As the months passed of Wholeness living at Forest Glade, Deva and Carpenter plugged into the local community. Being the nurturers they were, they naturally linked up with kids who needed help, and the kids’ parents.
Originally, Deva and Carpenter had adopted one little boy, an infant. Next they had adopted two very young children who were half-brother and -sister to each other. Then a little girl who’d been brought over on an international adoption that failed. Then another boy. Then they fostered a brother and sister, intending on adopting them as their case progressed through the bureaucracy.
About there, the distinction began to blur, at least for me. There were the adopted kids, the foster kids, the kids who were visiting while Deva and Carpenter counseled the parents, the kids who were there because they in effect had no parents, the kids of former community members who were still just sort of around, the kids of other renters on the land, the kids who were cousins of the adopted kids, and the kids I was never sure where they came from. Deva and Carpenter took care of them all.
One day, Deva told us about a little boy, Ruell, who would be coming to stay for awhile. Ruell was eight years old. Ruell and his mother, Rachel, lived further south in Oregon, way out in the country. Things had been going strange for Ruell, but nobody quite knew what was up.
One day, down where they lived, Rachel had come in to town, and was getting supplies at the general store. It was a country store, part grocery, part hardware, whatever you needed. Ruell was on his own for awhile, loose in the aisles. When they found him, he was in the chain and cable section. He had tied himself up in ropes.
Then it started to come out. Ropes and tying-up had been part of the scene. Ruell had been made love to by an older man.
At least to the children, Deva and Carpenter always used the term “made love to” rather than more brutal words like “sexually abused”. Whatever you called it, it was in the history of a lot of their kids.
Of course it was difficult — nobody downplayed that. Some of their kids were going to need years of counseling to deal with it. Deva and Carpenter at least wanted to acknowledge the shred of positive light in the dynamic — that there had been an intention to love. The intention to love is behind a lot of things adults do that screw kids up.
In due time, Ruell arrived. He was a beautiful boy, with curly black hair and deep brown eyes under dark lashes. He looked very mature for his age. Even though he was only eight, he could have been taken for a small thirteen-year-old.
My role around Forest Glade was a mixture of fix-it guy, gardener, and loose family member, with maybe some medical on-call thrown in from my ongoing EMT training. Since I was a fixture at the place, all the kids knew me and had their various reactions to me.
Sometimes I would be the go-to guy for a group of them, when we were all in town for supplies. Sometimes, some of them would go along with me on a ramble through the woods, or biking out on the road, the three miles to the store.
In some ways, I was like one of the kids myself. I was always included in whatever Wholeness did, but seldom with any pretensions of being in charge. More like, I was there to be an example of what functional grown-ups did, if the kids cared to notice. But it was seldom my place to tell anybody what to do.
Of course, it happens that a kid singles out a grownup, and “tests” him. The child has to know where he or she stands with that adult, what to expect, what the limits are. Several of the kids had gone through such phases with me, and worked it out. One thing I had learned was to keep on being the adult, not to get pulled down to a childish level. I knew to stay noble, and in charge, and to keep the initiative.
Ruell definitely went through a “testing” phase with me. I think it was a trial by fire for both of us, but we made it.
One time I told Ruell he was precocious.
“What’s that mean?” he snapped back belligerently, as he usually did, as though I had insulted him.
“It’s a good thing,” I replied, staying upbeat, “It’s like ‘ahead’. It means you can do things at your age that most kids can’t do till they’re older. ”
Actually, it had taken awhile to figure out what Ruell could do. He had such coordination and poise, he gave the impression of being more competent than he really was. He’d see us doing something, and say, “I can do that”. Something like cooking or the laundry; but then he’d mess it up. Well, he was only eight years old, after all.
Finally, we found out it was swimming. He could swim like a fish, and dive like a seal. He was at home in the water, and it was his thing.
So Ruell became part of the family, and made his place with other people. But when he found out I was gay, it was all over. Fortunately, I’d had some preparation.
One time Deva and Carpenter had told me the story of when the second two kids they were adopting, Lolita and Howard, were on their way. “We read everything we could get our hands on about sexual abuse,” said Carpenter. “It’s a good thing we did, because we could barely deal with it.”
Deva had told me, “There’s a pattern. Kids will be being sexually abused in a home. It will get found out about. The kids will get taken out of that home, and put in a formerly good foster home. The abuse will happen again. The kids will get taken out of there and put in another foster home. The abuse will happen again.”
She was easing into the idea. “It’s like, in some way, the kids are initiating it.”
Carpenter took up the thread. “When Lolita first came to us, she was like that. She was being really seductive towards me, the dad.” He went on, “She was really insistent. ‘Make love to me!’ I just had to keep on explaining, ‘We don’t think that’s the best way to take care of you.'”
At the time, I took this in as just part of what amazing counselors Deva and Carpenter were. I had known the incredibly horrible history of these two kids. But when I first came to visit the house, there the little ones were, playing in front on Big Wheel bikes, just like normal children. They looked up and smiled, and said, “Hi”. I was very impressed what healing they had had.
Well, now it was my turn to deal with it up close.
I was always playing and roughhousing with the kids, and in quieter moments cuddling and holding them. Physical touch was always a big part of Wholeness, a big part of the kids healing. It’s easy for touch to slip into intimacy, but with normal kids, it’s merely the intimacy of them falling asleep in your arms.
Ruell became very seductive, but with an edge to it. I guess I was used to how kids talk. Whatever is on their minds comes out. Maybe it was from seeing how I would carry on with the other boys, give them piggyback and shoulder rides, do balancing tricks with them.
This became a typical conversation:
Ruell: “Why won’t you make love with me?”
Me: “I don’t want to.”
Ruell, belligerently: “But I want you to.”
Me: “Well, when Sage did it, did you like it?”
Ruell: “Uh, no…”
Me: “Then why do you want me to?”
Ruell, insistent: “Oh, come o-on! Just do it!”
Fortunately, this was happening in the back seat of the station wagon, when we were all headed to the drive-in movies.
Deva once related to me the conversation with the principal, when they had first enrolled their children in the Peavine public school (later they home-schooled). “When we told him about the kid’s sexual abuse history, he was aghast. ‘How could anybody do that to a child?!?’ he exclaimed.”
“But an adult who can’t see how they could do something like that,” Deva went on sagely, “Is just the kind of person who would end up doing it.”
A big part of what makes adults having sex with children so weird is the secrecy. I was so glad this thing with Ruell was totally out in the open. Everybody was seeing it, hearing it, and most of all trusting that I could handle it.
If I had not been clued in to the fact that what seemed to be going on was not what was really going on, it could have been really bad. What seemed to be going on was a lithe, comely and energetic little person interested in me sexually.
What was really going on was a child desperately attempting to deal with an incredibly traumatic and confusing past. He was doing this the only way he knew how, by half-subconsciously trying to re-create it.
A child who has been made love to by an adult knows something deep and powerful has happened. But the child does not yet have the emotional equipment to viscerally incorporate it. So he obsessively keeps orbiting back to it, trying to probe it, trying to understand it, like a moth to a candle flame. It’s an apt analogy. It’ll be a bad meeting, for both the moth and the flame.
If I had been some uptight, straight-laced kind of guy, who’d never had a chance to learn about the wild side, I might have eventually buckled under the onslaught of Ruell’s seeming seduction. I could see myself finally making love to him, just to get him off my back!
As it was, it finally worked out. One day, Deva told me Ruell had come to her. He’d said he’d realized that I (Rick) was not Sage. That what Sage had done to him was against his will, and that he (Ruell) didn’t want to do it any more.
From my own side, I had proof. When we were watching videos and such, kids were always falling asleep in all sorts of situations. One time, I found myself on the same mattress with a snoozing Ruell.
From a person who is turned on to you, you feel a certain magnetism, a certain electricity. Even when they are asleep, they rouse, and reach for you, and hump a little, and hold on to you. From Ruell, it was perfectly clear, there was none of that. He was just a little eight-year-old kid, asleep.