I remember the first time I ever had a philosophical thought. I was 8 years old, in the third grade. I was riding in the front seat of the family car, a light blue 1984 Datsun 200sx. My Mom driving, my two younger sisters in the backseat asleep. We were on our way to a weeklong family camp with the Arcata Nazarene Church. I remember driving out on the long, narrow, twisty highway surrounded by redwood trees and a clear star sparkling sky. Looking out the window, my head tilted upward I distinctly recall this line of questioning: is this real? Are the thoughts that I’m having really mine? Who am I? What am I doing here? … These questions came and went in an instant. At 8 years old they were suddenly upon me and I didn’t have the wherewithal to answer them. They passed somewhere into my consciousness to arise years later. But I do remember that initial moment when those questions first arose. Questions I assume everyone has asked themselves at some point, only to shuffle them away without revisiting them or recognizing their existence but ignoring the way in which struggling with these questions could effect their lives.
The Datsun 200sx. Our family car. Given to Mom by my grandfather. But I’ll talk about it more later. First some history.
I was born in Eureka, CA at St. Joseph’s Hospital. My birth was supposedly a rough one. My Mom was in labor for 72 hours before she got that big needle stuck in her back. I came out with a big bump on my head. I went in for surgery. There was a lot of fluid build up from all the pushing. I wore a big bandage on my head as a baby. I don’t remember any of this. My Mom was 21 years young, and I think my dad must’a been 21 or 22. I was their first child. Mom. She came from a Mom and a Dad. With an older sister and a younger brother. dad. He came from a Mom and a dad. My dad’s Mom was a prostitute back in the day and his dad was a customer. Never met him, never even knew who he was. So he had a step-dad. My grandmother on my dad’s side was a prostitute. I ended up purchasing services from prostitutes as an adult. How fitting.
My very first memory as a child. I must’ve been around 2 years old. It was a fight between my Mom and my dad. My Mom and I had just gotten home from the store. My dad was lying in bed. They were arguing. As they argued I remember having a pack of Big Red bubble gum in my hand. I walked up to my dad and gave it to him while his voice rose in volume and aggression towards my Mom. I remember him throwing that pack of Big Red at her. Screaming and shouting now. I began to look for the pack of Big Red. I ended up crawling underneath the bed, sure that it had gone under there. I don’t remember how long I was under the bed, but I do remember I stopped looking for the pack of gum and stayed under the bed crying. Their voices were angry. And just like that, that’s where the memory ends.
I never crawled as a child. One day I just started walking.
A sister comes. They name her Frances. It’s about that time that dad raids the bank account and sells both the cars to pay for his coke addiction. A divorce follows soon afterwards. But not before dad kicks the living shit out of Mom and puts her in the hospital. The next three years are a blur.
Mom gets re-married. Another sister comes. They name her Kathryn. We have left Eureka and moved south to Napa, CA. Wine country. 2 years there: enough time for dad2 to get into some debt with the drug-dealers across the street. Watching Saturday morning cartoons, Mom making me blue pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse, and making Frances red pancakes. My room was also painted blue. A knock on the door. A man and a woman’s voice asking for dad2. He’s still asleep in bed. Mom tries to wake him, but he refuses to get up. Mom has padlocked the door and they are threatening to break it down. Mom calls the cops. The drug-dealers leave before the cops arrive. Later that night they return. dad2 isn’t home. I watch Mom confront them in the front yard. I stand up on the couch with my hands on the back of the couch balancing myself as I look out the window. Mom is engaged in some kind of dance with the drug-dealing lady. They are grabbing each other’s hair and moving in circles. The drug-dealer lady ends up on the ground. She gets back up and they are swinging at each other briefly before the hair-pulling dance repeats itself. The drug-dealing guy tries to separate them, but they are a tangled mess. The cops come back. Some kind of order is re-stored. No one goes to jail. dad2 comes back later that night. He has a gun. We (me, Frances, and Katy) stay at a neighbor’s house the next day. Mom pulls up in a Uhaul truck that evening with our house packed up. We drive all night to Grandpa & Grandma’s house in Arcata, CA. They meet us in the driveway with open arms.