This is the story where I started to leave my childhood behind and started seeing the people around me in a much more cynical light. It’s not as bad as some, but it was definitely an eye-opener for me at the time.
It all started when my mother married Larry. I didn’t like Larry, and I didn’t like my mother when Larry was around. You know that gut feeling, or instinct that tells you when there’s danger around? That’s how I felt around Larry. I didn’t know how to express it, or if my mother would even listen to me if I could put what I was feeling into words.
Shortly after the wedding, we moved all the way across the country. I was 7 or 8 at the time. We moved from my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, all the way out to the middle of a forest somewhere in South Carolina. This was away from anyone either my mother or I knew, but it’s where his family was.
Cabin in the Woods
Larry had a small chunk of land that he was clearing in order to build us a house. However, it wasn’t anywhere near ready, so we stayed in a small wood cabin. I definitely appreciate all the advances we’ve made both technologically and as a society.
I say that because this was a 3 room wood cabin. Not 3 bedrooms, just 3 rooms. The main area which composed of kitchen and living space, which wasn’t big enough to set up a dining room table in. There was the sleeping area, which consisted of 2 beds, a dresser, and a fireplace. The last room was the bathroom, which consisted of a toilet.
Now, this cabin had electricity, but no heat, and no running water apart from the toilet. The fireplace and a space heater in the living area were the only things to heat the place during the cold months. We sponge bathed ourselves in a tub of water by the fireplace after it was heated on the stove. If I remember correctly we had to pump our own water, too, for the cooking and cleaning. We stayed there for at least 2-3 months, and it was a maturing experience for me.
School was something else that was interesting. The bus picked me up first thing in the morning and I was the last to be dropped off. I want to say the ride to school was close to an hour each way. There was a time when we were still living in the cabin and there was a fire in the woods where we lived. It wasn’t near our house, but the bus dropped me off right before the fire trucks and the driver told me to walk the rest of the way home.
I don’t remember how long it took me to get home. However, I can still remember the smell of smoke and the firefighters running around. No one stopped me and asked me where I was going.
I got my first taste of what it was like to be a minority at school. Out of all the kids from grades 1-9, there were 3 or 4 Caucasian children in the entire school. This was also a very new experience for me where I didn’t know anyone and I was terribly frightened. I was in the 4th grade, I believe. I kept to myself for the most part. My introversion and social anxiety reared their heads collectively for the most part.
It was during this time that it was drummed into me that children should be seen and not heard. I learned to be quiet, to not upset anyone. Both my mother and Larry were drinking, and it was not a pleasant experience. My mother was a tired drunk that sleeps a lot. Larry was a drunk that you couldn’t tell if he was or not.
I found that my need to do what’s right found an outlet one day at recess. A boy wasn’t letting girls go down the slide. I think my anger at the entire situation I was in boiled over. It’s not something I look back with pride, but I felt I was doing something at least. I dragged him down the slide, beat him up, and then told on him to my teacher and the principle.
I joined the local girl scouts group, although it wasn’t really. We spent a lot of time after school together and my step-cousins were in it. One day we actually weren’t told that there wasn’t a session and got left at school for a good hour until someone came to pick us up because the late buses weren’t running.
Larry was never abusive to me, at least not physically. I kept out of his way as much as possible and kept as quiet as possible so as not to draw his notice.
We finally moved from the cabin to a trailer that had heat, running water, and my own bedroom. Other things started happening then, though. It was during this time that my emotional/stress eating was born. When you don’t have much food on hand, you tend to hoard it when you do. I still find going grocery shopping and buying food a calming activity, especially during high-stress situations.
Lucky Charms was one of the things that were kept in the house frequently, and I gained a taste aversion to them. I will never eat Lucky Charms again because I ate them so often while we lived there.
There was a time when there wasn’t much food in the house and I had to wait for Larry to come home with dinner. I ate somewhere between 9 and 10 that night since he didn’t get home until then.
All in all, we spent roughly a year there. I was sent to my Dad’s a couple of times to see and stay with him. This was both a blessing and a curse. I loved being down there, even if flying on a plane by myself terrified me, at least the first time, but I hated having to go back. I actually broke down into tears because I thought I had several more days and in fact, I didn’t.
End of the Chapter
The times were hard. I had to learn to take care of myself and so I grew up into someone more mature than I should have been. Mom came to her senses and we took a couple of buses back home on the first day of 5th grade. The nightmare was over, but the effects linger even today.
I am still an emotional eater, for the longest time I refused to drink alcohol, and I don’t consume it regularly, I’m quieter than normal and don’t like to interrupt people who are talking, and I don’t trust or open up to people as easily.
Can you relate? Do you have a story you would like to share? Please post them down in the comments if you do. I’d love to hear from you.