Sand, Sunshine, and Shame

>> Thursday, April 1, 2010

The yielding sand was familiar and warm under my fingers. There are no ant hills like this in Oregon, or none that I’ve ever seen. In Minnesota the ant hills are everywhere. They line the streets, mound up in the cracks of sidewalks. Most the size of softballs, some ant hills, if left undisturbed by weather or children, can grow to the size of soccer balls or bigger.

This ant hill was in front of my bio father, Jon’s house. I’m sitting on the sun heated sidewalk, running my hands around in the sugar fine sand. My fingers draw a smiley face, then a sad face that I turn into a bunny. The summer sun beats down on my bare shoulders as I’m hunched over knees up around my ears, trying to get my mind focused on my art.

My new step-mothers voice drifts down to me from the open apartment window. First the words are indiscernible then more animated, now in shouts, words like “liar, embarrassed, and fucking bastard” sting my ears.

The Bunny becomes a unicorn, my fingers forming the long mane in the light brownish sand. Jon had asked me to wait out side, “we're all going out to dinner”, he had said with a wink and a forced smile, “wait out front we’ll be down in a minute.”

I’d known it would be more then just a minute.
I could tell by the look on Liz’s face.
I could tell by the way…by the way she said, “do you know what your daughter shared with Pam today?” She had spit out the word daughter like it left a bad taste in her mouth.

Liz had taken me to her friend Pam’s house for the day. Pam had a horse, three big dogs and a bunch of little kids. As a 12 year old girl, I was thrilled about the horse and dogs…the kids not so much. I spent most of my day brushing the horse and feeding him apples I’d plucked from a tree. Somewhere in all that tree climbing and horse brushing I had done something terribly wrong, and now Jon was paying for it.

On the drive home from Pam’s magical world of Puppies and Ponies, Liz planted a very small seed of shame in my heart. A seed the size of a single grain of this sand I had played in so many times. So small that by its self the tiny grain was insignificant, but left unnoticed it would grow so big there would be no removing it.

“You know Michelle, Liz said cutting off my chatter about what kind of horse I wanted some day, “some times its good to keep things to yourself.”
“Oh sorry, she’s just so lucky to have one.” I replied.
“Not the horse Michelle, what I mean is…you should not of told Pam that your Dad hit your Mom when they were married.” She continued with a hard disappointed look on her face, her dirt brown hair dancing in the wind. “Some things are private and personal and should not be talked about, that is one of them.”

“What…why…she asked…Pam asked me if he...” I must of look like a real snot saying this,  my eyes rolled up into my head and my mouth tripping over my words, trying to think about what I had said and what the big deal was…I was completely confused.

And what a strange thing to ask someone anyway. I was just trying to hork down my PB & J so I could get back to playing with dogs, even if they did smell really bad.

“So Michelle…” Pam had asked me, flipping open and shut her silver Zippo, open…click… shut…snap, click-snap clicksnap "did your dad ever hit your mom when they had fights, you know…slap her around when he got mad?”

“Sure,” I blurted out between bites. “all the time... when he was drunk and stuff.” I chugged down some milk trying to get the white bread off the roof of my mouth then added, “He would hit me and Shawn too… That’s why my mom divorced him and we had to move to Oregon.”

Click-flick…Pam lit a camel and shot Liz a knowing look, then saying something about Jon having a history of this kind of abuse.

Liz shook her head, taking the glass out of my hand and shooed me back outside, (which I was more then happy to do) while saying a bit about me only being a kid, and what did I know.

In the car Liz finished her lecture on why it’s no ones business, and how Jon is a different man now, that he no longer drinks…Blah. Blah. Blah. The whole time looking straight ahead as we speed along the freeway leavening St Cloud.

Confused, I let my head rest against the car door causing my hair to whip out the open window.  I zoned out at the open vistas of dry grass, dirt, and dairy cows, stretching forever…the dry heat of the hot summer sun beat down making the road far ahead look wet and blury.

Thats something else you never saw in Oregon, vistas.  Where I moved with my mom and brother,  every were you looked your eyes ran into something, Mountain ranges, hills full of trees, and even snow covered volcanos.

I was clueless to what I had done that was so wrong…my mom never made me feel bad or ashamed for the divorce… so why had Liz, my step-mom I’d only meet two days ago, why had she made me feel this way? My Father hit my Mother when I was little…it was just a fact and I didn’t know any different.

The rest of the car ride was silent as I pondered these things, and my hair whipped into knots out the car window. I never saw Pam or her horse again that summer, and I never spoke about my father’s abuse to anyone for a very long time.

My stomach rumbled with hunger as I dug both my hands into the mound of warm sand leaving no trace of the unicorn, wishing I could get my whole body down into that ant hill.  The sun fell lower in the sky sending dozens of mosquitoes to buzzed about me, giving them a chance at a snack on my salty skin.

Jon was yelling back at Liz now, voices jumping out through the open apartment window. As their shouts filled the air around me I closed my eyes, remembering the dirty happy faces of Pam’s kids, the feel of the horse's mane… coarse... dry, and the dusty fishy smell of the dogs. Trying to drown out the voices completely, unaware of the tiny seed worming its way deeper into my young heart.


Eclipsed April 2, 2010 at 4:41 AM  

The only shame to be felt should have been by your dad. People have a way of projecting their own issues onto children.

Anything Fits a Naked Man April 2, 2010 at 5:35 AM  

First off, you are a very gifted writer. Thank you for sharing this story. Secondly, I am speechless! Thirdly, I LOVE this last picture!

Coffee Please!?! April 2, 2010 at 5:45 AM  

i'm your newest follower from ff - wow - have wonderful weekend!

LLL with Leslie April 2, 2010 at 6:30 AM  

Hey!I am stopping bye from Friday Follow. I am now following you :)

Have a great day!

Java April 2, 2010 at 2:03 PM  

Following you back!! Great blog! Have a super weekend and Happy Easter!

Brittney April 2, 2010 at 2:22 PM  

you should not feel ashamed to talk of these things. And your step mom shouldnt have made you feel that way,

On the other hand you write beautifully.

Bethany April 2, 2010 at 6:02 PM  

Wow-wonderful illustrative writing! I felt like I was there with you.

Tatum April 2, 2010 at 6:21 PM  

Stopping by from FF & now following you!!!

Cher April 2, 2010 at 8:59 PM  

Stopping by to say Hi and Happy Follow Friday! Following you!
I have a whole bunch of giveaways going on if you wanted to check them out!
Visit Mama’s Money Savers

twifanheather April 2, 2010 at 10:55 PM  

Hello! Thanks for stopping by! I'm your newest follower! Hope you have a great weekend! =)

Julie April 3, 2010 at 5:49 AM  

Life is really not simple, even as adults when we have to think about the past, work through the past, still are part of the past. It's just not easy at all.
Thank you for stopping by and becoming a follower, I am now your newest pest.
Take care and have a great and blessed weekend.

Busymomsteph April 3, 2010 at 8:28 AM  

Thank you for stopping by my blog and following I am now following back .Your post is amazing. I can't imagine what that was like, your writing is so eloquent. Thank you for sharing your story.

Art Garden Diva April 4, 2010 at 10:47 PM  

I came to you from SITS. Wow, you are am amazing writter! I hope time has healed your childhood pain. Seriously, you should think about publishing.

Future Mama April 5, 2010 at 9:23 AM  

I'm sorry you had to witness that violence growing up :( I saw some things I wish I didn't see when i was a kid but luckily time has healed a lot of things!

You are an AMAZING writer. Are you writing a book? I think you should!

And thanks for visiting me today! glad it brought me here!

The Pursuit of Mommyness April 5, 2010 at 10:56 AM  

Very sad. I can relate to growing up amidst chaos, and carrying those things with me into adulthood, I was very messed up in my 20's as a result. So not fair, what some stupid adults can do to kids. You've got to "unplant" that seed in your heart...and realize it's not you, and you can't spend your adult life trying to repair wrong doings from your childhood. Your writing is incredible...I hope your blog catches some notice from publishers...I agree with FutureMama, you should write a book!

Denise April 5, 2010 at 12:32 PM  

Following you over from SITS! You are such I great writer. You keep me wanting to read, despite the subject. I am so sorry you had to endure that. I am loving and following your blog :)

Nikki April 5, 2010 at 2:25 PM  

I completely identify with you. I have a stepmother who spent years making me feel shame that my mother was a drug addict (as if I could help that) and that I wasn't as "high class" as her. Some people truly aren't worth the time. Stopped by from SITS and now I'm a follower. Have a fab day!

Life with Kaishon April 5, 2010 at 7:11 PM  

Wow. That made me so sad. I am so sorry your step mother acted like that. How horrible.

Kady L. April 5, 2010 at 8:07 PM  

Catching up on my FF. Thanks for stopping by! Great read btw!

Shannon E. Kennedy April 6, 2010 at 2:38 PM  

"a seed worming its way into a young girls heart" ......really powerful line

my favorite part..(not that you asked)

My stomach rumbled with hunger as I dug both my hands into the mound of warm sand leaving no trace of the unicorn, wishing I could get my whole body down into that ant hill. The sun fell lower in the sky sending dozens of mosquitoes to buzzed about me, giving them a chance at a snack on my salty skin.

------really love the whole visual here. you did a GREAT job of showing without telling.

Freaky Monkey Love to you!!! xo Monkey ME

(p.s. - yes, I read the whole thing and loved it!)

The Professional Family Manager April 7, 2010 at 12:43 AM  

Ah, adults trying to make you feel guilty about the truth, not wanting the dirty laundry aired, trying to rewrite history...that was my childhood, minus the divorce. I so sympathize. The pain doesn't go away when you grow up, does it?

Yaya' s Changing World April 7, 2010 at 2:21 AM  

Wow! What an amazing gift you have for telling a story. I was totally there with you.

~ Yaya
Yaya's Changing World

The Random Blogette April 7, 2010 at 8:44 AM  

Such a beautiful post! I am so sorry that you were abused. Sometimes adults are horrible people. They should never have made you feel bad about saying what happened to you. My step-son was abused by his bio mom and I just hope that I can try to repair the damage that his bio mom did for his first 5 years. I hope that you are not to damaged by this, although I know this is something that is hard to forget.
Also, thank you for stopping by my blog!

Taylorvillegirl April 8, 2010 at 6:26 AM  

Wow. What a great post. Thank you for sharing. I'm so sorry that you had to feel shameful for the actions of your father. I hope that you no longer carry that with you.
I'm following you back! Glad I found you. I've been reading your older posts and I'm hooked. :)

Santa's Gift Shoppe and Ideas April 9, 2010 at 1:10 AM  

You are quite a writer..Sorry for your saddness in your life.Hi..I’m Barb from Fri. Follow. I am your newest follower. I hope you will get a chance to visit my blog @
& get inspired by something for your family/home. I hope you will follow me as well.

Jami Balmet April 9, 2010 at 2:10 PM  

Hey I'm new from friday follow! I'm your newest follower!

I hope you get a chance to visit my site:

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