Sounds of Silence

My mother had left her 3rd husband, for the 3rd time, and run off with her new boyfriend. We were living in a small town, outside of Toledo, when my mother started having an affair with the guy who owned the ice cream shop in town. He was also married. As a matter of fact, I was going to school with his kids!

So when the whole town discovered them, (and you know it always ends that way), he told her he’d set her up in her own place and help her get a job.

Now, don’t go thinking swanky apartment in the city… executive position… ah, no. It was an 8 ft.x 48 ft. trailer in one of the crappiest areas of Toledo, and the job was bartending at his favorite hangout. Her hours were 3pm to 11pm which worked for her, because she had a built in baby-sitter…me. I was twelve years old.

Looked a lot like this...Charming, no?

Looked a lot like this…Charming, no?

This meant rushing home immediately after school to stay with my two year old brother, who she sometimes left alone if the neighbor couldn’t watch him during the half hour lag time. I’ve said many times, if the child protection laws we have today were in effect then my mother would still be in jail.

Now, let me see if I can paint a picture of the trailer for you….

trailer blue print

When you walked in the first thing you noticed was how small and dark it was, with fake knotty pine paneling throughout. 

The living room was immediately to your right, with ratty furniture that smelled like cat pee…. pealing linoleum in the teeny kitchen, just to the left of the door, with a small stainless sink, and a 2 burner stove on the back wall under a small window. A narrow counter created an L that separated the two rooms, and the refrigerator was on the far left wall next to the hallway. 

There was a drop-leaf table and 2 chairs opposite the sink under another window. I don’t remember there being any curtains, but the windows were so cloudy it wouldn’t have mattered.

Down the narrow hall a few feet was the bathroom. It was typical of trailer bathrooms if you’ve ever seen one, or been on a boat bathroom. The shower was across the back, maybe 2ft. x 3ft, toilet to the right, sink across from the toilet with cabinets above and below, and like the bedrooms it had a pocket door that slid open/closed.

Next to the bathroom was the bedroom I shared with my brother. It had bunk beds built into the back wall, and a dresser attached to the wall next to the beds, across from a small wardrobe that had a hanging rod.

The ‘master bedroom’ was the width of the back of the trailer. A double bed, with built in night stands, against the end wall, and a double dresser on the front wall, opposite a wardrobe.

In case you couldn’t visualize it…

There was no TV or radio. No phone, either. Since my mother wasn’t much for reading we had no newspapers or magazines lying around, so I was very bored all of the time. I brought books home from school, but that wasn’t enough to occupy the endlessly boring nights. 

I wonder if maybe I started writing this story then? Quite possible! 

We moved in during the fall, about a month after school started, so I was the ‘new kid’ again. Since there was no chance for after school activities I didn’t have many friends.

As the winter set in we were constantly running out of heating oil. I wasn’t old enough to order it myself, so I would go across the street to a small market and the owner would call the order in for me. If it couldn’t be delivered before morning we would light the gas stove for heat over night.

It turned into one of the worst winters in the history of Toledo, Ohio. Running out of oil became a regular occurrence.

One night, during a snow storm, some kids in the trailer park were having a snow ball fight. I really wanted to go out and play but my brother didn’t have any boots so I couldn’t take him with me. We were out of oil and the oven was on. 

Finally I gave into temptation, on the condition I had to stay right by our trailer. I told my brother to watch out the window, thinking I could keep an eye on him at the same time… right!

As I got into the snow ball fight, I wandered away from the trailer. All of a sudden I heard this very familiar booming voice yelling, ‘Barbara Jean!’

OMG!  It was my grandfather. We hadn’t seen him since we’d moved to this awful place. I figured he was so pissed at my mother he just stayed away. I later learned she refused to tell anyone where we were living.

He found us, though.  And man did I get a tongue lashing! Fortunately that was all. He was right, of course, leaving a 2 year old alone with the oven on for heat! But I think, because he knew I just wanted to be a kid for a while, he thought twice about spanking me.

Continued Here.

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  1. Helen Shonbrun

    Wow! Didn't any of your teachers have any notion that you were being so sorely mistreated? Or the neighbors? I would have loved to have a LONG talk with your mother – although I would have thought of her as Mother-(you canfill in the next word).

  2. Helen Shonbrun

    Wow! Didn't any of your teachers have any notion that you were being so sorely mistreated? Or the neighbors? I would have loved to have a LONG talk with your mother – although I would have thought of her as Mother-(you canfill in the next word).

  3. Le Anne Lindsay

    If I hadn't met you, I would swear you are making these horrible stories up. I can't believe the responsibility you handled as a child.

    It makes my childhood look like a fairytale. I'll have to remember to be more grateful. I often moan and complain over the fact that my mother was too lenient with us. We were allowed to play too much, and had very little chores. Not that we were free to come and go as we pleased, she kept a strict eye on us, but she just wasn't the type to push you or make you do things you didn't feel like doing.

    I used to rush home after school starting at the age of 12 to watch Guiding Light. I often think I wish my mom had forbid me to do so, and instead made me join an after school activity; then perhaps I'd be farther along in life.

    But clearly for you to have made such a good life for yourself after what you've been through, I can't really blame my mother for my lack of drive.

  4. Barbara Hammond

    LeAnne, please do not feel you need to blame anyone for anything. You have made a nice life for yourself. We are all here for different reasons. I'm grateful, in a strange sort of way, for the childhood I had because it made me truly appreciate good things when I had them. I spent a lot of my life hating and blaming and it got me nowhere.

    When I learned to forgive and try to see things from a more pragmatic perspective it helped me step back and be more objective. I see things in this way: If this hadn't happened I would never have had 'this' experience.

    It helps to take a chronological perspective of your life and see how all the things you have experienced truly created the person you are now. It's about what you do with the hand that's dealt you that counts.

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