Childhood Dystopia Part 2
Just in case you missed part one here is the link
The Journey to Missouri
Lets gather round my kiddies and settle in for another trip down memory lane. The lights are dim and all is quiet so lets begin. When last we traveled this road together I was a child about to move to Missouri to live with my adopted family.
I was seated upon that couch gazing into a fire that burned as my pain at rejection burned. I longed for it to burn me too, I couldn't believe that my dad had said no to the offer that I could stay with him for a little longer and have a better chance at goodbyes. I think it wise to mention here that recently I told my dad this little part of the story, about the pain I felt that day. He and my step mom were very shocked to hear it, according to them there was never any phone call offering to let me stay with him a while longer! I spent years never questioning it and never once did it occur to me that the lawyers and court officials would lie to a kid for their desired ends, however I do think it possible now.
As I had missed the airplane that would take me off to Missouri my adopted family needed to be told that I would not be getting off the plane as they expected. The necessary phone calls were made while I sat there despairing. The phone was offered to me once all the facts had been exchanged and I took it, what else was there to do? My adopted family had had this dog, Lucy. She could be made to howl and sing along with the rest of us if we howled at her, it was actually great fun. When I was on the phone my adopted mum and dad got her howling over the phone at me, trying to tell me that the animals missed me and were excited to have me home with them soon.
I think I broke at that moment and cried and gave in to this new future with some hopeful silver lining and I agreed to get on that plane. I have to say that Lucy probably would not have been kept because of her propensity for eating small kittens if it had not been for that howl, she was greatly treasured after that. I don't really remember getting on that plane or landing at the other end. When one thing ends and another begins I guess sometimes the transition is abrupt, just black and white with no grey.
Life on a farm
Life on a farm is a wonderful thing for a kid. Long walks in the woods with your dogs to keep you company. We had all sorts of animals, from chickens to goats. We had a horse! I couldn't wait to go horse back riding! Sadly Sonny (our horse) was as wild as they come and didn't want anything to do with me. He did step on my foot once, we worried that he broke my foot it hurt so bad! We had to get rid of him. We found a buyer with a horse ranch and I finally got to ride a horse, one of their nice tame ones.
When your a kid on a farm you will try to ride more then just horses. The dogs never understood the game, the goats would just sit down in protest. Now the billy goat, the threw me into the barn wall and I fell with a thud. This is not the best reason to avoid billy goat riding, did you know that billy goats urinate on themselves? I understand that its like cologne and the lady goats like it.
There is more fun for a kid on a farm then I can cover here. From popping a boated tick to spray the blood (charming), to being able to see just about every constellation in the night sky. In many ways its an ideal place for an angry and hurt kid to find some joy and fun. For the first year home was a safe place for my anger and a place to heal. School on the other hand.......
Why oh why did they have to send me to catholic school? The logic just does not stand up to the reality of catholic school. Logically a small religious school should be a supportive and safe place, better chances for the teachers to give each student the attention they need and to know everything that happens within the schools walls. In reality its a misery when your not catholic, everyone else is related, and the school is so small there is only one 'click'.
If I had been catholic maybe in the eyes of the other kids I would have been worthy of a higher level of respect, in public school the teasing did have unspoken boundaries. It seemed that not being catholic somehow made me inferior in the eyes of my peers and making me cry was not enough. Most of the kids at that school were from one of those big families, with several generations of large families, it was enough to populate a school.
The nuns were strict with homework and schoolwork and that was a nightmare, but I do think they cared. When they got something solid, some real proof of bullying they would actually come down on my side of things (so to speak). They were from an old school way of thinking and did not interfere in the social order of the playground without some solidly unacceptable behavior.
There was this one time, when I had been in tears already because of something with the girls. I was trying to be alone to cry when this boy started throwing rocks at me. I just exploded. You know that saying 'I saw red'? Well I literally saw tunnel vision red with him in the center of my vision. I tried to catch him, I wanted to hurt him so bad, and the other kids all held me back until the teacher arrived. We were both taken into the office to speak with the principal.
Now this lady was scary (as a principal should be!), she was a nun but from an order that does not wear a habit. By the time I was inside the school I was just shaking uncontrollably, I expect that my adrenaline rush was what gave me the shakes. I think some of the kids must have told the teacher exactly what had happened as I didn't have to tell my side of the story. The principal talked with this boy in her office for a bit then came out with him in toe. She told me that she believed that I was totally justified in wanting to beat him up. She told me I had an option, I could let her call his parents and tell them what trouble he had been up to or She could hold him for me and I could have my go at him. Later on the bus ride home all the kids said I should have let Her hold him for me, thats what they would have picked. I couldn't do it tho, I was shaky and drained, I didn't think I could hurt him as much as being in trouble with his parents would hurt. I sometimes wonder if there wasn't a test of my character in there some where.
Nothing lasts forever
Earlier I mentioned that for the first year my home life was a safe one, even a little bit healing. I had my adopted mom and dad and they were doing their best to provide a safe place for me, they understood my anger even when I took it out on them and I knew I would not be harmed for being angry. I think that might just be about the best thing anyone can do for anyone who is hurt and angry, to help them heal.
Sadly nothing ever lasts, the good, the bad, the indifferent, it cannot stand the steady march of time. It came out that the reason they had stayed together was that together they could fight for me, separated they didn't stand a chance. The believed that if they didn't stand a chance neither would I living with my dad and step mom. When the adoption was finalized and there was no way anyone could take me out of their care things started to fall apart between them.
My adopted dad for as long as I could remember had had this great country beard, practically down to his belly button. I had never seen his chin before actually. One day I come home from school and there is this guy with a smooth chin (no hair at all) and he is my dad! I couldn't recognize him. Mum had to go run an errand (and cope with this dramatic change) and I was left home alone with this man who I just did not recognize. It was not long before they got divorced and he was living in town.
My adopted dad was this amazing guy, yes he had his problems like bi-polar disorder and I don't they he could properly be called a responsible adult. He was really just a big kid, perfect for a kid like me! He took me exploring in the local caves near the farm. We went arrow head hunting in the woods and had many adventures together. No matter how determined I was to be angry when he was equally determined to make me laugh and feel good my anger didn't stand a chance. When he left it seemed everything started to really go down hill.
School was a misery, home was no longer the safe and fun place it had been and I had lost the one adult who seemed to really be able to understand me enough to know how to help me feel good about myself. I started praying to God for death every night, a brain aneurism (not that I knew what one was), a heart attack (do kids get those?), a meteorite through the roof straight into my bed, or the more likely tornado, these were some of my suggestions as to how the job might be done. I had had similar ideas back in California with my other family, earthquakes were something I had hoped for then and tornados made a good substitute.
Not all pain is my pain
So now its just my adopted mom and myself on this farm. Things were tense at home and at school. I got a new therapist and so did my adopted mom (same one actually). There were things that helped tho. My adopted mom got a sunday job at the local united methodist church providing child care to the members of the church with kids during the service. We would go early so that I could do the youth group stuff. This church was actually a bit of a new safe haven. There were 2 preachers, a lovely married couple. The lady preacher was very popular with everyone who came to the church, even with my adopted mom who wasn't very interested in christ based religions. Lou Lyon, that was her name, and she brought a genuine feeling to the very concept of faith. We could have very in depth and intellectual conversations about the various stories of the bible.
Our other church activities were also a source of fun and self pride. The local catholic church ran a food drive to help the low income people of the community with food. Every month we had a weekend food drive that took about a week to prepare for. Food had to be sourced from Springfield, the closest big city. The food had to be collected and divided up so that everyone got their fair share. We always volunteered to help with every aspect. It was a full on week for us but I loved it.
I think maybe things could have cruised along without really falling apart if things could just stay as they are in life, but thats not the nature of time and progression of life. The first bit of bad news was that Grandpa Lez was very ill and was going to die soon. We had to start to think about making the trip from Missouri to Washington state so we could deal with everything that needs to be dealt with when death is imminent. We even used the trip as a bit of a vacation. I think that was the trip where we took the train and made sure to pass through California so that I could have a visit with my family. I got to see my Aunts but my step mom refused to let me see my brothers and my dad couldn't deal with seeing my adopted mom so we didn't meet.
My adopted mom did have a daughter of her own. She was big Kirsten, yes her name was the same as mine! The inheritance from grandpas estate was split between them. Sometimes money can destroy a life. It wasn't all that long after the death of grandpa, after life had settled down that we got a message left on the answering machine.
It was valentines day. It was a sunday. We had been to church and were just home and checking the answering machine. There was a message from some doctors saying he had urgent news regarding Kirsten. I was actually a bit confused, I was right there and what news could there be? Kids don't always connect all the dots very fast. It wasn't about me at all, it was about big Kirsten. She had dies early that morning of a drug overdose. She had a cocktail of legal and illegal drugs in her system. The day before she and her boyfriend had had a fight and he had come around to her apartment early in the morning with flowers in hand to make up. He had a key and let himself in. He found her in a pool of her own vomit and blood. No one ever knew for sure if she had overdosed on purpose or if it had been an accident. We were on a greyhound bus bound for Seattle at midnight that night.
During that trip I think I only vaguely understood the magnitude of what had happened. To notice that something had shifted and in such a way that it wouldn't ever shift back would be hard to miss. I was not allowed fast food, junk food, or sugary drinks like coke. I might get 7up when I was sick but that was pretty much it. During that trip the frequent offers of soda tipped me off that my adopted mom was in a bad way. I was a little to self absorbed to really see how much things had changed. I think my adopted mom had that part of her that was a mom die when her only biological child died. This was something that would take time to heal. Things between us were set to become very strained indeed. I think our relationship only became good again when she no longer had to be mom to me, and we could become friends instead, but this is for much later in the story.
During our time in Seattle the idea that our time in Missouri was coming to an end. I was in my last year at catholic school and it became very important that I finish the year and pass, so we could start my high school years in Washington state. When the funeral had been arranged and I had been able to attend I had to go back to Missouri for school even tho my adopted mom had to stay to sort the estate out. I was flown back and stayed with a friend, whose kids went to my school and were one of the few not in the family but accepted because of being catholic. The daughter was younger then me so we got on ok but the son was in my class (not that there was any other 6th grade class to be in, the 5th and 6th graders shared a class).
Its funny how mean kids can be at school and how things are never quite as bad when in their home. The 2 boys (yes there was a younger brother as well, again not a problem as we never shared a class) would play and us girls would play. The boys were just normally annoying the way boys are when you are a young girl. Living with this family was not enough for me to actually become friends with the older boy but it was enough to let me see something interesting about one of the kids that made my school days so painful. He had lost his father and was angry too. The social order of the school accepted him and not me so we couldn't be friends and thats a shame. Looking back I think we had a lot in common and I am glad to have gotten to see that.
We both struggled with our homework and were struggling not to fail the 6th grade. We (as well as a few others) started staying after school every day for an hour to get help catching up on our homework. I can proudly say that we both made it. We were 2 of the 6 people to pass the 6th grade from that school that year. My adopted mom did make it back before the end of the school year.
I will end this chapter with my graduation from catholic school. There was a bit of a joke among the 3 of us seated on the left side of the church that they had put all the smart kids on the right hand side and when it came time to give awards our side wasn't going to see any action. I proudly have to say that that was not the case. All of the grade based awards were given out and there was a surprise to come. There were more awards then just who got the best grades in this or that subject. I just about passed out with pleasure when they announced the person who earned the award for working the hardest to get to graduate that day. Can you guess who won it? Now this award I suspect was made up but the next award was for overcoming the most obstacles. If you haven't guessed who won these awards I think I will just leave you wondering. Suffice it to say that graduation night was the best time I had ever had at school, there or anywhere else. I was finally free of that school and getting ready to start a new chapter in life in Washington state. With this chapter of my life over I will wrap this up and you will just have to wait until the next hubpage to hear about the adventures of a farm on the road.......