By Don Haugen
CreateSpace, $12.95, 148 pages
Like a stain that fades but never is totally washed out, the author recalls the imprinted memories of a perverted childhood that continues to haunt him even now in his senior years. Born in the dregs of the depressing 1930s and continuing through two decades past the second World War, Don Haugen eidetically recalls his harrowing upbringing with a promiscuous mother who shortly abandoned the family, and a withdrawn father constantly striving to make ends meet in The Valley of Innocence Lost. Isolated and impoverished, he continually fought neighboring boys and school bullies in efforts to retain his dignity.
“I have an extraordinarily good autobiographical memory, maybe a superior one. I can remember everyday of my life. I didn’t ask for it. I don’t cultivate it. I just have it. I think it is an asset, a gift. My wife thinks it may be a liability, and I should forget some things. You can decide.”
Seeking warmth and preservation, he tenaciously embraced the Catholic Church and in the midst of his Dickensonian suffering sought salvation and parental guidance through religion. In his teens, added to the imposed deprivations of food, clothing, warmth,and especially human affection, he was subjected to forced manual farm labor under the control of his heartless, miserly, and brutishly cruel resident extended family. His juvenile mind constantly queried why those who witnessed his misery never interceded on his behalf. Written in simple script, as text related by a frightened youth, the story provides a sociological picture of the torment faced by abused and abandoned children. Interestingly, Don Haugen does finally emerge from this morass, gains a degree in sociology, and succeeds as husband, father, author, and noted sculptor. Still, the memories remain tormenting, and this account reads as a script from therapeutic sessions which he confesses have helped him to overcome the dreaded past. This account provides the reader with recall to years from our recent past and insight into the sculpting of a talented and unconquered individual.