It is a startling realization to make. You aren’t the crazy one. You are the normal one. What happened wasn’t okay. It wasn’t right. It seems impossible at first. The thought feels like an ill-fitting shirt.
When I think of my childhood, the home that sticks out the most is an old white farmhouse that sat nestled between acres of pine trees. We moved there when I was (eleven?) twelve; a girl balancing on the cusp of adulthood and childhood. It was a terrifying and exciting journey.
We moved right before fourth grade finished for the year. We spent a few short weeks in an Alabama school before a teacher hit my brother. Aghast, my mother pulled us out. We would spend the next school year being driven for over an hour to our old elementary school. In 6th grade, my mom decided to homeschool us. I’ve worked hard to repress memories. They hurt to remember them. Logically, I know I need to sift through and work through the memories. Mentally, I know this is the next step in my growing recovery. Emotionally, I’m terrified.
I used to lie in bed at night and imagine an iron safe. I would give my memories shape and toss them in the box. Memories of harsh words would transform into bubbles. All the things I didn’t want to think about were crammed into my imaginary safe. As I stared at the ceiling, I could picture myself wrapping yards of thick, shiny chains around the safe. I would wrap thick sailor’s ropes and add locks. To make the safe vanish, I would shove it into the depths of the ocean or a never-ending black hole. It would sink into inky darkness, never to be seen again. I always assumed these memories would be gone for food and that I would never have to relive them again. Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will eventually be forced to go on an expedition to find these safes. I will have to construct a deep ocean sub, outfitted with bright lights, and begin my descent into the never-ending black. This is my expedition, my journey to find my buried safes. Take a breath and jump.
One of my clearest memories from childhood is filled with a keen sense of frustration and disappointment. I was five and a huge Little Mermaid fan. I had the Barbie and was playing with her outside. I remember digging a whole and burying her bright purple seashell top in the soft dirt. I can’t remember why, just that it was an important part of the play unfolding in my head. I remember coming back later and being unable to find it. It was maddening. I was certain I had buried it near my swing. I just wanted to find my buried treasure!
The next two memories are filled with hurt, fear, and anger. I remember the worst fight I ever witnessed between my parents. The exact beginning isn’t crystal clear and neither is the end. I recall my father yelling at my brother and me to sit in two chairs, unmoving, eyes glued to the argument. I remember squirming and wanting to leave. At one point, I had to pee. I close my eyes and imagine my small five-year-old body’s bladder sending frantic urges to my brain. I can feel the hard seat underneath me, my feet dangling as the urge to go grew stronger. I vaguely remember a Coke can being thrown at me. The rest is blurry and I don’t know if I am mixing two separate occasions together or if my five-year-old mind simply shut out parts. I remember my mother ushering us to the car. I remember the house being a mess. Things were thrown around. We went to a hotel. It hosted a pool and a hot tub. When we came home, I remember seeing clothes thrown across the lawn and dresser drawers across the porch.