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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Anderson

Missing Time

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

Starting school was the best thing that ever happened to me. I loved school. School was a wonderful place. I loved my teachers. They were all kind, and seemed to care about me. My favorite thing was that they fed you every day without fail. And I do not care how much the other kids complained about school lunches, to me they were good! Any food was wonderful to me, but anyone who has ever eaten my mother’s cooking would understand why school lunches were delicious. But I also loved learning, and playing. School for me was a safe place. So, it is not very surprising that I remember my life in school years. Every year was a new adventure, a new teacher, new things to learn and experience. I tell people that you could boil down my nature to the word “why.” I feel like a continual preschooler constantly curious about how the world works. An explorer who constantly wants to see what is over the next hill, just for the sake of knowing.

I can’t believe that I am saying this, but I actually went to school in an old, three-room school house straight from the past. It is in ruin now, of course, but at the time it was a postcard of the little red school house with the bell on the top, that is now an icon for schools. It had a kitchen and a big room that was the cafeteria and multipurpose room, a set of boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, three class rooms, and a janitor’s closet.

Kindergarten, my teacher was heavy set woman with thin curly brown hair, kind eyes, and a wonderful smile. My favorite thing was looking at books, and I was very pleased with myself when I started learning how to sound out the words. My first word was D..O..G, dog!. I remember beaming with delight when, I think her name was Miss Lewis, smiled at me and said I was right.

But my social interactions even at this age, was to isolate. I did not try to make friends. I did not try to play games with the other kids, I really did not have any interest in making friends. There was a boy named Jack. He gave me a rock, and said that I was now his boyfriend and that I was required to kiss him. I promptly gave the rock back to him. I was not going to be anyone’s girlfriend, and I was not going to be kissing anyone.

I would try to join in on occasion because my teachers would encourage it, and I wanted my teachers to be happy, so I would try. It never worked out well. My first attempt was some kind of horse game that I did not really understand the rules. The children were divided into half. Some would be the cowboys, and some would be the horses. The cowboys would catch the horses and put them in a coral. When a boy “caught me” and I was required to be his horse, I absolutely refused. He said I had to because it was the rules. I hit him over the head with my cast, as I had one of many broken arms at that time in my life. It was nothing against the boy, he was perfectly nice. I just was not going to have anyone telling me what to do. I did not want him touching me. I got into trouble for that, and had to spend recess inside as punishment. But it was a fair price to pay for freedom.

I only tell you about these things so that you can see that I had a rich set of memories in kindergarten. This is so you will really understand when I tell you about that I am missing big chunks of time. One of the biggest, is my entire first grade year.

I can remember kindergarten, and second grade in great detail. In second grade my teacher was Mrs. Jones, my aunt on my father’s side. My favorite book was, “One fish, Two fish”, by Dr. Suess because it was funny. I will even tell you about the time I was stealing candy out of the teacher’s desk during recess, and lying about it when I got caught. I said that I was looking for a pencil, but I could tell that she did not believe me. And later she gave the whole class a lecture about stealing, personal property, and general proper behavior.

And I remember when she realized that I could not read. And she was right, I was using my dad’s tricks to cover it up. But being the competent teacher that she was, she saw through it. I remember the look on my teacher's face, when her suspicions were proven right. She made me read her a book that she picked out, that she knew I had not memorized. It was a look of surprise and confusion. How could this be? I am sure that my first-grade teacher would have talked to my second-grade teacher about me all the time during lunch and coffee breaks, progress reports, etc. That is just what teacher’s do...if I had gone to school in my little red school. I don’t think I did. But no one, not even me, seems to remember.

When I try to think of the first grade, there is nothing there. I cannot remember my teacher. I know that I should have had a nice woman with short white hair, because I remember being excited to have her the next year because she seemed fun. She was less…traditional than the other two teachers in the little three-room school house. I cannot remember even being in any class room, where my cubby or desk was in relation to the room. Nothing. It is like static on an old TV.

This is not unusual for people in extreme trauma to have lost time, lost memories, and fragmentation of a person’s identity. This fact scares me, the things that I can remember are terrifying. I can’t imagine what could be worse, but alas, things got much worse, or so I hear.

This was the time that I am told that my father’s drinking and physical abuse got bad. It was also about the time that my older sisters started talking about my father’s sexually molesting them. Whatever was holding my mother together, broke. Nobody seems to remember exactly when, but everyone agrees that my mother had a nervous breakdown. Anything that I would tell you would only be things that other people told me, but they were also dealing with trauma, so their memories are also scrambled, which is very common with high-trauma events. But, deep in my own soul, I know that this was a time when things went very bad. If one believes that trauma is the root of most mental health and addiction issues, which I completely do, then this would be the period of time that I would point to.

I have tried so many ways to describe it, but I can’t. It is called detachment, or disassociating. It is when a person under a great deal of stress, kind of breaks into pieces. One part of them will be experiencing the “real world,” but a part of them is someplace else. This video comes the closest to describing what it felt like to be me. In the video, I am all the different children, experiencing things separately.

Detached, broken into fragments, and living in my own world. School is what held the pieces together, it was my anchor. I honestly think that taking me from school was the last straw. I don’t know for sure, but I think that my mother broke, she took me to a safe house, she did not come back for a very long time, they put me in school, but it was not the right school and not the right teacher. Because I have kind of “dream like” memories, that do not really make sense to me. Was it real, not real? Who knows?

Missing time between second grade and third grade. I “woke up” again, and I was in the third grade. I was living in Manderson, a town about 30-45 minutes from Otto, were I lived. I do not know how I got there or when. I do not remember packing my things, moving, coming to see the new house, starting a new school…I just “woke up” in a new life, in a new place, and all my family and my things were there.

But things did in fact start getting better, when I came back to being me. We lived in town, we had neighbors. It took once for my dad to come home and raise hell, and the nosing neighbors would call the cops. The physical abuse slowed, and then stopped all together. My dad begins to change. But my mother was still on the shaky side. She was still having “prophetic visions” and such. My baby brother was born, I do not remember his birth, but she was convinced that my baby brother was some kind of “warrior sent from heaven to save the world.” You know, that sort of thing.

The third grade was a turning point. It is when the fear of physical abuse stopped, and I started to make friends. I started to catch up on my education. I had nice neighbor ladies who would feed me if I stopped in to visit with them for a while. I started to grow, I started to learn. I started to put the pieces back together. And I stopped missing time.

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My father was not at my graduation. Many years later he apologized to me. He said he was too drunk and he did not want to ruin it for me. Someone said that my mother was there, but I did not see her.

2 comentários

11 de jun. de 2023

Do you remember my visits. First in '76 in Otto, then the next year in Manderson? I've been thinking about how Dad and Edith must have been on their best behavior, because I saw none of this. I have no doubt about what you write, because I was living my own hell/ trauma I just remembered feeling jealous when I had to leave because y'all seemed like such a happy, loving family.


11 de jun. de 2023

Your mom told me that she had CJ because she was lonely. Her kids were grown and she missed having a baby in the house. Is this how she really felt?? Don’t really know. Brett has memories of Manderson. It fascinates me how our minds go into automatic protective mode. it is a truly amazing survival instinct


Generational Trauma

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