WRITTEN BY JENNIFER ST JOHN
Jen’s Journal entry from Jan 29, 1991:
“You have to believe you can learn from the past, before you can change the future. Hello how’s life going? How’s where-ever you are? Well, things here are tense, very tense. Last night Mom talked to me, alone, and told me that it hurt her that I thought she was an alcoholic. I told her that I thought she was. And then one of her closing lines was that she was glad that Kate and I had everything figured out so clearly.
Thursday is the day. The train leaves at 10:30am. So I don’t know when we’re leaving. I wish we were there and that we had our house set up and we were in with our new friends and our school. I packed up my room. It’s so cold and I’m not talking about the temperature either.”
Our visit back to Canada over the holiday break proved to be another pivotal fork in the road for us. We returned to Missouri knowing that we were moving back. And because I was in Junior High School and my term was ending at the end of January, Mom was using that as the time for us to head north again. We knew I would be in a term system back in Canada, so it made the most sense.
Things were extremely tense at home. Mom was a mixture of anger, happiness, frustration, and embarrassment. She approached me one evening, soon after we were back from the holiday break. Per the entry above, she confronted me on what she overheard my conversations were with HER family. She always made a point of becoming very territorial with her family when she wanted to make us feel like shit. Like they weren’t our family too. She was their sister, not us. Just another turn of the knife she would knowingly dig in and twist…
I had zero issues talking to her about this face-to-face. This probably threw her off, and hence the offside comment about my older sister, Kate, who also had no issues discussing the harder subjects with her. She was quick to throw anybody under the bus, or turn the rest of us on each-other, when she was pissed off with someone or one of us. It was like a broken record, and Kate and I were old enough to see the pattern, to see the unhealthy behaviour, and to start thinking of ourselves.
But not all of my sisters were there yet. Partly because of age and maturity, and partly because they were still believing every word Mom fed to them. My younger sister was her last remaining soldier in her unhealthy war against the world, and she was going to use her for as long as she could. But it made for very shaky ground at home. Even more than usual, I didn’t know how I was going to be treated, talked to, or dealt with. I was sad to be leaving yet another group of friends, but I was so happy to be going back home. I had desperately not wanted to return to Mom after our previous summer in Canada, so this was just amazing that we were still finding a way to get back. I could sense the feeling of relief coming soon. I just needed to hold onto until then….
Our step-father wasn’t joining us right away. Probably for a few reasons. One, they needed some space and time apart. Clearly. Two, Dennis needed to get his ducks in a row legally if he was going to be joining us (which he never did and came up to Canada illegally anyways…. ). Three, the four of us were moving into our Aunt and Uncle’s place in Orillia, ON. They had three children and a three-bedroom bungalow but they wanted to help us badly that it didn’t matter. They were making room for us! Obviously we were going to be disrupting their household for a while, until we were able to get on our feet and Mom found us a place to live. The plan was for Dennis to come up when we were out of their place.
Once again, we packed up all our belongings. Those trunks from Walmart were coming in handy! They were being shipped up or coming with Dennis when he was able to join us. We were travelling by train, as it was the cheapest way to get to Toronto from Missouri, especially since Mom and Dennis only had one vehicle, his truck. For the trip home, we were allotted one bag each. It’s tough to decide what to put in there when you have no idea if you will see any of your belongings again.
Early one chilly morning in January, we drove to the train pick up point. Oddly it wasn’t at a train station. We were literally meeting the train at a crossing on a country road. Soon enough, the train arrived. Loud and big, we looked at this vessel and realized what was going to be on the other side of this trip. We were nervous of the unknown again, but at least this time, we would be surrounded by family. I for one hoped that would help Mom. I wanted her to be better. I wanted things to be different for us.
We said our goodbye’s to Dennis and stepped up onto the train. Finding our seats, a set of four facing each other, we sat down. The girls and I looked at each other with knowing looks, yet we were quiet. Here we go again! Mom seemed to be thinking the same thing, but not with the excitement we were feeling.
But we were going HOME! And that could only mean good things.