South Dakota

Kerry believed my mother’s tragic tale, partly because he was just plan happy to see us and have the family back together! My mother and I rented a small apartment off the base where we stayed while he attended school. It was summer and there were a lot of other kids who lived in the complex with us, so I was always outside. At night, my mother would let me stay up and watch movies with her until I fell asleep on the couch. I had a bedroom, but I never slept in it! It was basically storage for my toys, which had dwindled quite a bit since the “stolen” moving truck incident. When we lived in Florida I could barely fit in my bed with the number of stuffed animals I shared it with. When we left, I was allowed to bring two boxes and whatever I could carry.
When my dad graduated, we packed up again and moved to Rapid City, South Dakota. His first assignment was to be at Ellsworth Air Force Base. When we arrived, it was in the fall of 1990 and the city was filled with smoke from the recent forest fires. It was kind of spooky, like something out of a horror film. The air was thick and smelled of soot, but the landscape was amazing.
Just after we were settled, Kerry and mom started fighting a lot more than usual. One night, he came home and immediately confronted my mother. Apparently, my father being in the service expedited the leads in law enforcement who were tracking her and when the numerous checks she wrote at the PX in Fort Ben began bouncing, it was only a matter of time before my father was being questioned by his chief master sergeant. When he came home to confront her, she denied everything.
The next morning, she acted like nothing had happened. She rushed my father off to work and kissed him goodbye. She made me breakfast and plopped me down in front of the television as a distraction to her erratic behavior. As I finished cereal, my mother was strategically packing up our necessities and loading them in to the car. By the time I noticed what was happening, she was already rushing me to get to the car.
Looking at her with objection, she stopped me before I could say anything.
“You know it is the only way…don’t you?” she said as she grazed my lower lip with her finger.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I turned my head in confusing disagreement.
I knew my objection wouldn’t matter. We were leaving whether I wanted to or not.
“Baby, it’s time.” She spoke in a soft voice. “We have to leave.”
I said nothing, all I could do was nod.
I made my way towards the car, making every effort to stay as far from my mother as possible even though I knew the closeness of the journey would be inescapable. I opened the passenger door and lifted my almost lifeless body into the over sized seat. I closed the door and turned myself to face the window. My mother entered shortly after and not a word was said. I drifted to sleep, knowing I would wake up miles away from my life, but hoping it was a dream just the same.
I woke up to the sound of a chipper young fellow in the drive-thru lane. “Would you like one or two of the dolls?” he said.
“Two!” I heard my mother specify. “Baby, I got you two of those dolls you wanted and a hash brown.”
I looked over. Her eyes, filled with regret and the fear I would see through her nice gesture.
“Thanks Mom.” I said in a soft mumble.
Just like that, we took off and drove to Pennsylvania, 3 days before Halloween.

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