Group Home

My mom and I were sort of famous for NOT getting along when I was younger. We fought like sisters (it wasn’t pretty). I remember fights over the radio on road trips, all out fits in the store for back-to-school shopping, a paralyzing fear of having to go to any doctor and the ensuing verbal altercations that would happen with every visit in every parking lot. “Strong-willed” may be the best term for it all. 😉

One day, DJ (that’s, “Debbie Jo”) loaded me and a bunch of what she said were old clothes for donating into the car and tells me we’re going to “drop them off” somewhere. I didn’t pay much attention; I was maybe 8-years-old. As strong-willed as I could be, I generally jumped in the car dutifully. After what seemed a longer-than-usual hike, we pulled onto a dirt road. I remember thinking: why would we be leaving old clothes out here (basically, in the woods)? We drove along the dirt road to some kind of structure – something like an unmarked compound in the middle of a horror movie (I’d later find out it was a group home). We hadn’t even pulled to a stop when I felt this weird presence drifting toward the car – when I looked up, I was TERRIFIED. All of these girls, mostly older and bigger than me, were descending on us. They all looked like they played roller derby. I didn’t make one move to get out of the car. My mom, meanwhile, (seemingly) gleefully hopped out of the car, exchanged a few words with someone apparently in charge, and started unloading the bags of (my supposedly old) clothing. It didn’t take long for me to think: OH MY GOD, she’s LEAVING ME HERE. I almost melted down; something I had done or said had finally pushed DJ too far. It took a while for my mom to unload the bags, and other weird things came to mind like: How much longer can I wait in the car? How long will I have to stay here? Will I get to see my dad? Those aren’t my old clothes at all…

I was nearly whimpering when my mom came back to the car. Instead of saying, “sayonara, have fun with your new friends…” (I was CONVINCED this was what was actually happening), she calmly waved at the woman, put the car in reverse, and away we went. Several sets of imposing eyes still following us back down the dusty dirt road.

I didn’t tell my mom MY version of the story for years. And, when I did, she could barely come up for air. I told her that I was in some kind of paralysis in the car and on the verge of a breakdown, prepared to BEG her not to leave me at that house of horrors, when she casually slid back into the driver’s seat and returned us to our normal life. I even accused her of trying to use the trip as a scare tactic (more laughter). She swears, to this day, that she was only trying to do a good deed and had no idea that I was suffering all kinds of emotional trauma and essentially “scared straight” for months.

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