When I was four, my father would sometimes take me to Kiddyland, just the two of us. One of my favorite rides was the ferris wheel, until this one particular afternoon that changed things forever. We were going around and around up high and down low like we always did, but this time when the ride ended, we were at the very top. It was so much fun sitting up so tall over all the treetops and houses and watching the people way down below. I was having such a good time until I realized we weren’t coming down and letting people out. We were hanging there in the air swaying back and forth, and something was wrong. I turned to my father to ask him what was going to happen next. How were we going to get down all the way to the ground? Were we going to be okay? What was going to happen? Who was going to save us? He said, “I will try to save you, but if it means a choice between saving you or your mother, I would have to choose to save her.” He said he would save my mom because she was his wife and I was just a child and he could always have more children. I couldn’t trust him after that, and I never felt safe again.
A few years later when I was seven, he sent me to sleep away camp for the whole summer. Two months away from home as a child seemed so long it might as well have been a whole year. The other girls made fun of me because I didn’t know how to wash my own hair or even cut my toenails. The best day of camp was going to be visiting day because I knew that once my parents got there and realized how sad I was that they would change their minds about the full eight weeks and let me go home with them. I packed up my trunk the night before and quietly slipped it back underneath my bunk before anyone could see what I was doing because I was too ashamed to tell anyone I was leaving after only three weeks. The next day, as our blue and white Buick drove up the path to the camp, I was waving and already had begun to cry. Mom was crying, too, as she threw her arms around me and held me to her. I kept crying as he told me to eat my cafeteria lunch and to stop spoiling our nice visit. And he said, “If you don’t stop crying this very minute, I’ll really give you something to cry about.” When we walked outside, my parents were supposed to meet my counselors and see my artwork, but my father took my mother’s arm and led her toward the car. I was really sobbing then and pleading with my mom to let me go with them. I held onto her skirt and then her leg as he pulled her closer to the car. He told her to let me go, but she couldn’t because I was holding on so tight that I ended up being dragged along the dirt. After he shut her door and locked it, he swiftly got into his side and drove away without looking back, and I never got to kiss my mom goodbye.