His body was silhouetted by the street lamp on the corner. I couldn’t see his face, but I could see the outlines of his tensed jaw. His voice eerily calm and seeping with rage. His clenched hands remained at his side.
“HOLLY!!! Get. Back. Here.” he yelled.
I stood barefoot in the middle of an unpaved road. My body covered by a thin night gown. Ruffles around the neck and wrist. I stood frozen for a moment. Silent. Shaking.
I turned and ran for the neighbors house. It was late and their house was dark, but my tiny fists pounded heavily upon their door. My mouth could barely form the word “help”, so I kept pounding until I noticed a light come on through the window. The door opened, and I scurried onto the front porch looking for sanctuary.
Moments earlier, I had been laying in my twin bed. Baby dolls and stuffed animals encircling my stiff little body. With each moment their voices got louder and words clearer. The thin adjoining walls did not mask the disagreement. I strained to listen as my heartbeat echoed in my ears. I held my breath to get a better listen. Would they kill each other tonight, I wondered. I repeated the name “Jesus” rapidly, almost inaudibly. It’s all I could get out before I bolted out of bed.
My physical body reacting to the turmoil and chaos in the next room. I’ve got to get help. I’ve got to find safety.
I may have been 5 or 6 years old.
My neighbors had called the police. By time they arrived, my biological mother had made her way to us. I remember hearing the policeman ask what happened. I don’t remember responding. I sat in the dimly lit kitchen, watching her as she gave the report. I could tell she was angry with me. Her voice nonchalant, as if we’d just had a lovely evening.
We spent the next few days at my grandparents house who lived a few minutes away. We’d be back though. She always went back. The 10-minute car ride from my grandparents’ house to “home” were always done in silence. I’d watch as the familiar scenery passed before my eyes, and I’d whisper this prayer:
“God, I’ll do anything, please don’t make us go back. Please.”
Each return trip, stripped me of more hope. This was going to be the perpetual cycle. A few days, weeks, months of walking on egg shells before someone stepped on a land mine.
I know some of the disputes were my fault, or rather, they were because of me. Knowing this, left me feeling like a burden. I often wondered if I wasn’t there that maybe they’d be happy. Maybe they’d be less stressed about money. Maybe the drinking or partying wouldn’t cause so much strife.
The last fight I was present for was on Christmas Eve. I was 12 years old. I had been making comments about Christmas morning and opening presents and wondering about what I’d be getting from “Santa”. I knew full well there was no Santa (sorry kids!), but was just excited and full of anticipation.
I could tell she was tense.
I took notice, so I went to my room to play Nintendo. I still hadn’t saved Princess Peach, so I thought that might distract me and give my mother some peace. In the kitchen, I could hear my mother talking to my step-father.
“We don’t have any presents for her, J. What are we going to tell her?!”
I knew, even at my young age, that our family had financial troubles. For many reasons, my step-fathers drinking problem was only one of them, there just wasn’t a lot of money. I don’t remember that bothering me much. I always had clothes and food and things like that. Even the expensive FILA basketball sneakers that I needed to have even though I only played basketball in 8th grade and scored a total of 2 points. The only reason I scored those 2 points, is because the other team, realizing they would never win because we were ahead by so many points would toss me the ball. That’s another story though. I just knew that money caused a lot of conflict.
As their conversation got louder and angrier, I began mentally attacking myself. “You’re such an idiot, Holly. Why’d you even bring it up? You’re such a selfish kid. You don’t need presents anyway.”
As my internal dialogue continued, my step father walked into the doorway of my bedroom. I could see he had a cut on his forehead, and was bleeding slightly.
“Look what your mother did to me, Holly.”
The knife now in his hands. My mother still screaming in the kitchen. I didn’t say anything, my face obviously showing shock. As he walked away, I knew I needed to run. Again. The snow was deep that night, reaching my knees. I don’t remember putting on shoes, or boots for that matter, but I do remember how dark and cold it was as I ran down the hill.
At this time, we had been living in the unfinished house my step-father had been building for us. It sat on top of a hill that he had cleared, with his parents house sitting below.
My grandfather was the only one home at the time. We was awake, sitting in his electric recliner. He suffered from MS and was unable to get to me. I yelled in to the living room, letting him know I was there as I called my other grandparents for help.
The rest of the night is a blur, except for a conversation I had with my mother’s father. I was in his living room, only the light of the TV shone as I stared at it replaying the evening in my mind. There was a wooden TV tray table next to the chair I sat in, and my grandfather threw down 6 crisp hundred dollar bills.
“I hope you’re happy,” he said.
My eyes clung to the TV screen. A tear running down my face.
It wasn’t about money. Or presents. Or any of that. More than anything, I longed for some peace. Some silence.
“Silent night. Holy night. All is calm. All is bright.”
This was my hell. I fell asleep praying, asking God for a miracle. I guess I got it, because a year later, I was living in a new house with a new family and things were very much full of peace and love.
(To be continued.)
9 thoughts on “The Uncovering: A Memoir (Part 2)”
Growing up should be easy for kids, and it breaks my heart that isn’t always the case. My past has made me a better mom and you will also be a wonderful mother one day. Hugs to the little girl in you Holly 🙂 You may not think you’ve accomplished much yet but oh how you have…
Thank you, Audra! I do my best to love on kids (I direct kids camps and have many nieces and nephews) in BIG ways because I know how much I longed for love as a little girl. Thankful that even now, God lavishes me with love in those places. Thank you for reading and commenting and encouraging my heart!
I was a victim of sexual abuse as a kid. The part that I could really relate to was how you internalized that it was your fault they were fighting. It’s a good thing for me to remember with my own kids. I don’t think you have to be abused to internalize such things. I think it’s natural for all kids to do this which is why I need to be aware of it as a parent.
I’m sorry you experienced that, Shelly. No child should experience what you went through. I think you’re right, about the internalizing– I was a “thinker” as a kid and I still vividly remember different internal dialogues I’d have with myself. Concerning the fighting, or the different situations I was placed in….or in church. I have one such vivid thought while taking communion once. My grandma would take me to church with her every Sunday and she would tell me how very significant communion was and seriousness and all that jazz. (And I believe it). But as a kid, I was so very frightened to take communion. All I kept thinking about was how I was going to go to hell because I was sure I had done something bad that week but couldn’t remember it to get it forgiven, etc. I kinda laugh about it now. And remember thinking during prayer “Holly, just keep your eyes closed. Don’t open them. The prayer will be done soon.” what a kid! lol
It’s strange how, as children, we don’t necessarily understand how issues within our friend’s families can be so similar to what we are going through. I distinctly remember when we were friends in school and it seemed you just withdrew, but I never understood why. I find it almost heartbreaking that you and I had such parallel experiences and ultimately that’s what led to our disconnect, however, I am continually reminded as I follow your life with your family, that although at the time I may have been hurt and confused, it turned out to be so amazingly life-altering for you.
My life changed very rapidly, Kerri. Literally, within a few days, I had my things packed and I was moved and (at the time) I just wanted to cut off that old life because it felt like all it really held for me was pain. I still, visit PA very rarely. Especially after the disconnect between my biological mom and her parents these past 7 years, I stay away to stay “hidden” from them. I was honest when I said not many people knew….honestly, I’m not sure who (of my friends) actually did. I don’t remember talking about it with people. I know I carried a lot of shame about it. Me leaving, was by far the best thing that ever happened to me. It was the miracle I had cried and begged God for, for years. I’m sorry for being immature in how I handled things with friends. I know you weren’t the only one to have the hurt and confused feelings. Some people didn’t even know I was leaving…until after the fact. Thank you for reading…for following…and commenting. I appreciate your honesty in all of it, and I’m grateful it brings you some clarity.
Holly, I love your honesty and transparency. I hope you put this all in to a book someday. God has been so good to you–lifting you out of they miry pit and placing your feet upon a rock and giving you a firm place to stand. I can’t wait to hear part II.
I mean part 3 😉
Wow Holly. You are a gifted writer. Thanks fir sharing your heartm