I don’t have many distinct memories from ages seven to nine. We seemed to have settled into a family routine: work (for parents), school, church, family time. We lived in a gorgeous manufactured home on a wooded street. Behind the house lay 42 acres of preserved forest. My brother and I loved to play in the forest. Mom would always tell us to make sure we could see the house when we played. That didn’t always happen. We would wander the paths worn by the wild animals. We would paint our faces with mud and climb trees. We had our favorite stump, which we pretended was a castle. A fallen log that went over the blackberry bushes. We would find animal bones and other treasures. Dad had built us this amazing rope swing that came down from two tall trees. When you swung out you went over a ravine. All the kids in the neighborhood came to play on the swing. We had a dog named Barney, a German Shepherd. And another named Lady, a small Lab mix. I had my cat named Tabby (guess what breed she was) a Tabby mix cat. These animals were so patient with me as I would look in their mouths, ears, and examine their paws. Tabby would let me dress her up like a baby and push her around in my carriage. Our neighbor up the street had a horse. They would let me come “help” take care of the horse. In exchange for a riding lesson. I have many wonderful childhood memories of that house and neighborhood.
My Dad and his brother worked together on my Dad’s wood working business. I was good friends with my cousins. They felt more like siblings. I remember spending a lot of time with Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, and Cousins on both sides of the family. I loved and cherish that feeling of comfort I had when we were all together. My cousins and I used to put on “shows” for the adults where we would act out Disney movies. We were silly, crazy, adventurous children.
Something changed. It felt so fast to me but I am sure it was a slow progression over time. My Uncle stopped working with Dad. There was some sort of fight. We didn’t see Dad’s family as often, and when we did the adults were mostly quiet. I remember my Granny saying something to me once about my Dad, and I felt very defensive. Grandma and Granny started taking the kids places without our parents. I did not realize this was the beginning of a very long separation.
During this time, I started having what I realize now were panic attacks. I would go to bed, and then start to feel like I couldn’t breathe. I would go tell Mom and Dad, and I remember them calling the ambulance once. Most of the time I was told that I was fine and to go back to bed. I don’t blame them, they didn’t know. Maybe I had a wild imagination, or maybe I really was being visited by spirits. Either way it was scary. I would put the blanket over my head so I couldn’t see the people in my room. As an adult, I have seen visions of loved ones who have passed, so I know I have that connection. I just had no way of explaining this to my parents. I asked if I could share a room with my brother. Mom and Dad said yes. Being with my brother did help. He and I would talk until we fell asleep. He talked in his sleep though so I guess technically we would talk even after we fell asleep.
In the summer of 1992, Mom and Dad hosted the Vacation Bible School for the church at our house. It was after VBS that Mom decided to volunteer at the church school. They had a home school type situation at the church. It was grades preschool to 12. Not very many kids attended. All the teachers were church members and volunteers. The parents (all church members) would pay tuition and the principal (one of the pastors) would order the curriculum from a company called ACE. Also around this time Mom quit her job to stay home with us kids.
In the summer/fall we found out that Mom was going to have another baby! I was so excited. I really wanted a little sister. I hoped and hoped. Mom and Dad were not going to find out if the baby was a boy or a girl until birth. My cousins were calling the baby “cousin It”. It was a magical time, this new life seemed to give hope. I was hoping it would draw the family back together. Mom was tired in the beginning of her pregnancy. She would tell us that she was going to rest, and not to knock on her bedroom door unless we had broken a bone or were bleeding. Once I tricked my brother and told him that we should knock on the door to ask mom if we could play outside. He did, and I hid under the table. Mom opened the door, furious. Brother looked behind him, expecting me to be there. I was not there, but was hiding in a spot where I could still see the situation and laugh. Needless to say, I still got in trouble.
During the school year of ’92-’93 Mom and Dad told my brother and I that we were going to attend the church school that following school year. I was not excited. I loved my teachers and my friends. I loved to learn and felt happy being praised by my teachers. I loved earning prizes in the library for reading books. Would the church school have that? How big was their library? I was worried. I took that whole school year to say goodbye to my friends. We all promised we would stay in touch. They promised they would still invite me to their sleepovers.
The last day of school, my baby sister was born.