After we got back to California, Mom and Fred's fights escalated.  One evening when we were out at the stables feeding the horses, Fred showed up, and he and Mom got into a fight.  At one point Mom angrily leaned over and started poking Fred in the stomach with her finger trying to make a point.   Incensed, Fred hauled off and slapped her face.

Upset at seeing my beautiful mom being hit, I started to cry and yelled out, "Mom!"   

"Be quiet, Morrene!" Mom said as she roughly wiped the blood off her mouth.

Not long after that fight, Fred moved out of the house, and Mom filed for divorce.  Needless to say, I was very relieved that Fred was gone.

Unfortunately, when Fred moved out of the house, I was no longer allowed to see Sunshine.  I was absolutely heartbroken knowing I would never get to ride my little pony again.

- - -

When fourth grade started, my teacher that year was a man named Mr. Sidman.  On the first day of school, my classmates and I stared at him in fear.  Most of us had never had a man as a teacher before, and we didn't know what to expect.   

Thankfully Mr. Sidman was a kind and patient teacher, and our fears subsided.

- - -

One afternoon shortly after school started, Mom came to pick up me and Brother from Marion's house.  Sitting in her car was a man we did not know.

"This is Emil.   We're getting married, and we're moving back to Wisconsin.  He's here visiting for a couple days," Mom said after we got in the car. 

Emil was a muscular man of medium build, receding blond hair, vivid blue eyes and a paunchy stomach.  

"Hi," Emil said kindly as he smiled at me and Brother.  When our eyes met, I smiled and shyly turned away.

That evening we went out to the stables to feed and water the horses.  While the horses ate, Emil petted them and told us how much he loved animals.   

When we were done feeding the horses, we went out for dinner, and Emil told us all about his beautiful house in Wisconsin and his new car.

I listened excitedly as I ate my hot fudge sundae.  I couldn't wait to see his house and ride in his new car! 

The next day Mom and Emil went to Knott's Berry Farm, and Brother and I were left home alone. 

After they left, I went to my room and played with my Baby Beans doll.   A short time later I heard a knock on the front door and got up to go answer it. 

Standing on the step was Fred.  When he saw me, anger distorted his features.

"Where is your mother?  GODDAMNIT, WHERE IS YOUR MOTHER?" he said as he looked at me with hate-filled eyes.

I stood rooted to the spot speechless with terror as he towered over me.

Receiving no answer, Fred roughly pushed me aside and walked back to Mom's room.  A few minutes later he angrily stormed out of the house.  I knew Fred had seen Emil's open suitcase on the floor in Mom's room, and he was not happy.

- - -

At the end of Emil's visit, we all piled into Mom's car to take him to the airport.    

When we got to the airport, we walked Emil to his gate.  Emil leaned down with open arms to give me a hug.  I shyly smiled at him and backed away.

"Next time I will get a hug," Emil said with a confident smile as he looked in to my eyes.

After saying goodbye to Brother and giving Mom a hug and a kiss, Emil boarded the plane to go home.

Little did I know that Emil would be far worse than Fred and would stay in our lives for many, many years.

- - -

After Emil went home, Mom spent a lot of time with me and Brother taking us to parks, the beach and Knott's Berry Farm on the weekends. 

I felt very close to Mom at this time and basked in the rare love and attention she showed me.  I eagerly listened to Mom when she talked about Emil and how much she loved him.  Mom even told me about the first time she and Emil kissed.    

Mom was patient and loving with me and Brother, and she rarely yelled or hit us.  But best of all Mom didn't push me away when I tried to hug her.  When she wrapped her arms around me, I desperately clung to her waist enjoying the feeling of safety and comfort I so craved.  

Sometimes Mom would put on country music, pick up our little dog, Muffin, in her arms and happily dance around the living room. I laughed as Muffin’s little ears bounced up and down as Mom twirled her around the room..

- - -

While Brother and I were in school, Mom packed for our move back to Wisconsin.  While she packed, she cleaned and threw out many items that she felt we would not need. 

Unfortunately she threw out all of the pictures and home movies of us with Fred in them, and a portion of my and Brother's life were completely destroyed.

Mom had not told Emil she was married to Fred because she wanted him to think that she had only been married twice.

- - -

When Halloween came around that year, Mom told me and Brother we were too old to go trick-or-treating.  She had plans for the day, and Brother and I were left home alone.

Brother and I sat outside and enviously watched the trick-or-treaters as they went from house to house begging for treats.  Not having candy to pass out, Brother kindly went to nearby homes trick-or-treating without a costume on so we would have candy to hand out.

- - -

In early November Emil flew out to California to move us back to Wisconsin.  Before we left, Mom dropped me and Brother off at Marion's house to spend the night.  Mom's divorce from Fred was finalized, and she and Emil were going to Las Vegas to get married.   

The next day when Mom and Emil got back, they picked us up from Marion's house and took us home.  After we got in the house, Mom played a tape recording of their wedding vows.  As we listened, Mom and Emil held hands and smiled lovingly at one another.

As I looked at them, my heart filled with happiness that my beautiful mom had found somebody to love again.

To be continued…..