1 of the very, very, ever so few stories (memories) I have not put on paper. I think it’s time to get it out of my head. Thanks for listening. Wish I could change the name & dates but as thoughts pour out of me, it’s too hard to do now.
Remembering my age is always the most difficult for me when I think back on times. I know my little brother was in school, I know I had stopped calling my father “daddy.” If only I could remember when Santa brought us the cuckoo clock, I know we had that. I’m sitting at the top of the old, wooden staircase in the house I grew
up in. It’s the middle of the night and as usual, I haven’t been to sleep yet; this time instead of fighting keeping me awake, I’m simply too cold. The hall light that hung from a long cord and burned a 50watt bulb stayed on that night. Strange because it shown right into my little brother’s room and I know he had a hard time sleeping when that happened. I had been woken up by screaming – again – but it was only 1 voice that woke me tonight. Strange. Rushing to the bathroom to pee is when I noticed my toes were blue. Normally when that happened, I just sneaked downstairs and sat in front of the burning embers in the fireplace until warmed. But you had to sneak so mama didn’t hear you.
We weren’t allowed to sit close to the fire. If our pajamas caught a flying spark, they would catch fire. But tonight, whatever time it was, there would be no, sneaking downstairs. Screaming. Telephone slamming. Papers, heavy objects crashing. Crying, so much crying. More yelling. Phone slamming. I uncurled from my flannel nightgown that was too thin and too small for my 9 year old body. The cold was creeping up from my feet into my ankels and they cracked and popped in pain when I stood up. I turned around and opened my brother’s door; he slept in the bottom bunk of the bunk bed and if he would just put his head at the other end of the bed, the light wouldn’t shine in his eyes so badly.
His little head turned and looked at me. Those big, round, brown eyes had not been to sleep yet nor did they even look tired. I whispered loudly,
“Are you sleeping?” He shook his little head. “Are you warm enough?” He shook his head even more. Jay slept in his winter coat and snowpants over his pajamas. Mama didn’t like to see that because she said it made her feel sad to think that we were cold. So the little boy never wore his winter attire out of the bed. Today I laugh at what we called “blankets” back then. More loud whispers, “I’m going to go down there and tell her to be quiet!” The little brown haired boy really shook his head now.
“No! She’s crying!”
“I’m cold and I want to go to sleep!”
“Don’t! Leave her alone!” Right then I heard the rattling of the brass handle on the old, wooden door at the bottom of the stairs; she was opening it up. I hurredly shut my brother’s door, just as I caught a glimpse of him turning his head far off to one side and shutting his eyes. I leaped & bounded down the hall only stepping on the spots that didn’t “creak” when you landed on them. But before I could crawl into my ice, cold bed and pretend to be sleeping, I heard my mother’s voice screaming up the hallway.
“Jodie! Get you and your bother dressed and get down here!” My body slumped in the frustration of being “caught” and the snarled-up face came on. Dammit! I held quiet thinking maybe I could pretend I didn’t hear her. She bellowed through her sobs again, “I know you’re up! I can hear you running around! You sound like a horse!”
In years to come, being called a horse and a cow and an elephant would cause some humiliation as I put on weight. But at this age it just taught me to learn to sneak around the house more quietly. I stomped back to Jay’s room, threw open the door and there he stood, upright, hands deep in his snow pant’s pockets,
With his speech impedimant he said, “I’m weady.” Which, of course made me even angrier! Now I had to go get dressed and I was still so tired and the cold that had debilitaed my feet had moved up past the ankels and was working it’s way to my knees.
Moments later, we were downstairs, putting on our coats – also a joke by today’s standards of what we considered “winter coats.”
“Get your brother’s boots on, we have to go and get your father.”
“Where is he?” I made the mistake of asking while trying to shove the red, rubber, rain slick boot onto my little brother’s foot – he kicked me. In shock I looked up at his face. He was glaring at me, shaking his head. Now I was glaring because as soon as no one was looking, I was going to punch him for that!
My mother screamed in anger,
“He’s at the bar! Now be careful walking outside, it’s slippery!” We, all 3 filed into our green, 1974 Ford Pinto Hatchback. Us kids had affectionally named it “Kermit.” It didn’t have heat so mama had to stand outside and scrape the windows. The back window defroster worked because I had helped dad fix it. Everytime I looked at the lines of snow and ice being melted off that window, I looked down at the scar on my finger.
Dad had instructed me to hold the metal wires together while he plugged the other end into the car. It got so hot, so fast, that it burned through my glove and into my skin. When I jumped and pulled back, the wires had stuck to my smoking glove. My dad pulled everything off of me and I had to sit and hold my hand in the snow. I couldn’t help him anymore.
Mama’s crying slowed a little but she still looked so mad! It was so cold in that car but we knew better than to complain. We finally pulled into this dark lot somewhere. We parked far away from the building with the bright lights all over it. I didn’t like it. It had bars on the windows and it was so dark inside you couldn’t see in. Mama, still crying said,
“I’ll be right back!” But it didn’t comfort me the way she said it. If everything hadn’t have been so strange – and cold – I would’ve laughed at my mama trying to hurry across the snow & ice. She had a shirt on. Why was she wearing a skirt in the middle of the night? She only had her rain coat on. I watched her go into that ugly building. Then strange-looking men were walking by our car, looking in the windows at my brother and I. I didn’t like that at all! I turned around and looked at Jay in the back seat. He looked so scared. I looked back across the dark lot. What if she stayed in there all night? Just as I looked down at my trembling legs and hands, I saw a door on the ugly building push open all the way.
It was my mama, trying to run. She was really crying hard. Why was she running? Before the door closed, my father come running out after her. He looked strange. Mad but not the kind of mad when he’s mad at us kids. I didn’t like how he looked at all. My mama was yelling “no! no! no!” and still crying. Dad was getting closer and closer to her. She wasn’t running very fast. Then, I got a funny feeling in my stomach; oh! If I threw up in Kermit, mama was going to KILL me! Then I heard my mom scream a scream I don’t ever remember hearing before. Dad was getting closer and closer to her. He was running on the snow and ice much better than she was. I quickly looked back at Jay. He looked frozen-scared. He shifted his eyes to me and all I could think of was how small and scared he looked. Then, I heard – ever so quietly – that woman’s voice I sometimes hear when things are really, really bad. It was behind me and to the right.
“Close your eyes. Close….”
I didn’t yell but spoke firmly and loudly, “Jay! Close your eyes! Jay!!”
The scared little boy looked back at me. I repeated myself firmly in my “big sister voice” so he would know I was serious.
“Close your eyes right now! Close…..” Mama let out another of those strange, curdling screams. I looked back out front. Both of my parents were at the car, mama grabbed her door and opened it but slipped on the ice; or so I thought. Actually, my dad had grabber her by the back of the hair. He pulled her to the front of Kermit and slammed her head down on the hood of the cold car. He picked her head up again and slammed it down again. Each time mama screaming screams I had never heard her make before. Her glasses flew off of her face and I watched them slide across the hood of Kermit.
I forced myself to look back at my little brother. His eyes were closed but in the light I could see a tear coming down his cheek. I looked back at my father. He just kept hitting mama’s head on the hood of the car until she stopped screaming. To this day I don’t remember what he yelled at her. I’ve no idea what he told her to do. She was still crying so hard but it was quieter. He let go, stood up and backed away from her. I stared at his face, memorizing it. I vowed to NEVER make him that mad at me! He walked over to my side of the car and I do remember peeing my pants. But he just picked up mama’s glasses and walked back over to the door that was open.
I had forgotten that door was open. I could see my breath and felt snot running down my nose. I picked up my hand to wipe it away before i got yelled at for having a runny nose and my jaw and cheeks were numb. I couldn’t feel most of my face. Dad threw mama’s glasses onto her seat. I heard him yell at her,
“Get home and put the kids to bed! I’ll be home in a couple of hours!” He pushed her into the seat and slammed the door shut. Mama’s head and body flopped around like noodles after you cook them. But her hands covered her face while she cried into them. I didn’t watch my dad walk away. I didn’t ever want to see him again. Mama sat, slumped over crying like that for what seemed like….. a long time. Her face was all white and wet.. Her hair looked like my barbie doll’s hair does when I first pull her out of my toybox, before I can brush it. Mama had snot all over her face. I was thinking I should give her a kleenex out of her purse. I should ask her if she was alright? I should ask Jay if he was alright? I know that what just happened was wrong but I didn’t want to go back to our house. I wanted to go anywhere where our father couldn’t find us. Mama stopped sobbing long enough to speak, but she was hard to understand.
“jodie, give me a kleenex.” She turned and looked the back seat. I saw the other side of her face, the side that kept hitting the car. It wasn’t white at all. It was very red. Even in the dark and the weird shadows those strange lights shone in Kermit, I could see how red my mother’s face was.
“Jay, are you OK?” I snapped my head to look at him. I’d forgotten to tell him to open his eyes. But they were as big as saucers. When did he open them? He stared at his mother in horrified amazement and just nodded his head. Mama went back to sobbing. Finally, she started up Kermit.
“Where are we going?” I don’t know how I spoke. I just heard myself talking. It was a mistake. It made her cry harder.
“Home! We’re going home and you’re going to bed!” I was so mad I forgot how cold I was.
The rest of the night is such a blur to me, if I try, I might remember some details but doubtful. This is the 1st I’ve ever put any of this down in any form; this is all straight from my memory banks. Knowing now what I didn’t know then, I believe Judith to have gone to a “rescue facility.” The 3 of us met an old lady at a Holiday Inn, downtown Spokane. I hated that hotel & have never been back in it. When we got home, Judith told us to “pack our overnight bags then hide them somewhere.” We did as we were told. I was outside playing with my 2, best friends when Jim came home the next day. It seemed so strange for him to be home in the daylight.
He flew past us kids and into the house. I heard my parents yelling at each other again. In fact, I talked louder hoping Kathy and MariLee wouldn’t hear them fighting. They were so embarrassing! A few minutes later, my father flew back out of the house and lifted the hood on Kermit. He looked back at the house with a look on his face that only said……
I watched him pull a wire, (coil wire, I’m sure) and slammed the hood. He took it with him and got in his truck and drove away…. and to this day I don’t remember many days after all of that. But maybe I will sometime.
I told myself, right then and there, that no man will ever be able to do that to my car! I will always be able to fix my car so I’m not stuck in a house with a husband like my dad and no car. At the time, and many years before my adult life, the thought comforted me.