My mother came into my room and awakened me from my sleep. My bed was on the ground in the middle of the room. I remember her crouched down over me, but I see it from a third person perspective. She whispered in my ear. “Gracie, wake up. We need to leave. But, you have to be very quiet, so you don’t wake Daddy. The room was still dark. there was light flooding in from the hall through the open door. The next thing I knew there was a tall, naked man in the doorway. He had wild, brown locks that fell down past his shoulders. He had tattoos. He was angry and yelling at my mother. I don’t remember what he said. I just remember it was lots of cuss words. My mother must have pulled me from my little room in the single wide trailer, to the living area. Where he stayed naked and yelling at us. My little back pressed against the sliding glass door. Black night looming outside. I have no idea how old I was, just that this is my first memory. I don’t have very many of them of my first sted-dad. But, in all of them he is loud, strong, and domineering.
There was the time, he told me to finish my breakfast or else. We were sitting at the tiny little table in the kitchen at the front of the trailer. He was dressed in work clothes and wearing a hard hat. I don’t remember what the “or else” was, just that I was scared. I hurried to finish my breakfast as he grabbed his lunchbox and walked out the door. I also remember a game he played with me once. He placed my tiny little body between his legs and squeezed them together so tight I couldn’t escape. I could barely breathe. It was the meanest game. I squeeled,”let me go, let me go” and he would ask “Oh, you want me to let you go?” “Yes,” I cried. Then he would reply, “Yes, you want me to squeeze harder” and he would pin me harder between his big, strong legs and laugh proudly. “Is that what you meant,” he asked, “Did you want me to squeeze harder?” “No,” I yelped. And he would say, “No, you don’t want me to let you go?” And we would go around and around. This happened when we lived in the house along a country road. There are only a few other memories I have from living in that house.
I remember being in the bath and deciding I needed to clean my girl parts really well. I took the bar of soap and stuck it as far up in between there as I could and furiously rubbed back and forth. It started to sting really, really bad and I rinsed it as quickly as I could. i remember feeling angry at myself for not knowing how to do it right. Another time, my mom brought me home after a bicycle crash and set me on the table as I wailed. Another time, I pooped in my underwear and was embarrassed, cause I knew I was too big to poop myself.
The last memory I have of my alcoholic step-father, took place at our new double-wide trailer. He didn’t live with us anymore. He was outside the sliding glass door. It wasn’t just my mother and I anymore. There were four of us huddled together in fear. My mother, myself, and my little brother and sister. He was angry because he wanted to see his children. He started punching the glass with all his strength. I can’t remember whether he broke it.
I don’t know what your memories are like. But, most of mine are jumbled flashes with lots of black in between. They are just the same as the drunken nights in my twenties, when things would fade in and out. I will tell you, that I have quizzed all other family members involved, now that we are all adults. My mother says she got pregnant with my little brother after she had already left him. She said he tried to sweet talk her, she was weak, and they had sex. But, she didn’t take him back. My brother is 7 years younger than me, my sister four. So, most of my memories of him would have been from before I was 6. My mom left my biological father when I was a baby, age unknown. These were my earliest memories. The only other one I am certain are from this time frame was of playing blocks in preschool and getting my first boyfriend in kindergarten. The relationship didn’t last long. I broke up with him when he tried to make me do his homework for him. After that, he just became the alcoholic who beat my mom. That’s what she said. That’s what her mother said. It became like a foreboding theme in my childhood. Stay away from controlling men. Be strong. Don’t rely on others. Because your mom married an alcoholic and he beat her.
I don’t remember my sister being born or as a baby. I only remember my mom saying she was giving my brother his name because she had, had a dream and dreams were a sign from God. I remember that I was one of his caregivers from an early age. But, I can’t actually remember taking care of him.
You see, maybe at age four and five, it is normal for our memories to be spotty. Most don’t start forming true memories until age 5 or 6. But my memories never got better. Even as I grew and my brain developed, things just didn’t stick with me. Before I ever went to school for psychology, before I ever studied trauma, and way before I ever went to my first therapy session, I remember sitting behind the high school my freshman year. I told myself a story, gave myself an explanation for why I could barely remember middle school, less than a year later. I decided that something bad had happened to me. Something so horrible my brain blocked it out for me. I decided that so many bad things must have happened and needed to be blocked out that my brain just got used to blocking things out. And then, I figured, even when really bad things stopped happening, my brain just never stopped blocking things out for me.