Breaking in

Summer 1997

This summer is going to be great. I will start babysitting two little boys. They are the sons of one of the associate pastor’s and his wife. I love little kids, and my favorite book series is The Babysitter’s Club. I cannot wait to try out some of the fun things that I have been reading about for years. I am excited to start earning some money.

Our family has moved out of the house and into a trailer on our property. Two of the associate pastors and their wives have moved into our house. I am not really sure why this is happening, but I know it has something to do with money, and that we can’t afford the house anymore. Our family is back to eating top ramen almost every day (I have become creative with noodle dishes). On Sundays we get to treat ourselves with grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. I don’t feel like we are poor or starving, I remember feeling like this was a cozy time, and a chance to be creative. Sister and I share a bedroom with two bunks, brother sleeps in the living room on the couch that turns into a bed, and Mom and Dad sleep in the bedroom on the opposite side of the trailer from us. When I babysit the little boys, it is in our trailer. I don’t really understand why I cannot watch them in the house. I assume it is because they don’t trust me to be alone in the house. I am glad they trust me to watch the babies, no matter the location.

It is shortly after I begin babysitting that the associate pastor and his wife begin having problems. They split up and he left. Nobody knows where he went, but we all know that he wants his wife and kids to come with him. It is a bit of a scary time for me. The wife has told me that her husband might come for the kids while she is at work and I am babysitting. She tells me that if this happens I am to hide with the kids and not to let him have them. I am afraid to play with the babies outside, so I spend most of the days inside constantly checking the windows.

Six weeks after he has left, we came home from church to our trailer door wide open and everything was tossed about, as if someone had broken in, looking for something. Drawers were opened and dumped, closets had all their contents pulled out, but it appeared as if nothing valuable had been stolen. The one thing they took was my babysitting schedule. It was then we knew who had broken in, and why. It was then we knew that he would be back, and it would be when I was babysitting.

Mom started staying home with me when I was babysitting. One day it happened: a strange car came up the driveway. Mom told me to go hide with the kids, she climbed out the window to get to him quicker. I took the two boys into the back of the trailer and shut the door. I did everything I could to keep them quiet. I told them that no matter what happened, I would always love them. I don’t remember if it was him who had the baseball bat or my mom, but I remember a bat being involved and I was really scared of someone getting hurt. He did not enter the trailer, but I could hear him yelling that he would be back for his kids. After what seemed like an eternity, Mom told me it was safe to come out. I was scared and shaking; we called the babies’ mom to come get them.

I continued to watch the babies, but the location would vary now. Sometimes I would be at home and sometimes it would be in the basement at the church. About a month after the house incident, the associate pastor showed up at the church, this time with backup of about four other people. I was not alone, my brother and sister and a few other adults were present. The associate pastor knocked on the door, loudly, yelling for us to let him in. He wants his kids. I run into a side room and shut the door. There is no closet or anywhere for me to hide. My brother and sister sit on a bed. I hear the adults telling him that they will call the cops. He says he doesn’t care. I hear a loud smashing noise and know that he has broken in. I tell the boys that I love them and no matter what happens, I will always love them. My brother leans against the door, trying to block the associate pastor. He busts open the door and my brother hits the wall. I’m standing there holding his boys as he approaches. He goes to grab the boys but I won’t let go. He looks me right in the eye and says “Give me my boys.” So I do. Then I black out. I don’t remember how I got from that room to just outside the doors, looking for which way he went. Brother says that I was crawling and crying.

I learn later that the associate pastor took his kids and dropped them off at the police station. His wife left to be with her family. I sat before a mediator, with the associate pastor across the table from me, and had to tell this story. I don’t know what happened after that, but I never saw them again.

For a long time, I did not feel trustworthy because of this incident. I carried on and continued babysitting. But I was traumatized. It has taken me a long time, but I am through the trauma of the incident. I am still afraid of someone breaking in, but I feel that is a normal fear. I am prepared as best as I can be for my family.

I am finally at a place where I can enjoy working with children. I volunteer in my children’s classrooms, and I don’t feel that sick feeling in my stomach. Children are our precious gift, and I feel so lucky to have my boys in my life.

~E

 

 

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Maybe

 

Maybe it was this picture that was posted of our family when I was 13 or 14. Maybe it was the lack of sleep and sickness that drained my physical body. Maybe it was the stars or the moon. I don’t know what it was, but this week was a tough one for me personally, especially my self esteem.

I spent most of every day this week trying to hold back tears, unexplainably. I had kids throwing fits as I’m dragging them out of public situations. The “failures” for me outnumbered the successes. My New Year’s Resolution was “to not be so hard on myself”, and it all came crashing down this week. I know I will get through it, but for now I feel insecure and low on energy.

So there will be no story this week, no poem. I am taking a mental health week to get back on track.

~E

 

 

This picture was taken shortly after my big lesson when I was allowed to wear “normal” clothes again. A few months before this photo was taken I was stood up in front of the whole school with another girl. Pastor W asked the school who they thought was prettier, her or me. Everyone said her. That incident was a major hit to my self esteem.12523143_1244695908881164_121592164971674881_n

Wild and Free

I’m not like you,

Or so I’ve been told.

I’ll never be like you,

Even when I’m old.

 

You will always have the power,

I will always be weak,

Or so you think.

 

You can trick my Mum

With your command,

Your piercing words,

And heavy hand.

 

You trick her into beating me

Yet I can see her pain

Her soul dies again….and again

 

I see my future, wild and free,

It lies just out of reach.

I will run into my Grammy’s arms,

Her safe haven at the beach.

 

That day will come and I will run,

So send your wolves to kill

I will tame them still.

 

You thought you had me locked away

How easy you forget

That deep inside I had the strength

Of which you had not met.

 

I lit a match and walked away

Flames licking at my heels

My life was never real.

 

You fed me lies

As your cancer grew.

Tell me again

How God protects you.

 

I sat there and listened

My head nodding

Mind plotting.

 

The world was upside down

It all became so clear.

All that I believed

Was fueled by only fear.

 

I found my courage buried deep

I found my voice

I made my choice.

 

I choose to use the strength inside

Beauty born from pain.

I use the voice that once was silent

It is mine to claim.

 

You are right, I’m not like you

And I will never be.

I’m happy, wild, and free.

 

~E

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Betrothed

Spring 1997

Somehow I managed to skate through the holidays without incident. I didn’t get in trouble for having a big head because of presents, or being happy. I am about to turn 14, and I have survived my 13th year, in which I got my first taste of being in a big “lesson”. The lesson in itself is a little hard to explain; I got in trouble because I was happy and excited to be a teenager. I have now gotten through that lesson and asked Jesus to come into my heart (for the second time in my life).

The next step was to get baptized. It was surprisingly easy, I just said I wanted to do it and my parents set up a time with the pastors. The church had a hot tub in the basement, which didn’t seem weird at the time but now it seems really strange, and that is where they did the baptizing. Baptizing is such a weird thing to me. It feels very intimate. You and the pastor get into some sort of water for dipping, he asks you some questions, then tips you backwards under the water, and pulls you back up. It is a metaphor for putting on the armor of Christ, and showing your trust. At least, that is what they taught in this group.

Our school is very small. Jenn is the only girl my age. I am afraid to talk to the older girls because I will be told that I am trying to be on their level. I am afraid to talk to the younger girls because I will be told that I am trying to be in charge of them. Jenn and I hang out a lot. I like her. She is a little boy crazy. I either avoid them, or try to fit in with them. I am afraid of boys after that movie Pastor W made me watch. I do not want what happened to Jodie Foster to happen to me. Jenn must not have watched that movie. I am also a little jealous of Jenn. She is so fearless. She hangs out with the older girls and the younger girls and never gets in trouble. I feel like they have somehow cheated the system, and I haven’t figured it out yet. Most of the time I just feel lonely. ┬áJenn likes one of the W boys who is exactly her age. She says that when they graduate they are going to get married and have kids. She talks about their wedding and it sounds like she has it all figured out. I am puzzled, as I have never sat around thinking about my wedding. The only dress I have ever liked was worn by Buttercup in the movie The Princess Bride. I have pictured my life as a grown-up: I would live in a log cabin on a large piece of land, with many horses and a few dogs. In the picture I would be married I suppose, but that wasn’t the focus. I liked the picture I had in my head of me driving my old truck down a country road with a dog in the seat next to me. I didn’t have much to say when she talked about getting married, so I would just listen.

I am called into the office during school. I am instantly nervous, with a ticklish feeling in my tummy. The principal’s tone of voice didn’t sound mad, that’s a good sign. As I enter the office, I see two boys already sitting, as well as both pastors, my principal, and principal’s wife. Both boys are my age. One is my friend, Henry, and the other is one of Pastor W’s sons, Charlie. Charlie is the next brother in line from Ted. Nobody looks mad, but both boys look nervous. I wonder what I did to call this meeting? Pastor W starts talking. He tells us that we are all getting older, and are going to want to start thinking about relationships. Pastor W says that it is not good to have too many relationships, and the ones we choose now should be the ones we have forever. This is a new concept to me, especially since I am not allowed to start dating until I am 16. Then he turns to me. He tells me that I need to choose between Henry and Charlie. Who would I like to marry? I feel totally put on the spot. I really like Henry, but I would not want to marry him. Charlie is cute and quiet. And I think that if I get involved with him, that maybe Ted will leave me alone. I wonder if I choose Charlie maybe I would not get in as much trouble all the time. I think for a long time, knowing that I have to choose one in order to get out of this office. I say that I choose Charlie. I have the feeling that I would have gotten in trouble either way, but no one was happy with my choice. There were a lot of questions like “why didn’t you choose Henry, do you think you are better than he is?” I am scrambling for answers. I don’t remember much else about the conversation, but I was eventually allowed back to my desk.

That is how I became betrothed to Charlie.

~E