The story I’m about to tell is from my POV of the incident that happened to my family. Like most, old school traditional black families, we didn’t talk about much. The constant cycle of keeping everything hush hush and not talking about our internal problems started to expand itself to another generation. My kids. If there is one thing I’ve learned about the growth and healing process, it is to understand your pain, accept what you can and cannot change and not to pass it on. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to God and writing letters to my future self in hopes to break the generational behavior patterns I’ve endured as a child. I’m being challenged with facing my own traumas that were handed down to me and realizing the potential trauma I was passing down to my daughter. It’s time to reinvent how my bloodline will move forward in dealing with trauma. I can no longer participate in those kind of traditions. I’m thankful I’ve been able to free myself from feeling abandoned, resentful and insecure. The first time I wrote about this story, it was filled with a darkness that held a young woman hostage for years. I now tell it in the light of a woman who stands in it.
My parents worked hard to provide for us. We often took family trips to Six Flags. We wore nice clothes and lived in a decent home. Atleast, that’s how I saw it as a young girl. But, in reality, My Mom was the breadwinner and spent most of her time working. It was important to her to provide us a lifestyle far away from what she experienced growing up. She always appeared to be on the straight and narrow. Aside from this incident, I can’t remember one thing out of place with my Mom. I do remember thinking she was strict by all the rules set in place for me. But, I also knew, I was a Princess in her eyes and she wanted to protect that at all cost. She took me everywhere with her and was proud to have me by her side. As a little girl, my Mom cultivated my confidence and made me feel special. My Father’s love was all the same. Except, he spent most of his time playing Nintendo with us for candy, making breakfast, walking us to school and unbeknownst to me, was addicted to drugs. He often stayed in between jobs and would spend most of his liftoff, playing with us kids. His addiction is what ultimately became the decay of his and my Moms marriage. Our section 8 townhouse was often within the close proximity of drive by shootings, armed robberies and let’s not forget the Vegas mile hoe stroll down Long Beach Blvd. I’m not sure if I was too naive to notice these things then or too traumatized to realize I was already falling victim to decades of generational curses.
I can only assume my Mom met Donald (my Step Dad) in a pivotal time in her life. Her marriage was in an all too familiar place, captivated by drugs and lies, similar to the behaviors she experienced from her own Mother. I never knew of my Father’s drug addiction until it had already devoured our family whole. Or, maybe I did and chose to block it out. Either way, nothing could prepare me for this type of devastation and I for damn sure didn’t think about another man coming in to take my Father’s place.
It was our first season with Pop Warner Football and my younger brother played under Donald, who happened to be the Head Coach. Back then, I would have never seen it coming. Why would I have? I was too busy being a 10 year old and worrying about learning the newest cheer for the upcoming Championship game. We were a family and everything appeared great. We would go to school, then to practice and to the games as a unit. Until gradually, my Father stopped coming to the practices, then to the games. I say gradual but it felt more like fast as hell. His absence became more apparent when we were preparing to leave for the Championship game in Vegas and my Father was nowhere to be found.
I remember it being around Christmas time because before we left our home, we had a big Christmas tree stuffed with gifts under it. I was torn between emotions of being in a nostalgic state and feeling like the Grinch. I couldn’t find comfort in leaving my Father home alone. Especially, since my relationship with my Mom was already beginning to change. She had begun to grow a bit distant and had started to do things on her own. When we arrived in Vegas, we were all assigned rooms and I wasn’t assigned to stay with my Mom. This was extremely rare. I was never allowed to stay anywhere with anyone. I think this is when I started to feel my first signs of abandonment. It was almost as if she had relieved me from my Princess title. It’s the same abandonment, my Daughter had expressed to me after my divorce. We stayed at one of those Super 8’s that reminded me of large apartment complex but without the communal pool. I stayed in the room adjacent from my Mother with some of the other girls and our Chaperone. I remember waking up very excited to cheer in my first Championship game. It’s always interesting to me when I’m reminded of how fearless I used to be. I never had a worry about anything when it came to my capabilities.
After getting dressed, we were all to meet at the McDonalds across the street for breakfast. I needed money to eat so I walked over to my Moms room. I knocked on the door and called out for her. No answer. As I went in for my second round of knocks, the door opened. I was halted in my tracks as I realized it wasn’t my Mom who answered the door, it was Coach Donald. He wouldn’t open the door fully but I could see my Mom on the bed half dressed. Before I could get a word out Donald addressed me. “Goodmorning, Denise. What do you need?” I thought I had mistaken the room number and knocked on the wrong door. For one, I did not know this man aside from being the annoying Coach that yelled at all the boys and called them goofy when they made mistakes. For two, who was he addressing in this manner? I’m telling you, my Mom raised a Princess. I wasn’t accussumed to being address by no man other than my Father. I remember disregarding Donald and looking over at my Mom to ask for money. I could tell the moment was weird for both of us and entertaining for Donald. It was almost as if this moment was his trophy and confirmation that he had won my Mom over and was informally introduce to the Princess. My Mom appeared irritated with me as if I’d interrupted or was interrupting her moment. Donald quickly shoved $5 in my hand and closed the door. This moment initiated the start of resentment towards my Mom.
Shorty after, I remember my Mom gathering up my Brother and I to drive back home with one of Donald’s friends. I wasn’t sure what was going on but I do recall my Mom being very uneasy and her having a sense of urgency on the way home. I sat in the backseat across from her and I could see the concern in her face. I remember shooting eye daggers at the back of her head. I was furious with her and I really didn’t understand what was going on and why? It was late in the afternoon by the time we made it home. When we pulled up to our house the front door was wide open. Mom asked us to stay in the car while she checked out the house. It didn’t take long before she came back to the car screaming and crying that everything had been taken. As I got out the car to investigate myself, because at this point, I didn’t believe anything she said. All I wanted was my Father. I wanted to tell him what happened and what I saw but I couldn’t find his presence nowhere within the house. I walked around to the garage, which was also wide opened and notice our car was gone. That’s when I heard Mom say, “I have to call the police, he took everything!” In my 10 year old mind, “he” was the Grinch and the “he” stole our Christmas and my Mom. When I walked back into the house the Christmas tree that was once full was bare. All of our TV’s were gone, along with our Sega and Super Nintendo. We didn’t have many valuables but the little we had was taken.
My Mom borrowed a friends car and drove us around the city looking for my Father. At first, I thought we would find him and he would save the day. Man, was I wrong. We searched for my Father until it was dark. I don’t remember having much to say. I only remember how I felt. Alone and afraid. As we ended our search, my Mom took us to the park to meet the team bus, where we’d pick up my oldest Brother. As we pulled up, all the families were there waiting for the boys to come off the bus. As I sat in the back seat, I looked out the back window and began to cry along side the sky. Being scared and confused, I started to question Gods reasons for my broken heart. My tears poured down and my vision was blurry. All the taillights from the cars passing us reminded me of the Christmas lights that were once on our tree. As my tears started to dry and my emotions triggered anger, God answered my prayers. I saw my Father getting out of the car behind us. Before I could shout for joy, my Mom hoped out of the car and told us to stay in. As she approached my Father, I could see this wasn’t a happy reunion. The first words out of her mouth where, “Why would you take from your own kids? How could you do this? You are an addict and you need help! We are done!” It was in those few sentences, I was made aware that my Father was the Grinch who stole Christmas for his next fix. To be continued…