Photo of Joyce at about 18 months.
Joyce (Joy) at about 18 months
Photo of Joyce at about 7 years.
Joyce (Joy) at about 7 years.

I remember, as a small girl (2nd grade) hiding in a large pipe under the road. It was there so water would not flood the road in the spring. Johnstown, back in the day, was either up or down with paths lacing through where an up met a down or visa versa. I had a couple of ratty books hidden in “the secret” and some twigs for a fire (YES! I built fires, and knew how to keep them safely going and how to put them out.) My little brothers did not know about this secret place, no one knew. I spent two days hiding, with my dog. Three days after I had been back at Gramma’s house, one of my brothers had asked where I had been. Silly boy, that he was, I made out like he must’ve dreamt I had been gone. It worked.

While visiting one of my aunts, a favorite place to hide was in this tree that grew in the middle of a field of Black Angus cattle. No one could ever find me there. You have to realize that no one, in their right mind, would even try to go to the tree no matter how fabulous the apples looked. There was approximately 200 black beasts meandering and munching all day around that tree. I was much older when I realized that my ability not to spook those black beasts was the true “hiding place.” BUT, the apples were delicious and it was quiet with the song of life. I know, but if you think about that, you’ll “get it.”

Months later, two of my male cousins followed me and discovered my hiding place. I got some really good junk from them as payment to take them to the tree. It was great fun. On a rainy day they discovered that if I was not with them, getting down from the tree was not an option as the cattle were packed tightly under the branches. It was a search like none other. My aunt placed a call to my Gramma’s house to wail that two of her sons had been kidnapped. Gramma got all upset and I soon realized the situation. I explained where they probably were and why. I got into so much trouble. My cousins didn’t, but I sure did. My Gramma did not like me much, and while I was 30 miles from the incident it was MY fault because I taught them how to get into the tree. Did it matter they were 2-4 years OLDER than me? NO! But, the hidden treasure was eating those apples, they were the very best, and very fresh, and very sweet, and very juicy.

In the winter, in Johnstown, my hiding place was behind the wall, of the bedroom where I slept. The attic had been made into two bedrooms and there was space behind one side of each room that was used as a storage place. Yes, it was cold, but my bedroom was cold… most nights I would sleep under my bed, next to my dog, under the quilt. I was not given a little heater, like my brothers, because the window in my room was not as large as the windows in their room; plus my room was much smaller, so between my body warmth and the hot water bottle I should be warm enough. Did I mention my grandmother did not like me much? I looked like my mother; my little brothers were carbon copies, so to speak, of our father, her finest “boy baby.”

Once, while living with my father and one of my moms, we moved into a house he was remodeling and the hiding spaces were so numerous I had three in the same residence! TRUE! One such hiding place was behind a huge, flat rock in the sub cellar, one was behind a wall board in the attic (which was found in the last month we lived there) and one was behind the gigantic fire place. I had books and some rags, some dried fruit and a candle in each place, AND my dog, of course.

When I was with one of my moms, I rarely hid unless my ears were hurting and bleeding. Sarah was the best at keeping the pain at bay. Nettie, however, could make the pain go away faster than anyone else. I loved my “moms” and my “grams”. I had some really fabulous dads, also, during my “child” years. It was the between times that were truly rough.

Nettie had given birth to twins. I loved those babies… my dog and I were loved by my half-brother… however, “Sissy” did not want any part of anyone except her mother. When they woke to eat during the night, I would take my “boyzie” and my dog and I would feed him, clean him and get back to sleep.

I had been rocking my half-brother when Nettie found us under the crib, behind a pillow and blanket. We both were asleep, bottle was empty, and the dirty diaper had been rolled in a piece of newspaper. Again, no pampers in those days. She asked me why I hid. Someday, I told her, I would tell her all about it. I was lying, but I don’t think she knew that at the time.

Hiding was my heaven. As I grew older I found “ways” to hide in plain sight. When I met my bio mom, she figured it out quickly. She told me how it amazed her I could be hiding and having a conversation at the same time. How she knew was beyond me for years. I figured out some of who my mother was by the time I had spent two years with her. I don’t think I had spent that much time with a mother figure, consecutively, since we had been separated from her. When I was in junior high school she gave me her diaries from all the years we had been separated. Whoa, what a wakeup call that turned out to be.

Apparently, women are extremely inventive when it comes to hiding places, spaces and paths to lose themselves in, or hide in. I use to wonder about all those people that had “normal” lives growing up. I was approximately 30 when I realized “all those people” were not as many as my “all” I had had in mind. That is sad, truly. I remember wondering what it would’ve been like to have the same parents, live in the same house for most of your childhood, have the same friends AND know their parents, too.

Six weeks after I was born I was in a car, Model A, heading to the east coast from California. The wheels in my life were many. To this day the “song of wheels” can put me to sleep in a heartbeat.