The most important work we can do, individually and globally, is the healing and prevention of traumas so that we don't pass them down to future generations. This blog is a working tool to contribute to this good work.
A new report (pdf) from The FDC reveals what many already know: children and families have been facing more and more stressors during the recession, and it’s taking its toll. The FDC’s annual Child and Youth Well-Being Index is a composite of 28 indicators in 7 domains that directly impact the overall well-being of children. The data show a measurable decline in child well-being between 2000 and 2008, and project enduring hardships through 2010. Not surprising, the Family Economic Well-Being Domain and the Health Domain saw the steepest declines.
The study finds:
The recession will wipe out virtually all progress for children since 1975, in the Family Economic Well-being Domain.
The rate of children living in poverty in 2010 will be the highest in 20 years.
The number of detached youth will increase in 2010.
Risky behaviors will increase in 2010.
Child obesity will continue to rise, bringing down the Health Domain.
I wanted to share this that came from my daughter with a little gift tucked inside. I found it in my mailbox today. I think the summer heat has melted all words in my head like they were candle wax (as well as made me tired today beyond belief) – so I will just post this, which brings tears to my eyes — in that good, special, precious way that ONLY our beloved children ever can.
On top of this very few of us have ever been told about the research that describes how infant-caregiver interactions from birth — yes, the same ones that ARE building the rapidly growing infant brain — are forming pathways and circuits into the developing infant brain regions that ALSO determine what we can know about not only who we can trust and who we cannot trust, but also who is lying to us and who is not.
These brain operations, formed into us from birth, are part of our brain-mind foundation that we will live with for the rest of our lifetime. When severe infant-child abuse survivors attempt to ‘heal’ from the traumas they experienced, nobody tells us that our very ability to KNOW truth from lie has been changed in our very brain itself. We cannot automatically, easily, or sometimes EVER be able to separate truth from lie when it comes not only to our own self — but also when we are dealing with other people.
That is part of what the formation of the early emotional-social brain does for us. It gives us automatic ways to cope with life based on the nature of the environment that formed us in the first place. I, for one, have to walk my way through LOGICALLY and slowly nearly everything that has to do with telling the difference between truth — and error.
When my mother wrote those words posted yesterday that I lacked imagination – I have to look around me (as these pictures included show) at how I live my life. I am creative and I DO have imagination. My mother was lying. But because she lied to me from birth, severely so, I will NEVER — simply and directly on my insides — be able to separate her lies from my truth.
When the develop of the self is affected by chronic and severe infant-child abuse — what happened to survivors is beyond what most ‘self help’ thinkers EVER realize. Our concern is NOT with self image, self concept, self worth, self esteem – blah blah blah. MY concern is with my SELF – my forced-to-be-dissociated SELF. These changes my mother forced upon my little growing and developing self (as I have said so many times) changed the way my brain developed — period. With that brain I try to process information — but I have to admit and accept I do so differently from ‘ordinary’.
Tied to truth and error-lie detection changes in my brain is my great difficulty with understanding jokes, cons, teases and flirting! (Also difficult for some stroke recovery people and people with autism spectrum brains.)
I also have to say that if most people’s brain-minds were not somewhat in the market for being easily tricked, there sure wouldn’t be any use advertising!! Well, I want to get back outside, so here are some pictures – from imagination-full Linda!
There are abused infants and children whose life is in permanent hell – unless someone from the outside identifies what the dynamics of the parent-child relationship truly are – and permanently separates the parent and child. When the root of the abuse is mental illness, particularly of the ‘splitting-projecting’ severe Borderline, there is NO HOPE for achieving safety for the abused child. REMOVE IT!
March 4, 1958 Tuesday morning
Notes as late and must close.
1. Report cards last Friday. John got all S’s. He is so proud and has been put in advanced reading! Linda [age 6] STILL poor behaved, loud, insolent etc. but good at home! She’s as usual – plays around if not watched closely! Same at home – I speak to her ten times to three to the others [put together] – hope she’ll grow out of it – it’s still her lack of imagination and old silliness I think. She’s not tom boyish though. All S’s in school work too and an excellent reader.
“The others” in my mother’s mind were all her other children put together. Those other children were so rarely parented by my mother’s ‘bad-evil’ self as to hardly be noticed over the entire 18 year span of their childhood.
Me, on the other hand, belonged to that special group of ONE that ‘deserved’ to be parented by the ‘bad-evil’ mother. Nobody ever noticed that as my mother ‘bad-evilized’ ME that the ‘bad-evil’ was on the other side of a dark looking glass.
How do I know that those two words, ‘put together’ needed to be added into my mother’s tirade against me here? Because I heard that phrase during my entire childhood up until the night when I was 18 and my father told me that he and my mother no longer wanted me under their roof – because I was the cause of all the troubles in my parent’s marriage – and because I had ALWAYS been more trouble than all of the other children (by then there were five of them) put together.
What my mother was doing to me STILL by the time I was six was obliterating my SELF. Some people refer to severe abuse of infant-children as being ‘soul murder’. I disagree. My soul was mine and my mother could NEVER touch it – so she didn’t. She DID, however, have the power to obliterate my growing and developing SELF from the moment I was born.
These ‘ten times’ that my mother refers to in her letter were not ‘ten times’ of gentle, appropriate correction. She responded to her projected evil put into me with her own unrecognized internal evil.
These kind of parent-child interactive combinations are NOT correctable. There is, as I have said so many times before, nothing either the child or the parent can IN REALITY do to make things ‘better’ or ‘safer’ or ‘more appropriate’. The foundation for the abuse I received had NOTHING to do with reason or reality. There was NEVER a REASON for anything my mother ever did to me.
True, I was not able to be a perfect child – nor were my siblings. But the only way I could NOT have had my mother hate me and treat me the way that she did was by my NOT BEING A CHILD in the first place which of course meant that I would have had to CEASE BEING ALIVE.
In these situations any child in my position MUST BE REMOVED from the abusing parent permanently. There is no other option.
I just spoke in length with my daughter again about my current predicament about this stage of work with myself and with my mother’s writings. I need to regain the position that she helped be obtain several weeks ago that allowed me to remain more remote and objective as I work this intimately with the words of this woman, my mother, who tortured and abused me for 18 long years.
Part of what I recognize at this moment is that I am summoning an immense amount of personal courage and determination as I pursue this work. What I am trying to do seems almost like an impossible task. I am hoping to find something good and useful, helpful, truthful and beautiful within a context of terror, trauma and unspeakable suffering.
I am believing in the GOODNESS of humans. All humans, even those who commit terrible crimes – as my mother did against me. I want to be fair, truthful, and I want to do this work with my own integrity intact – beginning to end.
I want to honor my species. I want to recognize our amazing powers of resiliency. Yet at the same time I can feel the damage within me. I cannot make that damage go away. As I work with my mother’s writing I also understand that how she was so hurt as a child damaged her, also. If it is true that there is goodness in all of us — I want to be able to recognize that goodness within my mother.
At the same time I am also looking for the damage. Where the brokenness of my mother met her goodness, a human being lived her life. I do not seek to judge her. I seek to understand.
We would all most likely report that we know the difference as human beings between life and death. Does a bug know? A dog? A cat? A plant? The planet?
Certainly a dog or a cat DOES have hope. Every time I walk near my friend’s little old (11 years and counting) Chihuahua that I am nursing back to health he makes a visible physical movement of SOME KIND toward expressing his HOPE that I will stop as I pass him and rub his tummy!
This old neurotic cat I inherited (15 and counting) races toward the bathroom every time I head in that direction and flops her thickly-furred tortoise-shell self on the floor by the toilet HOPING I will sit down there at the same time and brush her!
Was the pomegranate tree sitting in its hardened soil, dry-as-a-bone spot in my yard HOPING that I might lay my washing machine’s gray water hose in its newly created adobe circle basin and give it WATER today? Do the millions of ants scurrying around my yard HOPE to find food?
Is the state of ongoing life itself, as distinguished from the final state of death, ALWAYS about that one single thing HOPE?
If any of the cycles of being alive that we mostly take so for granted became STUCK – any ongoing life connected with the ongoing cycle itself would be threatened – and with that threat perhaps ALWAYS and most importantly goes the threat of the annihilation of HOPE.
Our species probably continued on down our evolutionary pathway BECAUSE we had HOPE: Hope spoken, hope not spoken. Hope known consciously – or not.
A stuck cycle of trauma means to me that HOPE itself is tampered with. Perhaps for my mother finding Alaska, finding ‘her spot’ of perfect beauty and peace on that mountain WAS the literal embodiment of HOPE for her – and in her states of being aware of the experience within herself of having hope fulfilled she could be – and was – temporarily at peace.
During the rest of the time her disturbed HOPE cycle took over her (and her life). At those times HOPE was all tangled up in the nevers and always and forevers that indicated her physical body-brain had been formed in her earliest life in a trauma-filled world that so toyed with her hopes and their fulfillment that her HOPE cycle BROKE.
I woke up THIS morning to a complete cloud cover screening the hot rays of the sun. These are NOT rain clouds, but they are a hopeful sign of the approaching time of the summer rains. We are parched here. Whatever moisture remains from our winter rain has escaped deep into the earth where only the deeper tree roots and the nearly petrified, waiting frogs can find it. The rest of that moisture is captivated within the fibrous cells of the desert plants who all know exactly how to keep it!
I chose this day to finally do my piles of laundry. My washing machine is parked outside under the south eve of my house, with its 50-foot drainage hose at this moment poised exactly over the root system of my pomegranate tree. Perhaps doing laundry, as many women have historically discovered, and hanging it out on the line to dry will BRING the rains! Well, maybe NOT today I have to admit. The air is so dry if I carry a wet load of clean clothes across the yard in my arms, I swear half the dampness in them is already gone out of them into the waiting, wet-hungry air before I even reach the clothesline with them!
But perhaps because of my present laundry doing occupation I have laundry related images in my mind this morning. My thoughts are following twists and turns, swish, swish inside my skull. Sometimes they appear like clothes tumbling over one another in one of those front-window dryers!
I can let them BE that way. Or I can write something here that will take those thoughts out of their swishing, tumbling state and line them all up across this page.
Firstly, perhaps in cases where creative potential was greatest, as it might have been inside my little growing child-mother when she was young, the consequences of early neglect and maltreatment can be greatest. Perhaps within my mother there was a potential that does not even exist in most children. The more disturbed and disturbing the environment of her early developmental years became, perhaps correspondingly the consequences of damage correspondingly began to grow.
My mother used to recite a childhood saying, “There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. And when she was good she was very very good. And when she was bad she was HORRID!”
Perhaps my mother could be so devastatingly abusive (evil) because she also had an equal potential for being incredibly good! Perhaps just as she worked so hard to be so good — which demonstrated itself in her fanatical efforts to ‘do her home-work’ perfectly (cleaning, cooking, making the home cozy, etc.) — she worked equally hard at making her projected ‘evil’ better! That projected ‘evil’, of course, was ME!
Maybe if I had been a piece of laundry (like the sheet and towel in her little childhood story she wrote – see:
She could have simply thrown me into a giant washing machine and cleaned me right up! At the same time – given the nature of my mother’s mental illness – she could have ONCE AND FOR ALL cleaned up her own internal intolerable ‘badness’ (that she projected onto me)! All sweet and laundered the ‘evil’ in life could have been done up right. It could have all been banished forever and she (and her ‘loved ones’) could have lived happily ever after.
Considering what is known about the Borderline ability to SPLIT the good and the bad-evil apart from one another as a serious aspect of their mind’s altered operating patterns, happily-everaftering might just be one of the main goals of the Borderline mind — at the same time such a perfect ending is NEVER actually possible in the real world we all reside in.
What follows next in my thinking process probably belongs to another separate post, but I am going to ignore that point and enter these words here and now.
I just went outside to check on the progress of my laundry’s washing in my machine and listened to the first spin cycle complete itself so that the fresh new rinse water can enter and was this fancy good soap out. Even though my thinking is running in fast spinning circles nearly as fast as the barrel inside that machine just was, I am going to try to force my left brain to order and organize in linear format what the contents of my thoughts actually are.
According to Dr. Antonio Damasio (and I suggest a solid Google search here for ‘Damasio consciousness brainstem) growth and development of the human body-nervous system-brain builds patterns for the operation of consciousness from the beginning of our life as they follow from the brainstem itself on through the rest of our growing and developing being.
When consciousness is left out of an adult’s patterns of living all hell breaks lose – as it certainly did between my mother and me. Way down there in the brainstem, and then on through the development of the right limbic social-emotional brain with its deep ties into the main body’s information tracking and brain-delivery system, and then on up to the higher cortex of our ‘rational’ thinking and decision making brain regions — well the fact is that early infant neglect, maltreatment and abuse simply CHANGES the whole dang pathway and the operation of the resulting circuits!
I believe that connected to the early developmental changes a neglected and abuse, maltreated, traumatized infant-child experiences is a corresponding CHANGE in the way TIME and its connection to a ‘self’ in SPACE happens.
As I format and correct my mother’s manuscript right now, I will be taking very careful note of attachment disorder-related patterns in my mother’s chronicle. These segments will be copied into the files I am going to work with for my ‘analysis and interpretation’ of my mother’s chronicle in my book, “Unspeakable Madness.”
When these above mentioned changes occur, and when these changes affect the survivor’s ability to gain consciousness of ‘self’ in time and space, these patterns lay the groundwork for unbelievable infant-child abuse to occur down the road.
In my mother’s case I can see these ‘time-space’ changes within her writings as she repeatedly uses these words: ‘Always’, ‘Never,’ ‘Forever’, and ‘For the first time’.
If you read this book, Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism by Dawn Prince-Hughes, you will find a description of an autism-spectrum pattern related to the passage of time in space very similar to what I think my mother experienced — and very similar to what I experience. Prince-Hughes describes this experience for herself in relation to strong negative emotional currents in a primary relationship. She describes her sense of ‘things will always be this way’ at the same time she is describing her sense that ‘things HAVE always been this way’.
Most simply put, because these altered time-space patterns were built in my mother’s earliest forming body-brain within a traumatic early caregiver environment, they directly impacted ME. My mother could not ‘finish the laundry’ related to her relationship with me (and hence the power of her abuse litany).
My guess is that because these changes happen all the way into the brainstem itself, a survivor’s biological clock and internal patterns and rhythms are changes as well. My mother had an altered sense of cycles in her life, and these changes directly affected how she abused me!
Everything related to me had ‘always been this way’ and would ‘always be this way’. This pattern operated in MANY ways in her life. I can see those patterns in her chronicle. There really was never a beginning, a middle or an end in my mother’s trauma-formed brain-mind. How this adaptation to early trauma helps to preserve ongoing life in the ‘evolutionarily altered brain’ that Dr. Martin Teicher and his Harvard research group describe, I do not know. It my view, these time-space changes are most likely to be seen my contemporary outsiders – if they know what they are looking FOR and AT — as patterns of dissociation.
I will leave these thoughts on this page now and go outside to retrieve my now-clean laundry from the washer!
One load of laundry is not longer dirty. Its time in the space of the washing machine is over. These items from that load are now hanging on the clothesline where they will be completely dried in less than ten minutes. Another load of dirty clothes are in the washer now. You all know the pattern – and the ‘drill’.
A SIMPLE process of tracking something in time and space.
No so simple for a body-brain stuck in a world of unresolved trauma.
An altered sense of the passing of time is a most common and well known aspect of the peritraumatic experience of enduring trauma WHILE IT IS HAPPENING.
Unresolved trauma means that this state of peritrauma – along with its dissociation and its altered sense of the passing of time — simply remains as a permanent state.
In my mother’s trauma altered development the natural cycles of beginning, middle and end did not WORK regarding her projections onto me.
Because she could not tolerate her own internal sense of being ALWAYS bad, and because she projected that unending state of being out onto ME, I was ALSO permanently BAD and evil.
I was ALWAYS evil. I was ALWAYS bad. There was no beginning (other than in the time of my mother’s labor with me as I ‘tried’ to kill her). There was no middle and there was no end.
My mother was ALWAYS trying to FIX me. She could NEVER accomplish her goal no matter how hard she ALWAYS worked at it. As a consequence I was NEVER safe and secure. I NEVER knew when her next attack would happen or why. I NEVER knew when the attacks would end. I NEVER knew why they happened in the first place.
I cannot describe to anyone who has not experienced this kind of abuse what living in this state of perpetual threat and trauma is like. People in the immediate intimate vicinity within such an abusing family also know from the outside as witnesses what this KIND of perpetual abuse is like – because their environment is NEVER truly safe and secure, either.
Never good enough. Always bad.
When people write and think about the splitting and projection of the Borderline brain-mind, it is important to realize that the root-stem of these patterns no doubt lie in trauma-related changes that happened within the earliest developmental stages of body-brain growth for these survivors.
TRAUMA itself does not let go if it is not resolved. As I have said on this blog so many times if something useful for the survival of the individual and of the species is NOT learned from a traumatic experience the operation of the peritraumatic cycle related to time and space will just SIT there and rot — suspended in time and space — just as surely as my clothes would do if my washing machine got stuck in its cycle and nobody did anything to rescue the laundry!
NOTE: Please always go to my blog itself to read my posts – they MORPH!
I am not ‘out of the woods’ yet on what I can possibly learn from working with my mother’s writings, even though I am GREATLY RELIEVED that the transcription is completed and I will not encounter any more ‘surprises’ because I am now familiar with what is in her words. BUT, that does not mean I won’t continue to be surprised. It just means that from now on the surprises I encounter will be INSIDE OF MY OWN SELF!
For example, related to what I am going to include in this post, I am rethinking these same words I posted earlier:
“Splitting is very common in people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and it leads people with BPD to view others and themselves in “all or nothing” terms. For example, a person with BPD may view one family member as always “good” and another as always “bad.” Or, a person with BPD may see themselves as “good” one minute, but shift to seeing themselves as all “bad” or even evil the next.”
What about those words I added bold type and underlining to?
Kristalyn is, I believe, missing an extremely important point here. My mother never SAW HERSELF as ‘good or evil’. She lacked the requisite capacity for self observation, analysis or self reflection. She could not achieve even that high a level of honesty about herself – or see herself AS REALITY SAW HER! My mother never saw the truth about herself as far as I know. She never achieved that level of conscious awareness. To her dying breath she would have promised to anyone that what she ‘did’ to me – I earned and deserved and, as she told my sister, “was nothing different than what any normal mother would have done.”
This did not stop my mother from ACTING ALL GOOD or ACTING ALL EVIL!
Very often the ‘all good mother’ was phony phony phony — and certainly my siblings could see-sense-know this (I’m not sure my father did).
The ‘all evil mother’ was MY particular mother! How special was THAT? NOT AT ALL!
I think that Kristalyn’s words are a HUGE soft-sell in regard to severe infant-child abusing caregivers! They are a great understatement! Borderlines such as my mother was have no real ability to ‘see themselves’ in the light of reality or real reason AT ALL!
So, as I work with the two versions my mother wrote of the story I include here – one a journal entry and one a letter to her mother – I realize that I did not know THIS version of my mother at all! In fact, it is this ‘all good mother’ who, with the fewest tiny exceptions, WROTE ALL OF THESE WORDS I HAVE TRANSCRIBED and am preparing to publish!
My guess is that any unsuspecting reader of my mother’s Alaskan homesteading chronicle will probably come to adore her!
Can I adore her?
Kristalyn IS using the word ‘evil’ here in her contrast – not saying ‘good’ and ‘bad’ but rather ‘good’ and ‘evil’. She is not describing ‘projection’ which I cannot separate from the SPLITTING that Kristalyn is describing. So if I take Kristalyn’s words literally, I would say I was cursed with having a nearly all-evil mother — and I have a hard time telling myself that given this fact, I had any mother at all!
I certainly DID NOT have the mother who wrote the following words, which include these words that she wrote waiting alone with four small children in a canvas hut on the side of an Alaskan mountain without telephone, electricity, water, transportation, and barely with food for my father to come home with supplies:
“As I try to go off to sleep I hear a noise – it sounds like the tractor – urging its way up the Mountain road – Does silence have a noise – it’s so quiet I can hear my heart pounding. Silence, silence. Where is Bill? All I ask is for his safety and well being.”
It is obvious to me that I still have a great deal of inner confusion about my feelings about my mother — and about what she did to me. I do not yet ‘understand’ and therefore I do not yet ‘know’. There is still something I need to learn and this work still has something important to teach me. These words of my mother’s didn’t come from an obviously ‘evil mother’. Talk about SWITCHING! My mother was a pro!
It’s a riddle of Bat Man story caliber, I would say! I haven’t solved it for myself. Not even close. I will be working my way through THESE aspects of my next stage of work with my mother’s writings. I ask myself why I don’t let the riddle just go and forget about it. Then I encounter an internal image of someone (a child!) being murdered over and over and over again – but being left alive – TO TELL ABOUT IT!
For now, I guess I will go ahead and post here both versions of this experience as my mother wrote about it. I am asking my daughter and sister for their input on how I might handle duplications of stories in my mother’s work. Do I publish both intact? Do I find a way to merge them? If I meld and merge, do I keep the result as a letter? As a journal entry? I am not sure about that, either.
I am also posting pictures that can help demonstrate WHERE we were. Talk about a little abused child having nowhere to run!!!! This scene – an abused child’s nightmare, an abusing ‘evil mother’s’ dream come true!
December 29, 1959 Tuesday
*Notes: Nice day outside – but bleak inside. School has started again here on our homestead even if not in Eagle River as we took the week before Xmas for vacation – as I thought the children would enjoy getting ready for Xmas that week and would more easily settle down to school work after Xmas!
I was right. They are raring to go and eager to get back on schedule of things and so anxious to do good work and not miss their work or be behind their class when they return to school and so am I! John is busy in his Arithmetic books – both work books and school books and is learning more complicated multiplication and going on to division. It seems we never catch up with John’s work or get all done we should do – but we keep on plugging away.
Bill never came home! No water today again – and my propane gas gave out before I could even cook breakfast. The children had cold cereal for breakfast and bread and jelly. I tried to get our Coleman cook stove going but it seems to be leaking and a fire started in back of it and below. I had to throw water on it (a half a coffee pot full). Then I was going to get the fire extinguisher out – but before I used it I got the fire out by beating it out with a towel. I had a scare for a minute and made a mess of the trailer with the water but far better than fire.
I checked it and rechecked it and brought it outside to light but gas seems to be spilling out so I put it away. Now what will we do? I yearn for some coffee and think I’ll melt some snow and try to heat some on oil heater. We’re really out of food – except flour, sugar and staples. I do have potatoes and one more can of Spam if I had a stove going.
Bill HAS to come home tonight [Tuesday] – yet, he told me he would be home Monday and work Tuesday and Wednesday! This is when I don’t like to be so isolated!!
Radio says there has been a terrible storm from New Jersey, NY to Boston. Snow, winds etc. – worst since hurricane years ago I remember so well. We’re lucky here – not to have storms like that.
10:30 – We relented and I heated our last can of stew over the oil stove (heater) and by then even it tasted good. I made Kool Aid for the children from melted snow – and to bed. (Wrote Mom more this evening and will put her letter in here).
It’s now 11:30 – tomorrow we must walk OUT if Bill doesn’t come home. I just undressed and climbed into bed. Must stop running to the door thinking I hear the tractor. My usual evening things tonight hold absolutely no appeal to me. I don’t want to knit although I’ve started mittens (first time on four needles for Cindy) or read or anything. I want to know Bill is alright and to have him here – please Bill come!!
I’ll set the alarm tonight (first time I’ve set it since Bill hasn’t been here!) for 4:00 A.M. and we’ll leave here at 5:00!! – Well is that early enough?? And it will be so cold waiting for a ride at the bottom of the mountain. We are so dependent on Bill – for oil, gas, supplies –
I’d love to homestead way off – if Bill could be with us. I’d like to hunt our own meat and cache it away – get all our supplies in for the winter early – have a wood cook stove – I’d truly love it. I tease Bill and urge him to stay and try it here. He says we could never make out – but if we had our bills paid and raised perhaps sheep – those are foolish dreams. Still it could be ever so nice and right now he’d be here!!
Golly, what’s wrong with me. I’ve done so well – it’s expecting him and not having him come – and knowing he would if he could and wondering.
I just simply can’t sleep. I’m writing this by flash light – still listening – oh, how I yearn for Bill tonight. I feel so all alone.
This is really only the second time. Last time also was when I expected him and he didn’t come.
As I try to go off to sleep I hear a noise – it sounds like the tractor – urging its way up the Mountain road – Does silence have a noise – it’s so quiet I can hear my heart pounding. Silence, silence. Where is Bill? All I ask is for his safety and well being.
December 29, 1959 Tuesday 11:00 P.M.
Last night about this time I sat here writing you a letter – listening with straining ears for the welcome sound of a tractor to tell me Bill was coming home. I waited up until 1:30 A.M. – I didn’t want to be asleep when he got here BUT he didn’t.
24 hours later and still no Bill. I listened to “Mukluk Telegraph” on KENI on my wonderful radio – a special broadcast where messages are relayed to people like me, living in the bush, but no word. So, here I sit again waiting.
It seems I’ve done a great deal of waiting since we began homesteading. I guess it’s a woman’s role all over the world – one which I am now accustomed to but like none the more for it. It’s hard to wait – especially when you don’t know and tonight I’ve gotten a little worried. Jeep trouble? – could be – but no message.
Seeing he was home over the long Holiday I would have just as soon he waited several days but we’d been out of water for two whole days again and I’d been melting snow (which is a slow process and laborious but at least I’m grateful for the snow – there was a time when we had neither snow OR water – funny how one becomes grateful for such strange things).
But it was agreed he’d come home last night and work Tuesday and Wednesday and come home again Thursday. We’re out of water and propane gas. As of today and I almost started a fire trying to get the Coleman camp stove going – I guess it leaks and I won’t try again. This morning we had shredded wheat (last of it). At noon – sandwiches (good thing I saved the bread since last Thursday) – used the last of it and after waiting until tonight at 10:30 for Bill. So we heated the last can of canned stew (ugh!!) over gas heater!!
I’ve even melted drinking water today – and yesterday gave everyone baths by building a fire in the Yukon stove and melting the big wash tub full of snow. It was to be a kind of a surprise for Bill – but he never came home.
It’s unlike Bill to cause us concern or leave us when he knows we’re out of supplies!!
Last Thursday he brought food but today is pay day and he was to bring a big order up yesterday. I almost went down yesterday – it’s been two weeks and one day since we’ve been OUT – but probably will have to walk up late at night or spend three hours on the last mile of road (how well I remember last time) so thought I’d wait until the weekend and go down and come up during day light.
Now I have no choice if Bill doesn’t come home tonight. Then we’ll have to get up at 4:00 (and just put children to bed – waiting for Bill) and go out with Thomas or Pullen. I hate to walk down alone and it’s snowing now.
We started school again here as we took vacation the week before Xmas but other schools are off now. Another reason I hate to go down.
Bill has trouble pulling the trailer up now and is going to buy a flat sled to pull supplies up behind tractor – but we walk!!
The kids are marvelous sports. Last night John stayed up and worked on the model airplane he and his Dad started Sunday. Today after school, we worked a big cross word puzzle and I showed Linda how to purl – she knits well. I gave her and Cindy a knitting set for Xmas – it has smaller needles in it and they can manage them much better. Today she completed her doll blanket she started on Xmas – just plain knitting. Cindy finds it harder but two years difference in ages.
She and Sharon played Chinese checkers – then Linda and Cindy – and so this evening passed – with a lollypop treat made by Cindy for each for Xmas and saved because they had so much sweets and so welcome tonight as a morale booster.
She made cups out of egg carton, two together and decorated and put life savers in each cup and two lollypops. Oh, such squeals of pleasure they brought forth tonight.
I made molasses cookies in Xmas shapes and enormous gingerbread boys cut and decorated in green, red and white –
Fruit cake devoured. Children and I made spice cookies and sugar cookies and each had a whole tray to do themselves in Xmas shapes (I think I told you) and then each decorated as they pleased. They took their prettiest and did up for Xmas presents for Daddy.
But all is gone now and mince pie, apple pie, chocolate pie I made yesterday.
Still we have little up here in way of fresh fruits, vegetables etc. and mostly canned meat. Last Thursday Bill brought up lettuce and tomatoes and oh, such a treat you can’t imagine. We haven’t had fresh milk since we’ve been here – all canned and powdered – and now we’re OUT of all but flour, sugar and oatmeal!
Well, it’s 11:30 P.M. I guess I better stop! I just keep listening and listening. Will enclose a note tomorrow to tell you what happened!
Donned my coat etc. and thought I’d go outside to get some fresh air and listen intently. It’s really snowing now. The weatherman said ‘no snow’ but I found out weeks ago that we have our own weather here in the mountains – and it ISSNOWING here. It is lonely tonight – not a light or sign of habitation. Usually I like this but tonight I don’t. I want Bill at night – I’ll never get used to that.
I could easily stay here all day – all winter – if I thought he’d be home come night – it’s our highlight of the day. Even then – I don’t worry if I don’t expect him – Oh, I know he’s alright but —- —-
The children look so sweet and peaceful asleep. Thank God they trust me and I can make them happy up here — !!
I keep forgetting that I haven’t written oftener. I must tell you how much your radio has meant to me – a voice – music – it means so very much to us!!!
And during Xmas the music was beautiful. We heard Dicken’s Xmas Carol and all the stories. It really made Xmas for us and I think especially for Sharon who couldn’t remember the songs from last year.
You’re my Xmas angel!
Bill got home at 6:15 in the morning! I was going to walk out and decided to wait until tonight –
He tried Monday night and tractor wouldn’t make first hill – battled it for three hours and then went back to log house where he arrived at 4:00 A.M.
Spent all night battling hill last night – has had no sleep – ate breakfast and now is leaving again.
He’s safe!! How he keeps awake I’ll never know!!
Happy New Year
P.S. Only one month to go. [for the required residency time for proving up on the land to gain title under the requirements of the Homestead Act]
If I didn’t know my mother was the way that she was, I could read these words she wrote in 1959 so differently. I HATE it that my mother was so sick! This piece is one of my favorites of all the words she wrote. And, again — do YOU see a severe child abusing mother in these words she wrote? This, the healing power of that place, of that mountain, of that homestead — for my mother in ways I can never know — and for me as her victimized survivor.
Were such moments as this one (below) only rare ones in which my mother was lucid and perhaps ‘her self’? And yet even if she was IN one of ‘these moments’ in a split second, without warning, she often-usually exploded at me as a child – violently – I rarely saw it coming – and I never understood why.
December 26, 1959 Saturday
*Notes: Nice clear day, colder, no snow.
Temperature had dropped today and snow was drier and crunched beneath your feet. I like it better this way and you don’t get damp and wet-cold when it is colder like this! Today I said ‘heck with fussing around the house take a Holiday’. All of us went outside. The children are so happy to be outdoors and to have Daddy home. I decided for the first time to go off on my skis alone for awhile. Such enjoyment – nice to be off awhile by myself and I wasn’t at all afraid to ski over to the embankment overlooking the creek alone. The snow was just perfect – dry and powdery for skiing. Every little way I had to stop and gaze around at the beauty all around me.
Every time I get outside here it makes me feel so silly to worry over the little daily happenings in the bit of civilization we’ve brought up to this remote spot with us. We are but tiny ants really so insignificant – perhaps if I could see OUT of our trailer and hut I could feel this all day but I feel so shut inside the place – without windows to capture the view, even in part. The view of the water of Kink Arm is ever changing as the sun sets. One moment one of the lavender splendor and the next wreathed in rose. How close I always feel to God here. Mrs. Bockstahler referred to this place as ‘Celestial Heights’ in her recent letter and it truly is a heavenly spot.
It was a new sensation and a very nice one to make the first tracks across the white stretches of unbroken white snow in our fields. Smokey following close behind so contented and happy that we two were alone on a walk. These moments are never to be forgotten.
As I got further away from our hut and the children’s voices became fainter and fainter the moose trails became more and more frequent. As I got to the bank where I could gaze down on the still-rushing unfrozen creek down into the valley spread out below and Thomas’ homestead so tiny below me and hear their sled dogs howling echo and reecho amount the hills – the tracks were very frequent and places where they had bedded down the night before were all about me. In one place the moose droppings in its trail were still steaming. I looked about me but no moose in sight. As I absorbed the stillness and beauty about me I was once again entranced and dedicated my life to our homestead forever more – such love – no, something I can’t even call love – surged from within me – such a kinship for this strange unknown land that one would expect would frighten me and upset me by its mere isolation and coldness – instead I feel such at ONE with this place – everything about it appeals to me – oh, for words to be able to fully express the way I feel.
I only wish I never had to leave it, not even to return to the log house [in Eagle River] which holds no appeal to me.
As I skied back I kept telling myself I would find a way to remain here and watch the days now grow longer – the sky grow brighter until the snows melted and spring came again to our beloved Mt. regions – how can I leave, how can I tear myself away again – and how will I ever know a moment’s rest until this beloved land is truly ours – all ours.
I skied down below the flat land and crossed the mountainous hills below our place where it’s still heavily wooded beneath our clearings and the high Mt. peaks are almost obliterated. I like the wooded regions but once again was glad that Bill chose the open valley above to live in.
I came across one spot that made me smile and chuckle aloud. Signs before me showed a moose had hurried down the Mt. – perhaps rushing from Smokey’s bark – the snow was so deep and all it looked as if the moose had slid on its stomach and the prints were far apart. What a sight that must have been!
I would like to become more familiar with the cold quiet of the Alaskan winter days and have the time and opportunity to discover the secrets of the wild life around me. Study their tracks, their habits, etc.
In some spots my foot slipped out of the skis so my leg sank to the ground beneath me – the snow came clear to my waist and it was quite a feat to get back on the skis.
I have become so unused to outdoor exercises and so unaccustomed to manipulating skis so that by the time I came out on the road I was truly quite tired – but that nice kind of tiredness that always comes from good outdoor exercise – and such a thrill to know I had not even been off our land!!
Down at the log house I remember trying to ski about and feeling rather silly as I was in view of all my neighbors and could scarcely go 100 feet without being on someone else’s property.
As I came down the road I could see the girls playing on their snow castle. Sharon came running down the road holding her big blue balloon that Santa sent and her long blue and white stocking cap askew with the long white tassels bobbing up and down – that Grandma in California had lovingly knitted for her youngest granddaughter to keep her warm on the long Alaskan winter. Such a sweet sight and it came to me that she was everything a child should be and so completely absorbed in her own activity and so content with her childish play
It sounded so good to hear Bill about the place. I wish we could all be together for this period – like other homesteaders. This place needs a man about.
Coleman lamp to fill – already dark although only 3:00 in afternoon. Baked mince pie – all came in cold and hungry – good meal – then sat down at table in hut to try out some of games in Treasure Chest of games Mrs. Eklund sent us.
Girls put on Chinese kimonos Carolyn sent and looked so cute sitting there. We played checkers and then BINGO. It was fun and even Sharon was able to do her part – calling out to Daddy the scorekeeper. I had that number – her face beaming. Being together – how very nice!!!
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