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The Trigger of Childhood Roads

I know as children our memories can be distorted based on what we actually remember and know at the time and what we are told about what happened and why. I also thought I had put my own abusive and unstable childhood well behind me at this point but apparently we can still be triggered and not realized it. Like seeing an old toy in the stores and telling my son I used to have one of those this particular memory of one of my childhood homes stood before me like a fresh wound that just happened all over again.

We had made significant progress paying down our mortgage. It became a fun game to pay down large chunks and watch the balance slide down farther and farther, closer to the end. I even boldly set a goal of having it paid off by my birthday this year. We got to a point we could pay it off at any time from our savings too but instead choose to keep paying extra each month to finish it. Then of course I quit my job due to abuse and impacts it was having on my health and needed to reset that timeline goal. We were so close and it was still very manageable to accomplish by year end but that necessity of changing that goal would trigger a memory I thought I had fully dealt with and packed away like most of my childhood. Apparently I had not as this would nag at me to the point I found myself crying over the similarity of what seemed like history repeating itself

I lived in 3 houses by the time I was 4. At first we lived in a cute little pink house on my great grandfather’s horse farm. It was my parents first house, a 2 bedroom one bath old farm hand house painted pastel pink at the edge of the farm. I wouldn’t remember living there only through pictures and from trips when I would drive past it. The second house also on family farmland, this time my dad’s parents dairy farm that connected to my great grandfather’s property. I don’t particularly remember it either other than it burned and then later rebuilt. This third house though I definitely remember and it seems larger than life like most childhood memories can. It was a 3 bedroom one bath home that by today’s standards would be considered very small but it had a small fruit tree orchard in the back and my playhouse that stood on large stilts just in front of the trees. My dad would deliver a dump truck load full of sand for underneath it and I with my brother and sister would play every day there.

My parents would go on to build a barn and garage on the property. We would have horses that my great grandfather would give me as I shared that love with him. One was named Cookie, a tall gray horse that was gentle and friendly. The other Sugar who was a frisky gray-white that liked to nip at you if she didn’t get the first apple. This house was not on family farmland but said in a small town in between my mom and dad’s parents family farms. There was not much more than a small bar, post office, corner market, community park and pall field and library in town. I don’t think there’s still much more than that there still today. Not even a stop light blinked and it wouldn’t be a place tourists passed through even if they took all backroads. It was a town literally no one knew of and yet my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were within miles and we knew everyone in town.

The memory I have though is not those of a small town and the adventures we used to have that triggered things for me. Rather it was the times the three of us kids were sent to the stone walled basement where mom kept her canning and told to be super quiet. We would need to wait forever for the knocking to stop and she would come get us. In preparation we kept books, quiet toys and even blankets down there. At first we thought it was just a game of hide but later I would learn these were bill collectors and the bank coming to get what they could on our debts. At some point in time my dad had stopped sending them money it seemed. He was never home and when he was there was arguing. Lately there had been a lot of arguing and so he was home less and less, apparently also not being home long enough to leave money for the bills.

We always kept a large garden so that between it and the small orchard we always had lots of veggies and fruits to can and preserve. My grandparents would provide meat and milk from the farm but these days our shelves were also running low other than the canned foods. I remember eating homemade mayonnaise and lettuce one summer along with anything that was ripe in the garden or ready pick off the trees. We became hungry a lot of the time as this lack of money started to become normal. There were times too we spent huddled in front of the fireplace in the kitchen at night in a dark house because the power had been cut off. The delivery of sand to the playhouse stopped, my beloved horses sold and it seemed we spent more and more time in the stone walled basement. Being only 7 or 8 I knew something wasn’t right.