If you missed the last post, click here.
I can’t in all honesty tell you much detail about the happenings here, so this year will be a massive dumping of memories with my parents.
Picture this: it’s the mid-nineties. The tv glow illuminates the living room as children watch figures dancing across the screen to Ace of Base’s new single, “I Saw The Sign”. The parents of these balls of energy are outside the trailer, arguing on the wood porch. Mom’s red rocking chair is in the middle of the living room and is presently serving as a prop for my dance performance in front of my siblings. Unsurprisingly, I fall. I smash my chin against the arm of the rocking chair, and the red turns crimson as blood starts gushing immediately. Ignoring whatever has my parents so heated, I rush to the door and fling it open, sobbing in pain and probably a little embarrassment.
Now, remember we live in a trailer. We aren’t exactly made of money for hospital bills, so my mom, who is no older than 21 at the time, tries to take care of my cut herself. Over the next few days, we establish a routine of me sitting my infected little self on the bathroom counter while she takes a sewing pin and pokes at my wound to let the puss out. THIS EFFING HURTS. I cry the whole time, and she’s not exactly enjoying herself either. Today, I am adorned with a nice, bumpy scar on my chin to remind me that next time I fall and get an infected cut, maybe I just better sit still for the sewing pin.
Here’s another stupid me moment: it’s Sunday and my siblings and I are all huddled in the bed of Tyler’s covered truck. I guess he was working construction or something at the time: idk why else he’d have wood boards with nails sticking out of them, littering the truck bed. So Carrie has her Sunday School papers and we’re all chattering when suddenly, a gust of air blows them out of her hand. Afraid she’ll lose her colorings, she starts crying. Me, being suave, stands up in this moving vehicle and surfing-usa’s my way over to retrieve them for her. Triumphantly, I turn around with the papers in hand and make my way back to my seat. Unsurprisingly, I fall again. My knee engages the pointy ends of three nails protruding from a board and harmoniously, I join my sister’s wails. I remember wearing an ace bandage over my knee for quite some time, and I still bear the scars to this day.
Patient isn’t exactly a word I’d use to describe my siblings’ father. When we were in trouble, Tyler would just lose it. One night, we must have all been acting out of pocket because we were all lined up in the dimly lit kitchen, and he was pouring dish detergent down our throats. Blubbering does not begin to describe our reaction. Spit/soap bubbles covered the floor and floated in the air as we marched miserably off to bed to think about whatever we had done to deserve tonight’s Dawn mouth rinse.
Another time, I think he came home in a mood. We girls had been playing with our dollies in their strollers before bed, and when Tyler came home that night, the idiot stepped on one of the toys. Have you ever heard a man howl? I have. Right then. I could have positively died laughing, it was so funny. What wasn’t funny though, was the next morning when all of our toys were in the trash as punishment for leaving our rooms so dirty. Maybe that’s why I keep my room so tidy now? Who knows.
I’m not entirely confident of the timeline here, but I think this was the year that money was so tight, we ended up living in a tent. We couldn’t afford the trailer any more, so we all crammed into a little pop-up camper and a tent. One time, Laurel woke up in the middle of the night, having to go #2 something terrible. She got lost on the way to the bathroom and had to relieve herself behind someone else’s tent (she claims to have buried it, but in the dark, who knows just how well it was buried….). Can you imagine unzipping your tent door in the morning, having a nice little vacation, the sun is rising, birds are singing, and there to the right is a soft little pile of human feces? HEEELLLL no. All because some asshat is making his kids live in a tent. Well, that was us – the Rosenshales.
So this isn’t a memory, but rather something I was told later. As luck would have it, Tyler was riding his bike somewhere one day and was hit by a semi truck. I’ve been told the driver was looking for something on her dash board and didn’t see him, or maybe she just didn’t like red-heads. I’m not sure. Ambulances carted dear-old-step-dad off to the hospital and he emerged some time later with naught but a giant hole in his knee for his troubles. He winds up in a wheel-chair for a while, and thus finds himself another recipient of good American disability checks.
Now that he can’t go to work, 32 year-old Tyler finds his way into the world of addiction. (This may have been prevalent before his accident, but I believe the free-time only made things that much worse.) He started selling our toys, our clothes, our house curtains – anything really, so that he could get drug money.
Charlotte, my mom, was working at the time, and taking care of her boyfriend, and taking care of 5 kids. Things were madness for a while.
At some point, we contracted head lice. Charlotte didn’t have time to deal with that, so our heads were shaved, our toys were thrown in garbage bags, and we left our house without looking back. (I don’t know whose house that was, as of course my parents couldn’t afford a home. P.s. sorry for the washer full of lice-infested teddy bears, whomever you are!) Here’s a picture from a few months later when Tyler visited us in foster care and our hair started growing back.
Desperate to keep up with all of her responsibilities and barely making ends meet, Charlotte started shoplifting. We were so excited one day because Mom walked in the door with mickey mouse bed sheets, new toys, curtains, VHS movies, you name it. It was like being a guest on Oprah. “You get stolen goods, and YOU get stolen goods, and YOU get stolen goods!!!” Unfortunately, as you can imagine, a haul like that wasn’t easy to pull off. In fact, she didn’t succeed. She was caught and the police showed up that evening with a shiny set of handcuffs. We crowded onto the porch and watched Mom exit stage right into a police car and didn’t see her again for years.
With Charlotte behind bars, Tyler found himself with five kids, a gimp leg, and that pesky drug addiction.
Naturally, he took us to church. Unnaturally, he left us. We stayed with a few parishioners for a few days here and there and I guess they gave us back. I don’t really remember. In the end, it was all too much, so Tyler whisked us over to the Illini Children’s Christian Home in St. Joseph, Illinois and signed us over to officially become wards of the state.
Thanks to Tyler’s sticky fingers and our head lice, we didn’t really have much, so the children’s home gave us each a backpack with school supplies, toiletries, and a couple toys. Together, we set out to start our new lives as foster kids.