years ago. I have always kept it hidden from sight, burried deep within, reluctant to share with anybody, somewhat afraid about seeming overly sensitive about it, yet knowing deep inside what an important place this memory would always hold for me in my life.

The incident happened back when I was just a kindergarten kid, and it caused me such pain that I still feel the sting in my heart when I think about it, regardless of the fact that I am now a grown man, with children of my own. What triggered this feeling was a question I got at a job interview the other day. The question was – what’s your worst childhood memory? The event itself may not seem important or horribly significant in this day and age, but bear with me. Everything in life has a deeper meaning than we dare to admit ourselves.

In order to make you understand, I’ll have to go back a bit. I don’t know who my birth parents are – they left me in the orphanage right after my birth. They never wanted me, so I never wanted them back. The early years of my childhood were not happy, so it’s a blessing I only vaguely remember them, but I was blessed with a nice couple who adopted me when I was four years old. I still call them parents, and always will.


After having lived happily with my adoptive parents for a year, we had a horrible car crash coming back from our summer vacation. I barely survived, my mother and father were badly injured, and nobody knew if they would live or not for days and days. They had no family, so I was taken care of by the social services during that time, and my memories from that period were filled with deep anxiety and cold loneliness.


Fortunately, my parents recovered, slowly yet steadily, and, by Christmas, we were all back together again. On the day I was brought back to them at the hospital, and we were all packed and delighted to go home as a family again, a kind nurse took our family photo there. I cherished it so much, because, for some reason, it was actually the first family photo we had ever had.


When I was well enough to go to the kindergarten again, my teachers and the other kids named me child of the year for having been so brave. I was the proudest boy ever that day! They told me to bring a family photo to the kindergarten to put on my child-of-the-year certificate which was hung proudly in front of our kindergarten room. So, naturally, I brought the hospital family photo. My face was glowing with pride and joy as they put it on the wall and framed it there. The happy recovering faces of my parents and my proud chubby cheeks next to them! I believed in the good of all, and all was well with the world again!

The following morning, as my parents and I entered the kindergarten, we were frozen on the spot by the looks of our photo – someone had drawn on it with a marker,  changing our faces in mockery. Needless to say, my tears that day were like a waterfall. It may seem like nothing to you, but to me, that picture represented everything that was good about the world.  It still would, but I don’t have it any more. It was the only copy we had, you see.


We never did find out who had done it, nor did we care much.  The deed had been done, and the pain carved into memory.

Respect is what I try to teach my children – respect for other people, their decisions, their lives, their families, their property, their feelings. No matter how small things may seem,  they always carry meaning. No matter how insignificant our deeds may seem, be they good or bad, they always carry weight. Whether we want it to or not, whatever we do has impact on somebody’s life.

A tiny, random act of vandalism is not respect, no matter how tiny or random. It is not funny and should, therefore, never be fun. Our actions can indeed change somebody’s life. It is up to us whether we cause a change for the better or worse. Pictures and words are actions as well – they can cut just as deeply into our memories as common, everyday actions. True, people can also heal, as magically and as miraculously as music is created. But an apology also takes action. An apology is what may have helped me that day. Or not. We shall never know. But it sure would have made my childhood memory feel a lot more wonderful.


Anita Kovacevic


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