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Etched in sand
Transcript of Etched in sand
Etched in Sand opens with a more than desolate scene described by the narrator, Regina, who is riding in a junk car across Long Island with her mother, called Cookie, and her siblings: the older Camille, younger Rosie and Norman, will mentioning that the oldest, Cherie, has escaped the wrath of their mother by marrying and becoming pregnant
Regina tells us that Cookie uproots them quite frequently and moves them from shelter to parking lot to abandoned houses and so forth, until she gets into trouble with the law or defaults her rent payments, whatever may come first. Cookie takes off on long binges, and Regina and Camille become mothers to Rosie and Norman. Regina has figured out she is Cookie’s least favorite child, for unknown reasons, but she usually catches the physical abuse the hardest. Each of the children has a different father, none of which are around.
Regina lets us know through her descriptive account of packing, moving, and unpacking, that she is used to dodging social workers and police officers to keep her small, dysfunctional family unit of siblings together.
The second chapter opens with Camille and Regina taking bets as to how long they think Cookie will be gone on her binge. Regina also explains how having kids is a financial convenience for Cookie, because she can collect money from the Suffolk County welfare office, pay a month’s rent for whatever housing she has found for the kids, and pocket the money provided for utilities. Regina asks a good question after explaining their financial situations, “How can they give her this endless stream of cash without ever checking up on where she spends it?” This statement shows the consistent breakdown in child welfare services, as no one has managed to rescue the children from their tyrannical mother.
The children are adamant that they must avoid the detection of neglect from teachers, police officers, neighbors, and social workers. They do not want to be found out, because they will lose all control and be separated. To avoid discovery, Regina and Camille have developed a seemingly fool proof plan to purchase food with the few food stamps Cookie has left around, and then they steal other items to supplement the purchases
After making their regular trip to the grocery store, Camille tells Regina she is going to live with her friend Kathy for the summer, leaving the family. Regina is very upset, as she will then feel as if she is alone with the younger children, but Camille plans on getting a job to send her siblings money to eat. Camille then leaves, and Regina is left to mother two young children, as well as her teenage self.
Regina tells readers that social workers in her county are supervising over five thousand children because so many people are moving out of New York City to populate Long Island and the surrounding counties. That’s why it is so easy for her to fly family under the radar! The kids have concocted stories to explain away any questions regarding their mother
The small family starts to settle into a routine, which includes walks to the library, and Regina discusses her habit of skipping meals to save food. Cookie keeps prescription drugs for personal use, and Regina will take “yellow jackets”, which are her name for stimulants, to curb her appetite
In August, the landlord comes to the house. Cookie has been gone for six weeks, so Regina quickly covers for her mother. Instead of calling social services, the landlord fills the oil tank and drops off fresh fruit and vegetables for the children. Regina is instantly skeptical, but she cannot ignore the pleasure of having a hot shower everyday. She begins to notice how skinny she has become. Her hair is graying and balding, revealing the stress and starvation she is under.
Cookie comes back before Labor Day weekend. Her presence is marked by the task of registering for school, and Regina takes the time to hide her skinniness and hair problems from the prying eyes of the administrators. To add to Regina’s sadness, Rosie realizes the family is poor, as a seven year old. It absolutely crushes her older sister. Right before school starts, Cookie takes the kids to dumpsters to dive for clothing. Somehow, Regina finds the silver lining, determining how she can add stitches to certain items to make them fit better. Cookie announces that she has a new boyfriend, whose thirteen year old daughter she is now mothering, instead of her own children. She promptly leaves, as soon as she reappeared, and school starts. Regina wears the bright orange jeans she stole from the department store, and she is made fun of at school. Regina finds solace in school, where she buries herself in her work and escapes to faraway places she reads about in novels.
Chapter 3 and 4
In the fall, Cherie, their oldest sister, gives birth to a baby boy. Cookie comes home to announce the news, but will not take the children to see their nephew because it puts a cramp in her schedule. She soon returns in November, drunk and single again. The kids eat dinner, while Cookie sleeps drunkenly on the couch.
As they are cleaning up their dishes, Rosie accidentally drops her glass, which shatters instantly on the floor, waking Cookie up. In a rage, she jumps up, grabs Rosie’s hair and slams her on the ground, close to the glass. Regina then tries to get Cookie to stop attacking Rosie, and the rage turns onto her. Regina is on top of the broken glass, while her mother kicks and beats her. Somehow, she escapes, with blood covering her head, and Regina runs towards the strip mall that is close to their home. Regina waits for Cookie’s car to pass in the direction of the local bars, and she returns home, not knowing what to expect
She returns to school, trying to hide her bruises and marks that have covered her entire body, and her teachers begin to ask questions. She goes home only to discover that a social worker is in the house, and she wants to know what has happened. She reminds Regina that her upcoming fourteenth birthday means that she can become emancipated from her mother, escaping the torturous home. Regina actually gives in, and tells the social worker everything, assuming that Norman and Rosie will go to a foster home as well as she. Regina calls Camille to tell her what she did. Camille comes to the house, and waits for the social workers to come get the children after school that day. Cookie puts on her regular act of sweetness around the social workers.
Regina and Camille are placed in one car, while Norman and Rosie are placed in another. Regina is sick to her stomach, because she broke the siblings’ promise to stay together and never tell the truth. Cookie screams that she will get the children back, but Regina knows it’s not out of love, but because she has lost her meal ticket.
Regina and Camille meet their new foster family, the Petermans. Addie and Pete, their new foster parents, quickly explain the house rules. Regina and Camille translate the rules: they are thieves, and are not to be trusted until they prove to their foster parents that they can be.
Instead of going to school, the girls are to stay home to help their social worker fill out an emancipation affidavit. The rest of the chapter flashes back to the horror that has been Regina’s life under Cookie.
Regina’s first memory dates back to July 4, 1971, when she was just four years old. She has overheard a conversation between her older sisters discussing Regina’s adoption by this lady Regina calls “mom,” Mrs. G. This is not their real mother, Cookie, but this is the only mom Regina knows. Her “family” takes her to Cookie’s apartment, which is over a glue factory. They are not happy about dropping the girls off with their mother, but the family has to do it. A man is living with Cookie, and Cookie is actually skinny! Cookie tries to give Regina a toy, but Regina starts to cry for her mother, Mrs. G. Cookie promptly smacks Regina, and then screams at her when she asks for her father. Cookie rambles about her father not wanting either one of them, and she wishes Regina was never born.
Regina is then locked in a room for days, and every time she cries, she risks another beating. This is when Regina learns to self-soothe; she counts. As a four year old, Regina’s task is to mother her infant brother, Norman. Cookie is married to Norman’s father, another Norman, and he beats his wife when he gets angry, and in turn, Cookie beats her children. Regina tries to run away, and her former foster sister, Susan, finds her in the woods. The foster family leaves, and Cookie beats Regina. She then ties Regina to a radiator. Big Norman leaves Cookie .
School starts, and Regina is enrolled in kindergarten as a four year old. She must walk home by herself, because if any of the girls are late coming home to care for Norman, they are risking a beating. Cookie soon meets another man, Vito, who seems to be involved in slightly shady activities. Vito and Cookie stay out all the time, and the girls enjoy staying alone, while perfecting their grocery store trips to steal enough food to survive. Cookie shows up again, pregnant. Rosie is born when Regina is in first grade.
Vito takes Cookie on a vacation, and then Vito goes away for a long time, which ends up being a prison sentence. Cookie starts bringing home random men after her binges, and she begins to get fatter and older, blaming the wrinkles and weight on her children, which increases the beatings.
Soon, police start watching the house, because Norman was found wandering outside in the middle of the night. This is the kids’ first trip to a foster home together. Rosie is separated from the rest of them.
The four oldest are to sleep in sleeping bags, and the family beats them inside of their “beds” if they complain or move too much. The foster family’s boys rape Regina, while the older girls are locked outside. She counts.
The older girls are placed with a new family, and Regina and Norman are placed separately. The social worker introduces Regina to her new family as a troublemaker, and then her teacher tells the class she is a foster child, absolutely crushing any chance Regina had of making friends. The social worker arranges visits between all of the siblings, and Rosie has contracted Failure to Thrive, so she is placed with her older sisters to hopefully get healthy.
Cookie visits Norman and Regina on Thanksgiving of that year, telling the children she has a new boyfriend, Karl, who has bought a house so they can all live together. In a sad exchange between Cookie and Regina, Cookie tells Regina to stop masturbating. Regina does not understand at all and reveals that she holds herself to stop from being hurt again like she was at the last foster home
Chapter 7 & 8
Chapter 8 & 9
Chapter 5 continued
Cookie’s five children Cherie, Camille, Regina, Norman, and Rosie finally meet their grandparents who were not welcoming of them because of their daughter cookie
When Cookie received money from her mom, she left on a mission to use her parent other resources
She went to several bars, deli shops, grocery shops and told them her story. Many of them pitied her, so gave her food and beverages that would last her for several days.
For several months the children lived in the car while their mom went from bar to bar looking for a sugar daddy. The two older daughters Cherie and Camille got fed up with living in the car so they decide to live at their friend Kathy’s house for the summer. This leaves Regina to take care of their two other siblings alone while there mom is gone.
Cherie and Camille come back a few months later to help Regina with their younger siblings. They all are unable to attend school because of lice. When they finally are lice free they still cannot register because they have missed a half a year of school. However, Regina and her two younger siblings still attend school even though it will not count. Regina has always remembered that valuing education is the only way that will get her out of this situation
One day when Regina comes home late, she meets her mom, Cookie frying food. At this point, Cookie is angry and does not take Regina’s explanation. So, she throws hot oil on Regina as her older sister Camille walks in. Camille immediately tries to save her, but Cookie gets a hold of her and drags her to the front door and throws her on a flight of stairs and then leaves. They had to go downstairs to the deli for someone to call 911. When they asked them what happened, the lied and say she fell on accident. Camille was left with a neck brace.
At this point in time Camille and Cherie go back to live at their friends Kathy’s house for the summer, while Regina is left to mend her two younger siblings again.
She begins cutting herself and when her mom sees she tells her to do it the right way and cut her wrist
Eventually Cookie gets a job and Regina begins working with her mom. She is forced to give her mom all of the earnings that she makes. A few months later at work she meets her father randomly and begins to search where he lives.
Several months later, Cookie gets arrested for driving drunk with a suspended license. However, she comes back home waiting for her court date to arrive. This has made her paranoid, so her oldest daughter Cherie and Camille have to go buy food and cigarettes for her. A few days later Cookie finds out that the cops will be coming to her house, so takes her kids and runs.
The kids live in their mom’s car once again while she does from bar to bar looking for a sugar daddy. Eventually she fined a landowner who she could pay by sex and they begin living there. However this does not last long because the wife finds out how it is being paid
Regina and Camille are emancipated and living in a new foster home permanently.
Regina is on the gymnastic team has found two very close friends and is doing well in school
Regina finds out that her little sister Rosie is being abused at the foster home, but social services do nothing to help the situation
When they finally get ready to see their brother and sister at their foster home, they find out that Cookie has kidnapped them and taken them to Idaho
Regina once again calls her social worker, but they tell her that there is nothing they can do since there out of the state
Regina learns through her weekly phone calls with her brother and sister that her little sister is being abused by Cookie and her boyfriend Clyde
So, Regina calls her sister Rosie’s guidance counselor in Idaho to tell him about the abuse that is going in the home. However, it goes wrong because Rosie lies to the guidance counselor about the abuse. Cookie tells them that Regina is delinquent and alcoholic who need help, so they tell her not to call them again.
A few years past and Regina is about to graduate high school. She begins to reach out to her grandparents who welcome her with open arms and explain that they actually wanted to be in their grandchildren’s life.
A year from now Regina goes to college at Stony Brook in New York a joins the club gymnastic team. In her sophomore year she attends State University of New York at New Paltz to major in education. This is where she finally leaves her foster parents home
Regina and her sisters decide to take Rosie from Idaho and bring her back to New York without Cookie’s consent
The plan works until Cookie realizes that Rosie is missing and tells her brother Nick in New York to contact her other daughter since she knows that she is with them
Nick contacts them persistently and even comes to their house and he receives no response. So they realize that they need to go to a place that is heavily occupied. So they decided to go to the movies, but Rosie wanted to see another movie. However, when they left their Uncle happened to be there and the security officer saw them as well and chased them. They were unable to actually find them, but their Uncle threatened to call the police later on that day if Rosie did not return to him that night.
Rosie returned to her Uncle, but her two older sisters stayed with her before she had to leave the airport.
When they got to the airport, Regina realized that once again they had failed Rosie
Chapter 12 & 13
Regina talks with Mr. Brownstein about her classes. He says this is a safe place for her to grow and flourish in school.
Regina calls her sister, Rosie, to check up on them. Rosie says things have been quiet and Cookie hasn’t hurt them. Regina makes sure she checks in with the social worker and counselor.
Regina reflects on the suffering she has been through and believes it has all been for a reason, even if unknown at the time. She sees a light at the end of the tunnel.
She was accepted to an internship with the state Senate in Albany. She works there and two other jobs during that spring. Senator Jack Perry asked her to stay to be his aide until the end of session in July.
She begins thinking about all the things she will lose when she turns 21 in a few short months: Medicaid, money for rent and expenses, being a ward of the state.
Regina was asked to be on the debate team. Although they did not win, she was nominated for a prestigious award alongside students from Columbia and Harvard
She graduates with a BA in Political Science. Her foster family was there to see her. She is welcomed by her grandparents, her grandmother dies from cancer.
•She sees her mother again and asks her why she was so mean to her growing up.
After Cookie leaves to go home, grandpa and Regina notice she had stolen from him while she was there.
Rosie’s teacher took guardianship of her, which gave her an avenue to shut out Regina and her sisters. They didn’t have communication with one another much anymore.
Regina was trying to find jobs in her field of study. She interviewed for many but she didn’t have the typing skills needed for the jobs.
She got a job offer from the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association. She worked to advocate for them on the local and state level.
She looked at this as an opportunity to mainstream more.
While in this work she met Alan Hevesi, an advocate campaigning for comptroller of New York City. Regina volunteers for his campaign. They lose the race but decide to run again. She is named the founding chairperson of his campaign.
The New Jersey Transit asks her to develop a statewide plan to make their transportation accessible to the disabled.
Regina applies for Seton Hall’s law school, realizing she needs to be more versed in the laws for her career aspirations.
She is accepted and begins taking evening classes while still working. Regina works with Alan on his campaign and he wins this election. She works on his transition and inauguration teams
Regina reaches out to her dad, Paul Accerbi, once again asking for a DNA test. He refuses.
She goes to Utah to see Rosie after her graduation only to be greeted coldly. Regina takes full responsibility for the reasons Rosie is not welcoming; Regina believes she failed her.
Regina begins the Immigrant Task Force for Alan.
This sets up an opportunity for Regina to work with Geraldine Ferraro: former congresswoman and vice presidential candidate. She works with her on speaking with the White House about immigration populations in New York and helps her research and write a book about Italian Immigrants.
Regina graduated with her law degree and wants to finally begin using it, which will mean getting out of politics.
Regina gets a letter from “Aunt Julie”: she believes she is related to her father so she begins writing her and begins the journey of going to visit her searching for answers.
Regina went to visit “Aunt Julie”. She remembered the house, the yard, the crack in the cement. It was all coming back to her. She walked in the house with the same realization: she had been here before.
Julie told Regina how Cookie had dated her brother-in-law, Paul. They broke up, but Cookie brought Regina and her two older sisters there for babysitting. One day Cookie brought the girls and never returned. Julie and her husband, Frank, kept the girls for over a year until social services made them give them to the state.
Camille, Regina’s older sister calls one evening saying she received a call their mother was diagnosed with cancer and would not make it much longer.
The girls fly their mother from Idaho to New York so they can see her before she is no longer here. They are hoping she will be remorseful for her actions in raising them, however Cookie refusing to take responsibility for any of it. She believes she did a good job in raising them considering how they’ve turned out. Regina tells her mother good-bye for the last time in person.
Camille called Regina with the exciting news she and her husband were expecting a baby after being told they could not have anymore due to her husband’s cancer.
Camille gives birth to Danielle Grace later that year, welcoming another life into their family
Regina wrote her mother a letter telling her about all the frustration she felt as a child and now as an adult.
A few weeks later her mother passes away on December 16, Julia’s birthday.
The girls breath with relief having that chapter of their lives behind them.
They realize their mother did give them one gift, each other.
Rosie and her husband had a son. She still only contacts Regina and her sisters with surface level words. They are merely living like acquaintances rather than siblings.
Regina starts to date Todd Ciaravino whom she met while campaigning with Alan Hevesi. They date for a while but part ways when their careers get in the way.
In August of 2000 Regina begins the journey of getting her father’s DNA for paternity testing.
He refuses and gets a lawyer to force Regina to stop asking him.
She finds a lawyer that will defend her case. Only one lawyer would take her on since she was an adult, not a minor, filing for paternity DNA. This type of case was the first of its kind in the United States and this was the only lawyer that was willing to risk it.
They went through many battles and court systems, however Regina eventually won her case in the Washington State Supreme Court. She was granted DNA and was found to be Paul Accerbi’s daughter.
Regina goes to Julia’s house to finally celebrate with her as Aunt Julia. She also gets a call from her Uncle Sonny, Paul’s brother, wanting her to come hear all about her heritage.
For Christmas in 2004 Regina got what she’s always wanted; her complete birth certificate, including her father’s name, Paul Accerbi.
Camille asked Regina to move back to Long Island, Suffolk County to be closer to her and her family. Regina hesitates knowing this was the place her suffering took place most. After some consideration she buys a house to renovate called New Suffolk, which shows a new beginning for Regina.
Camille and Regina invite their brother Norman for a week to celebrate his fortieth birthday. This is a step in regaining their family unit.
Regina gets a message from Rosie on Facebook saying she knows how much her sisters tried to save her during their childhood and that she would like to begin a relationship again.
Rosie flies to New York to spend some time with Regina and Camille. Rosie says she didn’t know her sisters suffered by the hands of Cookie like she did.
Regina begins a campaign to run for the New York state Senate. However, her campaign is derailed by protesters saying she hasn’t always lived in New York.
For a break, Todd and Regina fly to Utah to spend time with Rosie and her family.
In 2011 Regina is offered a position as Chief Deputy Executive by Steve Bellone, the Suffolk County Executive. She accepts and works with him in supporting Suffolk County.
A newspaper reports of a Suffolk County high school girl that is in the running for a national science award. She and her family live in a homeless shelter and this is the only thing holding her back.
Regina and the county work tirelessly to provide this family a renovated home they can reside in.
Regina’s niece calls early one morning saying Camille has had a major stroke and is on the way to the hospital. Regina rushes straight there only to be told her sister has had another stroke. Camille had four strokes in total causing temporary paralasis. She does, however, miraculously recover full mobility and cognition.
Camille’s son Frankie gets married, which brings the whole sibling group together once again. They round out the evening in a circle singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” with one heart.
Superstorm Sandy ravashes the coast of New York, New Jersey, and Long Island.
Through this Governor Cuomo put into place investigation of the preparedness for disasters. Regina was appointed as the Commission’s executive director for this project.
Regina and her siblings chose to title the book Etched in Sand to commemorate the ever changing and uncontrollable elements in their lives.
Aunt Julia and Uncle Sonny passed away a day apart in April 2012.
Their sister, Cherie, also moved home to Suffolk County.
Their family is now able to move forward on this journey called life, together.
Chapter six is a continuation of the emancipation affidavit. The children are continuously getting new social workers, and one comes to pick Norman and Regina up to escort them to a new, big house that Cookie has purchased with her newest boyfriend to house all of her children, together. She used money that was given to Camille after she was run over as a baby to buy the house.
Cookie seems to be nice, and Regina is eating up the male attention she is receiving from Karl, the newest boyfriend. One day, the kids arrive home, and all of their stuff is on the front lawn. Cookie forgot to pay the bank. Karl leaves Cookie, and she is back to her evil self. Cookie has mandated psychiatric visits, where she is receiving medication
A teacher takes a special liking to Regina, and the family has to move soon after. The teacher tells Regina to never forget that she’s special. Regina shares her thoughts, noting that she is just a dirty child, never special. The new house is a beach house on Rocky Point, whose new tenants move in during the dead of winter. Cookie soon disappears. There is no heat in the house, and the kids soon start to suffer, and they stop going to school. Cherie gets sick, with a deep cough. Camille and Regina walk into the nearest town to call 911 for an ambulance to come get Cherie. She has severe pneumonia. Social workers come separate the kids into different foster homes.
Camille tries to change her name; she has developed a deep hatred for Cookie and does not want to share a name with her mother. This is when Regina and Camille start to refer to their mother as Cookie, because she does not deserve to be called mom. This is also the first foster home the girls do not want to leave. Cookie has been given guardianship of Cherie, who has just been released from the hospital. Norman and Rosie have been returned to Cookie as well, as long as she stays in the same household as Karl.
The summer is over, and the girls are returned to Cookie to start school again. Regina is in the fifth grade and reunited with her friend from second grade. Camille and Cherie are back with Kathy, the friend who helps them later on in their life, and Karl insists that Cookie stops drinking. All seems to be well until Cookie starts drinking again
Karl leaves Cookie. Cookie stops paying the rent, and moving is imminent. Regina is told by her favorite teacher to stay in school and to teach Rosie to learn like she does. And they’re off again.