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Dreams Dashed, Tennessee Family Heads Back Home

  • James "Demose" Teem, front, works to get a stone hot enough to cook hot dogs on as 2-year-old Sithren embraces his mother, Crystal "Neko" Teem, on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, at their tent near Hannaford Supermarket in West Lebanon, N.H. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • James "Demose" Teem makes the short walk from his tent to his job at Hannaford Supermarket as his wife, Crystal "Neko" Teem, sees him off on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, in West Lebanon, N.H. Teem worked at the deli counter in Hannaford for a couple of months until he quit to focus on the process of moving back to where his family came from, Paris, Tenn., after his family's new life in the Upper Valley didn't go as planned. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • James "Demose" Teem checks on his 2-year-old son, Sithren, who is in timeout for playing in the dirt, as he plays rummy with his wife, Crystal "Neko" Teem on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, at their tent near Hannaford Supermarket in West Lebanon, N.H. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • James "Demose" Teem, left, Crystal "Neko" Teem, center, and Sithren, 2, eat breakfast on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, at a Super 8 motel in White River Junction, Vt. After staying in a tent for about two weeks, the Teem family spent two nights in the motel before moving back to Paris, Tenn., after moving to Vermont with hopes of starting a new life, with a couple they met on an internet chatroom, and it going not the way they planned. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • James "Demose" Teem, center, and his mother, Karren Goddard Teem, of Paris, Tenn., talk with Vermont State Police Sgt. Dan Hall while Crystal "Neko" Teem sits in a van, after getting belongings from a house that the Teem family got kicked out of, photographed on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Bethel, Vt. Sgt. Hall helped the Teem family look for their cat, Thor, on the landlord's property, with no luck. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Crystal "Neko" Teem talks with her husband, James "Demose" Teem, about the family cat, Thor, that wasn't found while picking up their belongings from a house they got kicked out of in Bethel, Vt., while Sithren, 2, eats a chocolate-frosted doughnut on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, at a Super 8 motel in White River Junction. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sithren Teem, 2, left, Crystal "Neko" Teem, center, and James "Demose" Teem walk to their tent after shopping for toddler clothes on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, near Hannaford Supermarket in West Lebanon, N.H. James Teem said that state police came to his tent on more than one occasion and never gave his family a fine or told them to leave the city-owned property. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • James "Demose" Teem looks for the family cat, Thor, while picking up his family's belongings on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, at the home they were kicked out of in Bethel, Vt. Crystal "Neko" Teem, his wife, said that Thor was her familiar, a spiritual entity in an animal form that aids a witches with their magic.(Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Crystal "Neko" Teem, left, Sithren, 2, center, and James "Demose" Teem cross South Main Street after taking a bus from buying toddler clothes on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in West Lebanon, N.H. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



TEXT BY TIM CAMERATO
Sunday, September 10, 2017

West Lebanon — As they sat in the grass in a lot near the Hannaford supermarket off of Route 12A, James and Crystal Teem played a game of catch with their 2-year-old son, Sithren.

Sithren would throw his bouncy ball to his parents, they’d playfully bounce it back off his head, and the boy would laugh as chased it down.

Although the Teems were happy in that moment, the family of three has spent the last few weeks struggling to make ends meet. They weren’t at the lot because it’s a good place to play. They were there because that’s where they’ve been living.

Both James and Crystal grew up in Henry County, Tenn. They both identify as pagan witches. James prefers to be called “Demose.” Crystal goes by “Neko.”

They saw New England as a place where they could find better jobs, and also hoped the move would help them further their spiritual learning. A few months ago, “The promise of a new life” drew them to the Upper Valley, Demose said. “Unfortunately that all fell through.”

Demose and Neko moved in with a Bethel couple they’d had been chatting with online for about eight months, in the hopes of establishing a four-way relationship.

“At first it was bliss,” Demose said.

Everybody got along until the Teems began pulling back from the relationship, feeling things were getting awkward. Two months after moving in, a fight over the use of a shared car resulted in the Teems being kicked out of the house.

“Everything that they promised was lies,” Demose said.

Demose was working at the West Lebanon Hannaford at the time, so he moved the family down to the grassy lot, the same one where about a dozen homeless people made their home camping last year.

The family reached out to the Upper Valley’s social service organizations, Demose said, but were told that the Upper Valley Haven was full and funding to get them into another form of housing wasn’t available.

In their short time living in a tent in the lot near the supermarket, the Teems said, they have seen acts of both kindness and cruelty. Every few days, Demose said, a pickup truck comes to the lot and spins “doughnuts” to kick up dirt.

“It stirs up a hell of a lot of dust and we’ve got to cover everything up real quick so that way our stuff doesn’t get dusty,” he said.

The family also met an elderly couple who provided food and other goods.

“Everyone we met that has helped us we’ve given them a drawing because it’s all we have to provide,” Neko said. “I’m always drawing.”

Lebanon police have also offered to help. Under a no-camping ordinance passed last year, camping in the lot is illegal. But at least three officers have come by to check in on the family, telling them each time they won’t be kicked out. One even brought the family some blankets and a list of phone numbers for social service organizations that could help.

“That was pretty nice of the guy,” Demose said. “He was really cool.”

A day before, some people brought the family food. The packages of hamburgers and hot dogs sustained the family until they could arrange for a ride back south.

“I cooked it on a rock,” Demose said, explaining how he used a flat stone over a fire as a grill.

The family plans to make the 17-hour trek home to Tennessee and stay with Neko’s family as they work to rebuild their lives.

“Unfortunately, we have to move back to stability,” Demose said.

There, they hope to buy an RV until they can save up enough money to buy their own home in a few years.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.