Family Matters


Family Matters

The Family Album: Growing Up in the Shadow of Depression

By Janine Roberts

November/December 2019


Sitting on lookout at the edge of the treehouse, I kicked my legs back and forth. The scrap wood Dad had built it with roughed the back of my thighs. When were Mom and Dad going to drive up? She’d left a couple hours ago to pick him up at that special hospital—the one no kids could visit. I hadn’t seen him since I’d finished first grade in June, and it was already August.

When I heard the chugs of our old 1946 Packard, I quickly lay flat so they wouldn’t see me. Mom opened the trunk, pulled out Dad’s ramshackle suitcase, and walked toward the door of our salmon-pink house. Dad slowly stepped out of the passenger side, clutching in his arms honey-colored pieces of wood the size of large books. What were those?

After my parents were inside, I scrambled down the wood-hammered crossways on the tree trunk and saw Mrs. Schutte, our neighbor who’d been watching us, walk out the door. I ducked behind the Japanese quince bush and skirted the house, peeking in the windows for Dad. I wanted to tell him that I could row our boat all by myself now! That I’d swum to our raft out in Lake Killarney alone five times! Spying him in our living room, I saw him handing each of my siblings—Tanya, Brian, and Mark—two pieces of that wood he’d been holding, only now I saw that in between the pieces were sheets of paper.

Mom spied me and opened up the back door. “Neene, come see what your Dad made for you,”…

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