The only time I remember visiting family in Georgia when my parents were still together must have been in 1974 for my grandfather's funeral. I think.
I remember seeing my great grandmother at her house with the long porch. She died not long after that. She was a sweet, short, chubby white haired lady we all called Big Momma. I remember seeing a motorcycle parked beside the porch, but I can't remember who drove it.
I recall the drive south through Georgia, because years later the scenery looked familiar to me -- the highway going through short, chopped off sections of mountain rock that denoted the foothills of the Appalachians. It's hard to believe that these quaint ancient mountains used to rise taller than the Rockies.
I can also see a particular service station with a gully behind it, and the walls of the gully were covered with prickly blackberry bushes. My brother harvested quite a few of them to share with us.
Dad bought us a bag of lemon drops from the Tom's vending machine at that station. Years later, on another trip to Georgia with just my divorced mother, I wanted lemon drops out of that machine again because they brought back to me the memory of my parents still together, and my indulgent father buying a bag of candy for us.
I don't know the reason that I was left behind in my grandmother's house with my ex-convict uncle. Maybe the rest of the family had gone to the funeral and I wasn't old enough.
I recall clearly sitting in the dining room floor of her house, playing with something. My uncle was in the kitchen making a godawful noise. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was sharpening knives and that if I didn't do what he said, he was going to use those freshly sharpened knives to chop me up into pieces.
I remember that I was absolutely terrified, and I remember nothing else beyond that. What did he do? Did he do anything to me at all? I can't remember. It's like a black hood is over the rest of my memory of that day and I don't remember anything about the rest of that trip, other than my sister being attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets when she chased some puppies into the shed.
I was three years old and I still have vivid mental photos of a lot of my life back in my toddler days. But something made that day go dark on me.
It could be a simple as believing that he was evil enough to cut me up for no reason before everybody else came back home. I was very little, but I understood what that meant and that he was saying he was going to kill me. He was never nice to me like my other two uncles always were.
Maybe he did something else to me and I've blocked it out. I don't think I want to know if he did. After all, he was in prison for ... something. He bragged about it a lot, like he needed some kind of street cred with my family. No thanks, not necessary.
What I do know : any time I think of him, like now, I become nauseated, afraid, trembling, and tearful. And the sound of anyone sharpening a knife on an electric can opener upsets me to the point of terror. I also used to pretend (after that) to emasculate all of my male Fisher Price Little People dolls though I never told anyone what kind of game I was imagining. Eww, creepy, right? Looking back I have to wonder what in the world made me understand male anatomy with such vehemence that I wanted to get rid of it in even my little wooden dolls that had nothing anyway. Why was I so angry? Was this toddler-made therapy?
Disclaimer: No, of course I don't want to do that to anyone. The whole memory collection gives me the heebie jeebies.
By the way, this isn't the end of this story. There's a lot more to all of this icky business.