Disclaimer: I’ve forgiven my dad. We talk now. I don’t write out of spite or resent. I write because I want to share my experiences with people. If you are going through any kind of trauma, you are not alone. It may seem like you are in the moment, but there are people who love you, and care for you, and are wiling to help you when you are ready.
I don’t have a lot of memories of my childhood. I remember the gist of things that happened but there are a handful of “vines” in my head: Six-second clips that constantly loop in my mind.
Trauma is funny that way.
I never intentionally suppressed my memories and yet, I have a hard time recalling a lot of things that happened.
My earliest memory is of me as a toddler.
I woke up in the middle of the afternoon and I couldn’t find my mom.
She was outside talking to the neighbour so, she wasn’t really gone. But to an infant, it can be traumatic to not know where mommy is.
I remember standing up on the couch, stomping my feet and crying hysterically, until she finally came back inside.
My next memory after that is in kindergarten. The clips don’t really go together but that’s how my head plays them.
I remember doing melted wax art on the floor with some broken crayons, a spoon and a candle. All of a sudden, my teacher forced me to hide in the bathroom. In the door crack, I could see my dad entering the classroom, looking for me and then leaving when he couldn’t find me.
After that, I remember a parent-teacher meeting where my mom was told my grades were slipping.
And then, I remember becoming class president somehow in first grade and getting to spend a morning with the school’s president. We explored the school’s gardens and greenhouse, and bonded over the fact that we were both named Precious. (Well, she was named Preciosa, the Spanish version of my name.)
Random, random, random.
I also have a memory of me playing in the yard and my my mom’s sister came running towards the house. She was bleeding profusely from her head.
The allegation was that my dad had hit her with a 2″ x 4.”
Furious (justifiably so), she made my mom and I leave.
We spent the night in a seedy motel room that was pink and red. We slept on a heart-shaped massage-bed that had mirrors above it.
I can’t make this stuff up. This was my life.
There’s a couple of other unrelated memories after that, but the most significant was of me playing outside my mom’s apartment complex while she and my dad, who no longer lived together, “had a talk.”
The “video” skips to me pressed up against the opposite side of the room as my dad pushed my mom to the floor and choked her from behind.
Then, it skips again to my mom in the police station wearing a neck brace.
Then, it skips again to the police taking pictures of her apartment.
Then, it skips again to me standing on the balcony where a clothing iron was thrown, for some reason, and the police seemed mighty interested in it. I also found our goldfish dead on the balcony. I thought it had jumped out of its bowl because it was trying to escape his tiny world. (Isn’t it funny how a child tries to explain the unexplained?)
Then, it skips to a memory of my dad entering the elevator at church. I get in the car with my mom. The next day we went to the airport and left for Canada.
Okay, that was more of a YouTube video than a Vine but, these are the memories that I call “Chapter 1.”
They make up my life before I came here. My life before I turned 8.
I lump it all together but this chapter, with the few details I can remember, obviously played a huge role in shaping my future.
Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of good memories. But if you asked me to tell you what I remember most, this is it.
Funny thing is, these are not the only violent experiences I had growing up. But these are the details I remember.
Like I said, trauma is funny that way.