That Night

I woke up startled as their muffled voices carried through the walls and slithered below my door, the space between the carpet and the wood just wide enough.

My Mom was crying.

My father’s tone was angry. I heard the buckle of his belt clang, he was getting dressed.

It was still dark in my room and I felt as if I had not slept for very long.

As I heard her outside my door the whiny knob turned. The light from the hallway offended my sleepy eyes and the sight of her night-gowned silhouette made my heart beat faster.

Through tears she told me to get up and put on some shoes.

I think I asked what was wrong.

Something bad had happened – something really bad. They had to go to him, try to help him. Make sure he was okay.

This wasn’t the first time.

It wouldn’t be the last.

She hurriedly walked me to our neighbor’s house next door and then suddenly she and my dad were gone. I pulled back the thick curtains from someone else’s window as I watched them drive away.

I was 9 years old and petrified.

I didn’t know what had happened. I had heard the words “car” and “rolled” and “been drinking” and “hospital” and his name.

His name.

I wanted to go back to my house, back to my bed, to my place of comfort, with my parents just on the other side of my wall, sleeping.

This hard, unfamiliar sofa was no place for me. This house smelled so different and I was cold.

I laid there wide awake worrying about things I didn’t know.

My stomach and heart ached simultaneously and I could feel it coming on in my forehead too.

I didn’t know when they would be back or how long it would take or what would happen next.

There was nothing I could do but be the good girl I always was, trying to make up for other mistakes.

It seemed like years before she came back to get me. I could still see her face in the dark, worn with worry and she looked older somehow.

The days and weeks to follow were full of arguments and tears and conversations about things of which I knew nothing.

Adult things.

I will not ever forget that night.

It is seared into my heart and my conscience, never to leave me.

And to be honest, I am not sure I have forgiven.

Not yet.

I hope to.


This was written for the following prompt from Write On Edge:

We all have them.
Memories that we wish we could forget…things that we wish we could banish from our minds.
Imagine that writing down your worst memory will free you of it.
What is it?
Why does it haunt you? 
Write it down and let it go. (if only it were that easy for me…)


  1. I loved that first line. It really set the tone for the whole post. You captured so well the fear we feel as kids when something out of our control, something we barely understand, happens.

    Thank you so much for sharing this moment with us. xo

  2. That must have been so terrifying as a kid and you told the story so well.

    I loved this week’s prompt. It is something so personal and that makes it even more difficult to write about, in my opinion. You did awesome!

  3. I could feel how scared and confused you were. I want to give that little girl a hug. :(((

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I would hug the little you (or the adult you) if I could.

    The way you describe sleeping on the sofa? It’s just perfect. The different smell and the hard sofa and being cold. Feeling alone.

    Adult things are tough, but I want to try to remember stories like this and always respect my kids enough to try to prevent this kind of scared, unknowing feeling.

  5. You described that feeling of being an innocent, unknowing child so perfectly. The way we know things but aren’t told them fully and the fear that evokes. Beautifully written but so sorry this is your memory.

  6. I’m with CHeryl—the details in the beginning especially? set the tone here. Carried well throughout the piece. could see you on that sofa, cold and alone, and wanted to hug you through the screen.

    excellent job, Elaine. I’m so glad you published this. Thank you for sharing this slice of your life with us, for trusting us. It’s beautiful.


  7. thank you for bringing us into your room, your head, your heart, in this piece. I’m sorry for the pain and confusion you felt that night, and the resentment that simmers inside when you think about it. It’s understandable and valid. *HUG*

  8. Family. It really does suck sometimes. Sometimes I wonder if these people that do these things really deserve our forgiveness, do they even want it?

  9. I can imagine the fear your little-girl-self was feeling that night…you wrote this so well, I felt as though I was right there with you, living it and being afraid as well.

  10. The writing in this piece is phenomenal. The emotions, the seeing what’s happening through a child’s eyes. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Ugh. How tender. These things seem to stay so current, even when we have dealt with them. You are brave to share.

  12. Your writing in the post is so captivating.

    I’m so very sorry you have this memory. I can only imagine how terrified you were.

  13. Beautifully done, Elaine. I felt your fear. That must have been so unsettling as a child (it would be unsettling for an adult, for that matter!).

  14. You really did capture the feeling of being little and only understanding bits and pieces.

  15. I’m so sorry that this happened to you but I’m afraid I am gulity of doing similar things to my now adult children when they were small. I can’t go back and do it over but I can apologize for such times as this. Thanks for giving me an eye opener.

  16. Oh my goodness, it’s been so hard to read these since I know I am sitting and reading such a powerful memory from each of you.
    This was written so beautifully and with such emotion, but behind that was the memory, the event, the accident and thing you need to forgive….I’m so sorry that you have this memory, but am so glad you wrote it to let it go.