Monday, January 26, 2009

The Chameleon Sings

Ben Nuttall-Smith's, The Chameleon Sings, Surviving and Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse, a memoir, Trafford Publishing, 2007 is a truly remarkable testament to the human spirit. Sexual abuse is a very small part of this remarkably understated tale of survival. Childhood is spotted with off hand remarks like "one night an incendiary bomb dropped on the barn", and "we carried gas masks everywhere " and "One night...part of the flat was blown away." At another time they have to change schools because the last one blew up. Escape to Canada brings physical safety for this English boy but is replaced by the bullies of Quebec who so hated the English especially one who didn't punch back. Touching stories of loving relatives safe from the front are contrasted with the conflicted mother's story whose wealth and priviledge are lost to the war along with the men of her youth. I loved his tales of the Navy even if his gentle character caused him to fail as a Korean war hero but lead to his joining the Catholic Christian Brothers where he served as a music teacher for 12 years. Love, family and music are there in the recent history of much that I have myself known but seen from a perspective so very different Ben's is a unique voice. I shared his married life, the building of homes, the raising of chickens and the desire to please the unpleasable in laws. Jack Nicholson's Schmidt character is echoed by Ben's Willie Loman teacher self in a BC school system that overnight cared less for humanity, arts and common sense than it did for dollars and cents. At home his life of love and labour are cast aside as his landscaping art is destroyed, the traditional mowed down before modernization. The mystical threads wrap around him and his long lost Catholic father. In Sechelt he finds fellow men who support him and a psychiatrist who helps him through the tortorous jorney of trauma's nightmares. From the ashes the phoenix rises and love rekindles with a new found partner. To this day art spills over and his children share his love and loves. It's so touchingly real for a fellow survivor, who in my therapists role have also walked along side so many who make the sweetest proverbial lemonade from the most bittersweet lemons indeed. I am really thankful for such a good and inspirational read. It's impossible though that the white haired respectable gent on the back cover could have been the long side burned hitchiking folk singing 60's Brother Bonaventure, (shown in the black and white photo pages) who rebelliously taught the nuns guitar to the horror of Mother Church!

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