Living in Montana
Our Dad had friends in Montana. Once we were settled into the new house we went over to meet them. The mom's name was Cathy; she had long blond hair just like her daughters. I thought she was really nice and noticed she was baking pies from scratch when we arrived. Her husband was named Will, all I remember about him was he liked to hunt deer. The eldest daughter was named Jill, she was my age. The youngest was Sasha, she was just a toddler. Cathy had a newspaper route to make money; I can't remember what Will did for a living. We went on a hunting trip with him once but they didn't find any deer. We wore orange vests and it was freezing outside. I thought it was boring, walking around looking for something to shoot. They said deer meat tasted great but I had my doubts. Will had a brother named Lee that helped us unload the U haul when we got to Montana, he also had plenty of kids for us to play with and they had baby kittens just like we did.
Pretty soon Jill, Marlene and I were really close. We would play this board game called Payday where you went through the month, paid your bills and got mail. Sort of like pretending you were grown up which is probably why it appealed to us so much. We also liked to play Nintendo and watch vampire movies. When we played the video game Super Mario Brothers, I told my younger siblings, “Jump into the next hole and you’ll go into a secret level.” Then when they died I would say, “It’s my turn.”
When Jill first met us she asked if we were twins. Even though I thought we looked completely different sometimes people would ask if we were twins. Maybe that's because we were so close, back then Marlene was like my best friend. Sometimes she got on my nerves and we would fight but I loved her. Jill, my sister and I would go to the park and play on the monkey bars. On one trip to the playground, Marlene broke her arm when she fell off and had to wear a cast. Maybe six months later she broke her other arm after slipping on the ice on the way home from school.
Our new house was a two story with a fenced backyard, a sand box and a detached garage. Attached to the garage was a dog house that we used for the cats we had. Our dad hooked up a heating lamp and there was already straw in there so they would be warm for the winter. One morning I found a newborn kitten frozen in the cold ice on the sidewalk. I could see his little eyes staring up at me surrounded by gray fur. Across the street there were piles of garbage and we decided to go through it to look for anything of value but it was mostly dirty diapers and broken washing machines. We also explored the cemetery a few blocks down the road.
Marlene and I met some of the kids in the neighborhood and would go over to their house to play. There was a set of twin girls with long brown hair that lived about a block away, Melissa and Michelle. They went to the Salvation Army Church every Sunday and asked us one time if we wanted to come. They told us, “The first time you go to church you get to pick out a prize from a hat and we get something for bringing a friend.” Of course we jumped at the chance.
We loved Sunday school, we would come home singing, "Jesus loves me yes I know, for the Bible tells me so." Our Dad would roll his eyes but for the most part he ignored it. He never talked about religion or what he believed. If we memorized our Bible verses every week we would get to stick our hand in this big jar full of coins. We learned this other song, "Onward Christian Soldiers," we loved singing that song and marching around the house.
One night we were sitting around having dinner and our Dad was watching the evening news. He always watched the news during dinner and M.A.S.H came on after that. There was a knock at the door; our neighbor told Dad that the dog house by the garage was on fire. Apparently the heating lamp had ignited the straw. We were evicted the next week. The landlady was mad because our Dad didn't call her and tell her about it, she read about it in the newspaper.
So we found a trailer on the other side of town and I had to switch schools again and make all new friends. We explored the neighborhood; with all the trailers close together it was easy to meet new people. We met this one girl named Emily and we would go off into the trees that surrounded the property and explore with her. We loved making forts and we would slide down this big hill of dirt that was in a field nearby. Emily told us about a place called Juvi. She said, “That’s where they send bad kids who didn't listen to their parents. Once you get there they lock you up in this deep dark dungeon and beat you with chains!” She also told us, “If you stand in a dark bathroom and spin around three times saying ‘Bloody Maria’ you’ll see a ghost in the mirror.” Her brother was named Joseph, he had light blond hair cut into a mullet and I thought he was cute but he never noticed me.
The first time I remember seeing our Uncle Mitch, Aunt Megan and our cousins was when we lived in Montana. Later I would find pictures of us playing together when I was maybe five years old, but like many of my memories I just don’t remember. We went to their house and had tacos and they bought Marlene and I Christmas dresses but I got play dough all over mine. Our Dad would always make snide remarks behind his brother and sister-in-law’s backs about how they were, “Bible thumpers.” He seemed to envy and resent their wealth too in my opinion. My Uncle built huge houses that looked like mansions for a living, they would live in them for a year or so while they sold it and then they would start over again. My Aunt Megan home schooled the kids, Joseph, Meika, Jonah, and Neil. They had a basement where the children had their school desks, chalkboards and games like Hungry Hippo to play. I remember Jonah and Neil playing with legos. Only as an adult would I learn that they lived paycheck to paycheck like everyone else because their houses weren’t selling as fast as they thought they would in the current market.
That summer a neighbor invited us to this fair where they had miniature trains that the children could ride on. They had little booths that sold cotton candy and elephant ears. Our dad took us and videotaped the whole thing. Again, only as an adult would I realize how disturbing that was. We walked around for hours and looked at all the booths and played in the hay with the other kids.
There was an animal shelter just down the road from where we lived and we would go pet the dogs and cats. We never really had to ask permission, we would just jump on our bikes and go off to explore. We found a soda pop factory where they would refill your glass soda bottle for free. We would go dumpster diving behind this bakery for chocolate covered donuts they threw out.
Our Father put us in daycare during the summer when school was out. It was called Snoopy's Dugout and it was beneath the church. I recall we made crafts and watched videos about Jesus there.
Around this time our Dad bought an old pickup with a canopy and painted it light blue. He told us he had taken two pickups, take them apart and put together the front and rear pieces from each respectively. My siblings and I would ride around in the back on the metal humps that go over the wheels, I didn't think anything of it back then that we didn't have any seats or seat belts. As an adult my aunt would later tell me she didn’t approve of that at all. Dad would just tell us to “hop in” and we would close the tailgate and canopy after us. During one trip, Marlene and I jumped in but Dylan was only halfway in and we yelled at our dad to, “Go.” Dylan held on for about a block while we pounded on the rear window of the truck trying to get our Dad to stop once we realized what a horrific joke it was. Dylan skinned up his knees really bad and we had to take him to the hospital. I felt terrible about that, I didn't know that Dylan would get hurt.
During the winter it would get so cold in Montana, it would reach 40 degrees below zero! Marlene stuck her tongues to a pole on the way to the bus stop to see what would happen and got stuck. I had to run back to our trailer to get warm water to free her. We wore shorts, even in the winter because we didn't have any pants that fit us. We rarely got new clothes or toys; usually we would get stuff from friends or occasionally go to Goodwill and get some used stuff. But for the most part we were dressed in clothing that was inappropriate for the weather, stuff that was too small or too big or stained or torn. We were really neglected but at the time I just thought we were too poor to afford the luxuries other kids had.
In the Spring, I went door to door pretending that I was selling candy and told this old man that I had a huge chocolate bar for sale and it would arrive in a couple weeks but he had to pay right then. I took the money and went and spent it on something else, there was no candy for sale, and I lied. When The World's Finest Chocolate sale from our school we ended up eating all the candy we had ordered for people and keeping the money.
One day I was on my way to the dirt hill at the construction site to go sliding, I was riding my friend's scooter. I tripped and fell head first onto the cement and broke off my two front teeth. I came home crying, spitting out bits of teeth and bleeding all over the place. My dad sent me to school the next day. When they saw my teeth and how they were still bleeding they called him at work and told him to come get me and take me to the dentist. I had caps put on the bottom half of my teeth.
My favorite teacher at that school had short blond hair and taught us how to cross stitch a duck and make puppets like the ones on Sesame Street.
At night we were having dinner and our Dad had made hamburger helper, green beans and cottage cheese. My sister Marlene was whining because she didn't want the different foods touching each other. Dad jumped up, yelled at her and stirred all her food together and made her eat it while she cried. I thought he was so cruel; hamburger helper was nasty as it is, and now her food looked like dog chow.
Around this time we started asking questions about where our mom was. He said that she had written a couple times but he had returned the letters and gifts she had sent. We begged for him to stop but he just ignored us. I was heartbroken.
In the middle of winter Dad lost his job, he didn't tell us why. We couldn't pay the rent and he couldn't find another job so we moved again. I was so upset because I had made so many friends at school. We promised we would keep in touch by writing but I was so tired of making friends and losing them because we were constantly on the move. We had nowhere else to go so we moved into my Grandparent's house in Idaho. They went to Mexico every year for vacation because my Grandpa hated the snow, so the house was empty. The snow was higher then we were! It was like a labyrinth when we tunneled our way around the house. I thought they would be angry at us for going into their house when they weren't home but there was no way to get a hold of them. When they came back in the spring they didn't even act surprised to see us so I guess our Dad got word to them somehow. Aside from playing in the snow, I don’t remember much about our time there before spring came.