9 is not an age I like to remember. It doesn’t matter how much you try to forget though, somethings are just stuck in your memories forever. I have thought about writing my story for many years but never imagined I would do it one day at a time on a blog. I always imagined it would be something I would write and leave for my children to publish because I never wanted people to judge me, I never wanted my mom to read how I felt or acted in secret and I never wanted sympathy. So please don’t judge my family. Mom, if you are reading this–don’t feel bad. And no sympathetic comments please. It feels good to write all this stuff out and please believe me that I have dealt and sorted with these issues over the years.
I started the fifth grade right as I turned 9. My birthday is in August so the return of school marked my birthdate which usually fell pretty close to the first day back. My teacher was Ms.Crane. She was from Michigan and talked with a bit of an accent different from the familiar Texas drawl. She was very artistic and it was the first time I had been around someone that really thought “outside the box.” I had heard about women that liked other women and I always wondered if she was one of them because she wasn’t married and always talked about her “girlfriends”. If she was a lesbian I am not sure and it really doesn’t matter in the slightest but she was so different than anyone I had ever met. She was a great teacher and I loved going to see what we would learn next. I wasn’t the only kid that had been accelerated and all of us that had skipped past the fourth grade were in her class. There were 4 of us if I remember right. My friend Dorthey was one of the one’s that ended up with me in the fifth grade. She was really quiet and never had any problems with the other kids. That I remember. She was my only friend.
I however, did not get a long with many of the other children in my class. I wasn’t aggressive–maybe that was the problem–but I was the weird one that everybody talked about, picked on and I gave them plenty of ammo.
Home was awful at this point. My mom had put me in a different daycare that didn’t sit us in front of the TV all day which was a good thing. She had her teaching degree that she had never used (she worked at a bank my whole life and made decent money from what I remember). But when I enrolled in the daycare around the corner she decided to quit her bank job about 6 months later and begin working at the daycare with the preschoolers. Daycare is hard work and pays very little–my family never had much money because my father was awful at spending every penny we had. He smoked a lot of pot for one which not only costs money but also gave him what my mother always referred to as “pipe dreams.” He would get these hair brained ideas in his head–like building a fountain in our backyard for goldfish and go buy everything for the project and then never finish it. He also was an avid hunter and fisherman, he reloaded his own bullets and always had to have the best fishing pole or gun. He took trips every weekend to the deer lease or fishing camp which costs gas money and then the food for the trip so as you can see, he spent a good deal of money.
When my mom quit her salary job for a daycare position making minum wage he became angry (or angrier depending which way you look at it) with her. It was harder for him to afford his “lifestyle.” He would take out loans from the bank, max out credit cards and wouldn’t keep a check book so it was impossible for my mom to keep track of the spending. So while he blamed her for the deficit, she kind of blamed him for it and with good reason. This wasn’t a new problem but it put more strain on the relationship and the family since she didn’t have the income to compensate for it anymore.
My dad had a bad temper. He punched holes in the walls a lot my whole life–punched so many holes that my mom gave up patching them all and just hung pictures over them instead. Out of sight, out of mind, right? I know they always had their problems but like I have said in earlier posts, he was a good dad to me in my eyes but as I became older, I didn’t see it so much that way. When I was 9, the fighting was this really big problem that while it seemed had arrived over night, had been a storm brewing for a long time. Every night it seemed was something new that he was pissed off about. He would get pissed off about what she had cooked for dinner, begin shouting and then the plate would be in a million pieces on the floor while the spaghetti slid down the wall, leaving sauce splattered everywhere. He would flip out about every little thing it seemed, he was a time bomb waiting to explode–it wasn’t ” is he gonna be in a good mood?”, it was” what is going to happen when he gets home?”
He was a mechanic and made commission. He never made any money it seemed, he never had anything to show for it anyways and as far back as I can remember it seemed my mom supported him. He would come in from work, covered in grease and sit in his spot on the couch while my mom finished cooking. She knew when he walked in the door what kind of night it would be if what she called, his dark cloud was hovering above him.
My brother, Michael and I coped in different ways. He was 5 years younger mind you and his room had no doors. It was located right there off the living room so he couldn’t avoid it unless he stayed in my room. He had a TV though and video games and he never seemed to even notice what was happening because he would be so engrossed in his cartoons or games. My room was in the back corner but my house was super small so it was loud when they would fight even with the door closed. It is for this reason that my closet became my safe place. I would hide in my closet with the door closed and write on the walls and the inside of the door till the storm passed and the yelling subsided. If it was a bad fight that penetrated through to my quiet spot, I crawled out of my window and walked till I couldn’t hear them anymore.
All the kids on my street knew my parent’s fought a lot but it was nothing new to them, mainly because they heard the same thing at their homes. I never had to explain anything to them and they never asked any questions. The kids at school had no idea though. I had an imaginary friend when I was 9, I talked to my bicycle which I had named Priscilla. To the other kids I was weird and they were relentless.
What I remember very vividly about the fifth grade is a really bad memory for me. I can’t talk about being 9 though without including this story. We were getting ready for school one morning and my dad was already screaming and yelling. He had quit his job at the mechanic shop and was now pursuing a catering dream selling fajitas and BBQ. (We had so many coolers full of the BBQ he never sold that for years and years I couldn’t even bear to smell that crap, much less eat it.) He wasn’t having much success and he was mad at my mom for something again. We were all on our way out the door to the daycare and our dog Rudy wouldn’t stop barking. My dad was carrying one of those huge heavy grinders that you might have seen used in some cultures to grind spices. He used it to grind spices for fajitas. My dad screamed at the dog to shut up and then threw the pestle at him. It missed. Not good enough. He charged at the dog–HIS dog in fact, and began kicking him in the ribs.
I flipped out. I ran off before my mom could catch me, I ran so fast and so hard. She grabbed my brother and chased me but she didn’t catch up to me till I was out of breath and slowed down to a walk. I screamed at her “Get a divorce!!! He is like a wore out shoe, you throw old shoes away! Divorce him!” I had been praying every night that my mom would start homeschooling me so I didn’t have to see the mean kids ever again and after that I would ask for God to make my parent’s get a divorce. But God never answered my prayers. My mom took my brother back to the house to get her car and go to work. I walked to school early that day. Normally, I went to daycare and had breakfast and the bus took me but I refused to go with my mom, I couldn’t risk my dad still being there.
The doors were locked when I got to school so I waited on the steps outside crying. Ms.Crane eventually arrived to school to prepare the classroom for the day and when she did, she saw me outside. She always told me “to lighten up” when the kids would pick on me, “laugh it off” and while she was a great teacher, she didn’t ever stick up for me. She had to have known something was wrong but I think she always just thought it was the kids. I tried to hide my tears but that morning they wouldn’t stop coming. Everytime I almost got them to stop, I would see my poor dog getting kicked over and over. I couldn’t talk when she would ask me what was wrong and I am sure this was frustrating to her and I remember her losing her patience. Eventually, she tried a different approach and gave me a donut she had brought for breakfast. I could care less about a stupid donut but she kept telling me it would make me feel better and eventually I tried to eat it. I had never talked about home to a grown up. My best friend Jennifer knew because she would spend the night a lot and witnessed it first hand but it wasn’t something that we ever discussed. I couldn’t tell Ms.Crane even though I wanted to so bad so she ended up taking me to the school counselor.
The school counselor was educated on how to get kids to talk. She gave me a bunny rabbit to hold and put a blanket on me. She didn’t ask me anything, she told me who she was and asked me who I was. She told me that she knew I was a smart girl. She asked me what kind of things I liked to do for fun. She distracted me and built up my confidence, I remember her office smelt like new linoleum because it was in the new wing of the school. I don’t remember telling her anything about what happened but I know that I did because she called my mom and about 30 minutes later my mom was at school. Her eyes were as red as mine. Nothing happened or changed though. I went back to class, my mom went back to work and we went home that day just like we did every day. Ms.Crane did change though, she gave me a lot more attention after that and would punish the children when they picked on me. They never quit but it made me feel good that I had someone looking out for me.
My dad still went on his trips, usually with my little brother and when he was gone my mom and I would have “girl’s night”. We would do pedicures, make pizza for dinner or bake cookies, she would take me to the dollar movies, we would go skating–we always made it special. It still bothered me when they would fight and it seemed that my stomach was always hurting those days. I began to think something was wrong in my tummy it hurt so frequently. But even at such a young age, I would sit there on the toilet and wonder if my stomach would quit hurting if my parent’s got a divorce. I didn’t know if it would or not but it’s so crazy to me that I suspected it was caused from the fighting. I’m older now and more aware of my body and how I react to things and to this day, stress is still a diuretic for me.