I pulled a journal out of one of the boxes I am attempting to unpack this morning ... and read this entry that I wrote May 22, 1996:
Today I begin to remember my childhood -- all of it.
I am now 27 years ol. The seems so young for me. I feel much older. But then I have never felt as if I were the age I was.
My first recollections of my childhood are when I was probably 2.5-3 years old. I was living with my mother, stepfatehr, and brother in a little trailer in C'ville. We lived behind my stepfather's parents house -- my grandparents.
As a child I would "run off" to my grandparents house all the time without telling anyone. I would get a whipping from my dad.
I remember swinging on a handmade swing on the oak tree beside the trailer. Once I leaned back and hit my head. It bled badly -- but I remember thinking that it was worse than it was, because my family kept saying I busted my head open. That seemed very gruesome to a three year old.
I remember at night I slept on the couch in the living room. While I was supposed to be sleeping, I would squint my eyes and watch TV. Star Trek was always one. This was before my mom went to work to help make ends meet.
I remember playing in a big mud hole that my uncle Vernon had in his front yard and Momma giving me the only spanking I ever had with a belt. I told her she had left wood in me when she spanked me with a switch. I think Momma whipped me and my sister (who was born 5 years after me) with a switch because Daddy told her to. She whipped all my older brothers and sisters with a belt before Daddy came along.
I remember my brother N. building a tree house ou in the woods behind the trailer. Those woods and viney areas -- which were once piled with junk and old cars -- are now replaced by a pond and a fence. Daddy cut down all the trees. I never remember those old cars being hauled off -- but I know they are gone.
I remember after I got older playing in those old cars -- the station wagon and the old red car, like we were driving.
I remember playing with Johnny P. and Jimmy. Johnny would stick mushy persimmons down my shorts. He was mean and I always got into trouble when he came over (which he did every day until my dad told him not to).
I remember that we had a storm cellar that we went to when it stormed. It was underground and I remember vaguely when Daddy was building it. When it would storm, the cellar would be full of people -- family and neighbors. We'd light candles for light. We stored potatoes and canned goods in the cellar and there were blocks on the floor because there was always water on the bottom of the cellar.
I remember once Daddy wanted to punish me and he told me I was going to have to sleep in the cellar all night. I was horrified. It was dark and scary down there. I was probably about four years old. He walked around the outside of the cellar making sounds like a panther. He thought it was funny. It is one of my most vivid memories.
I must not have been scared of anything as a child, because no amount of punishment ever worked. I do remember being terrified that night in the cellar though. Momma was at work when it happened.
Momma and Daddy had a blue GMC truck when we lived in the trailer. I think Daddy always kept a new vehicle because he didn't know how to work on one and he was insecure about that. Being a man means knowing how to work on a vehicle.
I remember that when Momma went to work we were in financial problems. I don't think I really knew that at three, but I knew that for some bad reason Momma had to work nights.
Daddy and I stayed home by ourselves. He would cook me chicken noodle soup or chili for supper and always teased me that I was going to grow feathers and turn into a chicken.
Grandma and Grandpa had a big chicken pen where they had mean chickens and nice chickens. I always wanted to check the eggs but I was afraid of the mean chickens. I liked getting the different colored eggs -- but I can't remember if Grandma and Grandpa had those chickens or if we did later on.
Grandma Susie died when we lived in the trailer. I remember very little about that although I have a very vivid picture of my Grandpa barely being able to walk at her funeral. I don't remember the reaction of my dad and his brothers and I don't remember my own reaction. I was too young to understand. I remember that not long after she died, my family, including my new sister, moved into the house where Grandma and Grandpa had lived. Grandpa lived in the trailer. But I don't want to skip that far yet.
I remember laying on the couch at night and being scared because I could see the shadows of all the trees that surrounded the trailer coming through the windows.
I had the same dream over and over every night. It was about playing out in front of the trailer by the oak tree and some man coming to kidnap me. The dream never showed who it was -- only a man. I dreamed it every single night that we lived in that trailer. As far as I know, it's the only recurring dream I ever had.
This is all I ever wrote in the journal. I never went back and wrote about the rest of my childhood. I just stopped.
It's interesting to me now that I know I wrote this to begin healing from the childhood sexual abuse that I suffered at the hands of my stepfather ... but I can remember clearly that I was afraid to write down on paper what had happened to me. I was scared and ashamed that someone would find it and read it -- and I didn't want anyone to know. At this point I had told one person -- someone I'd never see again -- what had happened to me. I was also just beginning to seriously date the man who is now my husband.
It's also interesting that some of the things that I wrote here -- particularly about my brother living with us -- I barely remember now.
Something else that struck me was what I wrote about my mother going to work ... I said that "for some bad reason" Momma went to work. It was on those nights that she worked that the abuse first began. I remember as vividly as if it were yesterday the first time my stepfather called me into that tiny bathroom of that trailer and asked me to touch his penis. I can remember the words he said to me, but I can't remember how I felt, I do remember that it wasn't good. I was three.
And as I think about this ... I think about my obsession of never being in debt again, the hurt I feel when I see others suffering through financial difficulties and unable to manage, the shame I have felt about growing up poor and living poor for the early years of my adult life -- it probably all relates in some way to this time in my life where financial difficulties meant extreme pain for me -- pain I could not share.
5 months ago