Tabby, my kitty cat. I used to stroke her face. Run my finger along the grain of her fur on her nose. Up, down, left, right. She would close her eyes, purr, and rub her cheeks on my finger. Gray cheek, brown cheek. She was a calico/tabby mix so she was multi colored. She would come running anytime we opened the utility drawer in the kitchen because she thought we were getting out the can opener. She loved wet food, and that required a can opener for opening. In our house in Carnation, she would walk down the hall toward our bedrooms at bedtime. She would stand in the stream of the light that Mom would leave on for us, Brother and I could both see her. We would both start calling her and she would make us wait an agonizing amount of time before she chose her sleeping place. Even if she initially chose Brother’s bed, she would always end up in mine by morning. When she was happy, she would knead my sheepskin blanket and pretend to nurse on it like a baby kitten. I thought that was the most adorable thing to watch. Tabby had three litters of kittens before Mom was able to trap her and get her fixed. I loved all those kittens, but we never kept one.
When we moved to the Monroe house, Tabby ran away. I was heartbroken. I didn’t want to cry in front of anyone. I didn’t know them well enough yet. I would find a time when Mom and Dad were both in their room. I knocked on the door, sat on their bed, and cried. I cried for weeks. Mom and Dad told me that sometimes animals run away when you move. Why didn’t anyone tell me this might happen? I missed my kitty. I missed her sweet purr, her soft fur, and her company. No one else seemed to be as sad as I was about Tabby. Even Brother, who had competed with me every night for her affection. Maybe he too didn’t want anyone else to see him cry. I did know one thing; I didn’t want another cat. No kitty would replace Tabby. (I didn’t have a cat for 15 years after Tabby ran away) One day, while walking down the street, I saw Tabby at a neighbor’s house. This neighbor had multiple cats and fed them all wet food. I was glad to see Tabby lived in a house where the Mom gave her wet food every day.
Things were going okay at the new house. We celebrated Sister’s first birthday. All the kids seemed to be getting along. But I was afraid of getting in trouble by Jamie. She worked a lot, so we didn’t see her much. When we did she seemed tired and just wanted to watch TV in her bedroom. The kids were in charge of chores. We would clean the kitchen together every evening after dinner. I used to complain about loading and unloading the dishwasher at our old house. This one didn’t have a dishwasher. While washing and cleaning, we would sing songs together. I have fun memories of this.
Shortly after we moved in, the M pastor, his family, and another family all moved on to the property. They lived in two travel trailers. The M pastor’s family consisted of: M pastor, wife, daughter (Renee) and son (Lance). The other family was: an elder, his wife, daughter (Samantha) and son (Mike). The daughters were both three years older than Jenn and I. The sons a few years older than them. I looked up to the daughters. They seemed so happy and confident. They wore pink lip gloss. They talked about life in Eastern Washington and how they would put on shows for people. I loved that. I dreamed of being famous. At our old house I would listen to Paula Abdul and dance on my bed pretending I was her. I couldn’t do that at the new house, I thought someone would make fun of me. The shows that these girls talked of were skits acted out to music, and puppet shows.
Not long after these families moved on the property with us, Samantha started babysitting us almost every day. Mom and Dad had to go to work, and she was there. It was convenient. Samantha was fun. She would help us do our chores, teach us how to cook, and play with us. I didn’t like not being the one in charge. I wanted to tell my brother and sister what to do. And I didn’t like feeling like a little kid that needed to be babysat. I feel like Samantha understood my feelings.
More changes. On top of going to church once a week, Mom and Dad started going to meetings at the church two or three nights a week. They called it “Institute”. They were learning about……I never really knew. They would not get home until after we were in bed. Sometimes I wouldn’t see Dad in the morning, then not all day, and not at night either. I didn’t like this. I wanted to see Mom and Dad more often. I was having fun with Jenn, Tj, Brother, Sister, and Samantha. But I wanted to see Mom and Dad whenever I could. I felt strange in a new house. I was bored a lot of the time. The TV was always on, but Dad didn’t like us to watch TV. He wanted us to play outside. I loved playing outside. This yard was smaller so there wasn’t much exploring to do. There was a playhouse, but I was too afraid of spiders to go inside.
One night, Mom and Dad were at Institute. We were in bed and I was almost asleep. Samantha came to our door and told us to get out of bed and go to the M pastor’s trailer. I asked if I needed to get Sister up and Samantha said no. But we had to hurry. She looked serious. My eyes fuzzy, we all walked over in silence. It was dark outside, but not too cold since it was summer. We followed the glow of the light from the window in the trailer door. Knock knock knock. We opened the door to see Lance bent over the M pastor’s knee. His pants were pulled down with his rear facing the door. It was red as if he had been beaten before we came over. I looked quickly then looked away. Why were we brought over for this? I knew kids got spanked, but I had never been spanked in this manner or position. The M pastor started talking to us, then hitting Lance on the bottom. I don’t remember what was said. I wanted to go away. I looked everywhere except there. When M pastor saw me looking away, he told me that I was to watch. Why? I don’t remember. I remember Lance crying in pain. I remember M pastor yelling. I remember wondering if the neighbors could hear, it seemed really loud. What would they do if they heard? What if they decided to come over and see what was happening? I almost wished they would. I looked at M pastor’s wife, Lance’s mom. She was sitting and looking sad. I don’t think she liked what was happening. Then finally, he was done. We were told we could go back to bed. As we were walking home, M pastor called from the door, Samantha. She walked back. I lingered in the shadows, wondering what would happen to her. M pastor said, “It would behoove (necessary of) you not to mention this to anyone.” At the time, I did not know what this meant. Now I know. They were keeping secrets. I thought my parents knew everything that happened when they were gone. They didn’t. Things were happening to us while they were away, “Learning about God”. Would it have made a difference had they known? Maybe. Maybe not. These people were good at explaining their way out of situations. I went to bed that night, but I could not sleep. I was afraid. Was Samantha going to come back and say that one of us was next for spanking? I stayed awake until I heard Mom and Dad come home. It was very late. I saw their shadows in the doorway looking at us. I pretended I was asleep. I waited until I felt safe, then I fell asleep.