Chapter 16

Christmas is a weird time.

It’s cold, it’s dark. The relationships you have, or the lack of, are reflected back at you during the holidays more than ever. Crime rates go up.

With everyone feeling so compelled to consume, it’s no wonder you’re more likely to be robbed. Even the music is kind of sad, Silent Night, White Christmas, those songs don’t exactly make you want to party.

But none of these reasons are why my mom gets sad during Christmas.

December 19, 1994

2:31 pm

My Mom: Thanks for calling Healthland. This is Jennifer how may I help you?

Caller: Hello, yes is this Jennifer Johnson I’m speaking with?

My Mom: It is.

Caller: Hello Jennifer there’s something I think you should be made aware of.

My Mom: …

Caller: Your husband and I have a child together. Her name is Monica and she’s 12 years old.

Nuclear fallout came to my family that winter which ultimately lead to my parents’ divorce. But not before the violence. Every time my mother would tell my father she was leaving him, he would react violently.

My mom thought she was safe by picking a public place to serve him with divorce papers. She was wrong. Broad daylight in the middle of an empty Hardees my father grabbed my mother by her throat, choking her until her lifeless eyes began to roll to the back of her head. It was only then when my father released his grip, just in time. I know this story because my mother told it to me the very day it happened. I believe this was her way of retaliating. Letting his first born son know what he did.

The next day my dad gave me a ride on my paper route. It was the first time I saw him cry. He wept uncontrollably. Sobbing hysterically, all I could gather was him saying something about how he couldn’t believe he was losing his family.

He must’ve known this day was coming. He’d been living with the secret my entire life. My whole life had been a lie. I always thought I was the first born, but I had never been an only child.

Not only that, I had a sister somewhere that I never met, I still haven’t. That day was worst day of my life, I remember thinking.

My mom feels a way about Christmas from all of this but I have a strange paranoia when I’m in the shower.

It was the next morning and I was showering getting ready for school. I hear what at first I think is laughter. Then to my horror I realize the sound I’m hearing is actually screaming, my mother’s.

I rush out naked with soap still lathered on me. In front of my parents fighting, I kneel down and ask God to please help my family.

It’s not that I believed God would hear me, it’s that I knew it would guilt my father into stopping, and it did. So who knows, maybe God did hear because my father finally left and accepted his new fate as a divorcee.

I wouldn’t see him again for a long time but my mother was safe.

To this day, if I hear any strange or sudden noises when I’m in the shower I panic. Several times I’ve rushed out only to find I’d forgotten to turn off the television.