A Moving Experience

We left, then returned, a cycle of reentry and failure.

Dawn Gernhardt


Over ten years of my childhood, we moved eighteen times. Over two years as a teenager, our mom moved my twin sister and me nine times. Not to different countries or even across state lines and we’re not a military family. She sought independence but each launch prompted a return. Every exit, a reentry. By our eighteenth birthday, our mom kept going, leaving us with her parents for good.

The earlier moves included a pattern and rhythm. Clothing still on hangers. Pajamas, socks, and underwear out of drawers. Our mom’s record collection. My fraternal twin sister and my tomboyish clothing topped by our mom’s girly work dresses and outfits piled in the back of her aqua Datsun B210 with the frayed vinyl seats and busted radio. However transitory, at least we three — mom and two daughters — remained together. We’d sing in disharmony back and forth along the 101 freeway in Sonoma County.

Sometimes my sister and I lived with only our mom.

Sometimes our mom moved us in with her friends.

Once a brother with issues.

Once she moved us in with one of her boyfriends. He kept to himself, never shared a meal or a laugh with us. His ghost rattled around upstairs when we were down and downstairs when we were up. Our one big day out with him at a lake fishing, my sister threw back one of his undersized bluegill and he slapped her face.

New men entered and exited our lives — they never cottoned to being father figures. Every exit and entry took a chunk out of me. Tiny invisible cuts from the rejections and abandonment of these people and places — most we’d never see again. In the chaos, my mom, sister, and I clung to each other to stay afloat.

We called our maternal grandparents Nan and Pa. They provided our only stable “forever” house, though sporadic. A cycle of in and out, we three left, then reentered their house in fits and spurts. A revolving door of trial and error. A soft reset after each failed attempt by our mom to live on her own while saddled with raising two girls after a divorce.

Our Nan and Pa never moved. The controlling and well-meaning but stern grandmother. The dry-alcoholic grandfather who never…



Dawn Gernhardt

A writer: nonfiction in Random Sample Review and Pink Panther Magazine and humor in Defenestration, Wry Times, Funny-ish, and The Haven. Working on a novel.