I don’t know where to begin. Definitely not in Times New Roman. Not Arial. Maybe Book Antiqua. For sure not Comic Sans.
I have always written things. My thoughts, my memories, my joy, my sorrow. You name it. Just not term papers. Never quite lived up to my “academic potential” like Mr. Coombs told me when I was 14. This was before my mom moved away, before I
Or was it after?
There is a lot to this story and I don’t know that I can tell it in chronological order. Bits and buried pieces blur my vision. Each moment locked inside that pale pink box sealed tight with a bright pink bow. I had a therapist once tell me that I was angry. That anger was the core, that I needed to let the rage out. Here, scream into this pillow you will feel better. Tell them how angry you are! How could you not be angry? Say it with me now “I AM ANGRY!” But I wasn’t, then.
The only thing I felt then was sadness. Mourning for a little girl lost, generations gone by.
My mom was 15 when she became emancipated from her immigrant parents. I only really know her version of her story, and I’m sure there are at least two other sides. That much I have learned. She was born in Utah, moved to Holland as a baby, came back to the USA on a big ship, back to Holland in 4th grade? and then her parents finally settled in California. Did I get that right, Mama? These things have been told to me from the time I was a child, so it is a child’s memory that tells this story. My story. Intertwined with her story. So perhaps that isn’t always the way it truly was. Close enough. I’m not making this shit up and we always disagreed…the sky is blue, no, it’s purple today…it is what it is. Don’t get caught up in the fine details. Moving along…
She told me her life was terrible, her parents didn’t understand her. She told me she was raped by a trusted family friend and they didn’t believe her. She was a wild child. She got her own apartment and a job, I think at a shoe store in her home town. She was Homecoming Royalty. My father was captain of the football team, the oldest son of the Chief of Police who retired and became a bar owner. He could do no wrong. On paper, anyway. She got pregnant in 1972 at the age of 19. She considered an abortion. She drove her own damn self to the consultation. I was told that my grandfather, Papa Ding, saved my life that day. But now she tells me I am wrong about that. But that’s the story I remember. A child’s memory.
Ultimately, it was HER CHOICE to stay pregnant, as it should be. She chose me.
There was a wedding, in lavender, a floor length gown. There are pictures, I have seen them. There was an article in the newspaper, I have read it. There was no happily ever after, we all lived it.
During that first year of that first marriage, my mom walked in on my father in bed with her best friend. She packed me up and found her way to Spokane or Coeur d’Alene, Washington of all places, I’m not sure which. I don’t remember why she picked Washington. My father visited, but, in the end, it was too much for either of them. They divorced, and the adventure began! It was my mother and I against the world…as she would say. Hugo and Ina…you go do this and I’n a go do that.
I went to 15 different schools between kindergarten and 9th grade. We moved all over the country: Fairfield, Spokane, Couer d’Alene, Sandpoint, Lake Cocalala, Anchorage, Miami, Alameda, Sacramento. We moved in with so many boyfriends. Do I name the names? As long as I stick to the facts, don’t exaggerate, always tell the truth, it’s ok, right? I can’t. I’m afraid. Of the truth. So for this part of the story some names will be changed for the sake of privacy. At least until I speak to a lawyer. There were so many boyfriends. Steve, Dean, Darius, Larry, and Doc are the ones I remember. Then there were the husbands. 5 in all. Randy, Tony, George, Mark, and Tony #2. To be fair, I didn’t even attend the wedding for her and Mark and she married Tony #2 when I was an adult. Each of those men represent eras in my life. Revolving doors. Which dad? Daddy Randy or Daddy Tony? It’s ok, you can call him Daddy Darius. Darius was a songwriter. He wrote me a song for my birthday. I can still remember some of the lyrics. It was beautiful.
“A little more than a year ago, I had the chance to meet
A little girl who was so beautiful and sweet
She knocked me off my feet
And Annie, that little girl is you.
She’s got her mother’s eyes and mind of her own
Everybody knows she’s a special little girl
After all she had the finest teacher in the world…
I’d like to yell out loud and say Annie, Happy Birthday To You…”
I loved him. I loved them all except Mark and Tony #2. By then I had built my wall.
Daddy Tony was a drug dealer. Like for real drug dealer. Like travel around the world and move to the Keys kind of drug dealer. Like drive around in an RV for a year to avoid the feds kind of drug dealer. I remember living/hiding out in Anchorage, AK and going to preschool in the perpetual dark, playing outside in the snow in the never ending night. When I was 5, they left me with the parents she emancipated herself from, for months. I started kindergarten in CA while my mom was living the high life, gallivanting who knows where doing who knows what. Much later in my childhood, my mom told me it was then that Tony was arrested and she was searched and detained. She says she didn’t know he was a drug dealer at the time. That is what saved her. I don’t know how he got out of that, but it is all about who you know, I think. Then, halfway through the school year, they came and got me and we moved to Miami to be near The Keys. Not for the beaches. I finished kindergarten in Miami and my mom got to be there for that first day. Only it wasn’t anyone else’s first day. I don’t remember any names or faces of friends from kindergarten. Not one.
But my children do.
We lived in nice houses and had nice cars. Tony bought mommy a Lincoln Continental and I thought we were rich. We went to Disneyworld and Parrot Jungle, and the place where the whale was the star of the show. I had a step-brother named Jed. We had a lakefront house on Lake Cocalala. Santa brought us all ice skates that year. I made snow angels. I could have anything I wanted, if I asked nicely. Pretty please. One night, as I lay in my bed with the door cracked open and the hall light on, they were yelling. But my memory can’t decide which house we were living in that night. Was it Sandpointe? Miami? I wonder if my mom remembers. I was scared. I was a small child. There was banging. Then I watched as Tony dragged my mother by the hair down the hallway, intentionally banging her head against the walls. Stay in your room, Annie. Don’t get out of bed, Annie.
I was frozen. I wet the bed. I took the sheets off of my bed and put them in the dirty clothes hamper and didn’t tell my mom. She discovered them, I probably lied about it because I was terrified and she told me that Tony would punish me when he got home. Once again, frozen.
In the writing, I remember the bits and pieces. Not in order, mind you, but they fall out at random times. Forgive that, please, and try to keep up.
This pale pink box with the bright pink bow is bursting at the seams. Like a Jack-in-the-box, these things pop out when you don’t expect it. That’s the proof of the trauma, I’m told. Avoidance. Don’t turn the crank and don’t open the box. And don’t ever tell anyone your truth.
Trauma? What trauma?
Everybody has trauma.