A creek ran below the house. It was up a canyon, and the road was winding. It was lined with aspen and willow. Steps crossed a small bridge to the place where we swam in the summer and hauled water when pipes froze in the winter. The first time we ever saw snow was exciting, especially being from the city. There was a rather steep hill and we had a difficult time carrying buckets of water.
The snow on the trees looked like fluffy gowns. The icicles like sharp glittering swords. We played games and pretended we were ice men protecting our castle.
One night it was so cold we could see our breath as little puffs of smoke mixed with frost. The roof leaked and we had to put pans and bowls to catch the water dripping from the holes. We gathered around the stove with our brown army blankets sipping hot chocolate, and if mama was home, enjoying hot biscuits from the oven.
There were happy times at the Christmas season, there was a great celebration. A parade of children, marched down the street, singing and playing to the music. There was hot apple cider and little sacks of candy. Then we would gather around the tree to exchange presents and sing Christmas carols, it was so much fun and took our minds off the problems that seemed so bad.
Again we grew to like this town, but one more time we cried with tears and said goodbye. Mama said big girls don’t cry. But this would be our last trip, for the next town would be where we finally settled.
Little did I know as a child, I would write my story, that I would share with others my experiences many years later.
Every time we got settled, mama would get the urge to move on. I know this sounds repetitious, but it was true. We would just get use to a new school and all the rules, and make friends, and then pull up stakes and hit the road again. But we had a lot of good experiences, they weren’t all bad. In one town we lived in, there was a castle* pretty much in ruins. But the walls had remained with a few windows, and I would play in it pretending I was a queen in a royal palace, it was a safe place to be in the midst of all the turmoil. *Stokes Castle, Photo Courtesy of Atlas Obscura
A one room school had mean ornery kids, they made fun of us, but then they began to like us. We played kick the can and had lots of fun. The teachers were kind and gave us honey grahams with peanut butter. I can still remember how good they tasted, especially not having breakfast. Then one more time mama decides to move on, back into the little car we went. Don’t ask me how we all fit in with our old black Chow and now a couple of kittens. Summer quickly passes and then onto fall and winter. We really needed a place to stay, and mama swung a deal. She was always clever at that and we moved into one more mining shack. It didn’t have much in it but a potbellied stove and a couple of mattresses, with an old red quilt with big stitches someone must have forgotten in the rush for gold.
It had four small rooms with an old lean to shed on the back, a kitchen with a green wood stove. When we were lucky mama baked bread and we were happy. Then we would get french toast and bread pudding if there was any left.
Well, it was a long way from L.A. and the city lights. We briefly stayed in each mining town, like making a circuit. They were pretty much the same, with old buildings called saloons and gambling halls with miners passed out on the benches.
One day when we had enough money for gas, we went to a small city called “The Biggest Little City In The World.”*
By then I was able to read, don’t ask me how, with all the confusion. I was surprised as we rode down the street, it didn’t seem like the big city I used to live in. I remember mama would go into big buildings with flashing lights.
I wasn’t sure why she did, all I remember is waiting for hours for her to come out. I didn’t understand, all I knew there wasn’t much food. Usually she had a frown on her face, and I always knew we would go back, hoping she would be lucky next time. She didn’t like playing the strange machines with handles that made a lot of noise, spitting out coins. She liked the tables with cards and red and blue dice with little white dots. I remember the game was called ‘twenty one.’
Well, one day we were really excited. Mama won enough money to buy a little trailer. It was fun to sleep in and it even had a little toilet, we finally didn’t have to use those smelly outhouses. But our excitement was short lived, she didn’t have enough money to make the payments and they came and took it away.
Back to the old shacks with its scorpions and spiders, but we survived. Strange how children can be resilient and accept things however they happen! *Photo Courtesy of Getty Images
The old blue Chevy Coupe left the city, climbing the steep mountain passes, on to the high desert, where the skies are blue and clear.
Children peer out the window in awe and surprise at the sand, sun and cacti, with rabbits running to hide. This is a story of a family searching for gold. A mama, a sister and brother with their old black Chow. Shadows of the Sierra’s fade in the distance, coming to a land of lavender shaded hills and rugged ravines.
Day begins to close and darkness falls, as they stop beside the road of this lonely land, unloading their meager supplies. A kindling of fire sizzles, as they heat a can of beans. Mama drinks coffee but the children are too young, so they just drink water instead.
The children go to sleep with old army blankets from the car’s back floor. Sounds of the desert are frightening with coyotes, rattlesnakes and Great Horned Owls. The sun’s warmth is welcomed as they waken.
Coming around the bend in this desolate land, there is a little mining town. They finally arrived. Barely a green thing grows here, except by the mill where water washes ore and dirt on the mining floor.
Mama finds an old mining shack for the children to live in, they just get settled and go to school, but then mama decides to move on, and so the little family hits the road again, little do they know, this would be the beginning of their desert travels.
Very early in our childhood, our mother took my brother and I from our father due to alcoholism. We were products of parents who were themselves carrying about abuse and neglect, and we were recipients as well. I was six and my brother was three. We were boarded with strangers in an eastern state and left for an indefinite period of time. Looking back, it seemed that we had been sent into a wilderness of which we had no help, our backs turned to a hot furnace of affliction.
Our mother eventually came to get us and then the moving began. She was a very angry person and flighty, uprooting us at any time she became dissatisfied, which was often. We lived mostly in old mining towns in Nevada, in little shacks that were drafty and cold, outhouses that were dark and scary.
After we moved to Nevada the compulsive gambling started, she would take the food money while we would wait in the car or movie theaters until very late. Then losing her money, she would go out, only to return again when she was able to earn a little. She frequented saloons and gambling halls where my brother and I waited on the old wood benches searching for cigarette butts, as a game to occupy our attention.
Humiliated and shamed, no one to turn to, no family of friends – little did we know, that this was preparing us to reach out to receive help from above!
I watched intently as the artist placed her empty canvas upon the easel, setting paints of beautiful colors on the table. Strokes are applied so evenly and smoothly as she moves side to side. She paints a picture, filling it with beauty. No longer empty .
I was in awe of her ability to take a picture of darkness and turn it into a work of art. I had some reflections, I am not an artist in the typical sense, but I am an artist of sorts. The picture I had painted was not a pretty one, in fact it was quite lacking in many ways.
But then I realized there was much more to this picture I had drawn on the canvas of my life. I saw that God had seen my meager attempts to paint it, but he saw another picture painted by the Great Master Artist. For He had reproduced what I had almost destroyed, His fine tipped brush with splashes of colors and shapes that I could not even fathom. He then began a picture of my life, weaving with threads tightly woven, carrying me through life’s bumps and ridges.
I packed my bags, putting them in my little red wagon, starting down the street, not knowing where I was going. This is how my life began as a child, running from my past, dragging my baggage, always hoping there would be someone to catch me. From the very beginning through trauma and abuse, I left a part of me behind. I became separated from my child within. I fought against her, even though I desperately needed her. But she was always there, trying to help me. I was so filled with anger and rage, I could not even cry.
And this is how I ran through life, unable to feel, fearing all my fears and shame lurking before me. I developed an odd way to face life, always pulling my little red wagon, loaded with heavy burdens that a child should not bare. Little did I know that one day I would be led to the help I needed, just waiting to help me let these burdens go.