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Amanda - Story
Wed 17th May 2017 by
The Learning Tree
I started preschool before I was three years old. My grandparents thought it best to start early so that I learn quicker and socialize appropriately. I always loved school, even at a super young age. At the preschool I went to, I remember loving my teacher (and sometimes accidentally calling her “mom” as you do at that age). I remember that we had this tree painted on the wall, super large – and each child in the class had a basket with their name on it underneath the tree. The baskets were paper drawings and just tapped onto the mural. There were many apples in the tree, also paper and tapped on. If you did something wrong or acted up, the teacher would put an apple into your basket. If you got three apples in the basket in a day, your parents got a notice about your behavior (three apples and you’re out kind of thing). I never had more than one apple in my basket a day for sure. I was always an angel. BUT I do remember being so bad one day that I jumped from zero apples to sitting out in the hallway with the other offenders. I don’t remember what we did but I do remember being made to sit on a bench – on our hands – as a time out punishment. Apparently, as you will see later on in my life, I am either an angel, or completely in trouble as the devil. I have no middle ground.
I also remember nap time in the preschool. They had a large gym in the middle of all the classrooms and every child napped in the gym. You would roll out your sleeping bag and “nap” – which no one ever really slept of course because that’s crazy. How do you sleep in front of all these people? But I do remember this one very large child that always laid his mat kind of above mine, where his feet were closest to my head… and the feet… most kids left their socks on at nap time but not this psycho. This kid was barefoot and I remember his feet smelling so bad and he had blisters all over his feet all the time as well. How was I supposed to sleep with that in my face.
The preschool would also often go on trips to the local swimming pool BUT since I couldn’t swim (and had almost drowned several times), I was not allowed to go along. I would have to stay just there in the gym with a few other kids and one teacher.
But the thing I remember most about preschool was my third birthday. I loved frogs so it was frog everything. Frog cake, frog cups/plates, and all the decorations. The reason I loved frogs so much is because at my grandparent’s house, we had a family of frogs that would come to the back sliding glass door most nights and visit. My aunt made a large frog out of ceramic for my grandmother and it was sitting by the sliding door, facing out. I always thought that the frogs that visited maybe saw this large frog as their mother or something to that effect. I would sit by the door for long periods of time and just “play” with the frogs. After my grandmother died, I made sure to keep that ceramic frog… and he sits on my patio to this day.
Amanda - A Memory
Tue 18th April 2017 by
Everyone has a certain amount of anxiety in their lives. For me, my mind is never quiet. I have generalized anxiety and Bipolar Type II (the manic side of bipolar with less depressive episodes). I’ve tried every medication under the sun and decided it was best for me to be “un-medicated” and feel more like myself. Most medications made me feel like a shell of myself or a zombie. I do take some anti-anxiety medications but mostly that is just so my mind will shut down and allow me to sleep. I also have some form of insomnia and have to medicate myself in order to sleep most of the time. I am usually okay but there are some episodes. I’ve only ever had one full on panic attack but I often times have anxiety attacks. All of these issues started in my pre-teen years, at about twelve years old.
I remember being in middle school and being so manic in my mind that I would bite and chew on the insides of my mouth – that’s how it first made its appearance to me. Then it manifested into what is known as “dermatillomania” – which is the need to make your skin completely smooth in certain areas. A lot of people with OCD tendencies have this issue – you have to pick at your face or the back side of your arms. For me, I didn’t want it to be seen by anyone that I had this issue so the area I chose to pick at was my feet (which would be covered with shoes when needed). I still have this habit and when anxiety levels are super high, I will pick to the point of bleeding and it can make it hard to walk. But that is not the point of this post.
I remember my first real anxiety attack (wasn’t a panic attack but close). I was getting ready to go on a week or two long bible camp out of town. Was all set – was even at the church (which was behind my house). Then they told us to be sure we had enough dresses for each day to go to the sermon at night. I didn’t have enough on me so I was going to just run home and grab a few more so I didn’t have to wear the same dress twice. I got home and my mother was not there (she had gone to the grocery store). So I couldn’t get into my house to get more close. Then the panic hit. A lot of my anxiety stems from social settings (social anxiety) and the thought of wearing the same dress more than once – I couldn’t bear to get made fun of. So the panic got more intense and I decided I just wouldn’t go. I didn’t know how to not go since the church crew was basically just waiting for me to get back so we could hop on the bus and leave. So I didn’t go back. I didn’t know where to hide (and I am not sure why I hid to be honest because in retrospect, I could have just told them I changed my mind). But that’s not what the panic made me do, it made me hide. I hid in our backyard tool shed. Eventually, the church sent people to look for me. Found my house was locked and no one home. A friend of mine jumped our back fence and looked for me there. People all calling my name. The panic intensified, thinking they would force me to go. So I held the tool shed door shut as tightly as I could. Eventually though, my friend found me.
I went with her back to the church where they were just about to call the police. I told them what happened, that is was this inherent need to hide and I was not sure why. They called my mom and she came home right away and I didn’t go on the trip. No one was mad at me, just glad I hadn’t been kidnapped or anything like that. My mom didn’t really understand why I just didn’t call her. But in the moment of a real anxiety or panic attack, your mind does not process thoughts appropriately and you get this “fight or flight” feeling.
I didn’t have another episode like that until probably fifteen years later. And even now, I still get them from time to time – when stress levels are high. The moral is – you never know what someone else is dealing with or going through. Always treat everyone with kindness and offer help instead of judgment. And don’t be afraid to tell people you have issues and need help from time to time. No one is perfect – so don’t try to be. Just be you.
Amanda - Story
Tue 11th April 2017 by
My grandfather always drove this navy blue Cadillac Cutlass Supreme with wire rims. It drove like a boat - smooth sailing - and it always smelled new. I can still hear his keychain hitting the column of the steering wheel in time with the motion of the car. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. It was almost mesmerizing and was definitely relaxing. He could have hypnotized people with that sound. I was always in the backseat, sometimes sitting like I was supposed to, but sometimes sleeping on the floorboard or on the seats - depending on where my brother was in the car. This was before car seats were required for older children and before seat belt laws were really enforced. The once a month visit to the detention center in Gatesville typically meant I was asleep on the floorboard. It was a bit of a drive. I knew to wake up when I heard the car floating over a very long bridge, hitting the seams in the road in perfect time with Grandpa's keys - the bumps were like waves hitting a boat. Once I heard the orchestra of the Cadillac on that bridge, I knew we were only a few short minutes from seeing Mom.
For the first few years, I didn't understand where she was or why we could only visit her once a month. Or why she had to stay behind a glass and talk to us using a telephone even though she was right there. So close, within reach, yet untouchable. At three and four years old, it's funny what details you remember. Everything in the maximum security prison was very grey and orange. Orange all over the walls and chairs. Not sure why that is. Mom was always in a white jumpsuit, hair done, makeup beautiful - not sure how she always managed to look glamourous, even there. For visitation, the families were on one side of a glass wall and the inmates on the other. Each family had a sort of cubicle with partial walls separating the families to give the illusion of privacy. There was one chair at least in each cubicle, maybe two, and a sort of counter top (almost looked like a desk). Of course the stereotypical phone to talk through, which I never really understood, maybe to resemble privacy? Not sure. I was small enough then that my grandparents usually just let me sit up on the countertop and that way I could see Mom completely and she could see me completely. A few years into her sentence, she was moved to the minimum security area, which were sort of pop-up buildings around the grounds. She was there due to good behavior. She worked for the warden in her building and they became good friends. When we would visit her there, we had actual tables to sit at and could hug her and talk face to face. The room looked almost like a work break room - with vending machines and sodas. During those visits, I was in her lap most of the time. Grandma always dressed me up super pretty and cute to see Mom. Curled my hair and ironed my dress (not that it would stay that way but we tried). Mom always looked her best to see us as well. We also sent letters back and forth often. Mom would send drawings she did for me of vines covered in heart shaped flowers. And her letters were always very upbeat with stickers everywhere. I still have some of them in a lock box for safe keeping.
During the visitations, we were all very happy and I remember them only being cheerful. The times I remember being sad - missing her - was at night. I would clutch her picture in my bed and cry. I always watched Dolly Parton's late night talk show (you probably didn't even know she had one). And at the end of every show, she would sing her signature song, "I Will Always Love You" and I would cry myself to sleep after turning off my thirteen inch pink TV in my room. Mom loved Dolly Parton so it always comforted me - I would pretend it was Mom singing me to sleep. That was when I was very young, still not really knowing why she was gone or even where exactly. I just knew she wasn't there to tuck me in. Grandma or Grandpa tucked me in every night though, without fail. They were great at making me feel loved and special. Every night, they (whoever's turn it was) would say, "I love you, sweet dreams, goodnight." Once Mom came home for good, she continued that tradition using that exact phrase. Her not being there all the time was confusing for a toddler because she also would come home on furloughs every so often. So I would suddenly have 100% access to her for a few days and be in complete bliss. Mom often brought me dolls or toys and would braid my hair - but then just as suddenly, she would be gone. And I would cry again. I just didn't understand.
Once I was a bit older and started to understand where she was (though the why was still kind of a mystery wrapped in lies), I was less sad, cried less. At five or six or seven years old, because you start to be around children whose parents aren't in prison, you begin to understand more of why the lies were needed. It wasn't normal. There was some shame to it. Then once I finally understood the whole story of what really happened, there was no shame left - just a feeling that no one would understand or be able to relate - so I avoided the questions with ferocity. And a wall was built.
Amanda - Thoughts
Thu 6th April 2017 by
To Dream ~ To Float
I wake up, blurry eyed, dazed... the bed is so comfy. The sheets and comforter and pillows - like being surrounded by fluffy marshmallowy clouds. The type of meds I took to obtain restful sleep with determine how long the fog lasts. It's hard to quiet anxiety enough to sleep. My mind races, especially when I lay down to sleep. Then there is the added anxiety of knowing that I can't sleep well on my own and if I don't actually sleep tonight, how can I function properly tomorrow. BUT - meds. And finally rest.
I hate waking up because then it means the dreams are done for that session. And my dreams are the kind you typically don't want to wake from. I usually remember my dreams in great detail, as if I have been watching a movie. Alot of the time, they are lucid as well. There is no feeling like a lucid dream. And it can be hard to explain to someone who has never had one. In my experience, I don't know it's lucid right away. There will be something that gives the dream away. I will walk through my living room or house and realize, my house doesn't look like this - this is a dream! Or I will see my grandmother or my mother - dead giveaway (no pun intended). Even though I know they aren't really there and it is a dream once I see them, I still always try to talk to my grandmother and mother as if they were actually there. Asking them how life on the other side is, if they miss me... and I try to hold onto the dream if I feel myself waking up. I want to stay and talk to them as long as I can, even if I know it is only all in my head. Many times, the second I realize it is a dream (if no family members are present), then I get very excited because I know I can do whatever I want - the laws of physics and real life don't apply. I equate it to the Matrix movies. I know I can fly. I know i can dodge bullets, drive crazy, defy gravity - and not ever die. I have "died" in dreams before but as with anyone, the second that knife or bullet hits you, you wake up. My second favorite thing about lucid dreaming is the flying though. It's more like floating in the air but you control your height and speed. The minute I realize I am dreaming, I am up in the air. It feels so free - nothing matters - there is no stress - just the air.
But the best thing about lucid dreams is the water. I remember the first time I had one of these dreams. And I don't mean the kind where you jump in a dark pool of water, sink to the bottom, and just sit there calmly because you know you won't die. I mean the pretty water. It's a light blue and purple usually. Warm - but not hot. Soft, like moving through silk that doesn't even barely touch you. The first time, the scenery was very much like the movie "Fern Gully" - trees, plants, and then this pool in the middle. I stepped in (remember, I know I'm dreaming and I know that usually, going under water means I will wake up - but it is always worth the risk). That first time, I went too fast. The water felt so serene and calming, I had to see how far the feeling could go so I kinda just dived down. And woke up. The next time - and the time I often wish I could go back to - the time I try to go back to when I concentrate - there was no scenery. It was just water, like an infinity pool, as far as you could literally see. The water was warm again, silky, calm. Still. This time, the light blues, purples, but a hint of pink now. Clouds sort of floated on the top of the water in spots and then above. I could see others wading in the pool but I didn't know who they were. The water was waist height. I went slowly this time. I let my fingers drag the water tops. Like when you stick your hand out the window on a warm day. I had on a sort of silky toga type thing, no shoes, hair long. It was calm, weightless, no worry, just joy. If you believe in such things, I would equate it to how I imagine heaven feels. Slowly a bit deeper in the water, just to see if that changed the feeling. It didn't. I laid back, floating on my back. The water on my head felt like when someone drags their fingers on the top of your head and you get the chills but in a good way. I waited as long as I could because I knew that it was a dream and would at some point end. I didn't put my face under water for a very long time, just savoring it. At one point though, I thought, maybe I can go under here and not wake up? I didn't know for sure. So I tried - and of course as you do - I woke up. Back to this world, so harsh and unforgiving - back to stress and daily life. I actually teared up because it was sad to me to not be in that place anymore.
But you get up, take your caffeine, and trudge on. Because that is life and you have to. And you never know what the day could hold. Maybe today the sun will hit your face just right, just enough to feel the warmth.
Amanda - Story
Tue 4th April 2017 by
Bumps, Bruises, Scrapes, and Scars
I have somehow managed, throughout my entire life until now at age thirty-five, to have never broken any bones in my body… (currently knocking on wood). As a young child, you don't even really think much about any consequences to your actions when you play or do anything really. You just sort of go! My grandparents' house was where I spent most of my very young years - age two till age seven - and despite my grandmother's constant paranoia of me or my brother being injured, we still had our fair share of minor incidents.
Our house at that time was in a culdesac and we knew all our neighbors. The town I grew up in was very safe - given, that was a very different time than we are currently living in. The house was up on a hill a bit, especially on one side, so there was a perfect hill for all the area kids to tumble and roll down safely. My grandmother would watch us from her kitchen window and at some point, ruin the fun by tapping loudly on the glass, giving that look - and making us stop. She didn't want anyone to get hurt but the worst that would happen on a hill like that would be little pricks by sticker burrs. I was best friends with the girl next door and I remember one time when we were running across the circle drive and she slipped. She hit her head on the cement/gravel and when she stood up, she realized how bad it was. Blood was dripping down her face and she started to cry like she was dying (a bit dramatic, as kids often are). Gravel was literally stuck into her forehead from the gash. I took her right to her mother who then took her to the hospital just to be safe.
My brother and I were also friends with the kids directly across from us in the culdesac. We played in their trees often since they had a sort of fort up in one. The girl, who was a year younger than me, was running through our backyard once and stepped on something extremely painful. She let out a whimper and a yell like she was going to die! I was so scared. I couldn't tell what it was that was stuck in her foot so I told her to sit still and I would get help. I ran and grabbed my grandfather who came out and assisted us. Her cries died down until he pulled the wasp out of her foot. Another few loud cries but it subsided decently quickly. She probably wouldn't have felt as much pain had it not been in the tender bottom of her barefoot. Where I grew up, we almost never had shoes on. That's just how things were. On another occasion, my brother and I were playing baseball in the driveway of their house. The boy, who was in my grade at school, was pitching. I was up to bat - he threw a fast one - and bam. I was out. I came to and was flat on my back on the driveway. I couldn't breathe. They were all so scared. After a few seconds, the air came in and I was able to get up. It was so fast that no one realized until after I got up what had even happened. He threw the ball, I missed of course, and the ball hit me right in the diaphragm. Knocked the wind out of me and caused the fall. I was fine pretty quickly but we didn't play baseball out there anymore.
As paranoid as my grandmother was about safety and injuries, I have vivid memories of my brother and I learning archery in the backyard. In the picture below, I was about seven years old. My mother was either already home or visiting on a furlough and was shooting with us. My brother loved archery - I liked it but was not great at it. A few years later, my brother would put a steel arrow through our A/C unit - ending our archery days for good.
The most serious injury I sustained as a small child was when I was around three years old. I was playing in the back courtyard between the house and the privacy fence. Now remember, that privacy fence was locked with a padlock on both sides. My brother somehow got the key to the padlock and took the lock off the fence. I remember him yelling "heads up!!!" and I turn around just in time to get the padlock right in my forehead, between the eyes. It hit me with such force that I actually was knocked unconscious. I may have woken up somewhere in there but the time I remember finally waking up for good - there were all these colorful balloons and get well bears and the like. I didn't know where I was and I don't remember the pain - just all the colors and love and well wishes. And my brother crying because he thought he had seriously injured his sister, which of course he didn't mean to do. I still have that scar just above my left eye brow. Just goes to show - when you says "head ups" - make sure that the person you are tossing said object to is actually aware that you are throwing something. Lessons learned.
Amanda - Story
Fri 31st March 2017 by
Tonsils and Earaches
As a child, I was not "sick" super often - not like my brother. He had strepthroat all the time. So when he got his tonsils taken out finally, my grandparents thought it best I get mine out too. I was seven years old. I remember it well actually - going to the surgical room and back then (showing my age here) they put a gas mask on you to knock you out. I was so determined they wouldn't "get me" so I held my breath... as long as I could. The doctor was telling me that it wouldn't matter, it would still put me to sleep eventually, and to just relax. NO!! Kept holding my breath. Next thing I know, its a few hours later and I am waking up in the recovery room. I was so thirsty - the nurse gave me some water - and all I could hear was the girl next to me screaming and crying. I looked over and recognized her. It was my neighbor, what were the odds! Now, I can't remember what she had been there for... just remember seeing her so upset and thinking... man, glad I am not over-reacting the way she was. I had always tried my hardest, even since that young age, to never cry. I felt it showed weakness. And besides, the jello was nice.
I did cry however with ear pain. ALWAYS with my ears. When I was in pre-k and kindergarten, my hearing was so bad, that if I wasn't facing the teacher, I wouldn't know when they were talking to me. Kids would have to tap me on the shoulder and point up at the teacher and say, "Amanda, she is calling you..." I had tubes put in my ears seven times in total. They would do the procedure, they would fall out, do the procedure, they would fall out - it was frustrating to say the least. I remember the earaches hurting so badly. Grandma would pour just a drop or two of hot oil in my ears and put a cotton ball in to hold it. That seemed to ease some of the pain. Some nights I would just be crying in pain and couldn't sleep. My grandfather would then scoop me up, take me to the rocker with my favorite doll (a yellow rat - why? I have no idea), and rock me until I was calm and fell asleep. Such a sweet man. Because of all the earaches, Grandma would often send me out to play, but with cotton balls in my ears (not really sure why... or how that helped). And then finally - at some unknown age - the pain was over. I hear fine now.
OH and as a "suck up teacher's pet" in school, I always sat up in the very front. Hand always raised, always had the answer. But because of that, I honestly did not know until I learned to drive that I was kinda blind. Not completely - but seeing far distances was very hard. And you don't notice that until you can't read the speed limit or road signs. Because in class and daily life as a kid - I never had the need to see further. My vision must not have been too bad when I was very small because schools all do that testing to check if you need glasses and I always passed just fine. BUT they do stop testing when you get just a bit older. Thank God for contacts because I am not the type of person that looks good in glasses. They don't make me look smarter - just odd. Plus, with eyes this blue, I don't want anything to detract from how they shine. One of my mother's favorite songs for me was "Baby Blue" by George Strait. I have a very vivid memory of that song. It was one summer when I was a pre-teen and I had been attending one of those AWFUL summer camps. Not the kind where you stay for weeks - the kind where they drop you off in the mornings and then pick you up in the afternoons. It was one of the worst places. No adult supervision really. Just some game tables and benches. We ate whatever snacks or food we brought for ourselves. And that was it. I just sat around all day, feeling left out. So one morning we were driving there, and that song comes on, and I started crying. I told my mom that I didn't want to go because of how terrible it was. I never cried mind you, so she knew to believe me. She didn't make me go. And we went and had pancakes before she took me to my grandparents house instead. I guess never crying worked out in this case.
Amanda - Story
Fri 24th March 2017 by
Little White Lies
When my grandmother sat us down to go over our "story," I was only about three and a half - and my brother would have been about six and a half (almost exactly three years apart). I found out that my brother already knew the lie because he had been to pre-school and was now in first grade, so he was already prepped. I guess the delay on telling me was since I was so young. Grandma told me that if anyone asked where my mother was or why I lived with my grandparents, I start by just telling them that my mother is "away" and will be back soon. If they pressed for details about where my father was, I should say that he died in a car accident. If someone was to press even further or knew that my mother was in prison, then I should tell them that my mother and my father had a fight while driving, they pulled over, and got out. Then my mother got her gun out and was just firing warning shots in the air to scare my dad. But my dad jumped unexpectedly and a bullet hit him, causing his death. And that is why my mom was in prison but that it was just an accident. OK - GOT IT. My brother said that usually, no one ever asks for that much details but he would have the same story so that they matched if need be. I didn't know if what they were telling me was even true or if it wasn't what happened because again, three and a half... so I just nodded and was set to go. I wasn't the type of child to ask many questions, just did as I was told. I would later find out that a few important people knew the actual truth - like the principal of our school and a few of our teachers - since my grandparents were our legal guardians and had all the paperwork, of course people in charge would know why. It turned out that I didn't need to tell this lie for many years to come because kids never really thought to ask pressing questions, just accepted I lived with my grandparents and went about playing on the playground.
My brother and I shared this lie and almost everything else. We were bonded together through our struggles in life. Mom told me that when I was very small, my brother could do anything - anything at all - and I would smile and laugh like he was the world. She told me I never cried in my crib and never acted up, which is a good thing because my brother did enough acting up for the both of us. When we were living with our grandparents, my brother and I were very close and played together all the time. He was so protective of me. He also introduced me to horror films at that very young age because he was (accidentally I guess) allowed to see them and so I saw them too. I think my grandparents didn't know what the movies were that my brother was renting on VHS. Yes, VHS - I am that old. We LOVED things like "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Hell Raiser." I assume our bond over horror films is probably a good reason why I love horror films so much still to this day. They are really my only interest. I don't have hobbies or things I like to do besides seeing scary movies. When you go through extreme trauma with someone, you are bonded in a special way. It felt as if we were two warriors in the same battle and no one else would ever really understand our situation like we did.
I remember my brother having to go see a child psychologist (for his truama he witnessed) and I would sit in the waiting room while he was in the back. I am lucky and blessed that I was too young to remember anything that happened. Unfortunately for him, he was old enough to see what happened with his own eyes. He handled the trauma very well in his young years - it only transformed to negative behaviors when he was older. The psychologist he saw had a very memorable office. Mind you, I just remember it from a low point, always being on the floor. All the colors were browns, oranges, and yellows - it was the mid 80's. Very clean, nice furniture, nice plants, and a calming atmosphere. I remember that I played in the play area while he was in the back, usually with one of the grandparents, the other watching me. At the time, I didn't know why we were there but didn't mind since it was nice and there were toys. Child psychologists are special people and I am sure they helped him as much as he could be helped. Maybe he should have kept going into his teens but who knows if that would have mattered enough. He and I may not be close now (we will get to that later) but there is a special love I have for him - as the only person to have been through what I have been through. And if I am honest, I miss the version of my brother that was my protector and best friend - hopefully he comes back around one day. He reminds me so much of my mother. He looks just like her - and I look like my father - or at least in the few pictures I have of him. I have no actual memories of him at all. But turns out that is okay - I had my grandpa as my male role model and he was a good one. Yes, there was extreme childhood trauma and that is terrible, but I don't remember my childhood being terrible. I remember feeling happy almost all the time and I really enjoyed how I grew up. I will always be grateful for that.
Amanda - A Memory
Mon 20th March 2017 by
80's Day at School
It's fitting to write a little memory post for what would have been my mother's 69th birthday. My mother was such a classic beauty with her brown hair and hazel eyes. Most of her life, she was thin and tan - with amazing style. When it was the style to literally iron your hair, she did - and when it was the late 70's, she even had an afro with her bell-bottom jeans. So to give this picture and memory some context, you'll see that I was about eight and so my brother was probably eleven. This would have been circa 1989 or 1990 (or so). Our school was a wonderful one to grow up in - always had lots of fun activities and all the parents and families were super involved. So on this day, it was "80's Day." This picture features myself sporting the ever popular side ponytail hairdo with a VERY patterned shirt. My brother went for the open button-down short sleeve shirt look. And my mother - despite not participating in any 80's Day events, looked exactly as you would expect. Hair with a tight perm. Button-down blue shirt tied in a knot in the front. But for her, fashion was always effortless (or at least it seemed so). She was so beautiful, inside and out. She always had this super calming way about her and as we grew up, all the kids would come to call her "mom" - and we were always the house you wanted to hang out in.
Amanda - Story
Wed 15th March 2017 by
Hello there, my name is Amanda and everything I post to this blog is true to the best of my knowledge. All intellectual and copyrights are reserved. My hope in writing all this is to tell a story, a true story, that maybe will touch at least one person's heart. I have never written a blog before so I am not even sure where to start... but I will do my best. I just thought that it was worth telling.
Let's Start at the Beginning
People often can't pinpoint their first memories - for most, you have memories at about the age of three or four. I'm no different. One of the first things I remember about my life is when I was about three and living with my grandparents. I was so proud of my super hero costume I had made... prancing out into the living room of the simple three bedroom home in a small rural town in Texas. "Grandma LOOK!!!" shouted an exuberant strawberry blonde blue eyed little girl. I had on just my jeans, a random shirt, but the piece de'resistance was my "helmet" - which of course is what made me the super hero. There may have been a cape but I don't remember one. All that made the outfit was a yellow plastic bucket that had an orange plastic handle - placed upside down on top of my head with the handle under my chin. "Look!! I am super french fry girl!!" Because to a three year old, basically, I looked like a large french fry. My grandmother just giggled and said I was silly and that she thought my super hero name should be "bucket head." And then she laughed some more. My grandmother was the type of person that laughed so rarely, that making her laugh was the highlight of my days as a child. My mother would later tell me that when she was growing up, my grandmother NEVER laughed or joked with her and her siblings - and she was a bit jealous that I got to see a sillier side of my grandmother.
How to describe her to you and do her justice --- at that time, to me, she was the most prim and proper lady I had met. Given I hadn't met many yet. She was always poised and a real lady to a "t." I remember beautiful silk robes and slippers. She always had her hair done professionally, once a week for my entire life at minimum. And she always had her makeup on and nails clean. I think it stemmed from her growing up in the Great Depression. She felt that she had worked so hard to get to where she was, she was going to make sure everything was perfect. I remember her telling me stories of her childhood - where she would help pick cotton in the fields - and her family of nine living out of a tent. It all seemed so far behind her though by the time I was born. Her and my grandfather had paid for their house in cash, drove a nice Cadillac (with wire rims, of course), and we were very comfortable. Every Christmas, my brother and I had mountains of presents to open. We never wanted for anything there.
My grandfather, in my mind and still to this day, was the best man I have ever met. He was a gentle giant and a hard worker. He would work as the head of maintenance all day and still find time to rock me to sleep when I had earaches (which was very often). My grandfather was definitely a man's man. He had served in the Vietnam War, loved kung fu movies, MASH, and westerns. He was quiet and just did what needed to be done. We had two sheds in the very back of the large lot we lived on. Those were his work sheds. I spent so many hours out there, quietly just sitting on the work bench, watching him make things from nothing. He was the type of man that would drive all the neighborhood kids to school if it was raining so we wouldn't have to wait for the bus in the elements. My favorite thing about him was this game he played with me so many mornings. He would make cinnamon toast for me - come to my room and wake me up, telling me my breakfast was ready. The game began... so I would always say, "Okay, I'll be up there in a minute." He would leave and go back to the kitchen... at which time, I would sneak (or so I thought) down the long hallway, through the living room and sitting area, and hide behind one of the large chairs there. He would say out loud (knowing I was right there), "where is that girl, goodness sakes, better go back and get her before her food gets cold." I would wait for him to walk past and then run to the kitchen table and sit - I would be eating my breakfast already by the time he got back to the kitchen and every time, he would always seem so surprised and impressed. "How did you get to the kitchen without me seeing you? Was it magic??" And I would shrug and we would laugh.
We lived in a single story family home on a circle-drive, on the lot that had the biggest back yard. The house was nice and always very clean. I would later figure out that my grandmother was a bit OCD about cleaning and other things. There was a back porch with a tall privacy fence around the outdoor sitting area. That gated area held my grandmother's garden. It was so beautiful. As a child, I would play in the small patch of grass in front of the garden while she worked in the garden. She was ALWAYS in the garden and it was so peaceful. Flowers and bushes perfectly kept. Not a single blade of grass made it past her busy fingers. Past the privacy fence, there was a back yard that was very large with many trees and a playground for my brother and I. There was honeysuckle, berry bushes, pecans... a feast for kids! Past the main back yard was a separate smaller fenced in yard for the dog and my grandfather's work sheds. Grandma didn't want the dog freely in the big back yard because of the messes he could leave for kids to play in. I would make mud pies and she would say, "now what lady plays in mud! Come inside and get cleaned up!" My grandmother LOVED to dress me up because at that age, I looked like a perfect little doll. She would brush my hair 100 strokes - then curl it - and dress me in adorable floral dresses. Always a miniature doll at her side. Her favorite thing about me was my hair - strawberry blonde and long. My mother also loved to curl my hair and later told me that at two years old, she gave me a perm because she thought I would look like an angel.
One of our favorite activities was shopping (whether it was with Grandma or Mom). I first remember shopping with Grandma. We would go to the mall and I would do everything in my power to be the little doll she loved. I would call her things like "love" and "darling." She would laugh and we had so much fun. Strangers that passed us stopped to watch us. I would say, "don't you just love this blouse darling?" and she would laugh and show me off to the other ladies shopping. Every time, it never failed, someone would comment on my hair, "where did you get that lovely red hair from my child?" - and my rehearsed response was, "Jesus gave it to me!" - followed by a charming little giggle and smile. An approving nod from my grandmother. All the ladies ate it up. I would accompany her to the hair dresser, Margie, every Wednesday. And all the ladies loved me there as well. Grandma was so proud to have this little angel well behaved by her side. One thing we didn't rehearse - and I remember the incident well - was when a lady at the hair dresser asked me one day... "where is your mother at Amanda, we never see her in here with you and your granny?" I didn't know I wasn't supposed to say and nothing had been rehearsed so the truth flowed out of my lips, much to my grandmother's chagrin. I said, "oh, my mom is in prison cause she killed my daddy." My grandmother did look a bit shocked but responded as quickly as her mind could - she said, "OH good heavens, the things children say!! She must have seen that on a movie, Lord knows." The lady seemed a bit thrown off by my answer but smiled kindly and nodded at my grandmother's quick lie. She grabbed me up by the hand, "well, we must be going now - see you all next week then." And we hurried to the car waiting for us. I could tell I had answered incorrectly - and my grandmother was not a lady you wanted to cross. So I knew the fallout would be bad - although I didn't really understand why. So when we got home that day - both my brother and I had a sit down talk with my grandparents to hash out the exact rehearsed story (lie) we would tell anyone that asked where my mother was.