There come moments in life when I think that I am finished reliving the past, that my memories of those times cannot bring more pain. Yet something always surprises me. Sometimes even the tiniest thing that I had forgotten or part of a memory that had been less painful suddenly comes to the surface. It’s like a new revelation, and it once again brings into focus everything that occurred – reminding me of the loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness that I felt.
Earlier today, as my mind wandered over various situations young people face, one stood out to me: it was the stories of foster youth who often leave their homes with nothing more than a trash bag to hold their entire world. I’ve thought of this particular issue more than once, yet this time it brought into focus my own experiences. I remembered how my father & step-mother gave me a trash bag to fill with my own possessions on the day I left to live with my mom. There have been so many sad memories from that day that this one in particular has always seemed rather benign. Yet as it came to me, it brought up many new thoughts and feelings. I can remember trying to figure out what I could take with me and what I would have to leave. I remember feeling sad as I put the bag into my mother’s car, thinking of the things I loved that I was leaving behind – my yellow kitty puff-a-lump, my beloved books, and the toy chest my mom made for me from an aquarium were just a few.
More than the memories, this trash bag boils down every core feeling about my life up to that point. My father was so bent on not seeing my mother benefit from anything he did that he wouldn’t even allow his own child a bag of her own. We had luggage, we used it all the time. Yet me taking it to my mom’s meant she might benefit in some way, and that wasn’t happening. It also reminds me how self-centered my father’s world was. If I would not stay in his house, I would not receive anything from him – something he made even more clear with a conversation about college and my future wedding. The final thing the memory brought back to me was how completely alone I felt. My parents did not help me fill the bag. They left me all by myself to sort through and gather my belongings. I realize they felt hurt, but one would think that if a parent truly loved their child, they would spend every single minute they could with their child on the last day she would be in their home.
I’m sure my parents did all of this out of a reaction to their own pain, a pain that was self-inflicted, but pain none-the-less. Yet, it stands out as a distinct reminder of how their feelings always came before those of their children. Their wants, their needs, their lives; nothing else mattered – we didn’t matter. The pain of this new perspective will fade with time, as it always does. However, the scar will not go away. It will always be a reminder of how alone I truly was, and how thankful I am that I left their home.