Summer nights in Maine are amazing.  The days can get so unbearably hot…the humidity just hangs in the air and can feel so suffocating.  But, after the sun sets, that same humidity that made you completely miserable during the daylight, becomes a comfortable, delicious wrap in the evening, a thin layer that shields you against the cold.

My step-father and I would often sit outside, just beside the front door.  We sat side by side in our folding lawn chairs, the aluminum kind with the woven plastic mesh seating.  The ones that lasted just a handful of summers before the webbing frayed.  (I’ll never forget how the hard edges of that plastic webbing cut into my plump adolescent thighs, the way I had to peel my skin from them when I stood.)

We would just sit and, there in the peacefulness of those humid evenings, we would talk.  Or we would simply take in the silence.  But the distinguishing part was that whether we spoke or not, we were comfortable.  There was no tension.  It was as though in the relative darkness, we saw each other.  He was kind in those moments, which made the horrible ones even more painful.

There were nights when he would ask me if I wanted to go nightcrawling.  We would gather up the necessities, a good flashlight with fresh batteries, a bucket, several handfuls of wet dirt.  Out on the moist lawn, I was tasked with shining the flashlight beam and holding the white plastic bucket while he grabbed hold of the earthworms before they shimmied back into the warm, dark earth.

There’s a technique to nightcrawling, you have to be so quick…good hand-eye coordination is key.  We filled our bucket with the squirming, fleshy worms and placed a snug lid, complete with air holes, on top to keep them for fishing the next day.

I remember many nights of nightcrawling, but so very few days of fishing.  Perhaps I didn’t get invited on those fishing trips.  I only remember the nights prior, the nights when I was his helper.  When I was good enough and he went easy on me.  Nights when I hoped that he would come to see that I was a good girl. That I was good enough.

But, those nights didn’t last.  In the light of day, I was no longer his helper, his right hand, his companion.

When the sun rose, I was stupid, lazy, and fat. My name was no longer Nichole, Babe, or Hon, it became Idiot, Dumbfuck, Moron and a slew of others.

He never hesitated to lay me bare in the daytime.

In the day, he probably hated his life.  In the evenings, when regret kicked in, he was softer, more able to see me, to pull me in.

If he had been consistently mean, I could have disengaged, written him off as a horrible human being, devoid of any redeeming qualities.

But, it wasn’t that simple.

None of it was that simple.

This post is linked up with the memoir prompt over at The Red Dress Club.


  1. Jessica

    He did hate his life and I'm guessing possibly had some for mental illness. Not defending him, in any way, what he did was wrong beyond measure. just saying. Beautifully written.

  2. Oh Nichole.. My heart aches for you, for that child. It makes me want to give you a hug and show you that love is not supposed to be conditional.

    You described the summer nights perfectly, and I was transported to my childhood, only I ran around catching fireflies instead of nightcrawling.

    The anguish, the hurt, the uncertainty conveyed in the writing, is almost tactile, as if I'm standing there next to you, able to touch you and protect you from the emotional beatings.

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Rachel

    Nichole…you have such an amazing way with words. Fucking unbelievable. I am sorry that you had to endure this in your childhood. And now I have another glimpse into why you and Craig are such amazing parents. Much love to you my friend.

  4. I could feel the heat, and the see the dark descend. I could feel your child like hope. Your need to be seen. You have been given a special talent to be able to retell these moments so viscerally. I am in awe of the little girl who didn't give up and the woman who she became.

  5. jessb27

    Oh you have such an amazing way of writing. I'm entranced by your words but have to blink and remind myself that this truly happened to you and not the character in a book. I am so sorry for all that happened to you. Many hugs.

  6. transplantedx3

    A cool shiver, I can feel the worms wiggling in my hands. I've been told so many times that the harshness in my life is what had made me strong. I say the same holds true for you. You are everything you are in spite of the way he treated you. And that's a very good thing. Thank you for sharing such a bittersweet memory. Your writing is beautiful.

  7. Speechless. I felt it coming but hoped it wouldn't. I'm so sorry that this has to be a childhood memory for you. It shouldn't be for anyone.

  8. @sharmstro

    Your words are so beautiful. You have such a talent for telling stories.
    It is so much easier to read such a story when it is labeled fiction.
    His words. So ugly. So hurtful. It makes me sad that you or any child should have hear them.

  9. Laura

    Wow. Amazing writing, painful memories.

  10. Jill

    Wow! I totally didn't expect that twist. I thought you were going to go on about special memories of fishing, etc. Great writing, & thanks for letting us into your world.

  11. kate b

    Wow! I did not expect that. You words painted a beautiful yet sad picture.

  12. Cheryl @ Mommypants

    Beautiful, Nichole.

    I could feel the nylon of the chairs digging into my legs, the blanket of humidity, the need just to be loved.

    So proud of you. So freaking proud.


  13. melanieb120


    You totally took me there. There is a beauty to your writing that just captivates the reader. I like how you write so efficiently – using the exact amount of words to describe the scene, your stepfather, yourself, the emotions coming from the both of you and the moments.

    I do love how you tell stories. Thanks for sharing this one.

  14. TheJackB

    I felt myself growing so angry with him. You did such a good job of setting the scene I felt like I could reach out and slap him.

  15. SquashedMom

    Once again such beautiful writing and so sad a tale. I cannot imagine having such a Jekyll and Hyde (step-)parent. I grieve for you, for the beautiful girl who should never have been called such ugly names by anyone, let alone one whose care she has been placed in.

    But the writing? Luminous. As always.

  16. You have such a way of taking something hurtful and infusing it with your own beautiful spirit and words. My heart aches for the childhood you, for the names and the hurt and the uncertainty of his love. No matter the reasons for his mood/action swings, they're so very devastating to a child.

  17. tracy

    So powerful. I could feel all of your emotions being pulled in every direction. I am so angry at him.

  18. Klz

    Human beings are so horrendously complex. Hate that this hurt you

  19. jfarelyn

    amazing. so powerful. thank you for sharing this part of your story.

  20. Jen Has A Pen

    I am aching for you. I feel like I have wet knees from nightcrawling, and tear filled eyes. I didn't opt to do this memoir piece, but should have. I love what you've done. Love it.

  21. I could have sworn I was actually reading a novel and not a memory, which says a lot for how it was written.
    My heart hurts for the way you were treated, the words you used made it that much more sad.

    thank you for sharing it….and for being you.

  22. tulpenelefanten

    I never thought myself lucky to have disengaged at a very young age until I read this. We do what we have to to survive.

  23. Jennifer

    He obviously had problems, but what an amazing person you were to forgive him every day and risk trying again. Some might see that as weakness, but I think it took a lot of strength.

  24. Leighann

    How right you are. Understanding he simply didn't like you would have been easier probably but it may not have molded you into the amazing person you are now.

  25. I lived in that house of name calling. It shakes you to your core. No child should have to endure that in their own home. A place of safety and comfort..
    Thanks for being so brave for sharing this.

  26. this is a lovely piece… i can see you as a girl, longing for unconditional love. I only wish it had been freely given.

  27. It would be so easy if they were wretched all the time.

    But the times they are not make you hopeful.

    And hope can be a very dangerous thing, at times.

  28. erin margolin

    Oh sweet Nichole, I am so sorry. You didn't deserve that. My hurt hurts. I want to give you a giant bear hug….you caught me by surprise with that,

    Some memories sting. This isn't fair. But as usual, you did an impeccable job with the prompt.

  29. Yuliya

    You are strong and beautiful in spite of him (and all of the other unfair things that have happened) The writing is delicious, and I'm transported back in time crawling around with you.

  30. thecrayonwrangler

    I think the part of this that I love the most (aside for the wonderful writing) is the fact that you grasped tightly to those good moments. You didn't disengage. I'm sure it would have been easier for you if you had of, but what character that has built in you now. Even to the extent of your title…"the small moments" You have learned to pick through the vile and find the beauty!

  31. wantapeanutblog

    You have such a wonderful way of sharing your stories, beautiful moments even through the pain.

  32. Mandi

    This is a beautifully written and brave. My heart hurts for you.

  33. Mad Woman behind the Blog

    "He was kind in those moments." It does make you wonder why he wasn't during the day.
    This pain he inflicted on you, it makes the mommy rise up out of me and want to hurt him for hurting my friend. I love you, my Hobbit, and the person that you were and the person that you've become.

  34. J P

    Amazing how many of us had a "sicko" in our past! Very well written.

  35. How heartbreaking! It really is easier in some ways when someone is cruel all the time. Those moments of kindness give us hope.

  36. ksluiter

    This shows you, Chole. It's you. Always clinging to the good…the hope. It's because you are such a beautiful and true person.

    We had such similar childhoods…the weather the chairs the nightcrawling…yet so very different.

    Your ability to take me back to my own childhood through your writing is remarkable…yet sad for what is so strikingly different.

    love to you, my friend.

  37. mrsbear0309

    Wow. That was beautifully written. I'm sure it was that much harder to reconcile the person he was on those nightcrawling adventures with the person he was during the day.

  38. Miri

    My heart goes out to you… I am so sorry that you had to deal with so much abuse, from your step-father as well as your first husband.

    I didn't do this memoir piece. When I read the assignment I knew which memory I would write about, the one where I crouched behind the bathroom door, wondering if this time my uncle would kill me… but I just couldn't write it. And as you said, it wasn’t that simple.

    I'm glad we've both made ourselves a happy ending.


  39. Nichole, this is absolutely beautiful– and heartbreaking. Like everyone else, I was right there with you because of your deft use of concrete details. Really beautiful scene. I wonder about your mother here. Where was she? How did she react to the name-calling? (I haven't head the pleasure of reading your archives, so maybe you've already written about her…) But I imagine that the pain is double if she hears how he treats you and doesn't defend you? My heart goes out to that little girl you were. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  40. Nichole

    Thank you so much Kate, for offering us this prompt and for visiting me here.

    My mother has been a constant in my life. She was there and would distract him or tell him to stop when he was being vile. She offered me comfort many ways and tried her best to be a buffer. I believe that she did what she felt was best for our family as a whole.

    My own father died when I was two and my step-father is my brother's father. She wanted so desperately to believe that he could be a father to me. When he was kind, he was amazing. We were all hopeful that he would make peace with his own demons and be the man we knew he could be.

  41. Nichole

    He was the product of a difficult childhood himself.
    When he was kind, he was truly lovely.
    But, you just didn't know when he would change.
    From what I know of him today, he is happy and far more even tempered.

  42. Nichole

    My mother always loved us unconditionally.
    For every unkind word he had, she had two positive ones.
    Thank you for your kind words…I truly appreciate them.

  43. Nichole

    Thank you, my beautiful friend.
    I appreciate those compliments more than I can ever tell you.

  44. Nichole

    Thank you, Dana.
    Your words have made my day. Truly.

  45. Nichole

    Thank you, Jessica.
    I know that you understand firsthand that difficult experiences make us who we are.
    Knowing that doesn't make them less horribly painful, but we are stronger for them.
    I appreciate your kind words. :)

  46. Nichole

    Yes, I do believe that the pain that we endure makes us stronger.
    I wish that you didn't have to know that. No one should know the pain that you've endured.
    Thank you for your kind words here…I appreciate them so much.

  47. Nichole

    Thank you for reading and for leaving me your thoughtful words.

  48. Nichole

    Thank you, my sweet friend.
    His words were, indeed, ugly. As were the scars that he carried with him.

  49. Nichole

    Thank you, Laura.

  50. Nichole

    Thanks so much, Jill.

  51. Nichole

    Thank you for reading, Kate.
    There was much beauty in my childhood. There was far more good than bad.

  52. Nichole

    Thank you, my friend, for everything.
    I still miss Maine summer nights.
    Yes, I only wanted his love. He didn't even love himself, though.

  53. Nichole

    Thank you so very much, Melanie.
    I really appreciate your kind words on my writing. There are so many ways in which I want to improve. Being a part of the Red Dress Club has been amazingly helpful.

  54. Nichole

    Thank you for reading, Jack.

  55. Nichole

    Thank you, Varda. I really appreciate the words that you've left for me here.
    You are a lovely friend.

  56. Nichole

    Thank you so much for your lovely words.
    I appreciate you more than I can ever express.

  57. Nichole

    I was angry for a long time, but in recent years, I've come to realize that he was broken by a tough childhood and he framed his world through that lens.
    That doesn't take away the pain that he caused, but it has helped me to make peace with it and with him.

  58. Nichole

    That's exactly it, KLZ, so horrendously complex.
    There was so much that I couldn't understand as a young girl that I can see now.
    There are infinite shades of gray.

  59. Nichole

    Thank you so much for reading. :)

  60. Nichole

    Thank you, Jen.
    I love that you could feel the wet grass.
    Thank you so much for reading.
    You could always write something today. The link stays open through tomorrow night. :)

  61. Sherri

    You painted quite a vivid picture there, Nichole, and I felt like I was YOU. And how can a child totally write someone off who is kind and gentle one moment, mean and spiteful the next? My heart breaks for the girl Nichole…I want to take her away and take her fishing.

    But you know what floors me? How you've overcome so much, to give so much in return…to you family, your wonderful husband and kids, and to your friends.

    You won.

  62. Great writing Nichole. I can't even believe that you had to go through this as a child. Such an awful, awful thing. I can imagine it gives you a whole different perspective on being a parent yourself.

  63. CDG

    Another gorgeously written devastating blow, Nichole. You lull us into the soft, damp skinned Maine summer night and knock us flat.

    It's a rare gift, to deliver the complexities of human failing with a gentle touch.

  64. Renee

    How interwoven those memories.
    The wonderful evenings. The harsh daylight.
    Beautiful and painful.
    I'm so sorry there was not more beauty.

  65. Brooke

    Most days I think if I had a choice between strength and peace, I'd choose peace and leave my strength and past behind. Unfortunately we don't get to make that choice, and if we have to make the best of a situation, then I guess accepting our strength is a laudable outcome.

    Thanks for sharing.

  66. Tonya

    This post gave me chills… your writing is beautiful and so descriptive. I feel so sad for that little girl, but know that she has an amazing future and so much love ahead of her. xoxo

  67. Natalie

    Wow. No more words…just wow.

    And you do you write like that??! You have such a beautiful gift.

  68. Wow! This was written so well. I was in the story. You made my heart ache…hurt…cry.

  69. Mandyland

    This so cleverly written. The darkness when the light of his soul came out, the light of day when the darkness reared it's ugly head.

    I'm so very sorry that you experienced this sort of childhood.

  70. MamaRobinJ

    I really love your writing, Nichole. It's simple in a really beautiful way that allows the reader to just experience the story without getting caught up in extras that don't need to be there. Really perfect. Thanks for sharing this story.

  71. Karen Peterson

    This is really well written and I know exactly what you are talking about because I could relate to this 100%.

  72. Lydia

    I get this- the not so simple of someone who you can't disregard even though some of the things they put you through makes you wish you could. Sometimes(possibly never) life is not simple or black and white or always like it should be.
    I did do the prompt but when I tried to think of a memory from childhood, the ones that stood out were painful things I just try not to think on too much these days.
    I did a much more recent memory instead because of that reason.

  73. Lydia

    But this was beautifully written, expertly done, I felt what was good in him and what was very, very wrong.

  74. Wow. First, wonderful writing. Second, I'm so sad that he couldn't always be good to you. Children, humans, deserve so much better. Heartbreaking.

  75. Melissa

    Oh Nichole, you write so beautifully but all I can think of is how horrible that must have been for you. I know as a child, we do what we can to survive and see the good.

    But…what a damaged person. A damaged person hurting a child. A child is ever hopeful and vulnerable and that's what pains me about adults and parents who don't treat that with respect and kindness.

    I've been that child. *Hugs* to you my dear friend.

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