When I was 10 and 11

If I do the math, I think it was 1978 or '79 when we got our first microwave. The thing was gigantic and made all of our food smell really bad. Back then to make microwave popcorn, you had to put the kernels in a brown paper bag with water sprinkled on it and rolled closed. When it popped it smelled really really bad and nobody wanted to eat it, but we had to anyway - we were not allowed to waste food, even if it was just popcorn.

I don't remember why my brother and I got our faces painted, but I think, by looking at this picture we both wanted to be painted up like KISS, but it's obvious that the face-painter didn't know what KISS looked like.  What I love/hate the most about this picture is that we're both non-plussed which must have been the tone of the day as you can see big ridiculous red smiles that were painted on our faces. 

Something happened and my mom and brother and I went to go live in a modern split level house with mom's friend Ted. Ted had a refined sense of modern design and good taste, even at 10 I could tell that.  Ted had a Bang and Olufsen stereo in the living room. It had a smooth metal surface with no buttons or knobs. I wasn't allowed to touch it.  I couldn't for the life of me figure out how it could have worked. I was fascinated by it though. I would very carefully lift the lid and put my face close to the slotted brushed stainless steal surface trying to solve the mystery of the thing. I'd never actually touched it, but air petted the slotted tabs imagining making something happen with the heat of my fingertips. 

For Halloween I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader. My mom made me make my own costume, I made a vest and pathetic limp crepe paper pom-poms, I wore a blue blouse tied up and lots of make up, then my mom made me wear a coat. October in the Pacific Northwest, not exactly warm.

In the mornings before school mom would go outside and start her car to warm it up. I would stand outside in the driveway with the car and it's billowing steamy exhaust while she went back inside for somethings. She'd warm the car up for a long time before we went anywhere. When she was ready she would drive me around the corner to my babysitters house. From there I'd go to school on the bus with all of the other kids.

One day I got out of the car and went to the awaiting open front door of the sitters place, inside I would sit on the couch and watch cartoons with her kids, Star Blazers was my favorite show then.  When I got to the door, I turned to wave goodbye and saw the dark shape of my mom's ex boyfriend, in the seat behind my mom, holdering her forehead with one hand and holding a big knife to her neck with the other.

I screamed and screamed and screamed the only cus word I knew at him to make him stop "BIIIIIIIITCH!!!!!!!" 
I don't know what happened after that. I don't know if I went to school, or to Ted's, or stayed at the sitters. I do know that my mom was mad at me for yelling "bitch," she thought I was screaming at her.

The day Mt St Helens blew up, I was at my dads house and I was wearing the same dress I wore on the day my mom was attacked.  I remember it not because we saw it on the news, but because we went out on the porch in the morning and noted the sky to the east was a weird color.  From our house we could see the effects of forest fire smoke in the air, and apparently volcanoes.  The color was odd, alien, instinctual I new it was very, very wrong and dangerous.


At my cousins house in Spokane, everything was covered in ash, well, buried in ash, whole cars were covered as if a ton of snow fell overnight. The color of the ash was also alien, though familiar. Ash like cigarette ash or ash from a fire, but fine and powdery.  Here I'll use it as a metaphor for my memory.  It's a struggle for me to remember this stuff. Even looking at pictures doesn't jog anything free from the heavy dense powder in my head. Drawing has broken it loose. 

My mom would wonder why I would want to remember this stuff, it's her past, her terror, her ex-boyfriend. For me, it I who was on the cusp, stepping between the special world of childhood and the grown up world of worry and danger. I had my own worry and danger, but it was mine, nobdy believed me when I told them about it. The day my mom was attacked I saw it in both my world and hers. Terror became a universal truth. Back then "domestic violence" seemed like a novelty to me, men weren't punished and women were left to cope with it. It was a women's issue, and women's issues weren't important.  Her attacker was arrested, tried and found guilty, but his punishment was lax, even at my young age I knew it was an outrageous sentence. Something silly like spend weekends in jail or work release or something - he was permitted to go to work. He and my mom worked at the same company, he would be in the same place as my mom every day. My mom would have to face her attacker every day. 


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