I didn’t go to kindergarten until I was 6 years old. Mom decided that the she didn’t want me going all alone on a long bus ride. So, she waited until Wren was 5 and we started kindergarten together. Because of all our moving we ended up going to several different schools. I don’t remember how many. Wren had to repeat kindergarten, so I still ended up a grade ahead of her. I remember thinking it all a waste that I started a year late when we ended up in separate grades anyway. I wanted to do well in school. I was just as much a people pleaser as I am today. I remember crying when a girl wrote me on the board for talking when the teacher was out of the room. If I didn’t make an A on a test, I would get very upset with myself. I kept A’s on my report card. I was completely devastated on the rare occasion I would fail a test.

As part of Crawford’s grooming, shaping and isolating us, I was taken out of school after graduating 5th grade. I guess the fear that we would tell someone what was happening to us at home was too great a risk to continue. We were to be home-schooled. I cried uncontrollably the last day of 5th grade. I would never see any of my friends again, but it was going to be better, he said. We could keep our own hours and study on the things that were important. I was put in charge of filling out the forms that we sent in to the Board of Education. I remember trying to come up with things we were doing at home that could count for subjects.

Issaqueena taught us Art because she was going to Brenau University studying art.  I only remember a hand-full of lessons.

We learned to type on a computer without looking. We would type “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” over and over. I can type without looking, all my fingers on the correct keys. This skill serves me well in my writing career. My kids look at me in awe.

As we worked to clear the Honey House property, we learned how to clip down brush, stack limbs, and drag it to a bon fire. Only Crawford could use the chainsaw, and we weren’t supposed to come too close. We learned to build a fence with 6’ pine logs soaked in kerosene, a staple gun, a post-hole digger, and a role of fencing.

I can stack firewood with the best of them and I know everything there is to know about starting a fire with cardboard and kindling (smaller yard sticks we picked up). I patiently stoke and coax a fire into life long after others would have given up or poured an accelerant on it.

We were put hard at work destroying our country accent. Everything time we used incorrect grammar or miss pronounced a word it was pointed out to us by Crawford. We would have to repeat the correct word back to him and restart our sentence. That is why people have a hard time believing I am from North East Georgia sometimes.

I was eventually put in charge of our banking account. I ran QuickBooks to keep track of all our expenditures. We learned to press a button on the recorder attached to the phone every time we answered it. Just in case it was important for later. I answered “Thank you for calling Atlantis, this is Tanya speaking.  How may I help you?” We must take a message. Crawford and Mom were never available to come to the phone.

Debt collectors can be very cruel. Especially when you sound like a 13-year-old.  Some would demand we put our parents on the phone. That was not an option. It didn’t matter how nasty they got. They didn’t understand that the option was worse than they could ever be to us. I don’t answer the phone now. If your number is not in my phone there is 0% chance me answering you. If you number is in my phone. That brings your odds up to 25%. If you are a distant relative, you just got to 50%. My personal close family, the odds are pretty good. I don’t make phone calls to people I don’t know. If my kids need a doctor’s appointment, I am driving to the office. If a child’s Mom is not willing to text me, then my kid is not coming to your house.

I learned a lot about sex. I learned how to give a man with foreskin a blowjob. A skill I have yet had to use anywhere else.

We got old enough eventually to not have to pretend we were being home schooled. I didn’t have to fill our papers anymore. School was never mentioned.

When I was 17 my stepsister Issaqueena volunteered at the Habersham County Adult Learning Center. I went with her one time and it was mentioned to me that I could study there for my G.E.D. For whatever reason, Crawford agreed. I studied there on the days she volunteered and took practice tests. On September 10th, 1999 I took and passed my G.E.D. test.

Author: Tanya Gadd

Tanya lives in Northeast Georgia with her well-loved, ungrateful children, one of whom won't do her homework, even under punishment of death. When not being a full-time mom, the rest of her time is spent working as a Certified Nursing Assistant, but her secret inner-life reveals her to be an avid reader who is always writing stories in her mind. Tanya hopes eventually to live in a world with few people, no phones, an awesome Internet, and more science fiction/fantasy books than she can ever hope to read.

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