I drove a car that looked like this:
I was three and a half. One of my mom's brother's had died right before my birthday, so when she had my brother, she gave him my uncle's name as a middle name. True to family tradition, nobody ever called my brother by his first name or middle name, and instead called him something else entirely: "Bub." By this time 25 years ago, my brother was two and a half months old and was already a better baby than I ever was. He was what Mom called a "sleeping baby." Very quiet, always asleep, not colicky and fussy like I was. I'm glad he was such a good baby, because I would have hated for my mother to have TWO babies who cried for 24 hours straight. She would have gone even crazier than she already was.
I have very few memories from this age. I do remember my 3rd birthday party. It was a costume party (my birthday is in October), and I was Minnie Mouse. The tail hurt my butt. I remember, at some point, standing in a doorway and looking at my mother in the kitchen, asking her when I was going to turn 4. Once I translated my brother's baby-speak into English for my Dad. And I even recall my mother getting upset with me because, when she asked me to grab several diapers for her as we were leaving, I didn't know how many "several" was and had to ask. I don't think she was upset that I didn't know; she was just in a hurry, and she didn't want to have to try to explain something as she was backing out of the door and down the steps with a heavy carrier in her hands.
That year, my parents would separate and, if memory serves, divorce. I did not understand why my father could not be with me anymore, and I cried for him all the time. I have never ever forgotten that pain, not even during the times I have lived with him. It is burned on my soul.
10 Years Ago
I drove a grey car just like this:
I was 18, in my senior year of high school, and had been living with my dad for three years. It had been over a year since my baptism into a religion different from that of my parents. I was engaged to a young man who, at the time, was serving a mission for our church. Yes, I said "engaged." He got on his knees and proposed and everything. My readers know him as Notorious D.I.C. At this time I was involved in Honor Society, JV soccer, calculus study sessions (in prep for the Advanced Placement exam), college credit English class, 5:30 AM seminary class, and other stuff I don't remember anymore. At church I spent two hours every Sunday as a Nursery assistant (I don't know who I was supposed to be assisting, since there was no Nursery leader to speak of, just me and whoever volunteered to help that day). Most nights I didn't sleep at all, staying awake to chisel at the mountain of homework or work on scholarship essays and college applications. I also spent a fair amount of time writing to and calling(!) my boyfriend.
During this time I was in and out of depression. I know, I know, how could I function while depressed? It's fairly simple, really: habit. I had been depressed since, as you see above, the age of 3. It was second nature, although it certainly didn't make my daily tasks any easier. I was driven to succeed in school, but sometimes I would burst into tears or faint without warning. During a practice AP exam, I had terrible back spasms. My calc teacher urged me to stop the test and just go home, but I insisted on taking the test, pain and all. I had to lie flat on the classroom floor, and I cried whenever I moved. When I finally left school and drove myself home, nobody was there. I called my boyfriend's mother, and she drove me to Minor Emergency Care. She remains my friend to this day.
That year I avoided prom (I thought it would make my boyfriend happy), I graduated magna cum laude, and I was accepted to the school of my choice. That year I spent a lot of time wondering if my boyfriend actually loved me, and whether I still loved him, and what this meant to my future. That year I wanted to just die a few dozen times, but I always woke up in the morning, and I just kept on going. I didn't know any other way to be. Prayer maybe kept me from going over the edge, but it didn't keep me off that edge, no matter how hard I prayed.
The following year, my mother would remarry. I did not like her husband very much, as he was obviously a terrible alcoholic and had no job. But then Mom always had poor taste in boyfriends, and since I was living in another city by then and no longer had to live daily with her chosen companion, it didn't much matter to me who she married, so long as she wasn't getting abused.
5 Years Ago
I drove a car just like this:
Five years ago I was living in Jacksonville, NC, celebrating the second anniversary of my marriage to PFC Bizarro Dad. We had an infant daugther (Gina), a house on base that had been built during the Korean War era, and a brand new washer and dryer bought with my husband's first and only Christmas bonus. It wasn't too bad, being a military wife. Even with a baby, life was much calmer than it had ever been. My husband was non-deployable, so I didn't really have it as hard as some of the other wives. I was pretty happy, actually, despite being poor.
It was during this year that my husband's grandfather, the man who raised him, took him out looking for produce boxes to sell back to grocery stores, bought him pecan rolls, and taught him the proper use and handling of a machete, passed away. We were able to get emergency leave and fly down to Houston for the funeral. There was a very big fuss at the viewing, I remember, because Grandpa had been living with one of his daughters (Aunt Margie the drug addict), and she kept changing the story of how, and even when, he died. She had not allowed an autopsy. We were all suspicious (she'd tried to give him a deliberate medication overdose in the past), but I remained polite to Margie, and Bizarro Dad and I both spoke at the funeral. Margie had sold Grandpa's house out from under him and taken all his money, but she had just enough ethics (and perhaps not enough of an eye for antiques) to give my husband his grandfather's pocket watch. It is over a hundred years old, and the little cogs are exquisitely engraved. Grandpa, my husband remembers, would often take the watch to a jeweler to have the battery replaced. They'd certainly charge him money, but the battery never kept working. Upon receiving the watch, my husband took it to an expert watchmaker to have it examined. The watchmaker told us, among other things, that this watch had no battery, and needed to be wound daily.
It was either this year or the next (my memory is hazy) that my own grandfather would have a stroke, forever changing my mother's priorities and forcing my grandmother to care for my grandpa in a whole new way. This, while very sad, did not seem to have a daily impact on my life six states away. I felt bad for my family, and I prayed for them, but I could not just pick up and move back to Texas with a baby and leave my husband stationed in NC. In this respect, I was now different from all my ancestors, who took care of their parents and grandparents at all costs.
1 Year Ago
I drove (and still drive) a van like this:
By this time our family was living in Houston again, with my dad. Also living with us at the time was my husband's brother, J the Irresponsible. We were gearing up for my second child's second birthday, but we didn't much feel like having a party. Instead, we bought a very nice "rock climber" playground set, the type of thing you get from Toys R Us and have to figure out how to haul back home (even with an empty van, I still had to discard the box in the parking lot just to make all the parts fit my vehicle), then put together yourself with only a screwdriver. Good thing the kids loved it.
One year ago, my grandfather was still in and out of the hospital (fluid kept building up in his lungs because he didn't understand the term "salt-free diet"). My mother was living with her parents to take care of them and herself. In fact, by that time my mom had been sober for nearly two and a half years. She was also very sick (a liver virus) and taking weekly injections. At this time she was a widow, her own husband having quite literally drank himself to an early grave the year before. (This is not why Mom quit drinking, so don't think she learned a noble lesson from a personal loss. Mom quit drinking because the judge said she had to after she drove her van into somebody's house on Christmas Eve one year. Her husband simply would not join her in quitting, despite the doctor's warning that he'd die in a year if he didn't give up alcohol. Doctors are a lot smarter than drunks think they are.)
My husband's Aunt Margie died of a drug overdose. She was 46, and her teenage granddaughter was about to have a baby. Yeah, you read that right. If she hadn't been so stupid, Aunt Margie would have been a great-grandmother before the age of 50.
Nothing too special was happening in my own life. I was doing Cub Scouts at church, but I only had one boy to work with. I was always pissed off at my brother-in-law for not mowing the lawn or leaving a mess or playing X-Box all day instead of getting a damn job or bringing porn in the house or systematically staining and/or tearing up the floor in his bedroom. I was pissed at my own brother for leaving a dozen boxes of stuff for me to pack up and store in our already crowded garage. Everybody was still pissed at my mother-in-law for not doing anything to discipline her youngest daughter. I was pissed at my husband for ignoring me and the kids in favor of his own video games, and for not coming down harder on his brother for things that were obviously way over the line, and for allowing his brother to stay in our house way longer than he promised me in the first place, just because their older sister didn't want him in her house anymore. I was also pissed because I'd been sharing a bedroom with my children for a year instead of having my own room (before J came to live with us, my own brother had lived with us for nearly a year), and the only adults in the house not having sex were the ones who were actually married to each other. (J, what with the porn and the wife living way over in California, was obviously having sex with himself.) My mother was pissed at my husband and my brother-in-law for not doing more to help my father with the yardwork (we have very large yards in this area, and since my mother and her parents live across the street from my house, Mom sees all.) My dad was pissed that J was leaving messes, and that he was leaving Dad's clean clothes lying on top of random stuff in the dirty garage instead of just taking 10 extra seconds to bring it in the house. My husband was pissed that my dad was giving me a hard time about J and that I was giving him, Bizarro Dad, such a hard time about J, and he was also pissed at his brother for leaving our DVDs out of the case and lying on the floor, and for hogging the X-Box (my husband is the one who paid for the stupid thing, and my husband was the one with a job). I was also pissed about J's stupid dog, who pissed and pooped everywhere and on anything, and who was essentially locked in J's room all day long whenever J did finally get a freaking job.
So basically, everyone was pissed about everything a year ago. Now we're pissed about different things, but at least J's gone, the husband and I do have our own bedroom, and no one else that I didn't give birth to is coming to live here.
That's life, I guess. Kind of sucks, doesn't it? But at least I have the kids to make me smile.