By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Braedon Kuts’ time in Keizer probably wasn’t the best of her life so far, but it provided plenty of fodder for her new memoir “The Absent Embrace: One Small Girl’s Resilient Spirit.”
“My mother saw I was doing poorly in school at a young age and she took took me out on impulse thinking she would home school me, but it became too much and the situation became neglectful,” Kuts said.
Kuts’s mother took her and her brother from the care of their father – it was reported as a kidnapping – and hid the children in Keizer before she fled the state leaving the kids behind.
“My mother didn’t buy food at all, I remember loitering around Porter’s Pub when I was 13, spying on the customers, waiting for them to leave so I could eat their scraps,” Kuts said.
Other experiences included panhandling in front of the 7-11.
“I also remember playing out in the fields behind the Country Glen housing track, building forts and catching mice with home-made traps to help feed my 24 cats,” Kuts said.
She was enrolled at Whiteaker Middle School for a week before classes ended for the year and entered McNary the following year.
“I didn’t understand anything the teacher was telling me. I remember he asked me to write down the year and I asked him what a year was. I had the education of a third grader at the time,” she said.
Her lack of education manifested in other ways as well.
“I was used to seeing the word ‘pull’ on doors, so when she saw it on a little red box walking through the McNary hallway, she didn’t think anything of doing what it told me. Then the alarms sounded,” she said.
School officials tried to get Child Protective Services to intervene, but Kuts, now 28, was uncooperative for fear of getting her mother in trouble. She didn’t consider herself homeless, she always found a place to stay, but eventually she’d end up kicked out. At age 15, she was returned to her mother, but another hasty retreat left her couch-surfing again. All the while she was slipping further into drug addiction, which her mother had introduced her to at the age of 12.
It wasn’t until she moved to California that she finally started to get some traction in her school efforts.
“I don’t really know where that came from, but I was a writer – I’d been a journal keeper all my life even though I could barely write – and I wanted to learn so I could do it well,” Kuts said.
She even managed to graduate high school early. Since then she’s turned out a children’s book, “All in a Night’s Dream,” which she illustrated, and is experiencing a budding career as a comic book artist. She’s working at adding motivational speaker to her arsenal of talents.
“I’ve been to a couple of the schools around where I live in in California and the kids have been really responsive, I’m hoping to get the chance to speak at McNary one day,” she said.
She credits her eventual embrace of education, and all it offers, with her current success.
“Because I did not go to school for so long, by the time I got into high school and got some traction, I had a deeper appreciation for education when other classmates despised being there,” Kuts said.
Kuts’s books are both available on amazon.com.