Write about the five moments that changed your life.
Picking five moments that changed my life was much harder then I imagined it would be; and not because I have experienced a shortage of life altering scenarios. Instead, I found it difficult to distinguish the instances that had the most impact. After much consideration, I have narrowed them down to the following five:
This one was pretty obvious. For me, it’s the definitive moment in which my life was clearly divided between what it once was, (and what it most surely would’ve continued to be), from what it became instead. While my parents were emotionally abusive with all of my siblings and I, it was Rachel, my eldest sister who spent most of her childhood and teen years as the focal point of my parent’s rage and manipulative tendencies. When she was eighteen years old, a suicide attempt landed her in the hospital. From that moment on, my parent’s no longer had the advantage of a secretive life, as the lies they had built their life on began to fray and unravel. From that moment on, my life was never the same.
I remember waking up to the smell of my mom’s cooking. Even now, the memory of the aroma of her fried potatoes make me homesick. I was fourteen, and the most important thing on my mind that morning was claiming my space at the helm our Nintendo64 system before one of my brothers did. I remember the sounds my parents made as they moved about the house, pleasant sounds, a good indication that it was shaping up to be a good day.
How could I have known that at that very moment, a parade of police officers were en route to my home, and that within the hour my parents would be handcuffed and dragged away from our family table; that at the age of fourteen and twelve, a police officer would instruct my sister and I to pack a bag to leave our home, to take us to a strange house full of strange people, and for an undetermined amount of time. How could I have known that at that very moment, I was living out some of the final moments that my family would ever be together?
This memory is both bitter and sweet. It reminds me of the happiness my family shared, however sparse its presence. It also reminds me that if we disregard the callousness of our actions, we run the risk of losing everything we know and hurting everyone we love.
My parent’s child abuse trial had come to an end. They were sitting ahead of me at the defense table, and the Jury foreman had stood to read the verdict. The hatred for my family was thick in the air, as strangers and old friends alike had shown up to watch the real life drama that had encompassed my family. In the packed courthouse, there was no such thing as solitude or privacy. People stared, people pointed, people talked. Some of them swore at me, some of them glared and muttered quietly under their breath. All of them seemed to have forgotten that I was only fifteen. It definitely never appeared to cross their minds that although the absurdity of my family history certainly must have seemed like a primetime drama, it was my one and only shot at childhood.
After the guilty verdict was delivered, I watched my mom remove her wrist watch and earrings and then hand them to her public defender. She didn’t cry – she didn’t even flinch. It is quite possible that I was the only one in the room who even considered a “not-guilty” verdict was a real possibility. She turned to smile at me one last time before the officer lead her, along with my dad, through a side door. Once they were gone, the room erupted into hushed chatter, as everyone evaluated their actions and our response. The only thing I could think about was that we had been so rushed to get inside the courtroom, I didn’t even have time to hug her one last time. A second, and more chilling thought soon occurred. Out of all of the familiar (and not so familiar) faces in the courthouse that day, there was not one that bore any semblance of compassion or empathy. In a packed room, I suddenly felt alone.
I met Renee at a church youth group. After everything that I had experienced with my family, I was one messed up boy. She didn’t care one thing about how awkward I was. We soon became friends, which for me, is huge deal, as I didn’t, and still don’t, make friends very easily.
During a church trip to New Orleans, what began as a quick exchange on the steps of our Days Inn hotel, turned into an all night conversation in which I learned that my friend from church was actually pretty awesome. We were unaware of the hours slipping by, or the small lake beginning to form in the lot below, as the rain fell by the bucketload from the sky. All of that faded into the background, as it most certainly should when you are falling in love. I’ll never forget how shocked we were to realize that we’d talked the night away.
With the dawn, came a second chance for a new life. From that moment on, I was never alone.
On July 5th, Renee and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia from Tennessee. It was quite a culture shock to say the least. Leaving behind everything you know is a frightening notion, and I must admit, I was homesick at first. Aside from all of the typical things associated with a life change, something happened that I did not expect. With the physical and emotional distance from all of the people and memories associated with my hometown, I began to heal and move on from all of the things I never knew was holding me back. Most of all, it gave me the freedom to try to become the man I want to be, without the negative expectations of those who “know” me back home.
These are the five moments that evoked the most change in my life. What are yours?
Peter Combs is a 28 year old husband, writer and former foster child. He currently lives with his wife, Renee, in Atlanta, Georgia. Peter is the author of the blog Home.