When I Was

I have planned, for a long time, that my book would one day be titled, When I Was.

Of course, this depends greatly on my ability to come forth with all of my stories, find a genius who can edit my ramblings, and then find a publisher who believes someone might actually buy it.

I tried to title my blog this way, but the name was already taken.

In this current, imaginary book, each chapter would begin like the title, varying by age, and go something like this.


When I was 12 or 13 years old, around 1987, I lived with my mom in Greenpond, AL. The house was at the end of a lonely street and we did not have a refrigerator.

When someone finally gave us one, it was rounded at the top, and it had a handle-type latch that lifted up to open it.

I think this means it was pretty old, but the stove did not work, so we were fortunate to have one working appliance. I remember eating a lot of microwave tater tots. My mom always struggled. We never had enough money, but I also don’t remember being without.

There were things I wanted, of course, that I didn’t have, but I had a friend who had an in-wall heater in their bathroom, and she was considered “rich.” 😂 I was always jealous of that heater.

Our laundry room had an outside door that opened onto the carport. There were gaps all around the doorframe and cold air would come through in the winter.

My mother had taken used dryer sheets and meticulously stuffed them in all the cracks to fill in the holes.

I remember this because one time, two friends were spending the night with me, and they snuck out. They used that door, and I woke up the next morning to my mother yelling in my face about the dryer sheets being everywhere, and demanding to know who opened the door.

My friends, at least I thought they were, never moved, peeking from under the covers, one on each side of me, and did not say a word.


Memories are weird. I wish I had studied in a field that explored the human mind and all the mysteries our brains hold or have locked away.

It’s like I have pockets of memories from certain decades, and then that’s it – I can’t remember anything more.

I do remember – clearly – my parents divorcing when I was 5. I can see the upstairs apartment where we lived in my grandparents’ split-level, two-story, brick house. I know how the green, carpeted stairs took me to that upstairs living space, where my brother and I would hide under the kitchen table and turn up the stereo so we couldn’t hear them fight.

When I was five, and Jeremy was three, my parents divorced. It was 1980. They had been high school sweethearts since they were 15, graduated in 1973, and married on July 20th of that summer.

I was born in 1975 and my little brother came along, two months premature, in 1977.

I remember screaming at my parents.

At age five, I remember yelling, “You promised! You promised you wouldn’t get a divorce!”

How do I remember that? Well, they fought all the time, and we heard them talking about it. My grandmother confirmed many years ago that it was a real memory, but my mom gets upset with me when I talk about the past.

I promised her that when I wrote my book, I would change all of the names, but I don’t see how that will be possible. Anyone who knew me or my family would figure out that it was about us.

Especially if I write a lot of here first.

I am pretty sure I hated my parents for a long time.

It seems like I ended up living half of my life, off and on, with my grandparents. I moved a lot.

Now, the family didn’t always move – just me. The reasons vary and will lead me down the trail of 20 other stories, but their house was a shelter…a safe place, and I always knew I could seek refuge there.

I am sorry, mom and dad. I do not intend to hurt or embarrass you, but this is therapy for me. Every family has a little bit of the past they would prefer to forget. I know you are not the same people you were then, just like I am not the same person from 1987, 1993 or even 2002…when history repeated itself, and I found myself divorced with two little children – one being only nine months old.

One happy memory from that upstairs apartment? Jeremy and I got battery-powered motorcycles one Christmas and we would ride them in circles like Ponch and John from CHIPs. I always had to be Ponch.


So, back to the memory time capsule.

My recollection of past events is sometimes fuzzy, except for certain events. You would think I would remember the most recent decade easier than others, but that is not always true.

Perhaps, God answered my prayers, when I asked Him on occasion, to blot out certain memories from my mind, and even from my children’s minds.

Or, it could be some cool psychological term that I googled:

“Repression, also known as dis-associative amnesia, is similar to suppression but it involves unconsciously forgetting or blocking some unpleasant thoughts, feelings and impulses. Individuals might use repression to become unconscious about traumatic past memories.”


(I’m pretty sure these are all photos from sometime between 3rd-6th grade.)


When I was almost six, my dad remarried after he and my mom divorced.

I had a stepsister who was my age, and I have very few memories of her, except that she took my place, with MY dad.

One time, when we were around 10, she did save me from going after him, to wake him up, while he was having a night terror.

That was cool. Thanks, girl.

I didn’t know he was like a ninja in a nightmare.

I did not have a room at my dad’s house, so I stayed in her room whenever I visited.

(Dad, Pawpaw and Mawmaw with me at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 1976?)


Nice barrettes.

When I was in 3rd grade, my mom convinced me and my brother to move to Bessemer and live with her. She told us there was a tv channel that played cartoons all the time, and we wouldn’t have to wait until Saturday morning.

The HBO logo would circle around and around until it appeared to crash through the screen, and that’s when Fraggle Rock came on.

I remember Jeremy being there, but I am not sure for how long, because he lived most of his life with our dad.

While in Bessemer, we attended Westhills Primary School where Anna Whaley and Bridget Brown were mean to me. I arrived there in the middle of the year, and I appeared to be the only girl in the 3rd grade who required a bra. Someone would always pop the strap when we were in line for lunch. There, we sang this song every day:

“Oh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me, the things I need, the sun and the moon and the appleseed…oh, the Lord’s been good to me.”

To this day, I have no idea why we sang that song.

I briefly took gymnastics at the YMCA. If my memories are correct, then I had one friend, and I think her name was April Boles. She lived in the same apartment complex as we did, Westlake Lodge. Sometimes, Jeremy and I would stay at her place if my mom was gone or wasn’t at home yet. There was a Hardee’s beside us and I loved their roast beef sandwiches.

We played around the apartment complex after school and on the weekends. This is where we made a clubhouse…in. the. storm. drain.

Yes, the giant, concrete opening where water would rush to escape the parking lots – we played down in there. I can’t believe those were made large enough for a child to fit through. We apparently survived, never met an alligator, or got swept away.

My mawmaw must have really been praying.

So, this needs to be the end of this entry because it is all over the place! Before I go further, I need to look for more photos and interview my grandmother to validate my notes.

Now that Jeremy is gone, it’s even more urgent for me to record all of the memories I have, before they slip away with time.

He was the only one there with me for a lot of it.

When I Was… to be continued.

Copyright © 2018 Keysha Thomaston®.

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