Cold and damp memories

I woke up terrified this morning. It wasn’t the result of dreams of monsters or high threat situations. I wasn’t suffering from the occasional existential dread I get of getting older and losing family and friends. Instead I was lying in a dark room. I could hear the rain sound from the white noise YouTube channel mixed with the cold air of the air conditioner. The faint light from the tv gave the impression of street lights off in the distance (the YouTube channel video is black, but the ambient tv light was still there). It was around 1:30 or so and laid there until almost 3am. I am sure I drifted in and out but I wasn’t able to go back to sleep. So here I am up and moving.

Like I said, the fear and anxiety wasn’t monster based, or bad dreams (at least I don’t think so), but was the distinct feeling, memory or some combination of the two that was a weird flashback to when I was homeless as a teenager. It was the same feeling I had when my family lived in the car, and under sheets of plastic under a state park bench and hadn’t lived reliably in a solid foundation and four walls and a roof for about a year.

Not exaggerating when I said we lived under sheet of plastic visqueen stretched over park benches.
People always think I am exaggerating.

When we were homeless I would always wake up hours before dawn and lay there in the dark. It was Washington State in the mid/late 1980s and it didn’t seem as dry back then as it does now. I remember it always raining a little at night. It didn’t matter if I woke up in the car in a parking lot near a store, in a rest stop along I-5, or even under a State Park bench at one of the many state parks we lived out of. There was always the faint patter of rain, sometimes heavy, sometimes it was just an occasional sound.

I only felt safe sleeping during the day when we were homeless. Honestly I still feel that way. That is me on the left.

When I would wake up, I could always hear my siblings and parents breathing, snoring and moving around. That always made me feel safer, as I laid there in the dark. I think it is probably why nowadays I am uncomfortable sleeping by myself. Never liked it, not when I was 15 and homeless with my family, 19 and living with my first group of friends, or now with my husband after almost 28 years of marriage.

I would lay there sometimes for hours worried about my family. Watching them breath, listening to every sound outside the sleeping area (whether it was a park or a car). Sometimes I would catch my dad doing the exact same thing, laying they for hours as we both let my mom and my siblings sleep. Always worried someone would come and try to hurt them* (* Side note, that isn’t an exaggeration either, the threat of someone showing up to hurt my family was very real and something I will probably talk about later). The sound of rain outside was a combination of the normal relaxation people feel, wound around the anxiety that the rain was masking the sound of someone walking up on us. It doesn’t make sense but the two feelings are usually intertwined for me with rain.

When I was waking up this morning, I couldn’t get comfortable. It was a rare exception that the sound of rain didn’t reassure me. Instead as I turned and rolled around I had this worry that my blanket was going to get damp. I also couldn’t quite get warm no matter how I moved or curled up. I had that same feeling of not being able to get rid of the chill of being homeless (although this time it was the air conditioner not wind from an oncoming storm).  I had totally forgotten about that feeling for quite awhile now.

The tent was an upgrade but it was still cold and damp (and we didn’t have it too long before back to car/plastic)

It reminded me a lot of when I was a teenager.  Back in the 1980s when we were homeless, except for a very few hot sweltering days of summer, I always had a chill. It didn’t matter if daytime temperatures would get into the 60s or 70s, you can’t get rid of that bit of cold on the edges of everything. It just stays in your clothes, in your sleeping bags (or in our case some blankets that we had kept). No matter what you did it was there. It was even worse if it rained because everything had that dampness as well.

I suspect that is why there has always been a fight my parents had with keeping the photo albums dry and the mold from eating away at the pictures we had. Even now 30+ years later when I took possession of the photos and I have removed all the pictures and separated them, properly storing them, but some just continue to mildew no matter what I do. The cold and dampness has just seeped into the photo stock.

Even cleaned up and stored right I still fight with the mildew

I am sure part of my issue probably involves my brother who is currently living in a shelter and my worry for him. A large part of it is definitely therapy and maybe I actually feel safe enough to process emotions and memories I should have handled 33 years ago, and part of it is probably just a bad night.

Whatever the reason I am sitting here fully dressed in pajamas, t-shirt, bra and a small blanket, with all fans off and air conditioner stopped and I still can’t seem to get fully warm or get rid of the damp feeling. I will probably go try and shower and see if that helps.

Maybe my next post will be positive 😉

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