I was five years old when I was taken out of my bed and placed in my father’s waiting car and along with my two brothers and sister driven from our home in Chicago to central Mississippi. Once there I was literally dropped off on a relative of my father’s in the middle of nowhere to live with people I did not know. I was taken from a mother I loved and with whom I had a strong bond, an extended family of grandparents, uncles, and cousins, friends, school, and a neighborhood I was familiar with.
I had lived with both my parents and three siblings in Chicago until the abduction. My parents married when my mother was sixteen or seventeen, he was older than her by thirteen years. My mother had been born and raised in Chicago, she married to escape a strict religious upbringing. My father was born and raised in rural Mississippi and had dropped out of school in the second grade to help his parents run their small farm. Though I am glad they married and gave life to me and my siblings, their marriage should never have taken place. My five years with them is remembered by violent fights and little else. We all learned to fear my father and to keep our distance when he was around. I believe at the time my father abducted the four of us my mother had been threatening to divorce him and he decided to seek his revenge by abducting us one night after she had left for work.
Though my mother immediately sought help from law enforcement and received some legal assistance it was the ‘60s and there were no laws in place to help her. My father hid us well enough with help from his family to prevent us from being found, and also by moving us whenever my mother did find us; first from Mississippi to Louisiana and back again to Mississippi. It was in Louisiana that my mother was able to re-abduct my sister. This seemed to be a turning point for my father, at least according to my own memories. It was at this time that he seemed to become meaner and more cruel. After my mother got my sister I remember him standing over me yelling, forcing me to write a letter to my mother telling her how much I hated her. He would keep switches all over the house and beat us with them for whatever infraction we committed, or he would use his belt or the razor strap that he kept hung in the bedroom for keeping us in line. I remember being sent to school dirty and wearing the same clothes for days. There would be times I would go to school wearing pants to hide the welts left by a recent beating with a switch only to be laughed at by other kids for wearing pants. This was by far a very different and more difficult life than the one we spent in Chicago. I learned to live with what seemed to be constant fear.
I would be twelve years old before returning to Chicago to live with a mother I no longer remembered or even recognized and one who didn’t know me. My mother had remarried and moved though still remaining in Chicago; and my grandfather had passed away. It was like the abduction all over again. Too many years had passed and my mother and I were never able to re-connect as mother and daughter.