A Christmas to Remember

May contain content that is triggering for some, self first.

Tyra:

Looking back through the years it is difficult for my sister and I to remember a Christmas that wasn’t plagued with addiction and abuse. This is true for the Christmas that we will talk about today.

People always say that Christmas is for the children and not really for the adults in life, I think that is because the children bring the magic back into the adults life for just one time of year. Children have the excitement of santa coming to see them and all want to stay up late waiting for him to show up. children wonder if they will get what they had hoped for the most for the whole year. This was true for us also.

In the beginning of the season was wonderful. we would put up the tree and decorate it as a family and sit and enjoy the lights like any ordinary family. There were a few gifts that were under the tree from friends and family but not too much as we were children of a welfare mom. Then the santa anonymous came to our home and brought our food hamper for the holiday season. We knew at least we would eat good during this time and there were a few presents that we received also.

Have a blessed and Happy Christmas and Holiday.

The Christmas excitement was in us this year, not sure what made this year better that in the years but us kids were just in the Christmas spirit. Maybe it was because our little brother was of the age to have the excitement and carried over to us older kids. we would play with each other and behave wondering what santa would bring to us this year.

Christmas morning came early for us as our mother could not wait till we woke up, but to her surprise we were already awake waiting for the call to open presents. I do not recall all the presents that we received that year as there were so many of them, but remember the tree being full of presents, more presents than I had seen before. The one gift of mine that I do remember was the sleighs we received to play outside. Tammy remembers the nurses watch she received that year also. We were always playing outside whether it was to build snow forts or ramps for our sleighs to jump. those memories bring a smile to my face.

I wanted a strawberry shortcake doll so badly. I felt hurt and confused as why mom would give Tammy one. Tyra 2019

We would build the ramps so high that we would fly in the air and land on our tummys and take our breath away. We would get up laughing and walk up the hill again and try it all over again. Looking back I am surprised that we did not get broken arms and legs from the crazy down hill slide me made. it took the whole community of children to build and went that one was made we would make another more extravagant one for the older children to play on. Wow what a time it was, to be a child and just play without no danger in mind.

Then came the alcohol in the scenario and that is when this Christmas took a turn for the worst. Our mother just could not seem to enjoy any of the seasons or celebrations without alcohol, there needed to be alcohol for it to be a celebration. For us children we just wanted a quiet family season with no worries about fights and other distractions. to my dismay it did not happen.

It was the week after the greatest Christmas that we could remember, to turn to the worst Christmas we ever had. I think my sister and I would give all the gifts back if we could not have gone through the loss of our innocence this same Christmas.

Our mother and her boyfriend of the time, went to a party and of course they were drinking. The story went that our mother did not want to come back home so her so called boyfriend decided to leave her there and came back home alone. I do not recall much more about this night, so Tammy will share more about it, in her piece.

We had such a beautiful tree that year.

Tammy:

I do not recall any Christmases were it was memorable before or after this one. Typically mom would either skip Christmas or we would get a gift basket from charity. I really didn’t mind charity, as when you are hungry, if food is offered you take it. This Christmas was different, her man was a working man and made good money. We had a beautiful decorated tree, and nuts and candy. We even had stockings. I was so happy. I thought maybe we were going to be like regular people. I had a couple of friends and one did not come from a dysfunctional home, that friendship did not last though. The blame for that rest squarely on my mothers shoulders.

However, I have a bad habit of going on tangents. That year we had turkey with all the trimmings. It was delicious! We were sent to bed, and as expected we had a hard time getting to sleep. My sister and I stayed up late, softly talking and giggling. We were determined to stay up and see Santa. However, like most children we fell asleep. To wake up really early to sneak up stairs and see what Santa brought. If I would have known our Santa was a devil in disguise, I would have never asked for a thing. However, being a child I was so exited, all the brightly wrapped packages, and two sleds for riding down hill fast,

We made ramps so we would fly in those sleds, air born for a few seconds, then ouch! Hehe was worth it. Tammy 2019

Our mom, her man and the younger ones came down stairs, and the young ones were so excited. They were so giddy, prancing around like little elves. I was happy for them. I do remember looking at our mom, and she looked happy. Her eyes were shining, and she had a smile on her face. I think she really loved that man, but the price was so costly. I still can not put my mind into a set we’re I would ever be ok hurting a child, or letting some one else hurt them.When it came to loving me she was heartless.

We unwrapped our presents, and I was confused. Why was I getting items Tyra wanted. I was really confused and upset too because I could see Tyra really liked the stuff I was getting. She did get a watch too, but she liked mine better. Honestly, I liked hers better, but to trade would have infuriated our mom. So we made do and enjoyed the day. We went sliding on those last very red sleds all day! Pink cheeked and happy we tumbled into the house wet from the snow, but warm from the exertion.

Things soon went back to normal, our normal. Mom would stay in her room all the time and her man had free reign of the house, and us kids. He was such a vile, repulsive man. I had no good will for him, but at the same time I was scared what he could do to me, or even worse my siblings. I hated it when mom would abandon us and let him get away with his odious behaviours.

Sadly, my Christmas was ruined, in fact I did not celebrate Christmas ever again. There was just no reprieve from abuse, especially from him!! I was torn between running away and leaving my siblings behind, or staying to be destroyed bit by bit for a mans twisted desire to possess and ruin. He just would not relent, not even during a holiday meant to honour family and goodness’s. He hurt me again when mom was not there. He said she was not there, but maybe she was just on the other side of the wall passed out on drugs and booze. I Was going to my place in my mind, I could run away in my mind, and then what he did would not matter. I told myself this, even though it mattered, it mattered a lot.

This Flight Tonight”… “blackness blackness dragging me down”. Nazareth

Our mother and her man went to a party, Tyra thinks it was a New Years party. I am sure she is correct in her memory, as dates are hard for me, I tend to tell time by the seasons and the weather. I heard the door close, upstairs, and rushed up to meet our mom. However, the only one standing there was that monster, disguised as a man. I stoped dead in my track, dread filled my body and made it tingle with fear. This was going to be another night of horror and pain. My soul retreated even deeper into my secret place, my mind screamed silently, run away, run away. I was paralyzed, crippled by my mothers teaching me I had no choice, no value, no reprieve. I was not allowed to have boundaries, therefore I had none. Our mother created the perfect victim, me. Just even writing that statement down, makes me profoundly sad, the lessons she drilled into my very being were to haunt me well into adulthood. Even to this day, I fight my demons, sometimes I win sometimes I don’t, but I never surrender.

I went back down to the basement, we’re I slept with my sister in a big bed. I always felt safest when I was with her. However, in our house there was no safety in numbers, and no were to hide. Mom’s man was on a mission, hell bent to get what he wanted, and it was me he wanted. Sometimes I wonder what goes through a grown mans mind when he is sexually abusing a child. Then I think, I really do not want to know, because if I did my mind might shatter irreparably forever, because their mind must be even more frightening and dark than mine.

Calling me, demanding my presence, every time he said my name, my feet would move towards him, while the rest of my body wanted to disappear, never to be found again. I went though, for fear that my sister would be targeted if I didn’t. I remember looking at the Christmas tree, and remembering how magical it looked. Now it reminded me of a gaudy, and grotesque bar I seen on tv once. The smell of his alcohol stink didn’t help matters. He demanded I drink with him, I had drank before, sips of my moms tia Maria, or sneaking a beer or two. However, this was different, he wanted me to drink so I would be more compliant while he went about his dastardly deeds.

I remember eating chestnuts, now if I eat those, they turn to fouled goods in my mouth, as they remind me of the night Christmas became a nightmare. I would go downstairs and I hid behind the furnace, hoping that he would get tired of this cat and mouse torture. However, he wouldn’t give up, and when he targeted my sister, I knew my time had run out. I could not sacrifice my sister, for one night of reprieve. I took a deep breath, and stepped forward, and accepted another night of hell and anguish. I was ten years old, Tyra was seven, and I felt like I had already lived to many lifetimes, for the short amount of years we had been on this earth.

Stripped of boundaries, self and dignity. Robbed of choices and self determination. Feeling like I was going to shatter into a million pain filled fragments. He took my body, my childhood, my innocence. I knew to much, yet not enough. I could regal you with the horrors of suffering, pain and abuse, but for the life of me, I could not tell you how to save yourself. I could teach you how to survive, but not how to live. A flash of brilliant white pain, the penetration, the invasion, the sickening feeling of being smothered. I am hurt… I am going away now…

Tyra and Tammy wish you all a very merry Christmas!

This covers in more detail events that were shared in our memoir. If you would like to join us on our healing journey, please, feel free to star, “two sisters perspective, or the beginning of our memoir “ The Beginning” It is Christmas, and I am happy and I want you all to be happy too. I want you to create memories that will last forever, as I will be doing the same. “So have yourself a Merry little Christmas.” Enjoy, be blessed, eat lots of Turkey.

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The Beginning

Tammy: Spring of 1972

I was three and Tyra was six months old when we first came on the radar of social services. It wasn’t people being malicious or taking revenge, there was a serious problem. Sadly by the time the social services removed us, I was already severely traumatized. I do believe back then there was two options for a child like me, a regular foster home or institutionalization. I am not sure if I benefited or not from the regular foster home. However, I do believe I was grateful to not be in my mothers home.

Our mother was a prescription drug addict and a alcoholic, so she made choices that did not bode well for me or my sister. The choice she made, that led us to being removed from her home was she went on a four day bender. Leaving my sister and I alone to fend for ourselves We survived by me getting water from the toilet in one of those leggs cups that had the pantyhose removed. For those that remember those. According to the reports I was able to get into jars of jam and bread, which we subsisted on. I shudder to think how my poor baby sister fared during this time, but apparently I did my best to feed her. Apparently even horse radish was not off the menu. I just can’t imagine being so hungry, I was willing to eat horseradish.

A sisters love can not be measured, it is measureless. Tammy 2019

Apparently our mother had a twinge of guilt or fear, I do not know which, but she did come back and took us to a neighbors house and left us there. She left us there for two weeks. She abandoned us again, however, this time social services were called. We were removed from our mothers home and placed into the foster care system. So it begins.

Who called or how they found out about us I am not entirely sure. All I know for sure is we were alone and we survived a horrible ordeal. As I said I was already traumatized. My foster mother stated I spent my time rocking back and forth for hours on end. She stated I did not want to be touched or cuddled, and would stiffen up if any one tried. I was not potty trained and peed the bed nightly. I would gobble my food like it was my last meal…..

I knew things that no three year old child should know about men and women and their sexual behaviors…I have vague memories, but am wont to stay away from those repressed memories, I think the horror might destroy what I have managed to save of myself. The memories I can not repress are bad enough to deal with. Needless to say I was a very difficult child to love, no fault of my own. I should have been receiving specialized counselling and therapy, but in those days that wasn’t really done, especially since we lived in such a rural community and it would have been a hardship travel wise.

The barbie dolls though!! Eyes bright And beaming smiles. I always had and a sense of calm and pleasure; I spent hours by myself playing with those beat up barbies. Making them beautiful and successful, and happy. They never judged me, never were unkind, always willing to play with me, and had the patience of a saint! They became my best and only friends.

I still love Barbies, they remind me of a time when I could just be a little girl. Tammy 2019

It was really hard on my foster parents and their children, having a traumatized child in their home. I understand really I do. They were entrusted with a task of caring for me, when in reality they were woefully unequipped to care for a child that has been so wounded at such an early age, that specialized care was necessary, but not recieved. This was a failure of the social services not them! In the 70’s and eighties, it was a very bad time to be in the child welfare system. So many children were put in situations, not because they were ideal, but because there was no other options.

I recall one night again, I peed the bed. My foster father had his limit. He was so frustrated, understandably so. He grabbed me by the arm took me out side and as he was pulling me down the drive he asked me if I was a little pig and did I want to sleep with the pigs. Crying I said no, but in fact I really did, because I thought it would be better for me if I slept with the pigs. Really, I wasn’t scared of them and I kinda liked them, I gravitated towards animals. To me they were safer than people.

Another time I was really thirsty and asked one of the boys if I could please have a glass of water. I wasn’t supposed to have water after eight o clock, because of the bed wetting. However, he did get me a glass of what I thought was water. It was a plastic cup and felt warm to the touch, so I was confused. Water is usually cold, no? I was so thirsty though I took a drink of the warm liquid. It was not water, it was urine. This hurt my heart deeply. I wasn’t mad, I understood in my childish way why he did it and I accepted that perhaps I deserved to be treated this way. Even at this young age the connection between the urine filled glass and my bedwetting was not lost on me. However, even though I understood, my soul did crack a little more.

I had good times too though. My foster mother, who also became my GOD Mother, is an amazing cook and was very kind and loving to me. I love her, it hurts me to say that because Love has hurt me so deeply in the past that I’m afraid of it. However, I love her so much I am willing to accept any pain if it means loving her, to the best of my ability.

They had a Shetland pony named Tiny. I loved Tiny so much!! They had a big platform you would walk up to get to a clothes line, I would climb up there and get on Tiny lol. Sadly I was not a very good rider and Tiny like any opportunist would head straight for the garden, especially the carrots. There I would be calling my Foster mother for help to come rescue me and Tiny from the garden hehe. she would laugh and tell me wait until you are bigger to ride tiny so you wont get stuck in the middle of the garden.

Riding and talking with Tiny was the shining light in my world. Tammy 2019

We did was go to church. Can you imagine all us little kids trying to sit through a sermon that felt like it was going on for hours. My foster mother used to carry cough drops with her and would give us one when we got to restless. I still like cough drops once in a while. She told me that she wanted my sister and I to be baptized but due to the law she was unable to do that for us. However, as I will share later how she She helped me get baptized.

Tiny was not the only opportunist, my little sister and I would raid the garden every chance we got. We loved the carrots and peas. The first time we raided the garden, our Foster mother caught us eating carrots with the dirt on them. She said are you not going to wash the dirt off? I was so scared of the trouble I was in, so you can imagine my astonishment when she was willing to be my accomplice, and helped me wash the vegetables. It really makes me wonder, what happened at such a young age that fear was the primary emotion, when it came to being “caught” with food. Is this normal? I am speaking about a carrot, not candy, or cookies or the coveted cake, but a carrot. Something most children would turn their nose up at, especially a dirty raw one…

Since my sister recalls so very little about this time, since she was so very young, I will not dwell on it much longer. However, I would like to say that I love my foster mother, and my foster siblings very much and thank each and every one of them for opening up their home to me and my sister and keeping the door open through out all the years.

We hear enough negative and soul crushing words from outside, let’s not do it to ourselves too. Tammy 2019

I am in the arms of a angel

Tyra:

After leaving my siblings behind I was plagued with guilt. There were several times that I was considering going back several times. I would go to bed and cry myself to sleep because I just missed them so much. We would visit and I would not want to leave them but I knew deep down that it was the right thing to do. I needed to spread my wings and fly on my own.

Starting school in such a large school was scary for me coming from a small town. I enjoyed the small town atmosphere, where you knew everyone, and everyone knew who you were. In a large school you are left with the students that you are in class with and that is pretty much all. I did make some great friends at this school and still friends today.

I knew I had to take school seriously if I wanted to become someone, so I tried my best. I was living with the sister of Dick’s and she was a alcoholic also. She did work and after school I would be home before her and have to have my chores done. It really made me angry that I had to do chores and her daughter that was 19 years old did not have to do any. After a few arguments I just did them it was not worth all the tension. I did enjoy my stay there, even though it was brief. I lived there from September to Feburary.

During my time there I did have friends and did go out to see them. This one day I went over to my girlfriends place and she and a guy friend were drinking. I did not drink, I was scared of the consequences. When it was time to go home Dick’s sister came and picked me up. She said that I was drinking and I could not live with her anymore. I did not understand I told her I was not drinking, I even said smell my breath, it just was not good enough and I was on my way to my cousins place to live.

Thank goodness was all I was thinking that I had somewhere to go, I believe in divine intervention and this was one of those times. I moved into their small house, I had a room in the basement. I hate basements but did not complain. I had a big bed and was happy to have a place to stay. It was difficult though, as they had 2 young daughters also. I tried to fit into the family but it just did not seem to work.

It wasn’t long after I moved in with the family that mom died. All that ran through my head was I predicted it 6 months earlier, did I cause this to happen. I was in shock and could not believe that I was right in my prediction. I felt like I was cursed to have this knowledge of her death. Then again it may have been my guardian angel telling me to be prepared. I can say that now but back then it was difficult to put it is perspective. I also was thinking how could she do this to the kids, they are going to feel so lost. Where do we all belong now? At least when our mom was alive we knew where we belonged, even if it was totally dysfunctional. Now I really was on my own in this big world, wondering where it was going to take me.

Going to the funeral was a shocking moment for me. I wanted to see mom in the casket, and Tammy came with me. I wanted to see her one more time. It was painful to do but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t. I already knew that she died of a drug overdose, but I did not realize how old she would look. Looking at her in the casket was surreal for me. She did not look like the mom that I knew. Her hair was grey, and she was wrinkled like a old woman. I still to this day can see her there. She did have bruises on her neck I am not to sure where they came from, and she was in a grey outfit. What a symbolic outfit for her life, there was no black and no white, no good and no bad in her life. During her life she did not say sorry for anything that had happened to us, and it seemed that she did not have any remorse. I just could not understand why she would do that to us, and not acknowledge the effect it had on us and our little family. All that I knew for sure is that it was too late for the “I am sorry” as she was dead, and going into the ground.

Going to the burial is the worst part of the funeral I think. It really is the last place that you say your good bye and know that you will not see them again in this life time. I think I was numb, but I will never forget the pain Tammy felt that day. When the casket was going into the ground she was crying and screaming, totally lost control of her emotions. Our aunt holding her tight just let her cry and scream for what felt like a life time. After the casket was at the bottom of the grave Tammy calmed down and we all left the grave yard. I do not recall what happened after that, I must have blacked it out even to this day.

I had a boyfriend and my cousin did not approve of this young man. It was always an issue between the two of them, they just locked horns. I even had my own phone line in the basement where I would talk to my boyfriend for hours until I would almost fall asleep. This one day he came to pick me up and my cousin and her family were not home. My boyfriend and I went for a walk around the school, when we came back towards the house we saw my cousin running into the house. We knew what she was thinking, and we laughed until we got to the house. I looked at her and asked if there was a problem and she said no. I always had respect for other peoples places and their rules, but she did not trust me. I did not want to have sex in that house it just did not feel right. It felt forbidden, and it was.

At the end of the School year, my cousin stated that it just is not working out staying at her place. She found me a place to go where I paid rent for a bedroom and that was all. I went to this town house and there was a lady there with her husband and daughter. All I could think was where the hell am I, and how could she do this to me. This family had animals and were not the cleanest people out there. The husband reminded me of Harvey with his grey hair and beady eyes. Thank goodness I had my boyfriend still and he would pick me up and take me away from this place. Also I was not there very much either cause I was working to support myself. I knew down deep that if I wanted to make it I would have to get a better paying job, but none came up that I could do while I was finishing high school. I thought that I may have to stay with these people while I was going through school, and was prepared to do so as a last resort, then the bomb shell came. They were moving to a town outside Edmonton, now what do I do. I need to finish high school, so I asked a friend if I could stay with her and her family until I get enough money ahead to get a place of my own. Thank goodness relief raced through me as her parents said yes.

I had to wait till I turned 18 to apply for social services to support me to finish school. During my waiting time i spent it with my friend and her family. The tensions started to get high when I realized that my friend was going out with more than one guy. She was seeing a lot of guys and I only knew of her boyfriend from school. This did not sit well with me at all, and told her to tell her boyfriend or quit seeing the other guys. The problem was that her parents did not know about the boyfriend at school. I knew I had to do something and I was going to quit school and get a full time job. The mom of my friend took me to the job and sat me down along with the boss and said “she needs to finish school and she can not do that if she is working full time.” Basically she quit the job for me, and said that I could stay with them until social services are able to help support me. This seemed like forever, I just would stay down in the basement, you know how much I liked them, but still wanted to be by myself. I basically ended up coming home to sleep, and that was all. I would spend my evenings with my boyfriend, and my days were at school. The tensions were getting higher by the day I just was not able to take the pressure, I was about to blow if I did not get out of there.

Finally my 18th birthday came and I was looking for a place to live. By the middle of the month I had found a small bachelors suite, big enough for me. I did not know how I was going to do this but I knew I had enough money from social services to pay my rent and my job could pay the rest. I’m not saying that it was easy just that I had a plan in my head. The first weeks I slept on the floor with my boyfriend as I could not afford to buy a bed. I did not mind as it was my place and no one could take that away from me except myself. I went to school and worked my way through school. I spent 2 years in that apartment and enjoyed every minute of my life there. My boyfriend and I had a good life. He had his job with his father and I worked at my job, he would always pick me up from work and go out for coffee. I couldn’t ask for things to be better.