My mother had previously given birth to a son who she turned over to her sister because she could not raise him. The agreement was that my aunt would raise him and my mother would still be active in his life as the title “aunt”. In February of 1986 my mother got married to her then long time boyfriend. Shortly after they were married, he was shipped out and stationed at an Army base in Colorado, my mother soon followed. The events that followed after that are unclear.
My mother returned to New York pregnant with me and no longer in a relationship with her husband. December 1986 I was born. Newly divorced, my mother moved from apartment to apartment with her various boyfriends, lived with my grandparents for some time, and then settled into a small trailer off a dirt road in western New York a few miles from the Pennsylvania border. My mother struggled with her own diagnosed mental illnesses and family trauma and therefore struggled raising me. She had no money, no job, and lived off of a fixed income from the government. My mother always took in all of her friends, feeding and sheltering them. I was kicked out of my room to sleep on the couch most of the times. She had several men come in and out of the home while I was there. Some times I was forced to spend nights with various men in my bed. My mother frequently left me with friends and family members while she went out. There was this one guy in particular who used me sexually for various reasons. Other times men and women would do things in the room while I was present. There were even a few occasions my mother would also join in on the activities. Most of the time I tried to pretend I was asleep. One of the most confusing times for me was when I saw my mother with a 16 year old guy and not with my step-father at that time. I learned the hard way to just keep my mouth shut and not ask questions.
On a few occasions while my mother was out she left me at one of her “friends” apartments. I distinctly remember he gave me big red gum every time I came over. He was polite and kind from what I remember. One day while I was in his apartment bedroom, watching TV on the floor, he went over to the television and shut it off. He then came over to me and advised me to perform acts that I didn’t understand. He put his private parts in my mouth. Obviously as a three-year old I was unaware of what this was and I fully trusted this man. I resisted a bit and was forced to finish the deed. I felt a warm liquid substance in my mouth and instantly spit it out. He then explained to me that the things that happened there were our little secret and things that should not be told to other people and I would get more big red gum as a result. To this day, the smell of big red gum gives me flashbacks.
My mother was usually so preoccupied with her friends and various relationships, that she did not have time to focus on feeding and bathing me. My Aunt would try to put my hair up in a pony tail when she saw me, but this was only once or twice a week. There was this one night I could not sleep because my hair kept getting in my eyes so I got up and shaved part of it off so it would not be in my way anymore. Needless to say I got in a lot of trouble for this.
My mother eventually found another boyfriend who moved into the trailer with us. I remember on countless occasions I would be really hungry so I used to climb onto the small kitchen counter and grab boxes of cereal and I would eat straight out of the box. I was caught various times by my moms then boyfriend. He would beat me and tell me I was not supposed to be climbing on the counter and that I was a terrible child with no manners and I needed to be punished. He would force me to sit on the couch until my mother returned home. At times this would go on for hours. I was not allowed to move to go to the bathroom, to eat, or play with my toys. The repercussions if I did meant more beatings so I just sat there hungry and dirty in fear of what would happen if I moved.
One morning I woke up and I was so hungry I went to my Mom’s room only to find two men and some woman in the bed sleeping. My mother stayed some where else that evening. I was going to make myself food, but in fear of spending another day confined to the couch, I decided to try to walk to my grandmother’s house which was just a few miles down the road. So, in my small dirty t-shirt and an old pair of shorts, I climbed out of an open window and started my journey down the snow covered dirt road. Shortly after I started walking a passer-by saw me and that I had no shoes and barely any clothes on so they pulled over to investigate. I was brought back to the trailer where I was severely punished for leaving. The stranger did report the events to the police (who apparently knew me from previous escape attempts) finally got social services involved. The first time around the judge just ordered my mother to not leave me with any man outside of my grandfather. But, after a few other reports the judge agreed enough was enough.
I am unsure of the exact events that followed. I remember being told that I was going to live with my grandmother’s sister and her husband and I was confused. I remember being really afraid and sad. I later learned that social services was brought into the situation and they advised my mother that if someone in the family did not take me then I was going to be put into foster care. My grandmother knew her sister had got married and had children that were much older and her and her husband wanted a child of their own. They seized the opportunity to take me promising me a much better life.
I came down late November – December 1991 just after Christmas and right before my 5th birthday. The next year of my life was a cluster of social service appointments, mandated psychiatric counseling, and various court proceedings over custody. My mother claimed I was the daughter of her first marriage and the court had brought in her ex-husband to take DNA tests. After a few viles of blood were taken and some time elapsed we learned he was not my father. My mother then agreed to give me over to her aunt and uncle and granted them legal guardianship. She would not however agree to allow them to fully adopt me as she did not want to let me go. I was considered a ward of the state.
So began my life in my new home with my new family….