Nightmares – Year 5

My parents lived through tough times. When my father was a young man, he was a representative for a Car manufacturing company. He got a new car every year and made good money.
Then along came the war – World War II. Car manufacturing went down the tubes – the government needed the rubber and metal.
My father tried to enlist – they fluorographed his feet and said he couldn’t enlist because he’d had polio – his feet were flat and he wouldn’t be able to march.
He had never had polio but they wouldn’t hear it.
This was the beginning of a huge downturn in his life. Able bodied men who weren’t “over there” fighting, were looked down upon. His job was gone due to the manufacturer’s closing. He began a time of job hopping and moving around.
My mother was very unhappy with their change in situation.
By the time I was born in 1950, the war had ended, but the situation continued.
I heard my parents argue often. Well, mostly my mother did the arguing and my father listened. She would enumerate his shortcomings and end with declaring that she would pack her belongings and get on the bus to North Carolina and live with her family there.
I began to have terrible nightmares. In my nightmare, my mother was walking out the door with her suitcase and heading to the bus stop on the corner. I was running behind her, pulling on her coat and begging her not to leave or begging her to pleeeeease take me with her. She just brushed me away, like a blue-tailed fly and got on the bus and was gone. And I was alone and lost forever.
And then I would wake up sobbing. But I would never tell anyone why. I never told about my dream. I think I felt that their arguments were somehow my fault, that it was ME she wanted to leave.
It was years before I understood that she was just venting her frustration over how her life had changed and how she had no control over it.
And I wonder how much those feelings changed the course of my life as I shouldered the fear and dread of abandoment during those young years.
Even now, at the age of … well… dirt 🙂 when I think of it I still feel a pervading sadness.
Here’s me at 5 years of age:

Susan – 5 years old on the back steps

About Susan Hawthorne

I'm an author, writer, reader, wife, mother, grandmother, gardener, photographer, and chief cook and bottle washer! Retired as a Senior Executive Secretary from a major medical center in Virginia after 26 years, now a happy Domestic Goddess and at-home Writer. I live at home with my much loved husband and my little dogs, Dixie and Zephra! I enjoy writing, especially Speculative fiction and Fantasy, though I wander into other genres now and then. I follow a ketogenic lifestyle and am a member and Admin at If you'd like to learn to control diabetes and lower or get off your meds, come visit!
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16 Responses to Nightmares – Year 5

  1. tjloveless3 says:

    Shaa! What a cutie! People don’t realize what many men went through if they couldn’t join the military. This is a powerful story. And unfortunately, because WWI & WWII are so far in the back of people’s minds they don’t understand the ripple effect. (Hugs)

    • That’s for sure. I didn’t understand it at the time, but sure felt the ripple. Much later, when my sister explained it to me, I suddenly saw the puzzle and how it had come together.

  2. Todd Moody says:

    I hope your mother was able to find some joy. All these little things impact us inways we often don’t understand until much later. Thanks for sharing this, Susan.

  3. Gerry Wilson says:

    Susan, what a touching piece. I’m struck by how both of us were introduced to some tough emotions at such an early age, before we were capable of understanding. A lovely post.

    • I think a lot of children face this in some way or another, after all, the world of adults is a strange and mysterious place. I’m not sure I fully understand it yet 🙂 Guess I’d better hurry with that, eh? 🙂

  4. snapgrowl says:

    Nice post and love to hear the history of America and what people went through.

    • Hi Snapgrowl, I’m not sure I can stand as a poster child for the history of America in this post 🙂 but in some ways probably am an example of the way children lived in the Southeast. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  5. I just drafted my Sunday post. It should be about fear of abandonment, but I kind of just left it on the table. Maybe I’ll go back and play with it some more. Or maybe I’ll let it sit there and see if it grows into something else later.

    Thanks for this — it’s helpful.

  6. This is so sad. With only one parent, I never heard any arguments. But my kids did, on occasion. I hope they never felt the way you did. Wish we could be perfect parents.

  7. Pingback: Mental Health in 1969 — October Memoir Challenge | Joy's Book Blog

  8. Lara Britt says:

    Are there such a thing as perfect parents? If there were, their children would certainly suffer from the lack of coping mechanisms like the children raised in a bubble environments. We do the best we can and try to give them tools to cope.

    • Hmmm I guess there’s a sort of catch-22 with that, isn’t there? What is perfection? That would be in the beholder. So if you live your life to be what your spouse would expect… or your parent… or your child, you would have to give up something of yourself, and in doing that would become less than perfectly YOU.
      Sort of like the Stepford Wives. At first glance they seemed perfect, They were “happy” to cook and clean and take care of their husbands and children “perfectly”, but it quickly began to feel unnatural.
      Basically, what a child wants – what everyone wants actually – is to feel their parent or partner or friend loves them for who they are, not for someone who they want them to be, and protects them and is always there for them.
      That would be perfection. You don’t always have to know just what to say or do, just do your best to let your child know you love them.
      This is something I do now with my husband… if we have an argument, I will always say to him, I don’t like where we are on this issue right now but I will always love you. That won’t change even if I’m ticked off at you for a day or two. hehe.

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