The Youngin' Years

I was born in a small Midwest town to a low-income, young couple. After two months of dating, they got married and their first child (me) was born nine months later. I was named after my father, Rick, as in e-RIC-a. Originally my name was supposed to be Jessica, but a last-minute change landed me with this one instead. For awhile, I believed I was named after Erica Kane from “All My Children” because my Mom watched it daily.


My 31-year-old dad, by degree, was an artist. Unfortunately, art was not providing income for him, so he worked a commission-based floor job at Sears. My 20-year-old mom dropped out of college, where she was majoring in theatre makeup (if I remember correctly). She decided being a dental assistant was more practical.


The young couple moved in with my maternal grandparents for help with me and to save up for their own place. When they got a small apartment, my dad transitioned from Sears to car sales, which was providing a higher level of income and allowed my mom to stay home. A year or so later, my mom was pregnant with their second child, my brother (who is four years younger than me). 


A couple years after he was born, we moved into our first house. It was small, cute and cozy. I was excited that I got to pick out paint for my bedroom, and we had a tree I could climb. I also really wanted a canopy bed, and they made it happen. Although most of my youngest memories are foggy, they become more distinct after the age of 6. 



One of the worst ones—and I still feel guilty about it to this day—is in first grade. We watched a video about sexual abuse that was in broad enough language for first-graders to understand. I had a very strong emotional response to the video but couldn’t place why. The video informed viewers about why we need to talk with our teacher if anything from the video happened to us. Examples of what kids should be wary of included things like a dad slipping into bed with his daughter while fully clothed.


I originally thought that was fine, but the video said it wasn’t. I stayed after class and awkwardly told my teacher that some of the things in the video had happened to me. The next day I was pulled out of class and interviewed by investigators from the police department.


I read the transcript years later. While sad and scary at the time, it was also comical—if you weren’t involved in it. I was asked about whether my dad ever got into bed with me, and I said “yes, he lays in bed to read me a story, or to help me go to sleep.” When asked if he had ever touched me beneath my clothes, I said “yes, to give me wedgies.” When asked if I ever saw him naked, I said “yes, sometimes I have seen him when he comes out of the bathroom with his robe on.”


Afterward, my dad was ordered to be separated from me. My mom believed my dad had molested me. We ended up moving in with my grandparents while things were being sorted out. A Department of Child Services (DCS) case was opened, and my dad had to undergo a lie detector test and we were required to take counseling. It feels like we were separated for a pretty long time, but it could have been my perception as a child.


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