Eulogy to a Cow and the Deconstruction of My Family

Eulogy to a Cow and the Deconstruction of My Family

My picture perfect family was coming apart and I am only now, in the present, realizing the full extent of this deconstruction. This wonderful place, this beautiful place, full of hopes and promises for each of us – the place where we all individually started our journey with joy and smiles on our faces was now folding into itself. The strain was beginning to show in the seams, but I never saw any of it coming, as I slowly descended into my own place of self-loathing, darkness, and anger. Looking back on it from a distance, I can only speculate at the clues, based on the circumstances, at what might have been lurking in the shadows. In this place dreams were born and then they were forcibly taken away. The sunny veneer was now worn and all of the imperfections were beginning to show.

For my brief time in cubs I would have some sort of interaction with my dad. Looking back, however, my experience of that place reveals that this was the only time I would have interaction with my dad. The company was a demanding mistress and consequently his days grew longer and longer and consumed more and more days a week. Pretty soon, it became the norm that my dad would appear for our daily supper time and then disappear to do some paperwork for work before heading to bed, only to arise very early the next morning to do it all over again. I would surmise that he was working an average of twelve hour days, quite often six days a week. He was chasing his own dreams that would eventually end up being a nightmare.

My mom was on her own journey, which showed up in this place as a vegetarian. However, she wasn’t a regular vegetarian. She was to vegetarianism as PETA is to animal rights. This, of course, was amusing to a ten year old boy whose father spent his entire day chopping up various animals into various cuts of meat for various people to purchase and cook in various ways. Not so amusing when the ten year old’s plate was losing more and more meat and gaining more and more different colors of leaves. The final coup-de-grace was when my mom would succumb to my dad’s demands for meat on his plate at the end of his day. She would prepare the meat but would serve it to her family via a well executed eulogy. Picture your favorite uncle’s funeral, where all of the family has gathered, and someone is standing at the front speaking passionately about uncle Bob, tears in people’s eyes, while at the back of the room, my brother, my dad, and me, were slurping our drinks, and loudly chewing on this piece of meat. I had to learn to push through those passionate speeches in order to thoroughly enjoy this bit of meat on my plate because I could not be sure of how long it might be before I would receive another portion. Our ignoring of my mom’s speeches did not seem to deter her much as she would continue to recite, “ode to cow” whenever the occasion would arise.

The next clue I had as to the deconstruction of my family had its meaning revealed to me only as an adult after I had walked some painful steps down a similar path. My reflection then amplified what happened and how that may have impacted my parents in a truly negative way. At that time in this beautiful coastal city I was aware that my parents were trying to adopt a baby girl. I am not sure why they didn’t try for another child naturally but here our family was in the midst of a process that would determine our eligibility to adopt. My parents, and in particular my mom, had their hearts set on adopting a baby girl. My mom was watching a baby girl full-time for a period of time, which may have been a catalyst to this decision as it was clear that all of us had grown quite attached to this little bundle of joy.

However, there were problems stirring. My little brother was acting up. I hardly paid attention to him at the best of times as we would constantly be rubbing each other the wrong way, so if we weren’t duct taped to each other we worked very hard to avoid each other. We were very different personalities and I was slowly withdrawing from society, drawing more and more into myself, my brother was making a big splash wherever he would go. Somewhere along this journey he decided he had enough with our family and so he ran away. Police were called and friends were looking and eventually my mom discovered him hiding under one of his friend’s front steps. The incident was brief but destructive. Social Services became involved and within a very short window of time my parent’s hopes at adoption came to a crashing halt. With problems on the home front my parents were not allowed to proceed with an adoption. They would fight and work hard to appeal this decision all the way to the next city but in the end they lost that battle and with that loss a part of my mom was lost as well.

Achieving Serenity Through Transcendental Meditation and Duct Tape

Achieving Serenity Through Transcendental Meditation and Duct Tape

Rosicrucianism was never spoken about directly in our home but I was allowed to read the magazines that my mom would get. I would see her crystals upon occasion, taken carefully from her velvet lined molded box and only for a few moments when she was not in the room. I was curious, like any child wanting to know what their mom was up to. However, my curiosity brought about the guru, swami, sage, master in her out and she took me under her wing. The most vivid of these memories is one sunny afternoon spent out on our deck over top our carport, sitting and staring at the blue sky above. There were a couple of clouds and they were to be our focus. Through a carefully constructed meditative state I was learning how to focus energy onto that cloud, causing it to dissolve. We sat there, focused in that state until that cloud dissolved. Perhaps an hour had gone by, I am not sure, for my forthcoming discipline of deep meditation would mean remaining this focused for several hours each day.

And thus was the two-sided coin that was my mom. On one side of this coin I had my teacher explaining the mystic secrets of the universe to me as we pursued a state of serenity, and like most young boys at that time, I imagine, we had the other side of the coin, where my mom would pause after breaking a wooden spoon on my backside, fetching some tape to make the repair before continuing my discipline. I don’t know really. In some way this contrast of experiences made sense but perhaps it was because I was becoming more and more disconnected to myself and my present reality. I was numbing and shutting down inside. Faced with the increasing anger of my external experiences of bullying and social isolation and contrasted against the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment strongly reinforced by my mom, my own life was also a distinct two-sided coin.

Wake up. Go to school with a lunch bag doodled with the latest from my mom. Get pulled out of the class from my peers, escaping yet another test. Get beaten up. Go home. Have my backside warmed up with the latest wooden spoon, or Tabasco sauce placed on my tongue where I was to hold it for 15 minutes while on my knees in a corner with my back straight and my hands behind my back with my nose facing the corner. Deep meditation practice for the rest of the evening before it was time for bed once again. Tomorrow I would do it all over again. The variations to this existence were entirely up to me with just how bad I was going to be on any given day. In all fairness there was also the factor of my younger brother who was becoming more and more of a nuisance in my life, which also brought out yet another creative side of my mom. The use of duct tape.

Apparently my mom’s pursuit of serenity did not factor in raising two boys so my mom utilized her creative side as a means of helping serenity come to this home. If my brother and I were fighting constantly then her creative solution was to duct tape our hands together and send us outside. My brother and I would spend hours sitting under the picnic table together, hiding from the shame of our situation, despising each other for getting us into this situation in the first place. Perhaps relative to the weather the other duct tape solution was to tape over our mouths. At least with this solution we were each allowed to be in our own rooms, away from anyone and everyone. I didn’t know it then but this practice of being sent to our rooms with the tools of silence well established on our faces was behavioral training for the rest of our childhood where the family practice was first to be seen but never heard to eventually not seen and not heard. Ironically, my experience of being a part of this family after awhile was akin to being a piece of luggage or a box that keeps getting dragged around from move to move but you never really get around to unpacking it.

Academic Privilege vs Social Isolation

Academic Privilege vs Social Isolation

I had a friend named Chuck but it came at a cost and I didn’t know it; social isolation. Chuck would share with me hard stories about his family, in particular about his dad who struggled to find work and to make ends meet. It wasn’t because Chuck’s father was an alcoholic or lacking skills, but it seemed he would be pushed out of most places he attempted to get a career going. As a result, Chuck and his family lived on the other side of the city in a worn out home in a worn out area. I suppose it would be helpful to share that Chuck was black. This was my very first introduction to racism and it was as vile then as it is today.

Perhaps we could dismiss my experience of this as something happening in yesteryear, like whenever my early grade teacher would catch me writing with my left hand she would grab the meter stick and come over and smash it down on my desk, hands be damned. I didn’t get that either. How was it that I was being singled out and punished socially and physically for using my left hand? I used my left hand and Chuck was black. I couldn’t figure out why both of those things mattered. Then it made sense. One was social ignorance and the other was ugly racism. One went away as society became more enlightened about such nonsense and the other became more and more prevalent, Martin Luther King Jr. be damned.

My own life’s circumstances was creating a heightened sense of justice within myself. In fact, my teachers in this city would make that clear in their quarterly reports to my parents, but I would characterize it as becoming more and more pissed off. Sure, my pissed-off-ness probably originated out of my own selfish pursuit for normality and inclusion, but the more I was being isolated, I was growing in awareness at how others around me were being isolated as well. And this was pissing me off even more.

A new initiative from the ministry of education was launched in a few school districts and this was one of them. Every student would go through specialized IQ testing and the most elite would be skimmed off from the others and placed into what they affectionately called, the ‘gifted’ class. Many years later when this social experiment came to an end the pendulum swung to the other extreme where in my middle grades being placed in the ‘gifted’ class took on a completely different meaning.

However, for me, in this place, it suddenly meant that I was skimmed off from my classmates, all of whom I was desperately attempting to make some sort of meaningful social connection with and instead I was mixed up with kids of all ages and placed in a magical new place. The contrast was stark. I left a crowded classroom, sitting at forty year-old metal desks, staring at a fading chalkboard with institutionalized wall colors staring back at me and a window or two to bring light to the darkness. Now, I walked into a brightly lit multi-purpose playground with state of the art everything surrounding me. This was my new school home and I had an exclusive VIP pass.

As it played out I would come and go in a moment from my ‘regular’ class to this ‘gifted’ class. The timing always seemed interesting to me. My classmates would be about to write a test and I would be summoned to my new class, given a free pass to that test. Instead of studying history with my classmates, following along in someone’s textbook, I studied whatever the hell I wanted to. The other elite students and I would sit together and brainstorm different passions and ideas we had about curiosities or how we wanted to change the world and then people would emerge from the sidelines – at our beckon call – ready to equip us with whatever we needed or desired, in order to accomplish whatever latest project we deemed we wanted to work on. My classmates learning about geometry and the history of Canada? Boring. I was researching Blue Whales and the entire whaling industry, focusing on the endangerment of the species. I won an award for my project and a special badge through cubs for that work. As for the geometry and the history of Canada, those sections on my educational requirements were simply signed off on. A free pass all as a result of academic privilege.

In this city I didn’t pay attention to the cost as much because I was enjoying the privileges of my new surroundings. However, the true cost of social isolation caught up to me in the next city and it was there that I decided to do something about this academic privilege. Looking back, however, I should have noticed the sideways glances, the raised eyebrows, the snubbing at lunch and recess, the turned backs in social circles, and perhaps even the participation of some of these same people standing around enjoying the bullies beating the crap out of me. That was their justice I suppose, seeking their own social inclusion to the norm.

Love; a Girl, a Play, a Heartbreak, and a Marriage

Love; a Girl, a Play, a Heartbreak, and a Marriage

Her name is not important to you but it was important to me. From the moment I saw her and talked to her I had fallen in love. Although, to be honest, what I was experiencing was brand new and so it is only in retrospect that I made the determination that it was love. She was curious to me. Alone, quiet, and soft-spoken. She invited me into her world and we would spend time talking to one another at recess or whenever our paths would cross. We would play and flirt with one another around the big oak tree by the music room. I wanted to spend more and more time with her.

My journey began with simply following her. I wanted to make sure that our paths crossed constantly because we were not in the same class. One noon hour I noticed that she had signed up for some meeting and had entered the band room. I quickly signed up and entered. I saw her sitting down on the other side of this now crowded room and I took a seat, desperately trying to figure out how to get closer to her in an effort to talk to her. I was oblivious to what the meeting was about, only that it served up this opportunity and I didn’t want to blow it. The teacher and the principal took charge of this large group of kids and proceeded to start the meeting. Momentarily, my attention was drawn to the adults in the room as I was curious as to what this meeting might be about.

They were discussing the upcoming school play, “Alice in Wonderland” and the purpose of this meeting was to assign roles, parts and assignments to everyone there. “Woah”, I thought to myself. “I need to get out of here.” But I couldn’t. The room was too full and I was too far into the crowd to make a beeline for the door. I resolved myself to the meeting but quickly began to see this as an opportunity to spend even more time with this girl. With my hope renewed I looked back to where she was, taking my attention away from the teacher and the principal. To my dismay I couldn’t find her anywhere. It would be a few weeks later, when I finally had a chance to talk to her, that she shared with me although she was initially interested in being in the school play – she quickly changed her mind and left before the meeting got started. I, however, was not so lucky. After quickly dodging the bullet of playing one of the singing flowers (which required me to wear leotards – an absolutely horrible idea for me at the time) I ended up having to sing in the choir.

Over the next few months we grew closer. We would make a point of seeking each out to meet during recess and lunch. I would walk her home after school and life was good. The one and only time that I was invited over to her house I was forced to bring along my little brother (apparently my mom was adjusting to the fact that her son was now liking girls and my little brother was the insurance policy that I would behave myself. Or, maybe, my mom just wanted to ruin my life.) Her mom was there and it became immediately evident that this girl lived in some alternate reality. The home was full of greys and was dark. We were only allowed to sit at the dining room table, not even on the same side of the table, and visit. My brother let out a burp that would make Barney Gumble proud. In a house full of lace doilies this was probably the worst thing that could have happened. In spite of it all, this girl and I connected and it became obvious to me that we liked each other.

Except for one thing. Her mom did not. Actually, I don’t think it was just me. After seeking some clarification from this girl before she was ripped from my life I think her mom did not like any men. It was clear that something quite horrible had happened in that family and this girl never did speak of her father for fear that her mom would be standing close by. But one thing was clear now, we were not allowed to see each other any longer. We attempted to stay in touch, even after I left this city and it was as long as five years later when I received a letter from her. I was excited and scared at the same time when I received the letter. However, the letter was so cryptic, so thick, so arsty fartsy that it was as if she had become some completely different person. I was saddened by this turn of events but happy that I could now close that chapter of my life.

But, back in the moment I was heart broken. It stands to reason then that within a few weeks of grappling with the loss of my first love, nothing in my life made any sense. I had made an amazing intimate connection with a girl and although we had never kissed we had held hands and that was enough for me. But, now, nothing, and I found myself once again alone in this place, like every place, looking for connection and companionship. So, when I look back and wonder how it was that I found myself walking down a makeshift isle at recess time, with about ten other kids lining up on either side of me and this girl, who’s name I really do forget, walking toward the makeshift podium where some other kid was about to pronounce us as married – it all made sense.

I rebounded. This other girl liked me and I liked being liked. We got caught up in some artificially inflated fall romance of sorts and somewhere in the zaniness of it all the idea of marrying each other seemed to make sense. We walked down that isle and we both said I do. Two weeks later one of us called off our marriage – it doesn’t really matter which of us it was – we both knew that this wouldn’t last and perhaps we were both using each other for all the wrong reasons anyway. Such was life I suppose. A heart ignited, set afire by some mysterious other only to find that they remained just out of grasp, making you wonder if they really existed at all, only to then fall into some sort of substitute, trying to fill the hole where the fire once burned.

The Molting Process of a Young Boy

The Molting Process of a Young Boy

I may have been a bit younger than I was in this place, but not much, when both of my parents decided to come into the bathroom where I was having my evening bath. “We have something to tell you,” They both said. “Santa Claus is not real. The footprints on the hearth? They were made with your baby shoes and soot from the fire place. Dad dresses up as Santa Claus. There is no real Santa Claus.” And that was that. They got up and walked out of the bathroom, leaving me to finish my bath, alone, naked, confused, and just a little bit wiser.

My father taught me about sex ed. He walked into my room one night after I had gone to bed. He brought a book. He tried mumbling through some stats and figures and charts but in essence handed me the book to read. Then he told me how to masturbate. I may have been a bit older than I was in this place, but not much. He got up and walked out of my bedroom, leaving me alone, confused, and just a little bit wiser.

But my real molting process began when I found myself in the epicenter – the very focus – of a massive psychological experiment called bullying. I was cast aside from regular society, singled out and unable to fit into any neat description. Thus, I became prey for bullies and they were hungry. There was the bicycle gang, a group of about four high school students that would patrol the streets after school, waiting for me to come walking along. I was proud of myself in relation to this group because after awhile I was able to outrun them riding their bikes. I had no option because to not outrun them only meant that I would be run over by them.

Then there was that short red-headed kid who had a mean streak like no other. He was the one who forced me to eat his scab and then choked me until I passed out. He was about a foot or more shorter than me and I could probably have over-powered him but he was constantly surrounded by around six other boys who were most definitely bigger than me. I realized that they served this red-headed master and took great joy lobbing me back into the center of his ego ring, ready to go another few rounds on my head and my body. My strategy here was to become an expert at covert camouflage, utilizing the secrets of the swamp and marsh in order to facilitate my escape.

But, my undoing, my arch-nemesis was an unnamed person. In fact, what made it so weird was that he and the other two boys had never met me before. They had no idea who I was, except, on this particular day, they got caught up in mob mentality and had the honors of finishing me off. It was a sunny, beautiful day, not unlike most of them in this place when the school bell rang and I gathered my bag and set off for my walk home. I walked through the front parking lot of my school and turned onto the residential street that headed up a short hill and onward to my house. I lived about a thirty minute walk from the school, mostly walking through residential neighborhoods and it was pretty much a straight line, except for this hill.

As I started walking up the street to the bottom of this hill I glanced ahead and stopped in my tracks. At the top of the hill was a growing mob of kids. There may have started with around ten of them but it quickly grew to around thirty. Everything in me shouted out to run from this situation. Perhaps it was my intuition, built upon the numerous beatings I had already received, but it was as if I could smell blood on their hands as the hungry mob began to get more and more restless, staring down at me with this gleeful growl erupting from their lips. I had no idea how I knew but I knew that I was on the menu so I turned and ran down a different street, away from the hill and away from this mob.

When I got to the end of that block it intersected another street that went up the same hill, just further south from the first hill. I paused and began to wonder if I was over sensationalizing all of this. “Of course they are not after me! How silly to think so.” Rationalizing that I was just paranoid I turned and began walking up the street to the bottom of this new hill. Slowly, from the top of the hill I noticed a small gathering of kids once again emerging. Then it grew and grew some more. It would seem that it took this mob a bit longer to make it to this street then it took me but there was no mistaking that it was the same mob and I was most definitely their target.

Now I was scared and I turned and ran south again, except this time I used the speed that I used before to get rid of those bikers. I ran past street and block and street and block until I was just on the outside of the downtown core. I stopped to catch my breath at a convenience store, looking around for anyone that may have been able to keep up with me. I saw a group of high-school students on bikes standing around not noticing this little kid standing close by, severely out of breath. I went up to them and with tears in my eyes I explained my situation through gasping breath, pleading for their help. To my surprise they offered to help me. They were going to escort me through this mob and onward to my home.

Being renewed in the human spirit I composed myself, gathered my bag, and set out walking beside them as they were on their bikes. We walked back those several blocks that I had just ran down but there was no-one around. I had assumed that the mob had given up their search for me and disbanded. It turned out that this was the case, with the exception of a group of boys that were standing around when I turned the corner with these high-schoolers in tow. Those group of boys looked at me, trying to figure out if I were the one the mob had been searching for. Determining that to be they came up to me just as the highschoolers rode off on their bikes. As their beating began I did not know if those high-schoolers were in on it all along or if they just couldn’t be bothered when push came to shove. I decided it was the latter. When the boys were done with their beating they turned and left, leaving me dirty, bloodied, bruised, battered, and just a little bit wiser.

The Stripping Away of My Identity

The Stripping Away of My Identity

I wanted to unpack my memories in this place like a ‘series of unfortunate events’, and I shall, yet, however, for my own sake of grasping onto sanity as I walk this journey once again, I feel the need to summarize it first. When I think back to this coastal city and even when I look back over my school memories book, like I did once again this morning, I am of two minds about it all. In so many ways this was an amazing place for me. I blossomed and grew into someone I had wanted to be and in a lot of ways I still am to this day. But it came at a cost. It cost me a part of my soul. My identity. I fucking went through hell and emerged scarred, beaten, bruised, and wounded. I don’t know what normal is anymore and I fucking have this place to thank for that. This incredible passion and this incredible hatred somehow mix together and continues to hold a tension for me whenever I think about this place.

I was stabbed in the head with a lead filled pencil, the tip breaking off and the doctor needing to surgically remove it. I was introduced to pornography when my little brother found someone’s hidden stash of old playboy magazines hidden in the dugout of some long forgotten baseball infrastructure. I was initiated into Rosicrucianism by my mother, and taught transcendental meditation, telekinesis, and various mind control methods, while disciplining myself with deep meditation techniques that I practiced like a piano prodigy would practice the piano. I fell in love for the first time but had my heart broken like a bad Romeo and Juliet play. I was beaten and chocked unconscious on one occasion by someone half my size, just after he forced me to eat his scab. Just before the beating I yelled at my brother to go get help and later when I arrived at home he was sitting at the table eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

I was tormented and beat up constantly by groups of bullies and told from my mother that it was my problem, except on the one occasion that my bloodied face and bruises were too much so she loaded me into the car and went and told off the bully’s mother. I was told to take a special IQ test as a result of a new initiative from the Ministry of Education and as a result I was taken out of regular class and placed in what was a gifted class, the result of obtaining what would be the equivalent of straight A’s. I also have flashbacks and psychedelic memories of sexual abuse where I am forced to perform fellatio on some older male figure but quite can’t make out who it is, however those memories fucked me up in regards to my sexual identity and sexual life for a very long time. I also ‘became blood brothers’ with some other kid I knew, the result of him pulling out a very large knife and each of us slicing our thumbs so they were bleeding and joining them together in some sort of weird ritualistic way. It was done in the privacy of his room and somehow it just seemed the normal thing to do.

In every way I was singled out during my time in this city and over time and another city I grew to resent it. I grew to loathe it and as a result I became filled with an insatiable anger. I grew to resent my mother to the point of destroying any pictures I had of her. In fact, over time I systematically destroyed any memories that I could get my hands on, deconstructing my childhood into oblivion. The only reason that I have my childhood memory books now is because they were given to me much, much later, as an adult, when I was now married and in a different place emotionally. During the years that followed this place, my spiritual focus and discipline would take me further and further into eastern mysticism, and deeper and deeper into their faiths and their religious practices. I would eventually find my way to occultism and dark magic before coming to the end of my rope in my later teenage years.

This beautiful coastal city, so alive with magic and wondrous daily discoveries was eating me alive and I didn’t know it. I was tormented and I ran to nature to escape. Apparently at some point one of my nicknames was ‘nature boy’ as I spent every available moment I could in nature. I loved and admired every animal. I longed to be out in nature, camping and just being. I would spend hours and hours sitting at the top of the high forest trees at the back of our yard, escaping with my thoughts and fantasies of far away places. Even when I fell out of the tree once, hitting every branch on the way down it didn’t stop me climbing back up. I would go into the snake pit to capture snakes and race them in my back yard. I would chase frogs and try to capture crabs and trout and anything else I could get my hands on.

I loved that place but I hated it as well.

It took the hopes and dreams and ideas forming in a young boy’s heart and mind and shit on them. Then it took the boy’s face and mushed it into the pile while cruelly mocking him. Then tossing this young boy’s head back it punched the boy in the gut and across the chin before kicking the boy in the groin, leaving the young boy moaning, lying on the ground in the fetal position.

I hated this place but I loved it as well.

Magical Places and Woodland Fairies

Magical Places and Woodland Fairies

Everything about this new city was magical. This place had four distinct seasons, each just as beautiful as the one that just passed. The elementary school was surrounded by a woodland grove with an incredibly old forest gully at the back. Even the parking lot out front of the school was littered with majestic trees, looming high into the sky, drawing you to them with a desire to give them a hug. Along the east side of the school there was a fresh water stream with water so clear you could see the colorful pebbles that lined the bottom. This stream meandered its way through the grove that bordered the east side of the city, all the way back to that magnificent old forest gully. A dirt path and some arched bridges followed alongside, freshly swept of any debris each morning by the woodland fairies. This stream twice a year would put on a spectacular show. First it would fill with vibrantly colored rainbow trout making their way up the stream to spawn. Then in the coast’s version of a circle of life, the rainbow trout would return, most of them now dead, their colors fading, choking the river with their carcasses and their stink for several weeks, while the rest of wildlife had their fill and nature carried the remnants out to sea.

Out behind the school was a separate building, an extra classroom that was dubbed the music room. It would be in this room that I would be playing the violin, strumming out beautiful music over the last century or two and falling in love in the process. Beside this classroom was a gigantic oak tree, standing guard over the school and its inhabitants. On the west side of the school was a thick overgrown wood patch that had mysterious and hidden passage ways to allow curious children to find their way in, but really difficult to find your way out again. Once inside you were greeted with a mystic swampy place with trees rising from the ground, forming little moss colored islands among the green thick algae pools that surrounded them. There were rougher trails here all wanting to take you any place but back home and it was a perfect place to escape from it all, for even the sounds in your head were dulled as you wandered around exploring.

If you walked the length of two football fields you would come to the end of the large field that was out back of the school. Entering the forest grove there and walking only a couple hundred feet in you would discover a fork in the well-worn path. One following the edge that would take you up a hill and eventually empty into the high school field that was at the top. But if you were more adventurous you would take the trail to the north that after following it for perhaps ten minutes or so it would open up into a large tree-lined gully that seemed like it went on for miles. It was the start of an epic adventure for some. For me, it freaked me out so I opted to stay closer to the magical places that surrounded the school.

The magic didn’t end at the school either. As a family we would drive out to the airport, which bordered the ocean. Down below the fence line were two separate beaches on two separate sides of the airport. The first beach was filled with beautiful golden sand; The type of sand that you could pick up with your toes as you sunk into it with every footstep. If you were really lucky you would discover sand dollars, a form of coral stone, buried beneath your feet. They were shaped like a round flat rock and perfect for skipping. The second beach, you waited for the tide to go out when it would reveal it’s own magical discovery: a massive area covered with black coral. In between this coral were clear pools filled with amazing ocean creatures. Our time was limited at this place but one could easily spend hours there, chasing crabs of different sizes, examining star fish and the more exotic sun fish, along with the most amazing sea shell collection I have ever seen.

This was more than another city, this was a new beginning for each of us. Everyone seemed incredibly happy. My mom would draw cartoons with messages on them on my brother’s and my paper lunch bag each morning for school. I joined cubs and my dad was a leader. We even had family and friends visit us here for what seemed to be the first time. We were now the stop for someone else’s journey for affirmation and assurance. But a darkness was coming. A series of events that would begin to unravel who I was. Looking back, this descent into hell seemed so choreographed, but living through it all at the time, it was chaotic, crazy, disorientating and fearful. Just what was this place, so majestic, so magical, so joyful, yet so dark, so fearful, so loathsome.