I remember the summer of 1984 as the time when life was yanking on our chains to be responsible adults before our time, while tickling and tempting our inner little girls to take over and escape our rollercoasters of lives with real rollercoasters from our childhoods.
Ugh. It’s tiring just writing about it! But it’s true.
David called me one day right after supper time. My, almost two-year-old daughter Lisa was in the tub playing with her plastic tub toys while the sand from the beach and the grape jelly from the too-hot-to-eat-a-normal-supper PB&J was slowly washing off. It wasn’t one of those interesting, reminiscing calls from an ex that almost only comes after a few drinks. This was a favour asked out of the blue; and it was a favour I was not about to say no to.
“She needs a place to stay. She’s got two daughters now. She’s here in the area, in a shelter. I’m wondering if you know anyone who has room to take her in for a bit, or if… you would.”
Ireland had once again run home to Herman. Well, not completely. She was close by; in a shelter.
She came to stay with me in Pebble Beach, where I was renting a three-bedroom how just a block away from the parking lot of the amusement park. She was nineteen. I was eighteen. It was like we were still kids, playing make believe, only now she had a 3 year old daughter, Raine, a fifteen month old daughter, Shasta, and one on the way. It was the one on the way that was connected to the reason she was back and in my living room.
We had put the kids to bed the first night. Lisa and Raine slept in Lisa’s new bed which was a double mattress and box spring on the floor and Shasta slept in the crib that Lisa was just moving out of. The fact that Lisa had freshly transitioned to a mattress on the floor (less of a drop to the fall if she fell out) was pure synchronicity. The girls became fast friends and giggled as if they were having a slumber party.
Once they settled, Ireland and I, with mugs of tea in our hands, sat down on the couch facing each other, where we finally had a chance to talk without little ears around.
She wasn’t ready to talk yet so I updated her on my story; how I met my boyfriend and how we found out we were pregnant, why he didn’t live with us. I kept it brief. My stuff could wait.
“Ireland, who is the father?” She fiddled with the handle of her mug. “Do they have different fathers?” I was guessing maybe her nervousness to share with me had to do with the number of dads. Nope just one. It was not how many dads. It was who the dad was.
She told me was 4 months pregnant. I looked down; she wasn’t showing. Gord blamed her for being pregnant again. He got really drunk one day and beat her, trying to make her lose the baby.
She told me all of this without any emotion attached. This, I was well used to with my best friend. I had watched her detach every time she felt stress since we were pre-teens.
I remember tensing with a jolt of realization when she took a deep breath in and exhaled the next sentence, “Mom hid all the knives in the house.
“After he was done with me, he uplifted furniture in the house. He was seeing another woman, Sarah, at the time and was on his way out the door. He went to push the door open and the glass broke in the window, cutting his arm all to shit. He then passed out on the stairs by the door.”
She and her mom called the police and they took him in but could only hold him for 4 hours so they had to move fast. They gathered some stuff and headed for a safe house. Social Services gave them money to get to Ontario, ending up in the Pineridge shelter, where Ireland called Herman. David had answered the phone and called me.
She had been living all this time with her mom and Gord, having Gord’s babies. She was very vague when we talked about it over the next couple of days. She couldn’t reach the words inside her to use to get me to understand how this could happen. As much as I wanted to understand, I was treading carefully as Ireland seemed so fragile, and I didn’t push the inquiry. I think it’s fair to say there’s a good chance she didn’t know exactly how it happened.
At this point, Ireland still did not tell me the full story about Herman. I, in my mind, tried to make sense of what happened with Gord by believing it was all about abandonment on her mother’s part and neglect on Herman’s part. She was simply desperate for love.
We spent the first part of the summer of ‘84 enjoying the experience of being mothers together. It was almost like we were older children playing house. We bought a hibachi and a kid’s pool so we could barbeque hot dogs while the kids crawled on their hands, kicking their feet behind them at the surface of the water, circling the inside of the pool. We took the kids to the beach just a few blocks away every other day. We once again created our own little normal for a while. When July came around, we planned and baked for a birthday celebration for Raine and Lisa, both turning 4 and 3 on the same day, July 23.
When the kids went to bed we sat out on the front porch and listened to the sounds of the park down the road: screams of people of all ages, music of all volumes, instruments and genres and the collective hum of the runners of the rollercoasters and the Pirate and the motors of the other rides. We reminisced about the days we went there with David and Levi. It was 5 years ago but it seemed so much longer. Maybe it was partly because we had created 3 lives since then, and 1 on the way.
One evening, I think it was a Wednesday, Ireland shocked me with an addition to her story. “Ya know, when I first found out I was pregnant with Raine, Levi stood up and took responsibility.”
At first, I didn’t understand what she meant. Then, “You mean Levi said he was the father? Did you guys finally have sex?” They had never gotten around to sleeping together when the 4 of us were hanging around together. I didn’t even realize she was still spending time with him after we had stopped being friends back then. I hadn’t known anything about her life after her mom came back. I hadn’t seen Levi around either.
“No. But Mom didn’t know that. So he said he was the father so the truth didn’t have to come out.”
“You mean about Gord being the father.”
“Yes.” She looked out the window, away from me, with that word. “But that didn’t work. I just couldn’t let him do that to himself.”
“How did it all come out then?” I didn’t get an answer, Shasta woke up and started crying at that moment. The conversation never returned. It didn’t have a chance. Had we returned to this question, I would have found out that she didn’t have the answer. The memories of the days around the moment her mother discovered the truth about her Ireland and Gord had already drifted back, into the corners and crevasses to her mind, to be submerged for years to come.
By the middle of the summer, my friend was beginning to show. And I noticed the number of phone calls coming in were beginning to increase. A week later, Ireland was gone again, back to Tilly and back to Gord.
I knew very little about the phenomena of human nature back then. I remember sitting at my dining room table, in the quiet darkness after Ireland and the girls left in a taxi towards the airport and Lisa had gone to bed. I remember searching in my mind for some spark of understanding. Why was Ireland going back to this man who had started out with her mom then turned to her? Why was she returning to the monster who tried to beat her unborn baby to death? And why was she going back to a mother who would agree to this all?
I was still years before I learned about the power of Stockholm Syndrome.