Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Arrival in Atlanta (Ch. 41)

When I arrived in Atlanta I did so with a bitter heart.  I was angry at my Uncle Steve for sending me away and I hated the idea of living around a bunch of Americanos.  After living on the reservation for so long I had come to believe that most white people were lame and stuck up.  I wanted to be with my people, who were wild and free and..... OK with me being drunk most of the day.  

What I knew about the south was only what I had seen by watching Anne of Green Gables.  I was picturing men in overalls and ladies with hats serving ice tea expecting me to say things like, "yes, mam I've been doing lovely today!"  What a nightmare! 

The landscape was vastly different from California or the beautiful deserts of New Mexico.  I had moved to a rain forest!  Every direction I looked there were trees, and what looked like branches of ivy growing over everything. My aunt and uncle lived in a cookie cutter neighborhood where every third house was the same.  Their house was a small, narrow two story.  I would share a bedroom (and bed) with my little 12 year old cousin.

As time went by I got use to things just like I had every other place I had lived.  By the time I was 16, I had been a little girl who loved her mother, a child who missed her father, a crack baby, a good kid, a sex abuse survivor, a treasure hunter, a candy thief, the kid who gets picked on in school, a hamster murderer, a police informer, a snake wrangler, a brave kid, an unloved child, a resident of a battered women's shelter, a Mormon, an entrepreneur, a pool shark, nothing, a trash collector, a mooch, a spoiled little girl, a skier, a manipulator, a tap dancer, and an Indian.  I had moved 38 times that I can remember.  This time I didn't change who I was to fit in though. I had drugs now, and I could be comfortable just being me.... as long as I could be me high.  I loved being high.  It took away everything that was bad.  It blocked out the past and only left me with the present, it took away my insecurities and only left me feeling silly and happy.  I used weed to numb my feelings so I could cope with my world and get through the day.  I still went to school, I still did my homework and I got straight A's.  I liked to party, but I mostly used drugs to self medicate.

I understood that I still had to take care of myself, no matter that I had been taken in and adopted by my uncle and aunt.  I got a job at 16.  I worked at a daycare and supervised the after-school program.  Everyday after I got out of school I took the bus home and walked to work.  I made $6.00 an hour.  Things were looking up for me.  The drugs enabled me to live comfortably in my own skin.  I had a family who showed me lots of love, was doing well in school and had a job.  The drugs were helping me, I thought... what could be bad about drugs?  Somewhere in the back of my head I thought of my mother and how the drugs had taken over her life..... but that wouldn't happen to me.  I would make sure of that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Uncle Steve (Ch. 40)

My Uncle Wally came and packed up my stuff and told me I was going with him to Atlanta, GA.  I didn't want to go.  I begged my Uncle Steve not to make me go.  I had only met my Uncle Wally a few times and had no idea what would be waiting for me in Georgia.  I was afraid to leave the only person that I knew loved me.  I had no choice in the matter, I had no where else to go.  

"Start putting your stuff in the car, we leave in 15 minutes."  It was too sudden, I wasn't prepared for this!  For the last few years I was the one that had decided what would happen to me and where I would go.  This control was what held me together.  The responsibility for my own well being is what I knew.  The helplessness I felt was enormous.

I put my things in the trunk and as I was walking back in the door I overheard my Uncle Steve say, "She is ruining her life... going to end up just like her mother.  She's out all night partying.  You have to get her out of here."  When I walked in they stopped talking and my Uncle Wally told me to say goodbye.  Uncle Steve had tears in his eyes and his mouth in a tight grim expression.  I ran to his chair and sat down in front of his legs.  "Please don't send me away, I'll do better," I cried.  He just shook his head and told me that he didn't know what to do.  I gave him a stiff hug and walked out the door angry at him.

I thought him sending me away meant that he didn't love me, but it was because of how much he loved me that he sent me away.  I wish I would have know that then.  I wish I would have hugged him one more time, kissed him and told him thank you.  I wish I would have told him how much I loved him.  Uncle Steve was the only family I had ever known all my life and leaving him that day felt like someone was taking the only love I had ever been given away.  Less than a year later, his love really was taken from me forever.  That was the last time I ever saw him alive.

Uncle Steve saved my life.  If it wasn't for him, my uncle Wally would have never came for me.  I would have never made anything of my life.  I would have never left there.  I would have been a high school drop out, pregnant at 17 and living off a government check for the rest of my life.  I might not have made it to 17.  I might have died while drunk driving and killed others too.  

Living on a reservation makes you blinded to things the world has to offer.  The government assistance Native Americans receive makes it easy to lose all ambition for bettering yourself.  With minds clouded with alcohol, each day is lived only for the present, because they can see nothing else.  This isn't true for everyone, but it is for the majority.  It took me 7 years to realize I wanted more out of life, but I would have never realized it if I were still on the reservation and he knew that.  He changed my life.  He gave me a real family.  Thank you Uncle Steve.  I love you.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Living With Uncle Steve (Ch. 39)

At 15, I spent my waking hours chasing one high after another.  I wasn't able to adjust as easily to being in a family, as I was in the other dysfunctional situations I lived through.  I think a part of me knew that my life of "just trying to survive" was over.... and I just didn't care anymore.  My resentments towards my aunt escalated and I did what in the past proved to solve my problems... I ran away again.


Uncle Steve had gotten a small place of his own in a little Hispanic town right outside of the reservation and had set up to have a nurse come daily to help him with his disabilities. I spent a lot of time at his place because I was allowed to smoke pot there.  Uncle Steve had always smoked weed and didn't bat an eye when I came over stoned out of my mind looking for munchies in his bare kitchen.  He was no hypocrite. 


There was an initial awkwardness the first time we lit up together... I think both of us were remembering when I use to read The Box Car Children books to him when I was little.  I was 15 now though, and Uncle Steve understood that I had grown up a long time ago.  We were close.  His little 600 square foot duplex apartment held pictures of me in every room.  In his bedroom there was a large shadowed profile of me that was made when I was in kindergarten.


I ran away from the reservation and moved in with Uncle Steve.  His little apartment only had one bedroom, but there was a very large (8'x10') storage room.  It had two high little windows and we managed to squeeze a little twin bed in there.  My uncle did the best he could.  He told me that if I lived with him I had to go to school and graduate.  So every morning I continued to get on the school bus, and continued to ditch school... only sometimes I wouldn't come home at night.  I would party all night long, and have to wait for the following day to get back on the bus to get home again.  Uncle Steve would be furious... but I could usually butter him up to forgive me by having a friend come over to smoke him up. 


One night, not wanting to have to get into it with my uncle again, I snuck out of the tiny little window in my room.  I had to climb up the head board to reach it and it was a tight fit getting out.  Once out, I took off with some friends to a party in the city.  At the party I met an older guy who was from the same reservation as me, who I had heard of in passing, but never actually met.  He spent the night watching out for me and giving me drink after drink and lighting me up.  I loved the attention.  I loved being "cared" for.  When he asked if I would go to the bathroom with him.... I went.  I knew what he wanted to do in the bathroom.  While we were in there, some woman came banging on the door screaming at us to get out.  She called me whore and kicked me out of her house.


The guy let me leave alone.  I sat on the stairs out side with no way home and no where to go and cried.  That was how I lost my virginity.  When I finally made my way back to Uncle Steve's in the early morning hours, I couldn't get back in the high windows.  I sat outside and waited for morning and cried some more.  I later found out that the guy in the bathroom was my second cousin.  "Could anything in my life be more screwed up?"


After the nurse came to get my uncle up, he told me my Uncle Wally, his brother, was coming from Georgia and would be here later tonight.  Uncle Wally was the uncle that worked for the airlines, he was the one who set me up on the plane each time I ran away from California.  He would be coming to rescue me again, only this time it was from myself.  I waited for him excitedly, not knowing the life changing decisions that had been made for me behind my back.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Self Medicating (Ch. 38)

I returned to the reservation feeling free.  I was safe and sound physically.  Mentally I needed help.  I dove head first into a new world of self medicating.  I spent my life till then trying to adjust myself to fit in whatever situation I was in, but never really feeling like I fit in.  I knew I wasn't normal.  I knew my life wasn't normal.  

The drugs provided an escape.  There is no such thing as normal when you are high and I found this to be irresistible.  When I was stoned, I was just stoned.  I wasn't the girl who was abandoned by her mother, or the girl who was molested, or the girl who watched her mother get raped.  The weight of hiding my memories disappeared, because I was empty inside and there was no place to keep them.


I partied with my cousins and fought with my aunt and uncle.  My aunt and uncle treated me just like their own children, and I behaved no differently.  I snuck out like my cousins, lied, stole and received my share of punishments along with them.  My aunt used a long wooden rod to deliver punishment.  She use to line us up if we were caught together and dish out the blows one person at a time.  It was always worse if you were the last to get hit.  The waiting and anticipation was torture! 


Native Americans like to punish their children, we even have a specific holiday every year for it.  It's called River Man Day in English.  May 3rd all the children in each household will go outside in front of their house and dance and throw blessed corn meal while we wait for the River Men.  The River Men are covered in mud, dressed in rags and have a hood covering their head.  The only part of their face that is visible is their mouth and it's full of sharp jagged teeth! 

When the River Men come, they ask your parents if you have been good.  Your parents ALWAYS say that you have not been.  Then you are picked up in one swift motion and hauled away while you scream your head off.  You are taken to the river, where you are told you will be thrown in and drowned.  Eventually other relatives chase after you and rescue you.  The entire thing is a ruse to scare you into behaving in the future.  It's quite frightening.


The more time I spent high, the less time I spent in class.  I use to get high before I got on the school bus in the morning.  Once I got to school, I would ditch with my friends and drink and smoke all day.  I would sober up enough to get back on the bus to go home.  Once home, I would spend the rest of the afternoon hiding in my room so no one would know I was drunk.  At night, me and my cousin would take turns jumping out the window and getting stoned on the side of the house while the other was the lookout. 


When I did go to class, I found the work to be easy and it bored me.  I use to be a straight "A" student and I was in honor classes.  My new school offered free birth control in the nurse's office, day care for the girls who forgot to take their pills, and a "3 Strikes" policy when it came to getting caught with dope...but no honor classes. 

My teacher's didn't challenge me so I didn't see the point in going to class.  I actually had one teacher who use to get high with me.  I went to his class all the time.  He was the automotive teacher.  We use to smoke near the exhaust vent so it would suck the smoke out of the room.  It was very convenient.

My new family was loving and I was never abused, but there was dysfunction. My uncle got drunk every night. My aunt and uncle would fight about it. My uncle would sober up and then a couple weeks later my aunt would come home high and drunk herself. Then the cycle would start again. I started to grow a resentment towards my aunt because of all the punishments she dueled out. What a hypocrite, I thought. How could she punish us for doing the exact same thing she was doing?

I had spent so much time being an adult, that I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut in situations where children should not speak. I felt like my aunt's equal and it was hard for me to respect her. It was a battle I fought internally, constantly having to bite my tongue. It was tiring. Self medicating not only helped me to forget my past, but it also took me out of the present.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Second Escape (Ch. 37)

The entire car ride back to California I was silent.  I would not allow my mother to put one finger on me.  I pressed myself as far as I could into the door and stared out the window.  The endless dessert flew by in a smear of brown and white.  I imagined opening the door, falling out of the speeding car and becoming a smear of my own.  I imagined it would probably be a red smear.  I wouldn't even look at Bill.  I saw him looking at me in the rear view mirror and I wanted to reach over the seat and smash his head into the windshield.  That would have made a red smear too.


When we finally arrived at Bill's house, I went to my room to find it exactly how I had left it.  Destroyed.  I sat on the bed and cried.  In the living room I could hear my mother and Bill arguing.  Then my mother opened the door to the room and said, "OK, come and give me a kiss...I'm taking off."  I couldn't believe her...  Why had she come and taken me back to him?!  Did he pay her?  Why is she leaving?!  Why did she do this?!  I was so afraid to be left with Bill, but I would NOT kiss her or beg her to stay.  My heart had nothing but hate in it.  I turned my back away from her, "get the fuck away from me."


I had never sworn at my mother before and it was liberating.  At that moment we crossed a line and she became someone other than my mother.  She was no one to me.  When she left I mourned her like she had died.  I knew I would never look at her as a mother again.  Bill wisely left me alone.  The next morning I woke up and got ready for school.  When I walked out into the living room Bill was waiting to drive me.  "I don't want a ride from you.  I don't want anything from you."  I said it with as much disgust as I could.  I almost spat the words out.  Then I walked to the bus stop. 


The only light I could find in my dark situation was that I would see Crystal again.  We had not spoken on the phone once since I left and I knew it was because she was mad at me.  I had left her.  She needed me as much as I needed her... and I left.  She didn't understand everything I was dealing with at Bills and I couldn't explain it to her.  I knew deep down she understood me leaving was the best thing for me, but that didn't stop her from hurting.


When I got to school I found that Bill already had my mother enroll me and I had all the same classes I did 4 months ago.  I walked from my first class to the central plaza and Crystal saw me from across the entire courtyard.  We made eye contact and just like in the movies, we ran to each other.  We both were crying when we hugged and relief flooded through me.  No one knew what my life was like with my mother, except for her.  As long as Crystal was in my life I felt like I would never really be alone.  Part of me was worried that when I left I would lose her, but me leaving didn't change our friendship at all.  It doesn't matter how much time passes between real friends, when it matters, they are there. Crystal taught this to me when I was 14 years old.


I spent everyday for the next three weeks staying over at Crystal's as much as I could, taking the bus to school and completely ignoring Bill.  I wedged my door shut with a chair at night and stayed as far away from him as possible.  If I couldn't ignore him I would speak to him with out looking at him.  If I had to look at him I made sure he could see the hate in my eyes.  

I drank all the liquor in the house and refilled the empty bottles with water.  When the liquor ran out I decided to try smoking dope.  My cousins all seemed to really like it and I needed something to help me escape.  Bill smoked occasionally and kept a stash hidden in the drawer of his room.  The pot wasn't as numbing as the alcohol, but it had other perks.  I didn't get sick or lose control like I did with alcohol.  I couldn't drink during the day because I would get caught, but smoking pot gave me a temporary high that was easy to hide.  It was such a comfort to know I didn't have to go through life so aware of everything anymore... and it also gave me the giggles.  My mother was a drug whore who basically pimped me out to a child molester for who knows what in return.... and I could laugh about it.  I liked pot.

I had talked to my uncle on the phone several times since I'd been back and a plan was made.  I needed about a day and half window to escape.  I needed 4 hours to get to the airport and on a plane.  I needed another 6 hours to land and get on the reservation.  Once I was there I would be safe.  By the time Bill found out I left it would be too late.  The first time Bill went to go on another one of his gambling trips I made my move.  Crystal's mom drove me to the airport.  I boarded a plane and left California for a second time... just like my Uncle Dave had promised. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Legally Kidnapped (Ch. 36)

I was sitting in class one day when I was called to the school office.  Hot fear ran through my body.  I thought I must be getting in trouble, which meant there would be a note sent home, which would mean I'd have to face Auntie Elizabeth.  My auntie wasn't someone you wanted to upset.  The entire way to the office I thought of every possible thing I might be in trouble for, and how I could get out of it.  When I got there my palms were sweating.  The principal was waiting for me.


She asked me to have a seat.  I sat.  "Honey, there are some people here that are saying that you are a runaway.  Your mother is here with her lawyer and a detective."  I couldn't process what she said.  At first I was flooded with adrenalin and looked around me frantically for an escape, then I realized there was no way my mother had a lawyer.  It must be a mistake!..wrong girl.  Thank God!  I thought.  I shook my head no and told her that I lived with my auntie and uncle and my dad was dead. 

She pursed her lips together and gave me a questioning look.  I was afraid that if she didn't believe me she might take me away and put me in some kind of foster care.  I started talking fast.  "My mom does drugs, my auntie and uncle are taking care of me.  I'm their niece... my dad is from here, but he died..... and now I live here too... and my mom doesn't care."- Then there was a loud Bang Bang Bang on her door.  "Police, open the door!"  My principal went immediately and unlocked the door, and as soon as she clicked over the lock the door flung open.  It was Bill.


I screamed, "That's not a police man!  That's not a police man!"  Then the principal jumped in between me and Bill and pushed him toward the door way.  She got him out of the room and then tried to shut the door, but he prevented her by shoving his body weight on her.  People were yelling on the other side of the door and Bill finally backed off and the door was shut.  As soon as the door closed I sat down... because I felt like my legs might fall out from under me.  He found me...


The real cops were called and after speaking with my uncle who assured me I was coming home, I was taken to the police department.  I sat at the police department for hours.  Something wasn't right.  Where was my auntie and uncle?  I finally got the courage to ask what was happening when my mother walked in.  She looked smug.  I couldn't believe my eyes. 

My shock was soon replaced with outrage.  "What are you doing?!  Leave me alone!"  She tried to put her arms around.  She put her hand over her heart when I backed away from her.  She looked at the officers around her making sure they were appreciating all the concerned looks she was faking.  "I'm your mom, you are coming home."  I backed father away and started crying.


My aunt and uncle didn't legally adopt me.  We all had the same last name and getting me enrolled in school wasn't a problem.  On the reservation there is no law saying I belong to anyone, but in the city and at my school I legally belonged to my mother.  I called my aunt and uncle and after another hour of conversations between the police and my mother I was loaded into the back of a police car.  My mother was going to allow me to get my things and say good bye to everyone.


The police had no jurisdiction on our land so my aunt, uncle and cousins met me at the reservation border.  When we pulled up everyone was out of the car holding balloons and presents.  It was my birthday.  My aunt was holding a plate with a piece of foil over it.  I broke free of my mother's hold and ran to her.  She gave me a hug and said, "Happy birthday..."  She looked down and shook her head in what looked like defeat.  "I packed up some of your cake for you...here take it."  Then she started to cry.  She's going to let them take me.... NO!  I ran to my uncle,  "Please!  Don't make me go.. Please!"  I'll be good.  I'm sorry... I'm sorry!  Please... "  My body racked up and down with my sobs.


My uncle picked me up and said in a low voice so only I could hear, "You have to go now, but we will get you back,....don't worry Cucuyatramatz."  He hugged me tight.  I hugged him back and over his shoulder I saw my mother sitting in the passenger seat of Bill's car.  Bill was driving.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Drunk, Tap Dancing Indian Girl (Ch. 35)

Being a brown noser didn't fair well with my cousins and I spent most of my time in the garage practicing my tap dancing.  The garage was used to make deer jerky and drums.  Lines were stretched from wall to wall where salted meat was hung to dry and hides were laid flat everywhere with dried blood and stray pieces of fur still attached.  I would practice for hours, getting my moves just right, occasionally getting slapped in the face with a piece of carnage.  My cousins teased me.  I guess they never heard of a tap dancing Indian girl before.  "Where are your tappy shoes at?  You won't show us how you tappy dance! Hahaha" 


My cousins offered to "smoke me up" several times and I wanted NOTHING to do with it.  I didn't want to do drugs like my mother.  What I wanted to do was drink.  We had a lot of celebrations on the reservation, dances, feasts and ceremonies.  Each occasion was a reason for everyone to get drunk  The term "Fire Water" is no joke. There is no such thing as alcoholism on a reservation.  There are no police to pull you over and give you a DUI.  It's not abnormal to see Uncle Pato driving down the road going 3 miles an hour, missing the turn and heading off into the never ending desert.


We handle things our own way when we need to though.  Sometimes it means running after Uncle Pato's car and turning the engine off and sometimes it means more than that.  We don't have jails or legal consequences like you do in the cities, (although in some cases we will call them in) we handle things in our own way.   Our way seems to work, we have no crime. We just have a bunch of wild kids who party too much and get away with too much. 


I drank every opportunity I got.  I didn't drink the same way the other kids did though.  They would all drink together, share and hang out around the fire pit or something.  I would sneak and hoard any alcohol I got my hands on and then after I got good and drunk I'd go and play with my tappy shoes.  I loved alcohol.  All those spaces I made to hide my ugly memories inside of me felt filled up.  I drowned my memories in a sea of Budweiser, moonshine and vodka.  Life was much improved.


I loved all the celebrations on the reservation and not just because I could get drunk.  The celebrations all seemed to be about dancing and food.  We had dances for everything; dances for corn, buffalo, rain and even saints.  After each dance a huge feast would be prepared.  The entire tribe pulled together and we all went eating from house to house and then taking our own turn to feed others. 

It gave you an incredible sense of belonging.  I belonged here.  I made bread for others, and I ate bread that others made for me.  I felt it in my blood.  I am Cucuyatramatz.  This is my home.  Nothing felt foreign to me.  Some of the ceremonies were a bit frightening and involved the cleansing of "bad spirits" or "river men" that had sharp pointy teeth.  I was afraid, but also very comforted.  There is something very comforting about knowing exactly where you came from and having your beliefs boldly exemplified before your eyes.  My father was from here, I was born here, and this is where I'm supposed to be.    I am a 13 year old Indian girl.... a drunk, tap dancing Indian girl.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Reservation (Ch. 34)

My Uncle Dave and Aunt Elizabeth picked me up from the airport.  The reservation was just as I remembered it.  Beautiful.  I had no real memory of ever living there before, only a lingering feeling of familiarity... It felt like I was remembering a past life, not my own.  The house they lived in was a newer home designed to look like a pueblo on the outside.  The house was surrounded by dirt and a scattering of fences made out of tree limbs.  In the yard was a mini van, a beat up truck with no bumper, a brand new civic, and an old, green, Volks Wagon van that was called the Pickle.  It looked like a scrap yard.  There was also a trampoline, a shed, and an outside Indian oven in the back. 

The inside of the house was decorated with drums my uncle had made and parts of costumes used in ceremonies.  There was a colorful Indian blanket nailed to the wall and a painting of a buffalo.  It was nice.  I was lead into a room with a bunk bed and N-Sync and Usher posters all over the walls.  I would be sharing a room with my cousin.  She took the bottom bunk because she said the top bunk was for little kids.  She was younger than I and put on a show to appear older than she was.  I resented it.  Years of childhood had been stolen from me... and she just wanted to give hers up.


Right after I arrived at my uncle's house I was told someone wanted to see me.  It was a surprise.  I didn't know if I should feel excited or scared.  I felt both.  We pulled up outside of an old trailer and when I walked in the door I heard, "Cucuyatramatz!"  It was Uncle Steve!  I ran to him, threw my arms around him and cried. It felt so safe to cry in front of someone I knew that loved me.  I couldn't cry with my Uncle Dave or Aunt Elizabeth... I didn't know them well enough and I still felt too responsible for my own well being to let down my guard.   I lost my mother, Fred, Bird-Bird, and Crystal, but I did not lose Uncle Steve.  Just the relief of knowing that I still had him was enough to make me sob.

I was enrolled in a public school in the nearest city to the reservation and had a little bit of a shock when I found out I had to wake up at 4AM and get to the bus stop at 4:45 in the morning. The bus ride to school took almost two and a half hours.  My classmates were all Native Americans or Hispanics.  There were maybe 6 white kids and 2 black kids in my entire school.  Most of our teachers were white too.  Because I was Native, I was accepted immediately.  I belonged.  Native Pride was strong!  Our people stuck together.  All of the kids that spoke our Native tongue would purposely talk around the teachers to irritate them.  They wanted to show them that they were outsiders, no matter if they had authority or not.  The school was ours.  I learned the language quickly.

I took up my role as my aunt and uncle's new daughter.  I liked that I had to do chores and help make dinner like the others kids.  I craved their love.  If I wasn't sucking up to my aunt and uncle, I was over at Uncle Steve's trailer.  I had brought my tap dancing shoes that I had saved from the time Larry had me in dance classes.  I wanted to show Uncle Steve what I could do.  I tap danced in his kitchen and covered the floor in black scuffmarks.  He smiled and hooted and yelled for an encore.  He loves me... I thought.  I'm going to make them all love me.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Escape (Ch. 33)

Bill was having problems with my school.  They wouldn't let him pick me up from school if I was ill, or take me out early if we were going out of town.  To solve this problem Bill tried to legally emancipate me from my mother.  When this wouldn't work he suggested something else.  "Well baby girl, I think that we might have to go down to Mexico and get married!"  I don't even think it would have been legal here in the states, but I had no idea about things like that then. 

I stood with my back towards him and my breath caught.  I could feel my eyes growing into large unbelieving saucers.  I didn't respond for a few seconds... and decided the only thing I could do was act like it was funny... I was too scared to do anything else.  "Ha ha ha!"  He shrugged his shoulders and said, "well, I'll think about it, but I think it's what we might have to end up doing."


Later in the week Bill started planning a trip to Mexico.  I knew then, that what I had at Bill's was going to end.  When Bill left one night on another gambling trip I dug out my mom's old address book and tried to find someone to call.  I had a hard time reading the numbers because I couldn't see through all my tears.  I hate him!  I sobbed and ran around my room throwing everything off my dresser and destroying what ever I could.  Crystal... I would lose her.  I fell down to my knees and let helpless tears fall down my cheeks. 

After I collected myself, I went into self preservation-mode.  I closed off my emotions and dialed all the numbers in the phone book one by one.  The first few numbers just rang and rang and then I got some that were disconnected.  When I got to Fred's number I crossed my fingers and dialed... It was disconnected too.  No No No!  I was angry!  I smashed the phone into the floor and gritted my teeth.  Then I realized I better not break it... I still had to find my mother.  She was the only one I had... and this was a very depressing thought.  As much as I tried to not to feel... the tears wouldn't stop coming. 


I dialed again, please, please pick up.... "Hello?..."  Thank God!  "Hi, I'm looking for my mom, Susan?  Have you heard from her?"  The man on the phone said he had!  But she wasn't there right now.  I gave him my number and waited for her to return my call.  I waited a painful hour with no call back from her.  Then I called again.  She was the one who answered the phone.  I wanted to cry as soon as I heard her voice.  I didn't even know what to say... "Mom?... "  She sounded excited to hear from me.  She went on and on about where she was living and what she was doing, trying to impress me.  She didn't even ask how I was.  "Oh!   And I almost forgot to tell you!  I talked to Uncle Steve and he said that your Aunt Sheila wants to talk to you and I have her number.. I'm supposed to give it to you...... well..... Do you want it?"


She had said everything so fast that the words were almost over lapping one another.  She was high... really high on drugs.  I stared at the wall in front of me and wiped my snot from my nose with the back of my hand.  I couldn't tell her what I called to tell her... All the urgency I felt while dialing the numbers left me then.  There was no one in my mother's phone book that could help me.  She couldn't help me.  Fear grew in my gut.  "Yes... What is the number?"


I called my Aunt.  She asked me a lot of questions.  I gave her the real answers.. the answers I hoped would move her to do something.  "Who are you living with?" 

"A man named Bill..."

"Who is Bill?"

"Some man my mom left me with."

"Where is your mom?"

"I don't know, she's been gone for a year."  Then I started to cry.  I could hear her on the other line getting worked up and talking to herself.  "This isn't right... No.  You need to come home now... We will come get you, you belong to us, we are your family, not some white man your mom decided to just leave you with!"  She was getting upset.  She told me to pack a small bag and she would call me back in 30 minutes.  She called me back in 20.  She told me she wanted me to get on a plane that night and fly back to the reservation.  She asked to talk to one of my friend's mom.  I was shaking.  Everything was happening so fast.  I couldn't imagine what Crystal would say or think when I dialed her number.  "Crys? Something bad is happening."  I was crying.  "It's not OK for me to stay at Bills and my aunt wants me to go live with her."  Crystal was stunned.  "OK....... wait, what?"

"Can you please have your mom call my aunt?  She wants to talk to an adult." 


30 minutes later Crystal's mom had pulled into the drive way and I put my suitcase in the trunk and locked up Bill's house.  One of my uncles worked for an airline and she called him and he put me on the next plane.  The flight left at 5 AM.  We left for the airport at 2AM.  Crystal and me were in the back seat together holding one another.  We didn't talk, we didn't cry.  We just sat there... together.

When we got to the gate I looked at my best friend and hugged her fiercely.  I let myself cry then.  I was terrified and shaking.  Last week I was toilet papering the neighbor's yard... and now I was running away to live with relatives I barely knew on an Indian reservation I knew nothing about.  All I knew was that it had to be better than the horrifying future I saw with marrying Bill.  "Please don't forget about me Crys."  She shook her head violently back and forth.  "Never!... friends forever right?...."  She cried.  I smiled with tears streaming down my face and neck.  "Forever."  Then I turned around and boarded the plane.  When I stowed my bag and buckled myself in I let out a big long breath.... a breath I had been holding for half a dozen years.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Best Friends Forever (Ch. 32)

Months after that first drink of alcohol Crystal moved in.  Things weren't good for her at home and Bill was more than happy to take her in.  We shared the twin bed in my room.  Bill was often gone on gambling trips and we were left to do as we pleased.  After she moved in the prank wars started.  The food fights got severe and the walls in the living room were stained with mustard and other condiments.  Our seances got more sophisticated and for a time we even practiced Wicca and did love spells on the boys at school.

 
One night I was watching TV when at around midnight I heard a knock on the window behind me.  I froze in terror.  My eyes got wide and I stayed as still as I could (T-Rex logic.)  Then there was another knock on the window opposite from where I was sitting!  Then another knock on the window diagonal from that!  They started banging and banging louder and faster.  I ran to hide in the shower and just about peed my pants.  I was on the phone with the cops when crystal busted through the door laughing...




A couple weeks later I tied her up in the hammock outside in 40-degree weather. I soaked her with the hose for about 30 minutes and then left her out there.  Her teeth were chattering and I could barely understand her when she said she was cold.  I went in and brought out a blanket.  Then I wet the blanket nice and good and put it over her, "warmer now?..."  We loved each other.

 
My bad secret with Bill never surfaced and it was like everything that happened was over.  Crystal had saved me.  We turned 13 and started getting invited to parties, or Crystal started getting invited to parties and I just came along for the ride... One night we were out in the desert tailgating with a bunch of older guys from another high school.  I was drinking vodka and when Crystal said she had to leave because she was supposed to spend the night at her mom's that night, I told her I was staying.  She was hesitant about leaving me there, but she asked her boyfriend to watch me like a protective mother hen and kissed me on the cheek and left anyway.

I woke up in the hospital and by my side was Crystal.  She was holding my hand, crying and singing to me at the same time.  I had passed out and started foaming at the mouth when Crystal's boyfriend freaked and dropped me off at her mom's house.  I was unresponsive and turning blue so they called for an ambulance.  That was the first time I over dosed.... there would be many more. 


After the alcohol poisoning Crystal's mom made her move out.  She even refused to drive us to see each other because she said I was a bad influence.  So we spent that summer riding bikes with flat tires to meet in the middle of our houses and pass notes.  We would sneak out at night and lay out on the roof of Bill's house looking at the stars.  "Best friends forever... Chris and Crys always!"  We loved each other so much it made us cry.  We collected our tears on pieces of paper and added them to our scrapbooks.  For the first time in my life that I could really remember, I felt like I had someone I could count on.  She would always be there for me.  I knew it in my soul.  She was my sister.  She was my kindred spirit.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Steep Price To Pay (Ch. 31)

I knew that there would be a price to pay to live at Bills; I just had no idea how steep it would be.  I knew the way my world worked, and I accepted it.  I lived two lives at Bills; one I spent acting like a 12 year old little girl, and the other I spent with a chair wedged under the door handle to my room, in case Bill tried to visit me in the night.


My life was a balancing act.  I had to make sure Bill loved me, but not too much...  I walked a fine line between childhood and adulthood.  If I crossed over too far into one or the other things got dangerous for me.  If I was too childish I was afraid I would annoy him and he would turn me out.  If I was too adult like, I was afraid he might rape me...


That year passed by quickly.  Crystal spent almost everyday at my house and we made memories to last a lifetime.  We went toilet papering around the neighborhood, we had seances, went out with boys, had food fights, and fought like sisters.  It was a happy time.  We made promises to each other about the future.  Crystal had lived a hard life also and she didn't come from a place much better than mine.  We knew we didn't to want grow up to be like our mothers.  We knew one day we would have houses and husbands and careers and we vowed to be apart of each other's lives forever.  I shared almost everything with Crystal, everything but my ugly secret about Bill.


Bill use to like to dress me up and we'd have photo shoots.  He would have me do a catwalk down the living room and would snap the camera away.  He'd tell me I was sexy and call me "baby".  "Ohh Baby!  Ohh Baby!"  I liked feeling beautiful.  Bill would laugh and tell me I was a natural.  I liked being good at something.  If he tried to touch me, even just one little caress on my arm, I'd shy away.  I kept him always at an arms distance.  I knew what he wanted, and I wanted to keep him wanting it.  His "want" was the only thing keeping a roof over my head and I knew it.


Life had made me incredibly bright and resourceful for a 12 year old and like my mother, I was a skilled manipulator.  Not quite as skilled as Bill though.  I got so lost in the way my world worked, that it became normal for me.  I felt a sort of closeness to Bill.  We both shared this dysfunctional life together... and so far he hadn't touched me. 


One night Bill and I had gotten drunk on gin together.  It was my first time drinking liquor.  He kept refilling every glass I finished.  Once I had my first sip, I couldn't get enough!  The more alcohol I filled in myself, the emptier I felt.  All the things I held inside of me felt weightless and they drifted away...  That first drink clicked on a switch inside of me.  It was the same switch that made my mother a drug addict and the same switch that would one day lead me to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.


When I woke up the next morning, I was lying on the sofa and my pants were undone and down near my thighs.  The area between my legs was sore.  I felt sicker than I had ever felt in my entire life and I was sure I was dying.  When I sat up the entire room started spinning.  With the spinning room, memories started coming to me from the night before.  Little still frames of images of what happened popped into my minds eye.  "No no no no", I whimpered. 

I made my way to my room and lay down on the cold wood floor near the door.  I fell apart.  I cried like a baby.  I cried for what had happened to me, and because I didn't know what to do next. I cried because I was alone and had no one to go to.  But mostly I cried because I was ashamed.  I got out my mother's old phone book and started dialing feverishly.  Fred's number was out of order; all the numbers were out of order!  I found one number that worked and I let it ring and ring.  I called it back 20, 50, 100 times and let it ring on and on.  I cried and hugged the phone and begged for someone to answer the phone!  No one answered. 


I heard Bill's car pull up the driveway and I froze.  I ran and grabbed my desk chair to shove under the door handle.  Then I sat silent...waiting for him.  I felt pure terror!  He came to my door, knocking gently.  "Are you OK baby?  I know you must be feeling bad.  We both got a little out of hand last night and drank too much!  I can't remember a damn thing!  Can you?"  He was giving me a choice.  I could pretend not to remember.  I thought about it for a couple seconds and realized it was my only option.  What else can I do?...  I have nowhere to go.  I spoke in the voice of a young child, hoping to remind him that I was only 12 years old.  "I have no idea what happened!  And I'm never drinking again!"  Bill laughed, deep and throaty.  He told me to come out when I was feeling better and we'd go get some food.


I dried my tears and shoved my newest ugly secret deep deep inside of me.  I didn't tell Crystal or anyone else.  I couldn't.  I felt partly responsible.  I was bad.  I would pretend that I wasn't bad, I would pretend that Bill wasn't bad.... and if I did this, I could stay.  I could stay and still have Crystal and my room and my school and my sleepovers. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Abandoned (Ch. 30)

Staying with Doug in the mountains was a temporary thing, as were most of the places we stayed.  I was tired of living out of a suitcase.  We were now receiving checks from social security from my dad's death.  It wasn't much, but it was something to work with.   I started making calls.  I knew Fred was a no go and decided the safest person for me to call next was Larry.  "I get $300 a month Larry, and I can pay for you to come and get us and let us stay at that house you had."  Larry told me that he didn't think that was a good idea because of what had happened between him and my mother.  I tried to convince him otherwise.  He told me he was sorry.

I went on to the next number.  I had the number for a man named Bill who my mother and I had met through Larry when we lived in the Valley.  He was a gambler and Larry introduced us to him on a trip we took to a casino one time.  He gave my mother his card and with a wink said if she ever needed anything to call him.  I knew what card I had to play and I played it.  I made my mother call him.  "Tell him you broke up with Larry and want to see him."  My mother rolled her eyes at me and said, "What are you my pimp now?" Then she threw her head back and laughed.   I kept my face emotionless.  This was not a joke to me...  I wanted to shove the phone in her face and press it in till her head caved in.  "Call him." I said through gritted teeth.


She did call him, and soon we were on our way back to the Valley.  He agreed to rent us a room in his house for $300 a month.  He was not as well off as Larry and his gambling was part of the reason.  He lived in a one-story house with more than half of it closed off due to water damage.  The front yard was nothing but dirt, dried up brush and wind blown tumble weeds.  A tree was lying across the yard uprooted like it had just fallen; only it had been there for years.  Bill was a short, stout, balding Italian with a big nose and loud mouth.  He had a northern accent and I liked the way he talked.

I had gotten us to Bills, and once we got there it was like my mother had woken up and realized that our roles were reversed.  She immediately went about trying to claim back her motherhood it seemed.  She got a job and did some work around the house too.  I was impressed, but wary.  I didn't believe it would last, but I made the best of it while I could.


I turned 12 and started at a new school for the beginning of 8th grade.  The other children gave me the cold shoulder, but I was use to that.  What I wasn't use to was being befriended.  On my third day of school a girl with blond hair with severely plucked eyebrows came up to me at lunch and asked me if I wanted to sit with her and her friends.  I said yes.  Weeks later I had severely plucked eyebrows too, and I had a best friend, who would one day become as close to me as a sister.  When everyone in my life would abandon me... she stayed.  When I found myself running away from everything... it was her I turned to. She changed my life and she saved my life.  Her name is Crystal. 


That school year Crystal practically lived over at Bills with my mother and me.  My mother got her eyebrows plucked too.  For a little while I forgot about what it was like to be hungry, dirty, homeless, afraid, and hurt.  I could not forget what it was like to have a mother who was insane though.  My mother's mental health deteriorated.  She lost her job.  She did nothing but sleep from morning till night.  When she was awake it was scary.  Sometimes when she spoke to me it would be in the voice of a baby.  I looked at her with my eyes wide opened and unbelieving... like a deer caught in the headlights of a speeding car.  I was terrified of her when she used that voice.  It was like there was someone else that lived inside of her... and who ever they were, they were angry.  

She would pout and stomp her feet and pull out her hair.  I couldn't ever understand what was wrong though.  Sometimes she would wake up and run out of the room in a panic.  She'd frantically search through all the drawers and yell at me in a loud whisper, "find it! You find it right now or I'll give you something to cry about!  She would bend her entire body over and shake her head like she was trying to put all her energy into her scream, "FIND IIIIIITTTT!!!..."I ran around the house crying, flinging open cabinets and looking under couch cushions.  I never had any idea what I was looking for, but I looked for it anyway.

The first time my mother left me with Bill I was relieved.  The house was peaceful and quiet.  She was gone for two weeks.  Bill took care of me.  He got me to school, treated me to dinner and even took me to a movie.  When my mother came back I teamed up with Bill against her and accused her of being high on drugs.  I felt like I finally had someone I could rely on.  He didn't care about whatever my mom had to offer.  He wanted to help ME.  We searched through her bags and told her to come back when she was clean.  She was gone for a month.... When she came back she had found all of her stuff outside in a box.  Bill had moved it out there in case she came back when we weren't home and needed her things.  It had rained and everything was mildewed.  She cried about finding all of her clothes like that and I felt like someone had stabbed me in the chest. 

Love hurts you the most physically in the chest, right below where your neck meets your torso.  Suffering from a broken heart is a beautiful analogy, but it also makes sense physiologically to me too.  It did feel like my heart was broken.  I made my mother cry.  That box was all she had, and I was all she had.  I had helped put the box together and placed it outside with Bill.   I looked at my mother as she stood there shifting her weight back and forth, unable to keep her head still because of all the drugs running through her blood stream.  She took a big drag of her cigarette and yelled at the guy waiting in the car for her, and at that moment my heart hardened.  She doesn't love me.... She only cares about her drugs... I should be the one crying! 

She wanted me to come with her and leave Bills.  I wanted to go to school and have sleepovers and let Crystal pluck my eyebrows.  I cried and begged my heart not to betray me.  God, I loved her so much.  But I wanted to stay.  I thought about where my mother and me might end up next...  I thought about all the places we had been.  I thought that if I stayed maybe she would have another "awakening" and get another job.  Maybe she would stop doing drugs.  Maybe she would miss me decide that she loved me enough to change.  I ran in the house and locked the door behind me.  Bill threatened to call the police and she took off.  My mother left...... and she never came back.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Are You My Mother? (Ch. 29)

My mother and I made our way up to the mountains and stayed with a man named Doug.  The Arrow Head Mountains were beautiful!  Through breaks in the trees you could look down to San Bernardino below and see all the smog everyone lived under.  I felt like I had escaped from somewhere I didn't know I needed escaping from.  Doug worked at the ski resort; he was an average man with brown hair and brown eyes and had a tendency to act childish, which I liked.  He lived in a house with his father who seemed to me to be about 100 years old.  His father sat in the same chair all the time connected to an oxygen machine.  He smelled like pee and something sweet.  It wasn't the kind of sweet smell that made you think of candy or something delicious, it was the sweet smell of death and decay.  A sweet sickening smell.  I hated to be around him.

My mother settled into to her own regular routine of sleeping all day and I spent my time going to work with Doug or riding around doing errands with his neighbor Beth.  Because Doug worked at the ski resort, I got to ski for free.  The first day I followed behind a group of beginners taking a class and learned the basics.  Then I left the bunny hill in search of something more challenging and by the end of the day I thought I was going to be at the next Olympics winning gold!  I felt so free when I was skiing.  It was so easy to pretend I was someone else. 

With the wind whipping though my hair and the trees flying by me at a million miles an hour... I could have even been a bird.  I imagined I was the little lost bird from "Are You My Mother" by P.D. Eastman.  Is the woman at the ski lift my mother?  Is the waitress at the Ice Bar my mother?  Is the lady in the pink snowsuit and matching hat my mother?  No.... My mother is a drug addict who's been asleep for three days straight and talks to imaginary "shadow people" who I cannot hear or see.  My mother is a hitch hiker and a prostitute... a liar and a thief.  Actually, my mother is a child and I am her mother, so that makes me my own mother... or does that make me motherless...?

Doug's neighbor Beth was an interesting woman...  She had a lot of brown curly hair that she teased up all around her head like a big halo.  Beth liked to garden.  She wanted her front yard to look like a field of wild flowers, but she didn't have the money for the flowers.  So she use to drive me around to shopping centers and have me hop out of the car and rip plants up by the roots and throw them in the back of her jeep.  Then we would take off by what Beth called, "Putting the petal to the metal!"  I thought it was exciting.  I felt like I was playing some kind of game like capture the flag.  I was Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to poor! 

Beth didn't arrange the flowers in beds or in any type of design.  She just picked a spot, dug a hole and there it went.  By the end of the summer instead of it looking like a field of wild flowers it looked like the Lawn & Garden Center had thrown up on it.  Parts of the garden resembled a cemetery with the way the flowers were spaced about and other parts looked like maybe the flowers were just a cover up to hide secret landmines and booby traps.  I liked Beth.

Beth was recently divorced and had lost custody of her little boy and told me that I reminded her of him.  She was a drug addict like my mom and I was happy for her little boy.  I hoped his dad wouldn't die like mine.  I asked if I could meet him one day.... Maybe his dad could meet my mom and see that I needed saving too.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dirty Laundry (Ch. 28)

After couch crashing at a few of my mother's friends we eventually found our way back to Fred's house.  To my horror Bird Bird was not there.  Fred told me that he had given him away to a friend who was going to take good care of him till me and my mom had a place to live.  I suspected he was lying, but it hurt too much to think otherwise.  I had bigger problems than a pet bird to worry about, no matter how much I loved him. 

I was worried about getting to school and I was worried about what we were going to eat.  I didn't know if tomorrow we would end up some place I wouldn't be able to take a bath, or if I would have an opportunity to wash our clothes.  Fred and my mother were no longer together and it was made clear to us that we could not stay there long. 

As Fred and my mother watched T.V., I stared down at my hands and thought about all the things an 11 year old shouldn't have to worry about.  "Mom.... mom!  We should wash our clothes.... hello!  Earth to Susan!"  I let out an exaggerated sigh and walked out to the back yard.  After a while Fred walked out and gave me a good look over.  A few seconds later he said, "You know... you're a good kid.  Don't worry so much though... Things are going to be OK."  I looked at him like he was the biggest idiot I had ever seen.

"How are things going to be OK!?"  I yelled and then I started crying...  The only thing that I could think about right then was our laundry.  I couldn't think past clean clothes.  It was too hard.... It was too much.  "I... want... her... to... clean... our... clothes." I said in between sobs.  My tearful request sounded ridiculous even to me... Who cries over dirty laundry?  My tears weren't over dirty laundry, but I couldn't admit this... I wasn't strong enough.  Miss Kitty was wrong.  I'm not strong... I can't even clean our clothes without crying like a baby!   

Fred knew why I was crying... and he opened his arms to me.  I let him hug me and then we sat down on the back porch.  Fred apologized to me.  "I know I did a lot of wrong things, I hope one day you will understand all this... I'm sorry, you know that don't you?"  I didn't know how to feel about this or what to say.  There was a long silent pause in our conversation and then he took his hand and scuffed up the hair on my head, "OK, go play Turd Knocker."


The clothes did get cleaned and I fell asleep on the loft thinking about Little Joe.  Fred said him and his mom were coming over tomorrow.  I hadn't seen Little Joe for about a year and couldn't wait to see him!  The next day I put on my nicest pair of blue jeans and brushed my hair every 15 minutes while I waited for them. 

When his mom's car pulled up I ran to the bathroom, straightened my clothes and put on my cherry flavored lip-gloss.  When I was satisfied with myself I went to go back out to the front room and I was just about to turn the corner into the living room when I heard Fred say, "Oh she's in the bathroom, she heard you were here Joe and ran in there to brush her hair! Ha Ha Ha"  I was mortified!  I walked out in the living room anyway.  My face felt hot and my heart was beating right in my throat.  Joe took one look at me and smiled.  "Let's go out to the backyard."


I sat on the swing and he told me about how for the past year he wasn't even living with his mom.  He said he lived with his friend and his friend's parents.   He told me about how he was into motor cross now and was going to be a racecar driver.  He had his hair gelled into spikes and had grown about three inches.  He was so tall!  I was infatuated.  He asked me if I wanted to go with him and his sister to the creek that day and I eagerly agreed.


We spent the afternoon holding hands at the creek.  We sat down awkwardly with his hand behind my back in what was supposed to be a comfortable embrace.  He even let me sit on his shirt when we decided to take a break from hiking around so I wouldn't get dirty.  He helped me across the rocky trails and once when I fell, he picked me up and sat me on a log to examine my scratched knee. 


Later that night back at Fred's, Little Joe and me sat together on the loft.  Fred and my mom were arguing in the back bedroom and Little Joe reached over and just held my hand.  I didn't want to let go.  I felt like if Little Joe was with me... that maybe I could do the laundry without crying.  I wasn't alone.  Joe kissed me that night.  It was just an innocent little peck, but it made me feel loved.  I wanted so badly to be loved.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Being My Mother's Mother (Ch. 27)

After my father's death it was discovered that there was money that could be collected for me from Social Security.  The initial payout was around 6 thousand dollars and to me and my mother this was a fortune.  My mother left Larry and moved us into another studio apartment right down the street from Fred's house.  The apartment was only about 400 square feet, with the kitchen, living room and bedroom all fitting in just one room.  It had a fenced in little garden too.  I was enrolled back in the same school I had left a year ago.  The same school where I had no friends and had to spend lunch in the teacher's room so the other kids wouldn't make fun of me. 

I was happy that my mother and me could be on our own though.  Living with Larry was exhausting for me.  I couldn't even enjoy all the activities Larry put me in because I was too worried about my mother doing something to upset him.  I had to constantly watch her and make sure she didn't sneak off with the newest boyfriend offering her a quick high.  I dreaded the nights Larry came over because that meant I had to get my mother up and presentable.  Getting your mother bathed and dressed when you are 10 years old is a very tall order... and one that made it impossible to ignore how messed up my home life really was.  It was depressing.


When we got the money my mother was kind of awakened.  I think she felt some hope.  I did too.  I did not realize that 6 thousand dollars was not enough to live off of for very long.  When we first got the money my mother said, "Baby, this is your daddy's money that he worked for, so that makes it your money, and I'm NOT going to spend one dime of it on me!  We are getting our own place and we can spend it how you want." 

My mother had a lot of confidence in my ability to be responsible.  She believed herself, and I believed her too.  The first week in our new place was spent going on shopping sprees at the grocery store.  I loved buying food.  I got new clothes too and all seemed to be going well.  I also decided that it was a good idea to spend more than $800 on collectible stuffed animals.  "Mom, this one Beanie Baby is only $50 and in a few years it's going to be worth $500!"  I was making investments!.....  A few weeks later the money was gone. 



I had just walked home from school and was singing along to Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" and looking in the fridge when she came in, slamming the front door.  She stomped her foot on the floor and shook her head back and forth violently.  She started crying and sat down on the bed.  I was cautious.  This was not an abnormal occurrence.  My mother was insane and she often went through manic episode of distress.  Most of the time she would just cry and mumble curses to herself, like she was trying to hex the world for doing wrong to her or something.  The times she hit herself or pulled out her hair concerned me though.


"I lost all the money.. it's gone, I'm so sorry!"  My mother wailed.  "I only wanted to give us a better life.... I'm sorry!  I'm sorry!"  I let what she said sink in.....  We have no money?... there will be no food... we will get evicted.  I started to tear up, not from sadness, but from anger.  I was overflowing with anger and it spilled out in my tears.  "You spent our money!  You lost it at the casino didn't you!  It's all gone?!"  Then I started to cry... What would we do?  My mother tried to hug me and I reached out to hit her!  She stood there stunned and just looked at me.  I was stunned too.


I ran out the front gate and went to Fred's house.  I told him what happened and told him not to let her in, no matter what.  He smirked at me and nodded his head in understanding.  I cried and cried to him and soon I heard my  mother at the door.  She was irate!  I could hear her out there making threats and banging on the door and windows.  She was crying and completely distraught.  I'm the one that should be upset!  I thought. She always did this.  She always overshadowed my hurt.  She always acted like the only pain that mattered was hers.

My little heart hardened and I wanted to punish her!  If she wants to be upset, I'll give her something to be upset about!  I had been my mother's mother for awhile now and expressions like this were constantly running through my mind.   I heard Fred use them or got them from the TV shows I watched.  It was easier for me to be a parent if I pretend that I was no longer a child.  I played the part as best I could and developed a very adult like way of speaking by the time I was 11. 

I called the police. 
"911 Emergencies, what is your emergency?"


"My mom is high on drugs and trying to hurt me, her name is Susan _________ and she has warrants out for her arrest too."


I gave them the address and then walked out the door to go back home and get my things together.  I figured they would take me now, and I wanted to have my things.  My mother was outside waiting.


"I called the cops, they are on the way to arrest you and I'm going to live with foster parents!"  I walked with my head held high and tried not to cry.  My mother put her hand on her heart and gasped, "No!  Why would you do that! No no no.. Pleeeeaassse!"  Then she fell on the ground in the middle of the road and cried.  I turned around, walked away and left her there.  I knew it was an act.  In less than a minute she was running up behind me talking a mile a minute.  "Baby, I'm sorry, please don't do this, we can go somewhere else, I have a place we can go, I had it all set up, don't worry." 

I made it to our house and started packing my things.  I had a hard time getting everything together because of all my collectible Beanie Babies.  When I got finished I had 4 garbage bags full of stuff and didn't know what to do next.  I looked at my mother crying on the bed and took a long shaky breath in.  What have I done?

I couldn't leave her.  I let the tears stream down my face and went to her.  She took me in her arms and whispered to me over and over, "I'm sorry...I love you, I love you, I love you, ssshhhhh, I love you."... I knew she loved me... She just didn't know how to love me the right way.  I stood stiff in her arms and starred off into space... thinking about what would happen to us next.


My mother called for a ride and we packed up all of our things and skipped out before the cops showed up.  I had a hard time leaving Bird Bird, but my mother promised me that we would call Fred to come and get him on our way to where ever we were going.  After all of her lies....  I don't know why I always believed her promises, but I did.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Father's Grave (Ch. 26)

After I found out my father had died Larry had somehow convinced my mother that the right thing to do was to give me an opportunity to say goodbye and visit his grave.  He paid for me to fly home to the reservation.  I left my mother in his care.  I was excited about the airplane ride, and extremely curious about the reservation.   I hadn't been there since I was about six years old and remembered very little about it, but I had heard so many stories from my Dad and Uncle Steve.  My mother hugged me goodbye and I left her sobbing near the gate.  As I boarded the plane I pretended I was running away and never coming back.  I smiled to myself, but then an image of my mother, scared, alone and crying ran through my mind.


When the door closed I felt panic rise up from my stomach and I wanted to run back out to her and hug her.  I wanted to scream, "I'm coming back!  Don't worry I'm not leaving you!  I'll never leave you! I'm coming back!"  I just couldn't imagine leaving her.  Larry couldn't take care of her... He didn't know she needed help getting out of bed everyday.  He didn't know she needed someone to remind her the "shadow people" weren't real.  I had to sleep with a kitchen knife under my pillow in case the man that raped her came back.  Would he know to do this?... No, She needed me.  I sat in my chair and stared out my little window.   I pressed my fists into my eye sockets till I saw a kaleidoscope of colors.  I cleared my mind.  I decided that maybe pretending I was someone else, maybe someone going on a vacation, was a better idea.


I took the pain from my father's loss and I put it deep inside myself, next to the nothing place and the place I kept to hide my ugly memories.  Then I went through the pocket in front of my seat and looked at all the safety instructions.  I listened closely to the stewardess as she explained how to put on my seat belt.  I acted like I didn't have a care in the world... I'm just a regular girl on vacation...  I imagined the plane crashing and me being the one to explain to everyone, "If your oxygen bag is not inflated, don't worry! Oxygen is still flowing.  Exits are to the rear! If we need to exit, lift the handle up and press out.  Remember!  Your seat can be used as a floatation device." :)


When I arrived in New Mexico my aunt and cousins were waiting for me by the gate.  They were so excited to see me!  They hugged me and my auntie kissed me and told me how big I got.  I had no idea who they all were.  I just smiled and tried to be helpful.  I wanted them to like me.  I wouldn't let them help me with my suitcase.  I didn't want any part of me being there to be something burdensome for them.


The desert was beautiful.  Miles and miles of sky.  Far off in the distance I could see the outline of mountains.  When the sun started to set, the mountains turned purple and the clouds behind them were pink.  The sun made the whole sky glow with red, orange and yellow.  It was like being in an old western movie with a happy ending... only I was in a mini van instead of bareback on a magnificent stallion... 


After a long drive we arrived on the reservation just before dusk.  It seemed empty and naked to me.  There weren't any trees and the houses were so spread apart.  None of the houses had fences, or yards.  There was no grass, it was just all dirt.  The trees they did have looked more like large bushes and they hardly had any leaves on them at all.  The only thing green that I could see were these waist high shrubs, and a lot of those were brown too.  Something about it was so beautiful though.  All the buildings I saw were either real pueblos made out of clay or they were newer houses designed to look like pueblos on the outside.  It felt like I was in another world.

 


The next morning when I woke up we went to the river.  As my cousins jumped in and laughed, I stood there looking around at all the other people.  They all looked like me, with dark hair, dark skin and dark eyes.  As I stood there thinking about this I realized I felt like I belonged.  I was suppose to be here.... I was suppose to be jumping in rivers and laughing and looking at beautiful sunsets....  I ran!  I reached the edge of the bank and leaped in!  When I surfaced I felt renewed.  It was like I had washed away all the extra years I had earned by seeing all the things my mother didn't protect me from.  I was a kid again.

The reservation at sunset

Later that day my uncle took me to see my father's grave.  I had to throw spirit food at the gate to the cemetery and ask the spirits to bless us.  The graves in the cemetery were not like the other graves I had seen in California.  These graves looked like someone had been laid right on the surface of the land and just covered up with a mound of dirt.  Each mound was decorated with stones and flowers.  My Dad's grave had a headstone with some flowers, but there weren't any stones around his mound.  My uncle told me it was the family's job to keep the grave site clean of weeds and looking nice.  I got right to work.

I collected as many little round stones as I could find and obsessively stacked them around my father's grave.  I made a little cross out of stones going across the mound like some other graves had.  I worked for about an hour before my uncle told me we had to leave.  I wasn't finished yet though.  I had to finish.  My uncle insisted we had been there long enough and we had to go home now.  I shook my head no and my eyes started watering.  I couldn't leave him there... I wasn't finished yet.  I couldn't hold the hurt in anymore.  I sat down in the dirt, crying into my hands, embarrassed.  My uncle knelt down and grabbed me by my shoulders.  He looked me right in the eyes, with his own tears running down his face and said, "I'm sorry.... Can I help you finish?..."  My words were trapped in the same place my tears were coming from, so I could only nod yes.

The rest of my summer there was spent running around near the river with the other kids.  We were like a pack of wild dogs.  We especially liked to go out when it was raining.  The bank near the river was made mostly out of clay and when it rained it became very slippery.  We would dig out all the rocks and make our own natural water slides into the river.  We used the clay like a paint and covered our entire body and then we'd run through the brush near the river crying out like we were about to conquer the world.  We were conquering the world.

The end of the summer came soon and then it was time for me to leave.  My aunt and uncle drove me to the airport and walked me to the gate.  My uncle bent down to gather me in his arms and told me that he loved me.  Those three little words sparked a desire in me I didn't know I had.  I grabbed on and started bawling.  "Can I stay?... Ask my mom if I can stay.  She can come too.  If you love me then we can come, just ask my mom."  I could barely get the words out I was crying so hard.  My uncle started crying too and my aunt stepped in.  She told me that they would always be there for me, but right now my mom was waiting for me in California.  She said that my mom would be sad if I didn't come home today.  My mom missed me.  As quickly as my tears came, they were gone.  For me, crying like that, was scary.  I had to be strong... I had to be strong or I would die.  Today I was in danger of dying of a broken heart.

Tomorrow I would be in danger of being stabbed to death and raped by a man my mother owed drug money to.


Miss Kitty said I was strong.  I can be strong........  I will not cry.....  I will not cry.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tears, Tears & More Tears (Ch. 25)

I was in my room playing with Bird-Bird when my mother came in my room talking on the phone.  She had an excited expression on her face and I knew right away that she must be talking to Uncle Steve.  Uncle Steve was the only family member I really knew on my father's side of the family.  Other than my mother's sister, the Mormon, I really didn't know any of my family.  I got to talk to Uncle Steve on the phone a couple times a year and if I was lucky, I'd hear news about my father.  

I missed him so much.  I started to get excited and thought for a second that maybe my Dad was at Uncle Steve's and I'd get to talk to him too!  I held on to the hope that my Dad was going to come and get me... he was just getting things ready.  The idea that I might talk to him.... and that he might come and get me right then was emotional overload for me.  My eyes started to water and my body trembled.   I stood there with my hands balled up and an opened mouthed expression of pure joy on my face.  I had only talked to my dad on the phone a handful of times since we moved to California and every time he told me he would see me soon.  I took this as a promise.  My father is coming to get me! and it might right be now!...


It had been about a year this time since I talked to Uncle Steve.  "Uncle Steve!!!!  Hi!  Are you taking good care of Whitey?  I got a new Box Care Children book.  Remember when you ate that fly! Ha ha." I slapped my knees with both hands and bent over laughing as loud as I could.  When I was happy, I liked to let the world know it.  "Hee hee hee, emmm mae!  Cucuyatramatz!  You made me eat that ca-ca fly!"  He liked to call me by my Native name and spoke to me a lot in our Native language.  To me it was a secret language, a language just between us.


My mother wanted to talk to him about my Dad, but I didn't want to give up the phone, so we put it on speaker phone.  "Steve!  Any news from you know who?" My mother asked......Silence.... My uncle cleared his throat and in a low soft voice said, "Ah, Sue...You don't know? Oh God, Sue... He's.......dead............"

Time stood still for a few seconds and then I took the phone and I threw it against the wall as hard as I could and ran in my room!  I cried and could only breathe by sucking in air in short shallow gulps.    I heard my mom pick up the phone and tell my uncle that I was on the line too and had heard everything.  Then she came in my room and put her arms around me.  "Oh baby, I know, I know, I'm so sorry.  I know, I know..."  I cried in her arms for a few minutes and then I stood up and told her to get out!


She did not know!  She did not know what this meant!  I hated her... I cried and cried till there weren't any tears left in me.  I sat on my bed and stared into space and rocked myself back and forth.  I held my head in my hands and tried to focus on breathing.  I couldn't get any air.  I didn't know what to do.  What would I do?.....  No one was coming for me.  It was just me and my mother now... It was too heavy for me think about.  I couldn't lift my head.  I curled up in a ball on the floor and at 10 years old...I felt true hopelessness.

I found out later that my father had died about a year ago and no one had a way to get in touch with my mother and me to let us know.  Latter Larry paid for me to fly back home to the reservation to visit my father's grave and say good bye.

Time does not always heal all wounds.  The pain of loss still hurts my heart.  It feels empty in there... in my heart.  It feels like my chest might cave in because of the emptiness.  I never got to really know him.  It hurts.  I am comforted by the fact that God loves my father as much or more than I do.  And my father is with him!  This thought fills that emptiness inside of me with peace.  I can breathe.  I can smile through the tears. I can close my eyes and know deep in my soul that my father is in heaven and one day I will see him again.