Snapshot #4: Birthdays and Rituals

There are several categories of memories that I remember when I was around two years old. Some have to do with happy times (thank God for the happy memories) with family and friends — or normal, everyday times, such as . . .

pushing the dining chair across the linoleum floor to the kitchen cabinets; lugging over the biggest books I could find and carry, one at a time, from the living room and stacking them on the chair; climbing the stack of books so I could get on top of the counter; then reaching down and grabbing the top book so I could pull it onto the counter top and stand on it to open the upper cabinet; then climbing the shelves on the upper cabinet to get to the upmost shelf where Mommy had stashed my favorite snack.

Or . . .

climbing the shelves in the hallway beside my room to try to find the Vitamin C bottle that I knew was kept there. They were so tasty, and that day, I had decided I wanted one. But I found out there were several different vitamin bottles, all with different writing, and since I couldn’t read the labels, I opened them up to smell and to see if I could recognize the smell of the one I wanted. But all the smells mingled in my nose and started to smell the same, and I wasn’t completely sure which one was Vitamin C. I thought I knew, but there was doubt in my mind, and with Mommy’s warning ringing in my ears (“Don’t get into these because they will make you really really sick”), I was afraid to try the one I thought was probably the Vitamin C because I didn’t want to get the wrong one and die. So not being able to read the labels on the vitamin bottles that day was the catalyst that pushed me to teach myself how to read, and by the time I was four, I could read anything put in front of me.

But some memories have to do with fights and screaming and crying. And others have to do with rituals and programming and a hospital and a wheelchair and a nurse who looked nice but who threatened to chop my fingers off if I didn’t stop playing with the wheel of the wheelchair.

A Birthday

I have snippets of memories from my first birthday, of course

sitting in my highchair in the trailer house surrounded by the family and friends that I loved and everyone was smiling and looking at me and there was a bright candle and a pink cake and I was expected to eat the cake and it got all over me and I had presents and a yellow-and-brown wooden giraffe with wheels that bobbed and strutted about when I pulled him along by his string

but I clearly recall my second birthday party.

By this time, it had been probably over a year or so since we had moved from the little house and into a trailer house, right next to an older man named Paul, who lived next door to my Granny and her husband, who I called Granddad. He wasn’t my mother’s father, so technically, he wasn’t my biological grandfather

and thank God for small favors because he was a creep who always wanted us to sit on his lap and he grabbed under my skirt and I hated when he did that, and I’m glad he wasn’t actually related to me because he was a child molester, but that is a different story for a different time

but I still called him Granddad.

On the day we celebrated my birthday, I was feeling very anxious. I was so excited because I had been promised a swing set that year, and Daddy had left to go pick up my swing set from the store and bring it home. But even though he wasn’t back yet, everyone was already showing up for my birthday party.

In my mind, the day’s plans were already going awry, and I was feeling

so!

stressed!

I begged Momma to let me wait outside for Daddy, because I was too excited to wait in the house.

She said no, because I’d get in the way when Daddy came home with my swing set, and I might get run over.

I begged: please please please I’ll be good and not get run over please please please.

She finally said, “Yes,” if I promised to wait

ON!

THE!

STEPS!

and to NOT get off the steps.

I promised.

So I sat there on the steps of our little trailer house, wringing my hands in my lap and jumping up and down on my butt. A couple of times during my long wait

time runs slowly when you are small and excited

I forgot about my promise and jumped off the steps, skipping around the corner of the house to see if Daddy’s truck was rumbling down the street.

But my uncle caught me, and reminded me about the steps, and I would say sorry and quickly sit back down on the steps, and continue to wring my hands and bounce up and down with excitement.

And finally

time runs slowly when you are small and excited

Daddy backed into the driveway with my brand new swing set situated on the trailer he had borrowed and hooked up to the back of his truck.

But I was even more excited than I had been before, because I saw that my present was much, much more than just swings. It was an entire playground! An actual yellow-and-white playground, complete with a slide, a swing, a monkey bar, and two yellow plastic teeter-totters.

I couldn’t believe my eyes, I was so excited!

Then Mommy yelled at me because I forgot my promise about the steps again. So I stood there on the steps while Daddy and Granddad and Uncle Mike and someone else fussed around my playground, trying to get it off the trailer. But it was hard to stay still and stay quiet at the same time, so I started hollering instructions to Daddy on how to best get the playground off his truck, past the fence, and into the back yard, but no one was really listening to me or taking me seriously. Finally, Daddy got mad and said a couple of bad words and told me that he had it, but I had to be quiet so he could think, and then Mommy went out and told him what to do, but Daddy didn’t look like he was happy about her instructions, either.

So I tried to be quiet and I had to bite my hands to keep from saying anything more, but it was hard.

And eventually

time runs slowly when you are small and excited

they finally got my playground off the back of Daddy’s trailer and safely into the back yard without breaking anything.

I ran to my brand new playground to play, but was only allowed one slide, because I had to wait even longer while they made sure the screws were in tightly and everything was A-Okay for me and my friends to play.

So while we waited for the playground to be A-Okay, we played in the plastic pool that was set up with the water hose. And we played a game of hide-n-seek, where I showed one of my friends the fig tree that made for a great hiding spot and a quick snack (minus the green caterpillars that I picked off and squished on the ground with my fingers, of course).

We were so busy eating that we forgot about the hiding game and we got caught, but it was still fun.

When the playground was finally A-Okay for us to play on, I was disappointed because I had to give my guests first dibs on play time, and there wasn’t enough room for me on the teeter-totters.

It just didn’t seem fair to me.

But it was still a fun day, overall.

I never wanted that day to end.

A Desert Ritual

Sometime around the two-to-three-year mark, I participated in what I realize now was my first satanic ritual. At least, the first satanic ritual I remember.

I’m not sure if I was two or if I was three, because my brother and I are about two-and-a-half years apart in age, and he was either newly born and had been presumably left at home with a sitter, which would put my age closer to three, or Momma was barely pregnant, or soon-to-be pregnant with him, which would put me closer to two.

I’m pretty sure my brother wasn’t born yet, which would have made me closer to two than three, but I could be wrong about the timeline.

Either way, I remember sitting between Mommy and Daddy on the long, tan-colored seat in Daddy’s truck — a tan-and-brown Ford, I think it was, the same one that had brought me my brand-new playground — bouncing and jouncing as the tires rumbled across the hard-packed dirt road that stretched out into the hot west Texas desert. By the time Daddy rolled the truck to a stop, the tires crunching in the rocks and dirt, the sun was warm and low in the sky, and night was quickly approaching.

Daddy opened the truck door, got out, and slammed the door behind him. Mommy helped me down from the cab of the truck, and then made her way with Daddy to the small group of people standing a little ways off in the distance. I stumbled after them as best as I could, but my legs couldn’t keep up. I wanted Mommy to carry me, but she refused, and I fell, crying, tiny sharp pebbles biting into my knees and palms.

Mommy seemed mad, but she stopped and picked me up from the desert floor, then held my hand tightly, practically dragging me alongside her as she stomped through the dry desert heat towards the others who were waiting.

I can’t recognize everyone who was there that night, but I remember my cousin being there (I’ll call her “Diana”). She was there with her dad and mom (my mother’s sister), but her brother (I’ll call him “Davy”) wasn’t there. I remember feeling disappointed because I loved both of my cousins and considered them to be my best friends at that time.

(Of course, at that age, before life had taught me better, I made most everyone I knew to be my best friend.)

There was a crude table set up beside a scraggly desert tree, and on the tree side of the table was a large white bucket of water

or was it two buckets?

the kind that holds about 5 gallons or so at once.

A goat

or was it two? I’m not sure . . .

was tethered beside the tree.

I think it was two buckets and one goat, but regardless — it was a curious set-up to have in the middle of the desert, but the baby goat (a “kid,” I found out later they are called, which creeped me out) distracted my attention. Diana and I stroked the goat’s soft fur and splashed in the water, until someone came around and pulled us away, scolding us.

A short time passed (although it seemed much longer to me), and as the hot desert day was giving way to the cool desert night, the ceremony started. I won’t get into too many details, but my cousin participated first, and then me. One at a time, we were quickly changed into long white robes — crude, dirty garments really, that, ironically enough, were probably meant to symbolize our innocence —  and were made to lie flat upon the table with our arms stretched out and our legs spread apart, gazing into the darkness of the desert sky. The man who presided over the ceremony — a bald man with dark eyes and a hooded cloak — held a knife over our bodies and “prayed.”

(It almost sounded like he was “speaking in tongues,” something I was accustomed to and thought to be quite normal, so at that time, I assumed that his muttering and chanting was a prayer.)

Then the goat was killed, the blood spilled over us, we were given something wet and crunchy-chewy and hot to eat, and then the water was poured over us.


A few years ago, I wrote more about the details of this night, and I could have done a “copy-paste” job, but I don’t think it’s good to share too much detail. It’s not that I don’t remember details. I remember a lot of detail with vivid recollection. But I just don’t think it’s a good idea to share all the graphic details. I don’t see what good it serves.

At any rate, I’ve been wondering lately if my cousin remembers this night. It took me over 35 years before I was able to put together the snapshots of memory in my mind and come to an understanding of the full meaning of what all those snippets of pictures meant; so maybe it’s been the same with her.

Maybe she’s just been too afraid to talk to anyone in the family about it yet. Or, for reasons of dissociation, she’s decided to put it from her mind and ignore it because maybe she has no way of making sense of the entire night in the context of the rest of her life, and she prefers her safe sanity over the tumultuous truth.

I’m probably way off base and, as per usual, perhaps I’m overthinking everything. Maybe she doesn’t even remember that night.

But what if she does?

It’s not exactly something that I can casually bring up over a phone call or a Facebook message:

say, cuz, do you remember that crazy desert ritual with that scary dark-eyed bald man and the bucket of water that we got in trouble for playing in and being forced to eat the fresh remains of the goat whose blood was spilled over us and your long braids that were dripping with water and the cool night air that gave us goosebumps on our wet skin and the little giggle you gave at the end that pulled me out of the panic I was feeling as I finished my part in the ritual and we exchanged a knowing look and I smiled because we both looked like two little scared, wet rats, you with dripping braids, and me with dripping ponytails, and those big blanket-towels draped over our shivering bodies?

. . .

no?

okay. I was just wondering.

. . .

so, how’s it been going lately? how’s your daughter? how’s work? you still with that guy you were dating?

So maybe she doesn’t remember.

But if she does, has she talked to anyone about it? Is she as scared to ask me about it as I am to ask her?

Because the worst thing about remembering and coming to a full understanding of all the horrifying pieces of pictures

or, at least, a fuller understanding, because I don’t believe I will ever fully and truly understand the darkness that compels and entices men and women to do things that traumatize and harm young children

is not the anger that comes from realizing that your life has been purposefully and systematically built upon a foundation of lies

we absolutely were not the Christians I had believed us to be

or the horror that comes when the dissociative walls crumble, memories flood in, and your senses are on overload as your mind and emotions begin to realize the awful things you were forced to participate in.

That’s the not the worst.

Aside from the initial trauma, the worst is not the remembering; the worst is not reliving the trauma. But the worst is talking about it and being told that you’re a liar, particularly from family and friends of the family.

family: the people who are supposed to have loved and protected you throughout your life but who ended up being the worst abusers and protectors of abusers

friends of the family: those people who, sometimes out of ignorance but sometimes out of an evil heart themselves, end up being the biggest supporters and advocates of the people who hurt and abused you

Maybe you are outright maligned by family and so-called friends, but maybe you are just treated like a liar, cut down with furtive side-glances as people skirt around you, pity and fear intermingled in their eyes, as if they are afraid the crazy they believe you are will jump off you and onto them.

And this fear of being not believed — of being treated like a deluded freak of nature — is what probably keeps many silent, because it’s the worst sort of re-traumatization. Of re-victimization.

And then the despair begins to sink in when you realize that after everything you’ve been through — after suppressing the terror for years and years, and then reliving it all at once with the emotions of a child who is stuck inside the body of an adult who is supposed to be in control of the emotions but isn’t — the worst thing is knowing that after all of this, no one who actually knows the truth will actually admit the truth.

we were a good little Apostolic/Pentecostal family, and then later, a good little Christian family, I was a good mother I did the best I could, what are you talking about with desert rituals and goats and knives and hooded cloaks, you’re crazy, have you lost your mind?

And realizing that, if I mustered up the courage to finally speak the truth, no one would believe me.

your mother is a good, sweet, kind, Christian lady, she plays the piano at church and adds a lot of money to the church coffers, so what are you talking about, are you insane?

Why? Because in abusive families, children are not protected. The lies are.

So I wonder how much, if anything, my cousin remembers, and how much of the truth she is willing or able to admit?

It certainly would be more convenient for me if I didn’t remember my mother and father and aunt and uncle and cousin being at that ritual. It would certainly be easier, in that case, to refute potential protests by such family members, and say, “Well, you weren’t there, so you don’t know, now do you?!”

However . . . they were there, regardless of whether they remember or not, and regardless of whether they want to admit it or not.

But — how to ask? Who to ask? Should I ask? Who is trustworthy enough to reveal the truth? Certainly not my mother. And certainly not my aunt. And several years back, my uncle decided he’d rather die than keep on living, so he had one last conversation with a bullet, and now he’s forever silent. And my father . . . well, he’s a drunk and I haven’t seen or heard from him in years, and when I did see him last, any talk of that desert town and the people in it and the church we were involved in, sent him over the edge. He refused to talk about anything, and he could be dead, too, for all I know.

So, my cousin? Maybe. Maybe she’d believe me and remember and want to talk about it.

But when I really think seriously about having a conversation with her, the risk isn’t worth it.

Not the risk of losing a relationship that I don’t even have anymore; but the risk of getting involved with people that I want nothing to do with any more.

So what if she doesn’t remember?

I do, and that’s all that matters.

In the imaginary conversations I have with Diana that are meant to prepare me for the negative repercussions that may come from such a conversation in the unforeseen future, so what if she thinks I’m a liar, or delusional, or if she just doesn’t want to talk about it?

It still happened, and this truth is all that matters.

I have the same imaginary conversations in my mind with my brother. In some of those conversations, he believes me, and the ensuing conversation helps him see the root of the problems that have haunted him throughout his life, and we are able to see each other in a different light — the light of truth and reality — and we are able to appreciate one another again, as adults and as equals, and we are reconciled. In other conversations, however, he doesn’t believe me and it makes everything worse, and I’m sucked back into being connected with people I no longer want to be around, in particular, my mother and her family.

So that’s how these imaginary conversations go with Diana, and ultimately, I don’t see what good anything will come from it.

But I still think about her and I pray for her, that the Father will reveal the truth to her in His own way and in His own timing. And that she will find healing.


Interestingly enough, several years back, a short time after I was able to put together all the snapshots of memories I had related to this desert ritual, and right before I cut off all contact with her, my mother ended up validating the entire sordid affair in the special way that only she can.

Throughout my life, my mother lied repeatedly about many things, and as her lies would vary depending upon the audience and her desired outcome, sometimes she would get her stories confused. However, I learned to listen closely to everything she would say, and read between the lines

between the lies

and every once in a while, a curious thing would happen: she would accidentally reveal the truth.

Sometimes it was just a catch in her breath and she’d quickly change the subject. But sometimes it was comical to see the horrified comprehension flicker over her face (a flicker you might miss if you didn’t know her and weren’t looking for it) as she realized she had accidentally let the truth slip out. Her face would tighten up a bit, as if she had just passed a painful bit of gas that was stinking up the whole room, the muscle in her neck would twitch, and her eyes would cloud with unusual confusion as she stammered to correct the truth with another lie.

But sometimes she would play mind games and purposefully tell the truth (usually a truth that was weaved through a lie), but in a way that was meant to threaten me or to manipulate me in some way; or in a way that was meant to disarm me, only to come back and muddy the waters with more lies; or in a way that was testing me to see what I knew and how much I would say so that she knew how to deal with me and get me to shut up and stop speaking the truth again.

So several years ago, out of the blue, she casually mentioned a man who had contacted her on Facebook.

this is how I knew she was about to tell me something important and to not react, because nothing was “out of the blue” or “casual” with my mother; nearly everything she did and said was calculated, with rare exceptions, such as when she accidentally let the truth slip out

She said he was someone that she knew from years and years back when he was just a boy, around the time when I was born (give or a take a couple of years), and that she hadn’t seen or heard from him in years.

She told me that when he was a young child, he was the last one to see his friend, a little girl, alive. They were at a store, my mother said, and this little girl walked off with someone else and was never seen alive again. And when she was finally found (I believe my mother said it was months later when she was finally found), it was determined that she had been the victim of ritual abuse, but no one ever caught the perpetrators.

However, my mother went on to say, this young boy knew who had taken the little girl because he saw it happen, and he identified the people who he last saw with this little girl when she went missing. But since the individuals he named were connected to and worked for the sheriff’s department, no one did anything. And after he was threatened and raped by one of the individuals who had been responsible, he stayed silent out of fear, and never talked about it again, until he contacted my mother on Facebook and mentioned it again.

Then after my mother “casually mentioned” how this man told her that as a boy, he always felt safe with her

subtext: everyone loves me and I’m a good person and if you say anything differently no one will believe you

she laughed and said that she knew about those people because there was a suspected satanic cult in town, but no one ever did anything about it, because the people who were in the cult were involved in the sheriff’s department, too, and they just looked the other way.

Then she just looked at me and laughed again. “Isn’t that silly?” She curled her fingers into quotations. “A ‘satanic cult,'” she sneered. “There’s no such thing, really, as a satanic cult.”

“Oh really?” I asked, knowing she was playing another one of her mind games with me, but interested to hear why she was giving me a load of BS, trying to pretend to be dismissive of satanic cults when she and I both knew differently.

She shrugged. “Well, they ‘exist'” — another finger quotation — “but it’s just a bunch of bored housewives and stupid men playing silly games.”

And she looked at me with that familiar hungry glint in her eyes and a smirk dancing on one side of her mouth, silently daring me to say something that would let her know what she had begin to suspect: that I had finally put the pieces of memory all together again and knew the truth.

“Interesting,” I thought. “And were you one of those bored housewives, Mommy? But we both know the answer to that, don’t we, Mommy?”

But I didn’t play into her hand. I kept my face clear of emotion and shrugged and made some non-committal response, “Hmm, that’s interesting . . . .”

“Yes, interesting indeed.”

And that’s when I knew that she knows the truth about that ritual in the desert. And she knows the truth about the subsequent rituals and the subsequent programming sessions with self-proclaimed Satanists. She knows the other people involved. She was involved too!

Up until that point, parts of me who wanted to protect Mommy and who refused to believe Mommy was anything other than nice and good, wanted to believe differently. They wanted to believe that Mommy was innocent in all of the programming and rituals, and that she played no part. They wanted to believe that it was going on under her nose and she never knew.

But that day, we all learned that it wasn’t something that she had been forced to do. She did it purposefully and consciously.

That was a painful realization, but what is even more painful is that after all these years, she is still laughing about it, trying to pass off the evil that she exposed me to as “silly games that bored housewives play.”

Her defiant dismissal of the truth, and her unrepentant, smug attitude, and the smirk on her face as she laughed and dared me, with wet, hungry eyes, to speak the truth, was the final nail in the coffin of my relationship with my mother. And a few months later, after she picked a fight with me and verbally accosted me and made false accusations against me over something stupid and petty, I used the opportunity to cut contact with her once and for all. I couldn’t take looking into her lying face anymore and pretending to be ignorant and unaware of her continued and purposeful lies and her continued and purposeful evil.

I couldn’t dissociate from the truth any longer.

I finally realized that she’ll never come clean, and no one will ever look into it and no one will never find out the truth.

Why?

Because abusive, evil people don’t protect the innocent and they don’t defend the truth. They don’t love the truth.

They protect the lies and will defend the lies until their dying breath. They hate the truth and slander the truth and try to murder the truth, and they hate and slander and murder anyone who speaks and lives in the truth.

And those are the people that I refuse to be around any longer, even if they call themselves “family.”


Back — My Memory Album


 

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