Turning of the Leaves

Last year I really struggled with intrusive thoughts and memories of my grandparent’s house. Being in the middle of such a crazy emotional year I never really could figure it all out. I had my theories and I explored them to a certain extent, but I never really got the answers I needed.

This year, being back home with Hubs, all of my pieces sorted themselves out. It wasn’t actually my grandparent’s house that triggered my memory meltdown like I thought, but my Littles playing in the leaves. Watching them brought up memories of my own leaf playing days, sending me back to my grandparent’s house.

I’ve still been digging through our literal boxes of old family photos an entire year later looking for pictures of the house as it was in the 1990’s before my grandparents moved, but all I’ve managed to find is photos from the back yard or inside the family room during Christmas. I know there is at least one picture of me and my sisters out front in the leaves. I just haven’t found the right box yet. There are at least six giant cardboard boxes of loose photos, not to mention the albums and two suitcases. lol. We are a family of archivers. Hooray for the internet making archives less cluttered.

ANYWAY…. So I haven’t found any photos yet, but I wanted to type up the memory again since it’s been running through my head every time the kids play in the leaves.

It was the Summer between second and third grade which would have put me at about eight or nine years old. I affectionately refer to that Summer as the Summer of Star Wars since it was then that I discovered the greatness that is the original Star Wars Trilogy. We rented the VHS tape from the library one afternoon to keep me entertained while my mom was tending to my younger sisters. It was the most fantastic thing I had ever seen, and immediately I was hooked. We traveled to California that summer to visit some relatives, and I picked up several tee shirts from the Disney Land Star Tours gift shop which I wore pretty much religiously until they began to fall apart.

One day soon after our return from California my mom piled me, and my sisters into the car and we headed up to visit my grandparents. I bounced out of the car, proudly wearing my favorite of the Star Wars shirts (it glowed in the dark, which was like the coolest thing ever) and ran into the back yard looking for my grandpa who could usually be found outside in the garden during the Summer months. What I found instead was a pile of street signs laying up against the big maple tree in the back yard. A stop sign, speed limit sign, no U Turn sign, and two street names. I was immediately mesmerised by them, and spent the rest of the afternoon thinking of all the possible reasons they could have come to rest behind the dumpster in a shopping plaza where my grandpa worked as a part time custodian.

I wanted to keep one so badly, but couldn’t quite decide which one I wanted. My mom as well as my uncle insisted that grandpa call the city and report where he had found them and possibly return them since they were technically city property, and had obviously been stolen. I’m not sure if they ever did, but as we were getting ready to go home Grandpa helped me sneak the stop sign into the trunk of the car. It was our little secret, until a few days later when mom was going to get groceries and discovered it hidden under the third seating compartment in the back of our Ford Taurus Wagon.

I got a mild scolding for sneaking the sign home, but aside from that I was allowed to hang it in my bedroom and all was forgotten.

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The rest of the Summer passed much too quickly for my taste. Although can it be said that any elementary school child really thinks that the freedom of Summer lasts long enough? What was actually several months felt like only weeks had passed and it was the beginning of the school year yet again. I had been enrolled at a private school during my second grade year. I’m not entirely sure why second grade was the magical year for me to be in school, but it was my only enrollment until Middle School. The rest of my school career was spent at home participating in a homeschool curriculum. I was enrolled for third grade at the same school I’d had my second grade experience at, but the week before at my annual check up I told my mom that I wanted to stay home instead. She had apparently listened, even though she didn’t really show any interest in my thoughts or concerns because on the first day I was supposed to report to my new classes, instead of dropping me off she went to the school and with drew my enrollment.

Afterwards, myself, mom and sisters made our way to visit with my Grandparents, and still not entirely sure if I was supposed to be at school, or if I was going to stay at home for third grade I wandered out to the front yard to play. There was a large Maple tree situated in front of the house, and it dropped hundreds of leaves every fall. They were the perfect, raking, and piling leaves. Big as my young hand, and such a vibrant shade of orange, almost yellow. I was entranced in my leave fortress, lost in my imagination, playing with a small plastic Lion King figurine I had brought from home. Being so enthralled with my game, I completely neglected to notice that a young boy older than myself, but no where near adulthood had wandered to the edge of the drive way watching me. I was only alerted to his presence when he finally spoke asking: “Who are you talking to?”

I sat up and spun around, embarrassed that I had been caught, and concerned that I hadn’t noticed someone walking by. I looked at him for a moment taking stock of who this person was, somewhat relieved that it was only a kid, not an adult. He struck me as very bouncy, full of an almost nervous energy. He was standing still waiting for my answer, but he was also greatly amused by the entire confrontation and kept looking back across the street to two other young people standing across the street. I watched as another boy lit up something that was probably not a cigarette, and took a long drag standing there watching his friend make a complete ass of himself. There was also a girl in the group. She was fairly nondescript. Blonde, but no other obviously distinguishable features. She was also half watching this Bouncy Kid accost me, but mostly trying to keep her attention elsewhere like she was bored or embarrassed by Bouncy Kid’s antics.

“No one. I’m just playing.” I finally answered.

“Aren’t you a little old for imaginary friends?” The stranger asked again, with a chuckle.

“No. I’m not even ten yet.” I replied, as if ten was the magical age when having imaginary friends was inappropriate.

As soon as I replied, my mom poked her head out the front door and demanded that I come inside immediately. I turned my attention toward her, away from the boy who had stopped to question my play, and protested. When I turned back around, the boy had returned to the opposite side of the street, and hopped in the car. Leaving the other boy to finish whatever he was smoking before also piling into the car, with Bouncy Kid, and Blonde Girl before driving away. That caught my attention. I’d never seen the owner of the car, but it was the same make and model as ours. A  dark grey Ford Taurus Wagon.  I’d seen it sitting outside the house across the street over the summer, and we’d had some problems with the boy who drove it before. He often mistook our own car for his, becoming frustrated when the doors wouldn’t unlock, one time resorting to violence as he pulled and kicked the handle trying to get it to open. I remember my Grandma seeing him one night and panicking insisting my mom call the police, which she did, but I had never seen him myself until that day.

As I made a little mental note of that, thinking that it was interesting to finally see the boy who kept confusing our cars, I begrudgingly made my way inside before being quickly shuffled off into the back yard where I remained until my grandpa came out with my second youngest sister and asked if I wanted to go for a walk.

So we set out on our walk, through the neighborhood, eventually making our way to the top of a large hill, and to the park located there. We followed along the tree line, wandered back by the basket ball/tennis courts and played in the leaves that the large oak trees had begun to drop. It was then, playing in the leaves, that I noticed four men staring at us from two cars. Something about them just made the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up, my chest feel tight, and over all very uncomfortable. Grandpa and my sister were unbothered by them content just to continue our walk into the woods and maybe play on the play ground for a while.

The longer I felt those men staring at us, the more uneasy I became. Something just wasn’t right, and I didn’t know how to explain it in a way that would convince my grandpa to take me seriously. Eventually he finally consented to returning back home, and we slowly made our way back out of the park. Unfortunately we had to walk right by these men to do so as there was only one way in or out. I remember urging my grandpa to hurry, and scolding my younger sister for staring, pointing, asking: “Are they bad men?” as we walked by. I held my younger sister closer, and kept repeating to her as quietly as possible: “just don’t look at them. Keep walking and don’t look at them.”

We safely made it out of the park and I bolted down the hill as fast as my legs would carry me, followed closely by one of the men in a Chevrolet Camaro. He slowed down as he passed me running, but eventually continued down the hill parking in front of a house, and making his way inside watching me closely as he went. As my legs had given out on me halfway down the hill, I memorized his license plate walking by trying to both catch my breath and give my grandpa time to catch up now that he was carrying my younger sister. 2Wild4U is what it said, which I both found odd since I had never seen a vanity plate in person before, but also a huge relief since it would be easy to remember. We slowly made our way back to my grandparents house, but instead of taking the most direct route, I convinced Grandpa that we should cut over one block and sneak around in the back way. He thought I was being cute, but entertained the idea.

When we arrived Grandpa relayed the entire story to my mother who both scolded him for taking us up to the park in the first place, and also for taking me on the walk without permission. They argued briefly about my encounter with the strange boy in the front yard, and then I remember mom screaming at the top of her lungs that we were never to visit that park again for any reason, and Grandpa proudly retorting with “why on earth not? She knows what to do! She kept telling me not to look at them and just keep walking.” It was then that they noticed me listening in on the conversation and shooed me back out to watch TV in the family room.

 

Mom got her way, and I didn’t return to that park until many years later. I also never saw the boy who stopped to talk to me across the street again after that day, or his friends in the Taurus. Then I didn’t particularly think it was odd, merely that the neighbors across the street had either moved out or bought something else as the grey Taurus was replaced with a Ford Explorer shortly after. Eventually the house across the street was raided by the DEA and FBI. Unbeknownst to me, being so young, there was a growing heroine problem in the area. That house, along with several others was a large bust. Enough to make a significant cut in supply, but also to boost petty crime in the area to a relative all time high. After the raid by grandparents put their house on the market, and moved away.

I have yet to really figure out why my brain defaults to this memory so much in the Fall time. Last year it made sense because I was living literally around the corner from the house, and the park where it all happened. This year? I don’t know. I don’t know why it seems to be stuck with me, even though I’ve been able to put just about everything else about my recent trauma to rest. ‘

I guess I have to explain how this random childhood memory relates to my recent trauma lol. I’ve really been trying to not write about that part of my life anymore. Long story short: I ended up dating a man who claimed to be Taurus Kid. I have no definitive proof one way or the other if he was or was not Taurus Kid, but he planted that seed in my head and now whenever the memory of Taurus Kid comes up my brain filters through other key points in our relationship.

It’s emotionally exhausting, and I wish like hell I could figure out WHAT makes that memory SO STICKY and the emotions surrounding it so blurred and vague no matter how many times I go through it. Although I guess it was the first time I was really traumatized outside of my own family. Like the roots of my PTSD are my mother’s emotional abuse, but the time that I was at the park was the first time I felt that level of fear that didn’t come from my mom. Perhaps that’s it? Or perhaps it’s because I have these memories, but they’ve only stuck with me and I feel compelled to find proof that they exist to validate my emotional reaction to them. I don’t know, but I really hope this year and this Fall is the year that I can figure it out.