“Why do we always have to do this?” I screamed from my belly so hard and loud that I felt the back of my throat burn with fiery pain. It was close to the first of the month and my Mother was loading up the speakers and stereo my grandma sent me for my birthday into her car. Box still taped up, I never even got to open them. That year, like every year, my brother got another video game console up at my Dad’s place, that my Mom helped pay for, and the following February, we were living out of the back of my Mom’s baby blue Plymouth with Lucky, my Mom’s cat, in a cat carrier, at a park N ride outside of my Mom’s work. It was right off of a major road and the interstate, so the park and ride were big and had lots of cards shuffling in and out of it. One day, after some friends took me by to see her, we told my best friend’s mom what was going on, and she invited my Mom to come and live with them for a few months while she got back on her feet.
That was when I dropped out of school and got my first full-time job up-selling HBO and Cinemax premium channels at a call center about 2 miles from where my Mom worked. I had just turned 16. Despite always working a full-time job, and forgoing social security because it wasn’t enough to survive in Fort Collins, CO. my Mom never could quite make the bills work out. We were always going without one thing or another. Sometimes, most often, it was the gas or food. So no hot water for showers and lots of frozen burritos. I hated taking showers, and I think a part of me still does. I also never really did pick up cooking as much I had hoped, but I do enjoy cooking & growing my own food.
Back then we didn’t have a lot of options for busses and despite working for a local transportation company that had a monopoly on all the shuttles and taxis, my Mom would regularly have to walk miles to work, work a 10-hour shift, then turn around and walk home because we didn’t have a car or couldn’t afford to fix the one we had scraped together enough money to buy. Growing up always felt like we had been swimming a marathon and right when your hand touches the side of the pool a tide pulls you back out before you can get a grip. The only joy I ever seemed to find was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel just long enough to make out the tunnel collapsing.
I always was fine, at least that’s what I would say. I made due at my friend’s house for a while, my best friend had a single Mom who felt sorry for me, so she would always insist I stayed at their place since my Mom worked a swing shift from 3-11 pm, and she didn’t feel comfortable with me being home alone all the time.
The thing is, I was always alone. For the first 10 years of my life, I had grown up with a mom who suffered from catatonic mental health issues and a brother who had autism before autism was a thing, in a place with more poverty than happy endings. So moving to Colorado, and trying to navigate a Mom who had been heavily medicated for 10 years working and supporting me for the first time after my Dad left us for his new girlfriend, who he had been dating and was the reason he moved us 1500 miles away from our family while struggling with emotional neglect and mental abuse from my Father, and constantly fearing homelessness or for my Mother’s safety, I had become very comfortable with the fact that I did not live a life most of my peers could relate to. I was 12.
At this age, my only reprieve or understanding came from 3 sources with whom I felt could see and understand my plight in a way that made me feel honored and respected. Their guidance, albeit brief, is something that I revisit and synthesize regularly. Dan & Marilyn were a couple who were related to my best friend’s neighbors.
Let me back up.
I was born in Texas. My Mom was born to an unwed Okie at 16 in central California and my Dad was a good ol’ Navy boy from a North Texas Baptist family with a previous marriage lost to suicide and two daughter from a previous marriage that lived with his Mom.
We moved when I was 2 years old and grew up in the Salinas Valley of California until I was 11, then I moved to a tiny little neighborhood called the Riverbend Ponds in Fort Collins, CO. in 1998. The Summer before 6th grade. When we moved into the new neighborhood, folks could tell we were not from around there, and I felt like a fish out of water, but in the smallest pond, I’d ever seen. My Dad had a pentagram tattoo, a catatonic wife and girlfriends, my brother was autistic, and my Mom was on a heavy dose of Prozac. In retrospect, it was about the most Colorado shit ever, just about a decade or two before its socially acceptable time. As such, the kids in the neighborhood were allowed to play with me, but most couldn’t come to my house, and not many invited me inside theirs. We moved to Colorado in June, and moved to another house by December, my Father never bothered to even buy furniture for it. We didn’t even have a sofa. That following May, after another screaming and yelling match, I begged my parents to divorce. I just wanted the years of screaming to stop, and by June, my Mom and I were moving into a care housing apartment across from Rocky Mountain High School.
Outside of meeting my best friend, very few positive things came from living in these apartments. A pedophile who smoked joints convinced my friend to touch his penis, the neighbor above me was a 14-year-old boy with an ankle monitor, and the single mom across the way had 4 kids under the age of 5, was a sex worker who worked nights, and often would take advantage of the fact that my Mom couldn’t stand up for herself, so would leave her kids for me to watch from dusk till dawn. The youngest is still in diapers.
Much to my own dismay, I stayed at the same school as the few friends I had met in the latter half of 6th grade, but by this point in school, I was falling behind my peers in almost everything. I had terrible acne and poor hygiene, and my self-confidence was shot. I had grown mean and guarded and developed an eating disorder that led to peptic ulcer disease and by 13 I had missed so much school that my Mom was facing court over my truancy. The truth was, it was too hard for me to be around so many normal people. I hated them and resented feeling forced to be reminded of what I couldn’t or didn’t have. A family.
I would have to see my Dad every weekend, and I hated him more than anything in the world most days. I resented him for leaving my Mom and in return, I hated myself for wishing I could, too. One day I finally did. I hadn’t realized this would force my Mom out of her Care Housing but I desperately yearned for some normalcy and to not be surrounded by the influences of the impoverished community we were living in. I endured my Dad transitioning his anger and abuse to me once he no longer had my Mother to torture. My Dad and I had our last major blowout my sophomore year of high school. I had endured almost 5 years of public school in rural Wyoming and my freshman year of high school in deep deep Appalachian Kentucky. .While most friends could do things like go to their friends’ houses or hang out with boys, I was usually on restriction with iron bars and gates locked from the outside when my father left the house.
After that, it’s safe to say I became an adult. And from there, the story gets even wilder.
I suppose this is me finding the little girl who had the strength to endure it all, so I can try to share how she managed to do it with all of you. Then, I hope to make that little girl’s dreams come true..