My childhood was far from ideal. Most times I think of little girls having baby dolls and pigtails, pretty pink rooms and strawberries on their bed sheets. I had the strawberries and pigtails. My room was a pretty soft pink after we moved into the house when I was eight. From the outside, I looked like a happy child and I was. For a little while.
I went to school like every other child. My mother packed my lunch because of allergies. I played softball and went to gymnastics, tried out for the tennis team and cheer squad. I remember having to take that stupid fitness test and running around the football field for a grueling half hour and almost passing out. Late spring in Texas is NOT the time to be running like that!
We would go to the beach frequently. Watching the ships floating serenely down the ship channel was my favorite part. They were going somewhere exciting. Somewhere away from where I was in my misery. I desperately wanted to go with them. I went to the docks often and would talk to the sailors about places they would go or sit and watch the ships.
Before we moved near the ship channel, we lived in Baytown, Texas. We lived in a mobile home near the back of the park, by the woods. I remember spending hours on end in those woods. We chased the “fog truck” that would come by spraying pesticides to kill the relentless mosquitoes. I wonder how many of my health issues now can be traced back to then.
I remember the first time I was molested. The washing machine was olive green and it matched the rest of the bathroom. I’d gotten sick all over my favorite dress and he’d taken me in to wash me up. He got my dress off and put it in the washing machine. After starting it, he lifted me up and sat me on the machine. I thought it was a little weird but it was ok because he was my daddy and he did weird things all the time. They were fun and, at 6, everyone loves fun. I remember the feel of the cool washrag, it was hot outside so it felt nice. I remember giggling when he touched me through my underpants because I didn’t get barf in my panties and when I said so, he told me he wanted to make sure I was all clean. The smell of detergent was strong and I felt suddenly sick. Not like bad sick, scared sick. He didn’t go further than touching that first time but I remember him showing me his peepee and how big it looked. I said something about him being bigger than my brothers (we took showers and baths together all the time) and he laughed, telling me that was why he wouldn’t do anything to me with it yet.
Not long after that, my father became “born again” and we started going to church. We went ALL the time and I had to wear long sleeved dresses, past my knees and neckline higher than my collarbone. I was a good girl, I sang in the choir, went to girl scout meetings at the church, helped the ladies clean the sanctuary and oil the pews. I even went to church camp and sang solo parts in a play the church hosted. Life was perfect… for a time.
One day my dad came home from church where he’d been to see the pastor. He felt he’d had a calling to be a missionary. The pastor didn’t think he was ready or something and told him he wouldn’t back him. We never went back to that church again, hat I can remember, and we moved shortly afterward to the first real house we’d ever lived in. Up till then, all I’d known was mobile homes or military housing. I was soon going to a school nearby and had friends. My grandmother lived a block from us and we spent many Christmases at her house with her.
From the time we moved into the house till after I left home, my father molested me. I was 9 when he started making weekly trips into my room to “tuck me in” He told me many times that if I told anyone, he’d kill my mother and my little brother. To prove to me that he could, he dismembered my kitten in front of me. I was 11 when he did that and I still remember the mewling of my kitten 30 years afterward.
When I was 12 my father came to me one night and asked me if I really wanted to get some extra money for something I wanted to buy. I was excited at the prospect so I said yes. He kissed me and smiled then walked to the light switch and turned it off. I heard the familiar sound of his belt buckle hitting the floor and my body went numb. I knew what was going to happen next so I “left”. I went to the corner of my room, looking at the people on the bed, and waited till he was done. For a year, at least, I’d been disappearing into myself when he’s visit me. When he tucked the covers over my shoulders, he turned to leave and drew his wallet from his pocket. Pulling a 20 from his billfold, he chuckled and placed it on the dresser by the door before leaving.
This went on till I was 15. My older brothers best friend and I ran away together. He was 20 and had a car so, one day I wrote my mother a note and left it on my nightstand when I left for school. I had packed my clothes in my backpack and went to the bus. I had made plans the night before, with my boyfriend, to run away. He knew that my father was hitting me, he had seen it with his own eyes that night when my father beat me because I hadn’t done the dishes.
We left town around noon. I had skipped out after third period gym and met him at the pool. We went back to his place and packed the trunk with his stuff then headed out. I remember crying because I was afraid for my mother and, about halfway to Amarillo, I remembered it was my fathers graduation night. We got a motel in Raton and slept that first night. I was exhausted and sore from the beating the night before. Johnny was so gentle and sweet. He tucked me into bed and held me protectively, kissing my eyebrow and telling me I was safe. I fell asleep to his voice telling me I’d be safe forever.