“Life Vest”
17.5” x 15.5” x 6”
Mixed Media

I recently had someone ask me what was one of the most terrifying moments in my life as a child, and how do I now see that moment as an adult. Wow, what a question. I’m not going to lie, I had a tumultuous childhood. So tumultuous in fact, after my parents divorced, I was removed from my mother’s care by the courts at the age of 12 and raised by my grandmother.

One night prior to this, my father was working down in Texas after being laid off from the local metal plant. He had been gone for awhile and my mother had been invited to a party. Back in those days children were taken to the parties with their parents and put in a back room somewhere to play with the other kids while the grownups drank, smoked and played cards in the living room. This night was no different. As the hours came and went, my mother had way too much to drink and could barely walk. When it was time to go home, I fearfully told one of her friends that my little sister and I were afraid to get in the car with her. In a horrible act of betrayal, the adult friend laughed, turned from me and told my mother what I said. I not only got a beating in front of everyone, but was then aggressively placed in the front seat with no seat belt and down the road we went.

Between driving on the sidewalk part of the way, then in and out of ditches, it was a terrifying drive home. We lived in the country at the time and as we passed the gravel road leading to our house my shaky, fearful voice asked my mother “Mom, where are we going?” I’ll never forget the look on her face as she stared straight ahead and in a low whisper replied “You know where we’re going.” Accelerator floored, her hands had a death grip on the steering wheel as she sharply veered off the gravel road into a neighboring farmers yard. We flew past his country home and in the light of the moon, I could faintly make out a shimmering light in the darkness getting closer and closer. My heart was pounding, my sister and I were screaming, and I quickly realized what it was. Water. The water of a very large pond. My mother was going to drive the car into the pond to end her personal pain and take my sister and I with her.

All of sudden in the blink of an eye, the car came to a complete stop. My head hit the windshield, my mother hit her head on the steering wheel and my little sister flew from the backseat up into the front and landed in the floor board. What stopped us? A fence post and a strong stretch of barbed wire at the edge of the farmers property surrounding the pond. I was a child then, never realizing that the wooden fence and barbed wire saved our life. I never even thought about that until now.

My mother had a lot of issues. My childhood was traumatic, yet so are many others. Dealing with trauma is something our society hasn’t responsibly acknowledged or dealt with. Our soldiers suffer from it, our children suffer from it, abused women and men suffer from it and yet the stigma in our society continues with tragic results. Acknowledging it and talking openly about it without shame is crucial, because that’s when the healing can begin.

My mother never accomplished this and died a broken women. Over the years, I have successfully secured professional help and therapy to deal with my childhood and past. I’m ok, and will not follow her down that path.

Do not be afraid to face trauma and seek help. There are crisis hotlines, friends and acquaintances and even strangers that truly care. Reach out to someone, talk to someone and break the cycle of silence.

Because you matter.

Cypress wood (which is buoyant) and steel.