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Then Came The Flashbacks

I grew up in LeMars, Iowa. It's a friendly town in Northwest Iowa and it's where I lived until I was 14 years old. LeMars is 150 years old this year and to celebrate the sesquicentennial, they are having all kinds of festivites, along with an ALL School Reunion - all graduating classes from both High Schools in town.

I've been looking forward to this since I learned about it last Fall and I'm here now, sitting at my grandmother's kitchen table writing this. I really need to go to bed - I have an early morning and I didn't sleep all that well last night; but, I'm occupied. I would even say haunted at the moment. Here's why...

I went to the all school reunion dinner tonight. I saw three people I knew - most of the attendees were DECADES older; but, on the way back to my grandma's house, where I'm staying 20 minutes south of LeMars, I made a point to swing by the house where I grew up- where I spent my entire childhood.

I planned to just drive by, maybe pull in and take a couple pictures, and be on my way. That changed when I saw they were home and the husband was working in the front yard. I drove past.. I also immediately regretted it and turned around to go back and knock on the door. I wanted permission to walk around and take a couple pictures.

The couple that lives there now is the same couple that bought the place from my parents in 1994! They were so sweet and invited me to come in and have a look inside. It hadn't really occurred to me that I would be inside the house and I was immediately excited to see how similar (or different) it felt to me. How much did my memory preserve and how much had I mis-remembered?

Then Came The Flashbacks

As I stepped in the house, I was shocked that it was almost exactly the same as when we moved. The wallpaper my mom hung in the dining room was still there. The light fixtures were the same ones from 30 years ago. It was a perfectly preserved time capsule of the home of my youth.

But here is the thing- the worst experiences of my life took place in this house. The hours I spent every day of the summer hiding in fear. Then there is the abuse I experienced from my brother. I've spoken of it often in broad terms; but these walls knew everything. They've kept the secrets of what happened there and it felt like they knew I was back. They wanted to talk to me about it after holding it all in for so long.

Standing in the house I grew up in, I felt physically beaten. I felt like a truck had hit me and sent me rolling down the highway. I'd been sucker punched back in time.

I tried my best to make small talk with the generous and kind owners; but, I fought back a wave of emotion. I felt tears trying to well up in my eyes and just smiled bigger, telling them how remarkably the same they had kept the place. I let them believe I was overcome with fond childhood memories.

Once I stepped back outside, I felt the good memories wash over me again.

Time spent under the huge willow tree (now gone) playing house and swinging on the swingset. The HOURS I spent roaming the field behind the house, burying treasures in the dirt (hotwheels and buttons) that I planned to one day return for. Hours spent rollerskating in circles in the driveway. Hitting tennis balls against the garage door when it cooled off at night. Burying my two favorite pet cats under the apple tree in the back of the yard after they had died.

I tried to focus on these; but, I had been so startled by the physical jolt of being inside the house - where I never felt safe - that I merely snapped some quick pictures and got back in my grandma's Buick Enclave to leave.

I'm still processing. I admit that I'm not sure what to do with how I'm feeling right now. For 10 minutes tonight, I was once again a scared little girl who was very alone in the world. I was a little girl that still believed the world and people are good even though she encountered so much bad each day. I was the little girl that dreamed of running away to grandma's house where it was safe.

The truth is, I'm not that little girl anymore, and yet, she is still part of me. Tonight, I eat cookies and cream ice cream, drink fizzy water, and try to love on that scared little girl as much as I can. She is safe now. She has nothing to be afraid of.

But, I'm still awash in tears. I want to forget about it all. I want all of it to have never happened. I've healed so much that I don't often think of what happened to me and it certainly doesn't define me - though it has shaped who I am.

And there is the other part of me...

The part of me that right now wants back in the house so I can SCREAM in the rooms. Scream a thousand "NOs" and "FUCK YOUs" and "HOW DARE YOUs." The part of me that wants to set the world on fire and watch it burn.

That part doesn't show up very often; but, i't's there. As the years go on, I find that I'm stronger than ever and very, VERY rarely rage against any past hurts. I am more capable of going through painful memories than ever. Ten years ago, I probably would have melted down completely from this experience. Tonight, I mourn. I weep. I rage. I heal.

I don't quite know how to end this blog. I've said what I need to say; but it still feels incomplete. I think what's bothering me is simply vulnerability and realizing that despite all the healing and forgiveness, I have been hurt and I can still be hurt. I don't like being surprised by ancient hurts - and I certainly was caught by it tonight. So, I'll turn to prayer. Lots of it. I pray that I can rest tonight. I pray that I won't be plagued by flashbacks all night. I pray for continued healing. I pray for guidance - what is God teaching me? I pray for a world that is hurting and in need of a Savior- and I am very much one of them. I pray for renewal and safety in the arms of a protecting and gracious God who never leaves me alone in the darkness.


©2020 by Kristin Benton.

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