The bathroom was soaked. Water was everywhere. My grown up senses now tell me that a pipe must've frozen up and burst in there that day...but I didn't know it then and my brother certainly would not have understood it. I was sobbing hysterically. What was wrong with grown ups? Couldn't they understand the truth. I could not understand why he didn't believe me.
"Look at this! You lying little brat!" He shoved me to the floor. Forced me to put my face to the carpet and see what he saw himself- a mess. "Now which one of you did this! I want the truth NOW!" It was then Eddie realized what he was going to do with the thing in his hands, fear was etched all over his face. What was happening? Why was it happening, his face read.
"I didn't do it," I caught myself-Eddie hadn't done it either,"We didn't do it. We didn't do it." It was too late, somehow this man had already made up his mind. And the board came down swiftly. Then he led us back into the living room, Eddie had just watched the horror unfold. It was not over. Mom had just gotten home and so he repeated his dilusion to her and proceeded to discipline me again. We slept on the living room floor in his trailer. I don't ever remember having a bedroom there. I sobbed all night long- the kind that leave you erraticly breathing in between sobs and sleep, your body wretching.
I believe that night was an epiphany of sorts for me. I had wanted to believe Mom would be able to make good decisions for us, surely she loved us that much. But I realized how blinded grown ups were, so blind that the truth could be in front of them and they'd never see it. It was in that night of sobbing my childhood was lost. Any hope to be one was surely left behind. Eddie and Amy were not strong enough, their characters and personalities would waver. They needed someone, and that someone wasn't mom. So I took it on myself. I gave myself up to help them. The only thing I wouldn't let go of was the truth. I decided then and there I would always tell the truth no matter what it brought me. I should've thought to lie...
I don't remember much of the part of my life between that night and all through that year or the years following. You could almost say I locked myself away somewhere but my body was going through the motions. I have a distinct feeling it wasn't good, but its apparently memories better left forgotten. The last memory I have of that trailer park was just before we moved from it and that small town all together. I was 5 by that time. The neighbor kid and I were playing, unsupervised, on the small metal porch of the trailer. He had the bright idea of jumping off of it.. I refused to, it didn't look like a good idea. That rotten kid pushed me off for refusing and I ended up in the emergency room with a rock embedded in my forehead,blood running everywhere. I still to this day have faint scar there. I have lots of scars actually..but I'm digressing from this part of the story.
There were always men coming and going from Mom's life. Once she realized what sort of situation we were in at Pink and White's place, she found a way to get out. But it damaged her further. She couldn't understand how it had happened. How could she find such cruel men? What was she doing wrong? The answer has always, always eluded her. But how could you really expect a 19 year old Mom to know these things, she hadn't had time to learn the lessons of growing up, because she was still a child herself- a child with more on her shoulders than she could bear. A child whose mother ignored her, berated her, and had left her in dark on things like how pregnancy was possible. Mom was never dumb, just niave.
From here on out, I tend to remember things best by what grade I was in. So I started my kindergarten year. We now rented a house, not a trailer, and we were in a different town. The house was run down. It had gray shingles as siding. a medium sized green front porch. A small back yard. One bedroom, mice in the walls (I thought they were cute though). An old clawfoot tub in the bathroom. Peabody Avenue. This street I still to this day have difficulty driving down. And I hate the color pink, but you'll see why as I continue on with each phase of my childhood.
And this was also the year that I met my dad,Tony. Delmar Anthony Elswick. A man who was either drunk or high on some drug, but always professing the merits of Christianity.(side note here, do you know for all the jail time and crap that that man has done and he is the only one who had a fit over the tattoo I have on my right arm? According to him, I was polluting my body- Can you believe that???) Pcp used to be a favorite of his I've been told, so was huffing paint. Apparently shortly after Mom found out she was pregnant he had gotten so high on pcp he though he could fly..literally and was on the top of the high school building going to prove his discovery for all to see. I can't imagine the horror his mom must've felt.
Now his family, however, his mom (Mantie Louise, known in the family as Grandma Lou or Mamaw) Uncle Gary, Uncle David, Granny Hila and their counterparts- all of them were the most awesome people I have ever known. they had been taught to give love unconditionally. No matter the crap they pull or get themselves into. I have witnessed with my own eyes Grandma and Granny when she was alive, give complete strangers with known criminal histories hugs upon first meeting them. I was speechless the first time I saw her do it in her own house.
This part of my family originates from Kentucky- the Appalachian Mountains. There's a little town called Whitesburg at the foot of Pine Mountain. And as you drive up the mountain, there's a road just off the left by a lone senior citizen building. As you turn up that road, you'll soon see on the left a dirt paveway, no bigger than the width of a car, crawling up the mountainside. Collier road, after the family name. We even have our own cemetary up there. It is the most beautiful place I've ever been. But that is later in the story.
You should know I have very strong convictions about poverty because of my past experiences. If anyone, anyone ever tells you there are no homeless or poor people in a rural area-they don't have a marble in their head. Poverty is in some ways, easier to hide in a rural setting. Domestic violence however, doesn't know economic boundaries like poverty does.
So back on Peabody Avenue, Mom didn't have a car and we were welfare prodigys. The welfare people did a good job of promoting to tax payers that the system was being abused and I admit there are a few people out there like that, however having said that, what they didn't tell the public is the conversations between them and the welfare family. They told mom not to work because she would make more money on welfare than she could by getting a job. Believe me, she kept asking about getting a job. There was something about the notion that a job could give you back your integrity, your being, a sense of self worth I think- that appealed to her. She wanted to be better, to prove she could be better than this.
So without a car, mom got a little red radio flyer wagon instead, and she would load Eddie and Amy in it, while I walked alongside her wherever we needed to go. The grocery store (behind it where they used to throw the outdated food out at-that was the part of it we frequented), the trailer park about 7 miles out of town where her two sisters lived with their children, the landlords place, and so on. My boss recently visited Miami Village (the trailer park I'm referring too) for a family who was asking about Habitat, he nearly fell on the floor when he came back to tell me what he saw and I then I said I knew the place well.
Soon, my third grade year was approaching...and Mom just met a new guy. a guy she liked, who was nice to her and said all the things she wanted to hear. That man was a snake, but I knew Mom wouldn't have listened if I'd tried to tell her. He even sat me (not Eddie or Amy) on his lap and asked my permission to marry my mother. My answer, looking straight at mom, was "if that's what Mom wants and it will make her happy." Grown ups never want the truth, they want the fairy tale....