It’s the simple things that can really make a kids day and my day was made when I found out I’d scored a bunk bed. You’d have thought I hit the damn lottery. I so desperately wanted the top bunk and so did my older sister Melissa. As luck would have it our room came with two sets of bunk beds–we could both have a top bunk! My little brother Robert would get the bottom and my mom would get the other. Yes, my mom. The four of us in one room, two sets of bunk beds at a women’s domestic violence shelter where we lived for three months.
Leading up to this point, my dad had been on a more-that-usual intense path of self-destruction plagued with alcoholism, anger, and darkness that left him unpredictable and mentally and emotionally abusive. It was Christmastime and my dad threw five dollars at my mom to buy us Christmas presents. Not a typo—it was 5 bucks. He then disappeared for days after on a booze bender and he didn’t show up on Christmas morning.
Days later, my mom packed up some of our belongings, loaded us in the car, and drove away. It all felt very much like a covert operation – she said nothing to no one and we would leave quietly without anyone realizing we were even gone. We drove about thirty minutes outside of town and would eventually arrive at a very beautiful large home in a clean suburban neighborhood. From the outside, you would have thought it looked like every other house on the block. On the inside, it was a hide out for women and children who had fled dangerous domestic situations. My mom was under strict instruction not to tell a single soul where we were or even talk to any person on the outside as a precaution and for the safety of women and children in the home.
You might think this sounds like a terrifying situation for a couple of kids and a single mom but I remember being so excited—it was such an adventure! Bunk beds were just the beginning! I got a larger-than-life plush Little Foot dinosaur from the movie Land Before Time as a gift upon our arrival. We’d get new shoes (I picked pink Keds knockoffs), school clothes from Mervyns, and fresh school supplies for our first day at our new school.
We lived this new life for about three months when we then moved into a transitional housing situation–an apartment in a dodgy area of Anaheim, and finally after the entire ordeal was over my mom would eventually go back to my dad.
Like many women in my mom’s situation, she believed his promise that he would change if it meant he could have his family back. But like many men in my dad’s situation, his untreated disease of alcoholism never allowed him to keep those promises. She would leave my dad and go back to him many times after this always hoping this would be the time he’d really change his ways. He never did. She says she has no regrets about going back so many time –my youngest sister Amanda and brother Marcus were a product of their many reconciliations after all. She would finally leave my dad for good after 15 years of marriage and five kids later. She was brave, strong, and scared just like she was when she moved us into a shelter but this time she never looked back.