By Pat Maurer
Growing up in the 50s in an impoverished family with a browbeaten mother and an explosively volatile and abusive father can be a hard thing to overcome, but Christine Pechacek has managed it well, and has “purged some of her ghosts through the writing of an often sad and sometimes humorous memoir about her life in her book “If I Had Wanted a Trip Through Hell, I would Have Bought My Own Ticket.”
She has, as the back of her new books says, “learned to use the pain and suffering she grew up with as building blocks of empowerment toward a successful life.” This beautifully written memoir describes poignantly Pechacek’s journey through childhood, dealing with the stress and fear and deprivation “that flew in the face of the American dream.”
“Ours wasn’t an Ozzie and Harriet family,” she said.
She said she wrote the book for her family. Writing it took a year and a half, she said, and it all started when she and husband Dan were on their way to the Florida Keys and thinking about the old neighborhood and grandparents. “It just kind of morphed from there,” she said.
“The project began as a way to leave to my children and grandchildren a legacy of who we were, where we came from and as my sister said “I want my grand-kids to know why I’m crazy.” The story is one I believe many can relate to, growing up in the 1950s in a world very different from today. It is unique as well. Dan, then ten years old, is now my husband, and I met him when I was just five years old, when he became my neighbor. The story is one of tragedy and hope, more entwined than can be said in a sentence or two.”
With a smile, Dan said, “She used to play with my sisters all the time. I was five years older so I didn’t pay much attention [to her].” He has been her partner and supporter while writing the book and “was my best proofreader,” said Christine. “We did it together.”
She continued, “I wanted our grandchildren to know about us. We have a very unique story to tell and there is a lot they didn’t, and even our children didn’t know about us.” She went on, “They didn’t know about the abuse in my home and in their dad’s home. Our upbringing was unique.”
Dan and Christine, both young and still struggling with the abuse and confusion of their childhoods, grew up and married. She wrote, “Most of those years were spent as strangers living in the same house, pretending we were two people of one mind, with shared goals, working and striving toward a better future for our family. In truth, we spent too many of our precious years warring against each other…”
“We, Dan and I, were like to two aliens dropped onto a foreign land filled with lights and sounds that made no sense. In our efforts to learn and survive, we followed and did the only things we knew to do, imitate parental teaching and follow their role models.”
In the epilogue to the book, Christine said, “Our parents spent their short lives gasping for air, struggling to survive only to drown in the pools of cruelty and selfishness they themselves helped to create and could not escape. In their desperation to survive, they pulled down seven innocent lives.”
She said both her parents, and Dan’s were also raised in an abusive environment, and that life continued into the next generation with their own families.
Her author’s note begins, “Growing up I did not wonder about my life. I did not ask why, what if, where I came from, or what did my future hold….My days were spent zigzagging a course that kept me clear of the chaos that surrounded me every day of my young life. Finding ways to dodge bullets of rage fired randomly in our house was all consuming. My parents, swallowed up by their own misery, offered no oasis of comfort or sanity.”
She wrote, “It is said that you never forget, not really. It is mercy, however that my mind draws blanks when I try to recall much of my childhood.” She said that time spent remembering with family helped to bring some of those memories to light. “We share stories with the grandchildren. If we don’t tell them, how will they know us? Its [the book’s] main intention is for the children,” she added.
Her story may be primarily for her family, but it will resonate with “how a lot of people in our generation grew up.”
“It was terrible,” she said, “but there is funny in there too. It wasn’t always bad. We played outside all day long and had loads of simple fun with our friends.”
“If I Had Wanted a Trip Through Hell, I would Have Bought My Own Ticket” was published in December of 2012 under OnPoint Publishing, LLC, which Christine said is her own. “As you know the world of publishing is a labyrinth of well-known, established authors. Because I went into this project knowing full well the challenge of being published, I opted to do this on my own. It is for sale on Amazon.com as well as Kindle.com. The books are also for sale by contacting me directly via my business email, firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The Pechaceks are now retired and live north of Harrison. They moved to the area in 1976.
Christine is a retired human resources executive in the education field and worked in both the college environment at Mid Michigan Community College and later at St. Clair Shores, and in the K-12 sector. She is also a trained mediator, and a public speaker.
She retired in 2009.
She said, “Dan and I have been married forty-seven years, lived in Harrison for thirty-eight years, raised our children here, and operated a successful business for over thirty years.”
Until his semi-retirement in 2005, Dan owned D&J Sheet Metal, a business he opened in 1977 and eventually sold to their son.
They have a daughter, Julie Carr, who lives in Caro with husband Christopher and their three children, Madison, 18, Noah, 16 and Zoe, 14. Julie has a business, OnTrak Consulting and Career Coaching and is currently collaborating with Christine on a book about women, leadership and beginning from where ever you are in life. “I’m excited about that,” she said.
Their son, Samuel and his wife Stacy have two children, Madgalynn, 4, and Maxton, 18 months. They live in the Holland area.
Christine is already working on a sequel to “If I Had Wanted a Trip…” and is also working on two other new books. “This is her entertainment,” Dan said. “When she is working, I leave her alone.”
When she isn’t working, the couple enjoy trips on a Harley and spending time with family.