Poinsettias and Pedophiles


The Lobby. Holiday Light Display.

It was the holiday from hell. I was 7 years old.  I was molested at the Christmas light display in a crowded foyer of the landmark Wanamaker’s store in Philadelphia, Pa.

He walked up from behind me and grabbed underneath.  I froze in place. All I saw was the hem of his black coat, I never looked up; could not have identified him.


The Wanamaker Pipe Organ.

Thousands gather here every year since the early 1900’s to hear the magnificent pipe organ that was transferred from the St. Louis World’s Fair; installed in the 8 story lobby of the store. The Christmas show featured a choir, the organ, and a light show that was coordinated to the sounds of traditional carols.

It should have been memorable. It was, but for the wrong reasons.

The event was meant to take our minds off of recent tragedy in our family. My mother, still healing from her mental breakdown and hospitalization, was spending some time in the city with her family, and we joined her for a few days of “celebration”, such as was possible.

There were 5 of us at the show, 3 adult women, my older sister and myself. I was the smallest, and maybe the most vulnerable; a likely victim.

What scared me the most was my reaction. I could have screamed, pointed to him, alerted my mother or grandmother, or moved away. I did none of those. I stood silent and terrified for those few minutes. He left. I said nothing. Ever.

This told me, in retrospect, that abuse in any form was normal for me. An everyday thing. No big deal. And that is the horror of it.


Vintage post card. Wanamaker’s . 1911

The song was “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”. Three years later, this was the piano solo that was given to me to play in the annual Christmas concert. I did not challenge the selection. I should have. The song still haunts me.

Wanamaker’s is long gone, it is now a Macy’s. The holiday tradition continues. Some family members still in the city have invited me to come in for the show. I always decline.

This entry was posted in Childhood, Family, Memories, Mental Health, Music and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Poinsettias and Pedophiles

  1. Victo Dolore says:

    How awful. I am so sorry.

  2. LaVagabonde says:

    I can’t hit “like” on this. It seems like predators instinctively know when someone is feeling vulnerable and low. I hope that you continue to heal.

  3. Delving into the world of sexual assault experiences and the effects has been stirring my soul. Like you, I was sexually assaulted (around age 13), in a public place…..so sorry you experienced this. Sharing your story is a spark of light, shining into the darkness of sexual assault and the silence that suffocates💜

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I’m so sorry that you, like so many, share these experiences. Silence did suffocate, I carried that around for decades, not really understanding the effect that simple Christmas carol had on me. Nothing stays inside forever, and I am grateful to shed a bit of light on such a delicate issue.

  4. Thanks for your kindness. Healing is possible; tedious, but always possible. The human spirit is an amazing force.

  5. lbeth1950 says:

    How awful for you. I am so sorry. No child should ever have to endure this.

  6. This is a terrible memory to have to live with. It is understandable that you did not call for help. This kind of terror throws you into shock. It is so unexpected, and out of reality that you have no idea what to do or how to do it. There is no frame of reference for what “the right thing” is to do.

    Besides you may have also feared that calling attention to it would escalate things.

    Also once you did call attention to what was happening it would have become more real to you. Your brain probably was in a self protective dissociated state that it could not snap out of.

    So please do not carry shame over this. Our brains and our nervous systems do what they do. You had no capacity to do anything but stand there.

    He was the bad guy. You were an innocent victim.

    Much love,
    Annie 💕💙🌷💜

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Annie. You surely live up to the blog ID “gentle kindness”. The incident is one of many things that put my brain into that self-protective mode. I’m thankful for that. I don’t feel shame, it just comes up when I hear certain Christmas carols. ❤️ Van

      • Yes I understand about music being a trigger to memories. For some people music can be a very fast and poweful trigger. There are songs I cannot listen to at all.

        It seems a shame to lose good songs from your life but it is that way for me. I even make a point to avoid the radio and playing any music if I am in any kind of traumatic situation.

      • I understand, Annie.

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