It’s sometimes the most basic of moments in life where I’m trying to do something so simple like sweeping, brushing and or braiding my daughter’s hair that I am taken back to horrible memories from my past. At times I am so affected I find myself feeling sick to my stomach. I get hot, my face gets really hot. I used to avoid these opportunities to re-traumatize myself. Honestly, I used to not sweep. And I NEVER braided my own hair, so when it came time to try it on my daughter – well it took me a few years to not feel sick while I brushed her hair.
And food…well that’s something I am still trying to master. I used to eat so fast people would comment on it. That would embarrass me immensely. I can remember this one time when I was 11, I was living in a group home called “Morley House”, in Burnaby. I was standing in the kitchen stuffing something down my throat – and fast, when a male staff member called me out on it.
“Carrie, you don’t need to eat that fast, s l o w down!” he said.
I stopped cold in my tracks. Took a big embarrassing last gulp of what was in my mouth and left the room feeling ashamed. I really felt so icky about myself in that moment. And, to this day I can still vividly remember that feeling. I know I looked like a pig to them, but I was used to having to eat my food fast before it was taken away from me, or not having food at all.
At home with my parents I was not fed regular “human” food as my mom would call it. I remember being told to go downstairs and eat with the dogs – we kept their food down there. I remember it being a large brown bag of kibble. Dry… not the worst stuff I was forced to survive on though. Some of those things include; feces both human and dog, garbage, my own vomit.
I mean don’t get me wrong – I had food sometimes – either from my parents sometimes or when I was resourceful and got my own somehow. One time my Dad was about to mow the lawn. He was doing his walk around the yard looking for rocks and sticks to make sure not to wreck the mower. This time he found two potatoes half eaten, in two different spots in the yard. I was watching him go about the yard and started to feel the panic immediately. Panic for me was my bum shaking in fear and you get this sick horrible feeling all over your body that you can only explain as total fear and terror.
My dad was mad. I was scared. It was day light; the whole family was in the back yard doing chores. Not Teresa because she was already gone, it was me, my mom, dad and my brother. Sometimes I would let myself believe that it was going to be ok because either it was daylight like this day – or because there was people around, or because they promised never to hurt me again… But in reality none of that ever really mattered most times.
“Carrie, go get your puppy! And don’t fucking dawdle either!” He was standing at the back of the yard holding my two potatoes. He was shaking them angrily in his hands. He was smiling, but not in the happy smiles. When he was about to smack or punch or beat the shit out of us he would smile like he was saying “oh yeah, you want this eh? I’m going to enjoy this…”
We had just gotten a new puppy a few days earlier. I don’t remember his/her name but I remember that she was golden and beautiful. She had the best kisses and I loved her very much. I probably knew though by that point in my life that this dog would die like the others eventually but I loved them like crazy anyways. All of our pets I did. But I remember getting new pets, mostly cats and dogs, often. Usually because my father killed them or had us kill them. This was the only time I had ever been forced to do something so horrible to my animal.
I looked around at my mom and brother. They were no help.
“Go.” My mom said. She was actually angry. This was my fault – she didn’t have to say anything, I already knew what she was thinking. Probably that I had brought this on myself.
I knew what was happening. I knew I had no choice. My dad had this barrel in our back yard that he used to burn things in. Usually he burned my mom’s things when he was drunk or our toys when he was mad at us. But I witnessed him burning our animals before after he had killed them in his fits of rage. The fire was burning this day.
I remember holding the puppy in my arms, shaking and crying and saying over and over how sorry I was to it. I can recall telling him that it was going to be better. When I got back outside my mom was still standing there, my brother was standing by the carport and my dad was standing behind the barrel. He was watching me.
I was walking so slow, shaking and just apologizing to this poor animal.
My dad gave me some sort of lecture about stealing food from them, that they had warned me before. I can’t remember exact words – but at some point my father told me to put the dog in the fire. He was talking to me through gritted teeth, sweat on his face.
I started begging and saying how sorry I was, and how I promised not to ever steal food again. I begged for the puppy to be saved, for me to be saved from being a part of it. All the while whispering to the puppy how sorry I was and massaging his fur. I don’t know how long the exchange of pleads and tears went on for. I don’t even remember putting the puppy in. I remember the sound, and the smell. That puppy cried for what felt an eternity. My dad didn’t let me leave until it was quite. Nobody said a word for a long time.
I never stole a potato again I can assure you. I can’t remember ever stealing another ounce of food from my parents’ house again. That was the last home I ever lived with my parents as a child. Heron street was my last home full of bad, scary and damaging memories.