Childhood memories. The good ones that stick with me.

My sister, Pati, has been text bombing me with memories of our childhood in Colorado.

Around 1964 our parents moved us to the boonies. Erie, Colorado was a small town which was hard to get to from the highway. Now it is no longer the boonies and has easy access from Interstate 25.

The long dirt road that lead to the few acres our dad purchased for our trailer house holds many memories. Now those memories are buried beneath a blacktop road.

Our neighbors included a family with a teenage daughter and adolescent son, along with their parents. The girl’s father would have a conniption fit when Pati and I would visit the daughter. We, Pati and I, were filthy little mongrels.

Hygiene, personal or otherwise, was something we were not familiar with. Our hair got combed only when our mother was home from one of her frequent admissions to the mental hospital in Denver. Bathing was not something we did.

Two little girls with matted hair, dirt encrusted toes, dried mud on arms and legs. Me stinking of urine because I was a bed wetter, and the both of us seeking food from anyone that would talk to us.

I was a truant. With little to no adult supervision I would tell Pati I was not going to school. The bus stop was a long walk down several dirt roads. During the winter months that trek was akin to walking 100 miles. Ragged coats that were too small for either of us left us shivering in the cold morning air as we waited for the bus. Shoes too small for our growing feet had big holes in the soles that soon filled with wet slush, soaking our socks making my toes feel like they would freeze and pop off like toe-cicles.

Being in the warmth of our trailer was far more desirable to me than going to school.

Our dad was a brick layer. He would leave in the mornings long before the sun came up and be home long after the sun went down.

Bread was a tantalizing sight. Pati and I were under strict orders to not eat it because it was for his lunch. Tiny cans of “Deviled Meat” was slathered on the bread as he made his lunches. Pati and I watched as he packed his lunch bucket each night. He would make coffee in the mornings and fill his thermos after he had his morning cup with a couple of unfiltered cigarettes.

When we woke up in the mornings Pati and I would root through the trash can for the treasure of a nearly empty Deviled meat can. Each of us swiping a finger around the sides and bottom of the can then suck the goodness off. Some days the can held coffee grounds, cigarette butts and ashes, potato peelings, and other trash. We’d pick it out then fight over who got to get the first lick.

All the food in the house had to be cooked. Neither Pati nor I were brave enough to figure out how to use the stove. After the butt whippings we got for being close to the knobs and hollered at about burning down the house because of a careless or selfish act we steered clear of that device. Our dad, when he was home, would do the cooking.

Pati and I tried every combination we could think of to make raw potatoes taste good. Rolling them in sugar, sprinkling salt and pepper on them, slathering a coat of Miracle Whip over the top, even liberally smearing butter over the raw potato. Nothing made that potato taste good. It did, however, make the gnawing and noisy bellies quiet for a bit.

Saltine crackers were the next food item we would attack. Unlike the potatoes located within our reach, the crackers were put up high in the cupboard which called for a bit of climbing. Pati would push a chair up to the sink counter, climb atop the chair then step up on the counter. The crackers were above the fearsome stove. She would delicately place one foot between the burners. Touching the surface with a toe then quickly jerk it back just in case the stove was hot.

I’d get a heel in the mouth sometimes after one of her jerks. A split lip, blood dripping down on the dress I had worn for that entire month, or longer, and a fight would break out. Me slapping the back of the offending leg, her kicking out at me ever more energetically. She hanging onto the cupboard door knobs and trying to keep her balance as the doors swung open then hastily closed with a bang.

The fights were vicious. Name calling. Slapping, kicking, and then hurling objects at each other that were within reach and sure to land a stinging blow.

Things would degenerate from there. Pati would hop down on the chair while I was distracted by a growing goose egg on my head from a ceramic bowl she took out of the cupboard and fired at my head.

Pati would leap from the chair and wrap her scrawny legs around my waist and she would commence pounding her fists about my head and ears. Trying to pry her off if me was next to impossible to I’d slap her with an open hand anywhere I could leaving stinging red welts on her legs.

We’d end up rolling around the floor with clumps of dried mud brought in by our dad’s boots and left there. All the while slapping and punching each other. Calling each other names and vowing we hated one another, wishing the other dead.

Pati and I were locked in a battle of survival. For food to sustain us. We loved each other and hated each other. We were fierce and angry little girls.

Today, as grown women, we are learning to love each other for who we are now. We are amazed that we survived our childhood.

Being placed in foster homes didn’t change much for us. At least we had food. Later we would be taught personal hygiene.

Ghosts from the past still haunt us.

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About Message In A Fold

I am an over the road truck driver in Drive-Away Transport part of the year, and the sole bookkeeper of this operation the other part of the year. I do a lot of whining until I can get in my craft room and play with paper and glue. View all posts by Message In A Fold

13 responses to “Childhood memories. The good ones that stick with me.

  • Joe

    You and Pati have become remarkable women. I know because I married you 22+ years past and would/will do it again. Thank you for saying yes all those years ago. It’s beenore than worth the ride.
    Your husband.

  • pati

    Talk about memories, when sis asked about memories, WOW! Look what came flying back!! lol lol lol . Memories are just that, memories, you only hurt if you allow them to hurt you. Enjoy them uf you can because they are what made you, you. There are so many ways to USE your memories to make your TOMORROWS that much better. SMILE, it could be worse. !!

  • Shelly

    I second that Joe !!!! Meeting Leslie here online and in person She (YOU Leslie ) is an amazing Woman and I’m sure Patti is too. Although my childhood was rough I did have Grandparents ( they at one point lived in the backwoods with me with no utilities at all, I can still remember being afraid I’d fall down into the out house !!) who did make sure we ate sometimes only gravy and bread but we had something in our bellies. Personal hygiene well not so much there either. Even with all that went on I knew my Mom loved me and my Grandparents too. I am amazed we didn’t end up in foster homes. Can’t remember many brutal fights we each did our own thing and didn’t really play much together although I do remember the adult to adult fights and some kids being beat ( luckily I was not one of them ).
    I agree with Patti ,good or bad all those things made You… YOU.
    I was talking with Brian the other day about all the chaos with our families and both concluded we wouldn’t change a thing that’s happened to us because if we did there may not be an US. If my parents had moved to Colorado before my birth dad ( or who probably is not ) another tidbit shared to me the last while by my Mom…. and Brian’s Mom had not married a stranger to get her kids back out of the foster care system in Montana ( she too had many stays in the mental institutions ) and came to Illinois we would not have each other or the wonderful family we have now and I would not want to miss THIS for anything !! Not that those times were easy for any of us, they still influence who we are. Foster care was good to Brian and that’s one of the things that tugged at his heart for us to become foster parents. Seeing kids in situations like ours tugged my heart to help spare them the things we encountered. It inspired us to want to be different, to work hard, to be clean, to make sure our kids know we love them and just how important they are to us. It made us vow to really make our marriage and family a priority above everything else except our faith and to trust that God had a plan for us and would see us through. Another vow we made each other was no physical violence allowed both of us lived through too much of it !! Oh I remember the deviled meat in a can Brian and I lived on it and tomato soup in our first years together makes me feel ill to think of it now we ate it so much 🙂
    It’s been a wild ride sometimes but I would not change anything.
    The important thing is you and Patti have each other now and can share in each others lives. You have wonderful husbands, families and friends who love you. Now that is Good !!

    Ok… enough of my jabbering on……
    I love you my Friend and count you as a great blessing in my life.
    Be safe in your travels Big Hugs,
    Shelly

    • Message In A Fold

      Thank you, Shelly, for sharing with me.

      You and Pati are correct. We are so much more than our circumstances. Best of all we are all proof that children raised in abuse DON’T grow up to be psychopaths!!

      Love you my friend – Leslie

      • Shelly

        Amen to that one !!
        I do have to say sometimes I have wondered though …. You know the nut don’t fall far from the tree …… LOL 🙂

        Love you

  • gardenpinks

    Pati is right – memories are just memories and we make of them what we will. Some people wallow forever in self pity whining about how bad their lives were – well get on and make it better! Let some of those crappy memories go because there are plenty of better ones to replace them with 🙂
    Quite a few of us had it tough and we are what we are despite that upbringing and what we learnt from it was how not to bring up our own children 🙂 I pity my mother that she will never know the beauty of having loving children and being loved in return. Poor sad woman who will never understand but having said that there is no forgiveness in my heart for her and I’d rather not be in the same room as she is in!
    Like you Leslie, like Pati and Shelly I, too, have a good man in my life and have plenty of love now 🙂 Long may it last.
    Love and hugs
    Lynn xx

    • Message In A Fold

      You have two choices in life….surrender to it and let it beat you down or suck it up and walk it off. Strength, real strength and character comes by sucking it up and walking it off. NOT by surrender. Surrendering is for sissies!

      Our men are who keep us strong and walking it off. We all would have kicked their butts to the curb long ago if they weren’t up to the challenge 🙂

      Love you girls so much – Leslie

    • Message In A Fold

      As to forgiveness – some people are not worthy of it. Just write them out of your life and only keep those that are worth it.

      Love you my friend – Leslie

    • Shelly

      Lifting my virtual margarita high ……To our Wonderful husbands !!!! …..Cheers…… To our Families !!!….. To our Friends….

      Love you Ladies 🙂

  • pati

    Exactly ladies!! There is SO much more out there for us, a whole world to (make a difference) in. Look at what has been acimplished in our lives so far!! As far as i can see it, we, ( all of us thsts been from hell and lived) have a LIFETIME to enjoy from now on. And lets not forget, others have seen us struggle, or heard if our struggle and now see what we have become. I know for a fact that i have heard myself from people i have come in contact with from my past, tell me, my goodnesd, didnt think you would make it. Now look at you. They stand proud at what and who we now are. (And so do I)!!!

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