The kitchen with its drab walls and cracked linoleum floor was warmed by a wood-burning stove. The only place where the floor was heated was around the stove. I had a nice little spot behind it that was toasty warm. I sat back there and played with whatever was entertaining. Sometimes my sister and I would cut figures out of magazines and use them as paper dolls. I may have been doing that on that day.
It was quiet in the kitchen. The only one home was Mom, my older brothers and sisters were in school. Mom didn’t talk much in those years when I was home alone with her. I think she must have been relishing the silence. I didn’t know any different, I thought everyone lived that way.
It was a quiet day–and then–the sound of a car coming up the sandy driveway. The air in the kitchen became tense. Dad was home. I pulled myself up as tight as I could so I wouldn’t be seen. Mom tried to act like nothing was amiss.
The kitchen door opened with the screen door slamming shut behind it. Cold air burst into the kitchen along with my father. It was obvious he was inebriated. He wasn’t standing very well. The smell of alcohol and cigarettes filled the room.
As I peeked out from behind the stove, I could see my father go over to my mom and put his arm around her. When she rebuffed him, he became angry.
Dad started complaining. It didn’t matter what the complaint was about, as he would pick a fight with anyone over anything. He began moving around the kitchen with a bullish attitude. When the drunk in him lunged at my mom, she grabbed a broom that was leaning against the wall by the door and started swatting at him.
My dad became enraged. My mother kept thrusting the broom at him. He began backing off into the living room with my mother continuing to try to take control of the situation. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was trying to protect me from his wrath. It slowly became quieter while they were backing away. Soon I could only hear muffled sounds. I don’t know what happened in that other room.
I stayed behind the stove until my sisters and brothers came home. Mom walked back into the kitchen to greet them. I assumed that my father had either passed out or fallen asleep.
Mom hushed my siblings as they entered the kitchen, although there was no need to do so. They knew. They had seen the car parked near the house. As I slowly came out from behind the stove, I found it difficult to be happy to have everyone home. Mom acted like nothing had happened.
The incident was never mentioned, not even to me. I was left alone to deal with the fear and terror that I felt.