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A Story of Trauma | Orange County Boudoir Photographer

December 13, 2019

There have been a few times in my life that I have had some terrible things happen that I simply have been unable to talk about to anyone.  Actually, a couple of them were so dramatic that I couldn’t even remember that they happened. For years, my psyche (call it self preservation) pushed the memories so deep down inside me that they almost seemed like dreams; not realities.  Well, I feel like I am in friendly territory, so I think it is time for me to push forward and put my experiences into words. Maybe it will help someone else that has been through something that they are unable to deal with. Here goes:

I am sixty years old now.  The first of two events happened when I was around eight.  Ok, so 52 years to put this into any kind of context. Not bad, right? 

 My sister and I used to visit my aunt and uncle on separate alternating trips.  This one happened when it was my turn. I loved seeing my six cousins and they lived on a ranch property with horses which was fantastic for a little girl from South Laguna.  We would play with each other, help feed the horses, and at the end of the day we would all get sleeping bags and spread them out on the downstairs floor and giggle about whatever until we fell asleep.    

I was probably there for about a week and I really don’t remember much in the way of details.  Except for one afternoon when my uncle asked me if I would like to help him feed the horses. I was so excited that he asked me and it felt so special that I immediately followed him away from the house and down to the stables on the corner of the property.  He gave me something to feed the horses. I’m not sure what it was, probably sugar cubes or carrots. I was really short and I had climb up on the wooden fence and lean way over to reach the horse. As I did, he began pulling down my pants and fondling me with his fingers.  At that point, I’m not sure what else happened as I was both horrified and terrified that someone would see what he was doing. I do remember him warning me to be quiet, I presume so my aunt wouldn’t hear.  

I was both scared and relieved when my aunt called out for my uncle.  He had to stop and I took off and ran up to the house. I know now that I didn’t do anything wrong, but at the time, somehow it was all my fault.  For anyone that has ever been in the position I was in, you have been taught all of your life to respect and obey your “elders”, especially your relatives.  Because of this, for years I never looked back thinking that my uncle had done anything wrong. He couldn’t have. He was the adult. He was always right.  

I don’t remember ever going back to stay at my uncles house again, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I did and I just blocked it out.  I never said anything to anyone about that afternoon at the ranch house. 

 It took me until I was about twenty- two to really come to grips with the reality of what had happened that day.  Even then, it all seemed like a vague and hazy memory; almost like it was a dream. But in my heart, I knew it really happened.  

I finally spoke up and told my mom, in the nicest terms I could muster, about the things that my uncle did to me.  She listened, kind of in a distracted way, which I thought was strange. I expected a surprised and concerned response to my revelations.  I was waiting for the anger to percolate to the surface. Nothing. I asked her what she was going to do about it. Nothing. I told her that I was worried about my little sister.  After all, she spent a lot more time at my uncle’s house than I did. She made some weird comment that I must have been mistaken in my recollection. I am fairly certain that she never said anything to my aunt or uncle about any of it.  I don’t even know if she believed me. She never spoke to me about it after that day and I never mentioned it again to her.

But I got to thinking;  if my child came to me with the story that I laid on my mom, it would be everything I could do to keep from physical violence.   And I would feel guilty about sending my daughter to stay with a predator at such a tender age! I would spend my life making sure that she knew that she did nothing wrong, that it wasn’t her fault.  And I would make sure that she got all the help she needed from me to try to deal with the reality of what had happened to her so that she could put it behind her. But that’s just me.

I asked my sister if she remembered being molested like that on her trips to the ranch.  She thought about it long and hard and finally told me that she wasn’t sure, everything seemed kind of hazy and vague.  I just gave her a big hug and a kiss to let her know I was there for her.

The second traumatic incident in my childhood was when I was maybe eight or nine years old, my sister would have been seven or eight.  We are only sixteen months apart and we lived in a neighborhood where we both shared the same friends and all lived close by. We were in a small house in old South Laguna on a steep sloped street.  Our driveway was in the front of the house facing the street. My dad was a landscaper and he built the house and poured the concrete and pebbled driveway himself.  

For some reason,  I used to have this recurring dream that my sister and I would get caught by my dad doing something we weren’t supposed to do.  We took the leaves off a head of iceberg lettuce, ran them under the cold water, and then dipped them into the sugar bowl to eat.  In the process sugar would drop off the leaves of lettuce and land on the floor. My dad came home and got real angry to say the least!  We could hear the sugar granules crunching under his feet and we knew instantly that we were in trouble. It was pretty well known in my family that my dad had a huge temper, one you never wanted to stir up.

In my dream, my dad took two big red mixing bowls full of granulated sugar and put a spoon in each one.  Then he made my sister and I take off all of our clothes and follow him to the driveway where he laid down the two bowls.  He made us squat in the driveway, naked, and eat the bowls of sugar until they were finished. Meanwhile, we could hear all of our neighborhood friends playing and laughing nearby.  We were so scared they would see us naked in the driveway that we tried to eat the sugar, spoonful by spoonful, as fast as we could. The first bite melted quickly in my mouth, but the next bite did not.  My ears were ringing with the sounds of me teeth grinding on the gritty sugar, while bite after bite felt like chewing on sand. I was sobbing and my stomach was sick, but we kept eating. The bowls were so large, we couldn’t finish it before our friends started passing by our driveway.  Boys and girls, they kept going by it seemed. I remember not looking at them and hoping that by not looking they really weren’t seeing us.  

After what seemed like an eternity, my mom drove up and saw us naked in the driveway with two half-eaten mixing bowls, faces caked with a mixture of sugar and tears.  In my dream, my mom looked at us, then at my dad and said “Gene, don’t you think they’ve had enough?” At that point I always woke up.

Well, I kept having this dream that was really more of a daydream, until at about twenty-five, I asked my sister if she remembered anything in our childhood with sugar.  Her eyes got real wide and she started to tell me about her “dream”, when I loudly told her to stop. “Be quiet” I said. “Don’t tell me about it. Write your story down and I will write my story down. Then we can read them both”.  So, I got out a couple of pieces of paper and a couple of pens and we started writing. I told her to draw a picture of where we were in her story and I would do the same.  

When we were finished, we laid our pages down side by side and looked at one and then the other in astonishment.  The stories were exactly the same down to the last granule of sugar. Since neither one of us could draw very well, I had told my sister to place an x where we were in her drawing as I would do.  We were so shocked that on her page and mine was a rough diagram of our driveway with two little X’s in the right corner underneath our kitchen window.  

The final question was one that I needed to know.  I asked her if she remembered anything else “weird” about the incident.  She said that she remembered that we were naked; that our dad had made us take off all of our clothes.  

We both went 15-16 years without realizing that what we thought was a dream was not a dream at all.  It was a nightmare. We couldn’t figure out why he had done that. Even stranger, is how our minds and our hearts just couldn’t deal with the reality of it so it pushed it down until we were finally ready to face it.  

I know that there are plenty of women that go through events much worse than the ones I described.  What I don’t understand is how anyone can deal with it alone and make sense out of terrible events in the lives.  I consider myself lucky. I have a sister who, through thick and thin, has been with me every step of the way. She is someone I always want to protect as her older sister.  But just once in a while, I have had to lean my head on her shoulder. 

Dedicated to my sister Jenny.
Written by Dana.

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