I didn’t hate much as a child. I was much more of a quiet observer than one to pass judgement, but I truly hated the Freddy Kruger trailer. It was hands down the worst place I had ever lived in my whole life and that says a lot, given that my mom and I were once homeless and living out of her car. It might sound inconceivable to you, to prefer living in a car over a trailer, but the trailer was something nightmares were made of.
The front door was missing the bottom half, from someone having kicked the door in and breaking the bottom of it off. It was dark and dank, mostly because the power was almost never on. There was no real furniture in the living room other than a long old fashioned record player type cabinet, which my mom used for storage and a large crickety old rattan chair that I used to sit in when I would eat. The carpet was this indistinguishable marbled brown, black nastiness that had gone flat from years of neglect. The kitchen unlike most homes, was the least used room, as both the refrigerator and the stove were useless without power and the room never seemed to get much light, so it was always dark, even in the daylight. There was a table in the far corner of the kitchen, but we never, not even once ate together at that table.
My room was the first room on the left down the hall, off of the living room. My door and closet doors were all missing. I had a small oblong window high on my wall probably the size of two shoeboxes, but the glass had long since been broken and now it was just covered in plastic and duct tape. On windy nights it would keep me up with an incessant sound of the plastic being beaten around and a low howl type of noise. I used to imagine that I lived in the forest and that I was a part of the tree, that the owls lived in to help comfort me though those nights.
My room was completely empty with the exception of my bed, which was made of 4 egg crates turned upside down with a bunch of pillows laid across the top. I owned two toys, one of which was a walkman and the other of which, was a Glowworm and I loved them both more than I now imagine any other child having loved their toys. I was older than I should have been for that Gloworm, but it comforted me when I fell asleep in the dark and more often than not, I was alone there and somehow my glowworm made me feel like I wasn’t. My walkman was my favorite toy by day and it allowed me to briefly escape my life for a happier more colorful one, that seemed to exist in all of my favorite songs.
It sounds sad to say that I only had two toys, but it wasn’t always like that and I certainly didn’t think of it that way. I had, had lots of toys when I was with my sister but I could only take back with me what I could fit into my one child sized suitcase. My grandmother and uncles had bought me toys over the years too, but we were always moving and my mom always put our stuff in storage whenever we moved and then we would lose the storage because she couldn’t pay the bill and all of our stuff would be lost. Or as in the case of my antique Barbie collection that my grandma had bought me, some of which were original Barbies dating back to the 40’s; my mom had “hocked” them at the pawn shop for cash, promising me she would get them back when she got money again. But of course that never happened and so it went with all of our stuff. I can’t tell you how many things came and went to the pawnshops, or got traded out to one of her druggie friends. Material possessions flowed like water in our house and for my mother, still do.
So can you imagine the little girl that I was? Wide eyed, quiet, hesitant to smile but always listening. My life was pretty simple really; on school days, I would wake up, get dressed walk to the bus and go to school. Luckily I didn’t have to worry about food on school days, I was on the low income program and had tickets for breakfast and lunch every day. It wasn't great food, but it was better than anything I had at home. After school, I would go to a neighbors house down the street who had a daughter in a grade below me and I would “tutor” her on her homework, in exchange for dinner and occasionally, even a little tv time. I never told her or her parents about my life, but somehow they sensed it and were gracious enough to allow me the tutoring arrangement. I never let her over to my house, in fact I had never had any friends over to that house. I never talked about where I lived, or my mom or my dad or anything. I did my best to keep everyone around me happy, so that I could keep the arrangement going and that meant not getting too personal. I dreaded going home after dinner though. It was dark and most of the time my mom wasn’t home So I would just head to my room and go to sleep cuddled up with my glowworm, listening to my walkman.
My mom’s food stamps came once a month and I was always excited for the day to come. I would be dressed and waiting for the mailman to drop them off and then I’d walk to the store to get as much stuff as I could carry. I pretty much lived off of Chef Boyardee Raviolis, unless the power was on and then I would get top ramen, macaroni and cheese, hotdogs, eggs cereal, bread and butter. The store I went to, always had cold pizza out for you to try when you were shopping and I always made sure to get my fill of it. To this day, I will still eat cold food, food out of a can or even mildly rotten food. It’s one of those things I have carried since childhood. I figure, that humans lived without refrigeration for centuries and I certainly did growing up, so surely I’ll survive as an adult too.
Anyway, food stamp day was always a good day. My mom usually made sure she was home that day too, as it was also the day her welfare check came. She would send me to the store to buy her cigarettes and then she’d be gone again for a few days. You may be wondering how a child managed to buy cigarettes and I will remind you of my mother’s crazy temper. The first time she sent me to the store for her cigarettes, the store owner refused to sell them to me. I went home empty handed and explained to my mom that the man had refused to sell them to me. She was pissed and I mean really pissed! She dragged me back to the store that minute and threatened the store owner if he didn’t sell me the cigarettes. She told him that if I ever went into the store to buy cigarettes, that they were for her and that if he didn’t sell them to me, she’d be back and his little store would be no more and if he was lucky, he’d just be in the hospital. Well that settled that and he never hassled me about it again.
When my mom was gone, I would busy myself with tutoring and as much as I hated that scary trailer alone at night, it was peaceful without her there. When she was home it was usually for no more than a week at a time. She would always sleep the first three days straight and I would creep into her room and make sure she was still breathing without waking her up.
Occasionally I would accidentally wake her up, trying to check on her and she would scream at me for a while before she fell back asleep. She was always in a very bad mood when she was home. In hindsight it’s because she was only ever home, when she was coming down from her drugs and like any withdrawal from something, it wasn’t pretty. Consequentky, I learned how to keep a low profile and not be seen when she was coming down. If she was out of money or friends, she would stick around for a few days after she had slept it all off and then it was this anxious paranoia combined with her badass temper. On those days, she was very verbally abusive and I would be walking on eggshells.
I remember distinctly once watching my mom sit at the turntable cabinet in the living room and pulling some stuff out of it. She put a giant rubber band on her arm, lit something up in a spoon and then put it in a needle like the nurses did on tv. Then she walked into her room, sat on the edge of her bed and stuck it in her arm. Then she was back to sleep again. It was the only time I remember witnessing her shoot up and I just remember that my mind was blank when it happened. Like I passed no judgement on her for it, had no concept of what it really was, I just watched.
I did however sense on some level, that there was danger because I checked on her frequently and when I had gone into check on her later on, I thought that she wasn’t breathing and this heavy panic set in on me. I wasn’t positively sure, that she wasn't breathing, but I had this dark heavy feeling that something was really wrong. So I walked to my friends house, the one I tutored and asked to used their phone. I called 911 and told them I didn’t think my mom was breathing and that I had walked over to a friends house to call them and that I needed to get back to my mom and then I walked back to my house and waited.
The ambulance came and I can remember that moment as crystal clear, as if I am there right now. It was late in the day during winter and the ground had a light layer of iced like dew... not snow and not really dew. It was overcast, the clouds were dark and the ambulance came with two men. They went into the trailer and brought my mom out on a hospital gurney. I stood at the back of the ambulance while they were pumping on her chest and yelling different things to each other. I remember one of them looked at me and asked if there was anyone else I could call and I told them it was just me and my mom. The machines made that long beep like in the movies when someone flatlines and they looked at each other for a moment and I saw an exchange in their eyes… Maybe I am adding my own inflection here, but I swear I saw sadness and then a fierce determination flash in one of their eyes. I knew when I heard that beep, what it meant and I couldn’t even cry. I was frozen in my own body, like I had drifted away but was still there.
I tuned out, like everything fell into a backdrop and I was just there with my breath and my thoughts and a heart that seemed to have stopped beating in my own chest. I didn’t feel sadness, because I didn’t feel like it was over yet. I knew that the beeping meant she had died, but I didn’t feel like she would be dead, as in I would never see her again and I didn't really, fully understand what death even was. It’s hard to explain, I have always had this sense about things, not psychic or anything; just a feeling like something is good, or bad, or very bad and I have over the years learned to trust this feeling.
For example, I would be walking down a street and I would see a man who would be looking at me and my feelings would tell me that this was very bad and to get away from him as quickly as possible, and I would run into a store and hide for a while. I would never know what would have happened had I not run and hid, but I was certain it wouldn’t be good. I believe that everyone has intuition, but that most maybe don't tune into it as well; but that because I did not have the voice of a parent to guide me, somehow it left me open to being more aware of this feeling. I do believe that what god and the universe take away in one area, it gives back to you in another. I will get into this more later in my story, but this is one example of why I believe this.
I came back to awareness seeing my breath in front of me and then the ambulance came into focus again and then one of the men asked me if I wanted to ride to the hospital in the back of the ambulance with my mom and I said yes. In those days and certainly in that area, a remote suburb of Salem Oregon, there wasn’t child protective services or if there was, for one reason or another we never hit their radar; even in this moment, when my mom had OD and died on the scene only to be resuscitated.
My mom ended up getting released from the hospital after a couple of days, only to wind up in prison a month or so later for burglary.
Lucky for me right around this time, my grandma who lived in Simi Valley, California called one of my uncles that lived-in town near us, to check on everyone and see how things were. When my grandma asked my uncle about my mom, he told her she was back in prison again and my grandma asked him where I was, and he said he didn’t know. Well that was all my grandma needed to hear, she cursed him out and then drove up from So. Cal. the very next day to find me.