So…yeah….the voices are still going and I’ve got loose ends from yesterday that I’ve got to tie up. I just got back to the house from my therapist’s office. She told me she got my application for disability request and was completing the information for them. I’m sure she’s got more to add today since I described to her about (1) the “rule of thumb” for hazardous materials incidents (if you can’t stretch your arm out to full length, look down the length of it and cover the entire object that’s leaking the material with your thumb, you’re too close), (2) how the length of your forearm (from the bend in your elbow to the bend of your wrist) is the same size as your foot, (3) the fact that I found a new show to watch the other night on H2 (used to be History International) called “10 Things You Don’t Know” and how it’s now a challenge for me to see if they can come up with things I don’t already know (the one on Hitler I knew all of them), and (4) how I not only applied for disability as she suggested but I also applied for a temporary job at the same disability office. That ought to confuse them. Oh, and when I was talking about the “10 Things You Don’t Know” episode they did on Caligula and how I knew most but not all, she had a strange look on her face because she didn’t know who he was. I find myself often having to explain what I’m explaining to her because I forget that there are people who don’t collect every bit of knowledge they have and store it somewhere until it’s triggered by something else and pops its way to the forefront of my mind. Today was a lot of those little “side-story” kind of days where my brain didn’t want to stay on-topic.
Oh, and I gave her a copy of the first part of this “log” (for lack of a better word) to put into my file. That ought to show them I’m nice and bat-shit crazy enough for disability. Probably not, but who knows?
Anyway, back to where I’d left off yesterday. I needed to explain how I’d “retaken” the fifth grade. After my stellar grades in Kindergarten and the same happening in 1st grade, my biological father informed us that we were moving to a new town where he was going to be the principal of the elementary school. I remember my parents trying to find a house to rent in the small town where the school was located so that we could live there during the week and in our permanent house on the weekends. The house they found had a lot of issues and we ended up not living there. I was happy because I remember going to run the water in the bathtub and it all came out black. That’s not because the house had crappy pipes; that’s because the whole town had crappy pipes. Even at the school you weren’t really sure what color the water in the toilet would be after you flushed it and washing your hands could sometimes make them look worse than before. I don’t even want to go into the drinking fountains.
Even though we didn’t move to the town, my dad was insistent that I attend school there because that’s where he would be and, at the time, my mother was going back to college for her second degree. This time, she was majoring in education and was going to be a teacher at the school as well. She ended up in the junior high/high school part and we moved away from that district before I ever reached those grades, so I never had her as a teacher. I did substitute teach years ago and would often get called to teach her classes, but that’s another story for another time.
Since my father was the elementary school principal and realized that I’d been very advanced (and bored) in school where I had been attending, he made the decision along with my 2nd grade teacher that I should be promoted to the 3rd grade. Once I finished all of the lessons in the spelling workbook I was officially moved-up into the 3rd grade classroom and took all of my classes with them. I moved along with those students from 3rd grade to 4th grade and then 5th grade, even though I was still considered only a 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 4th grade student. I did all of the work and made the honor roll in the classes that were a year advanced of where I should have been. I didn’t mind because I was able to learn more at my own pace and do things more advanced than the others.
But when I was chronologically a 5th grade student, we moved school districts. My father had gotten a job in another town as the middle school (junior high) principal and would be overseeing the 6th-8th grade classes. I was at summer camp in Mississippi for two weeks when they came to pick me up and announced that we were going “home” and we arrived in a town I’d only visited before after taking a LONG summer vacation (more on that later). They’d found a house and moved our stuff an hour away from where we had lived before. It was sad because I did have one friend that I would hang-out with and I was going to miss her. Most of my other friends I’d had in Kindergarten and 1st grade had moved-on without me because even though I lived in the town, since I didn’t go to the same school I didn’t exist.
The new town was a lot bigger and much different from where I’d lived or gone to school! In my previous school, I was in the minority as a white person. In the new town, that’s all I could find! Other kids thought I was crazy when I asked where the black students were and why no one was friends with any. The house my parents had rented was just temporary until they bought a new one — and it was brand new! The local trade school had built it and the home economics department decorated it. The house was auctioned and we ended up winning it. It was a nice house on a nice street and I had a nice neighbor — a gal that I’d met in 2nd grade until she’d moved away and now we were living next door to each other. So, at least I had a friend when I got there.
I thought for sure I’d be going to the middle school but my father didn’t want me standing out from the crowd too much. I asked about band because I’d begun playing the flute in 4th grade band and wanted to continue. In the new town, students weren’t allowed to start band until 7th grade. Even though I’d had a year behind me, I wasn’t going to be allowed to play. And I wasn’t going to be allowed to go to the middle school because my father decided that it would be better if I stayed with the students my own age. So, I had to “retake” the 5th grade. Even the textbooks were the same as we used in my old school! I mentioned this to my parents and the teachers but no one would budge. So, I did 5th grade again and then finally moved to junior high.
Oh, remember me mentioning that my parents moved while I was at summer camp? That wasn’t the only shocking thing that happened while I was away from home, but the camp I attended in Mississippi was a religious camp, 8 hours away from home, and I loved every minute of it each year that I went. The first year I went I was 9 (the youngest age they allowed) and I was only allowed to stay for one week since my parents weren’t sure how well I’d get along on my own. My friend Russell and some other guys from our church went as well. We knew about the summer camp because it was the same place in the winter where men from around the country would go for a religious deer hunting retreat. My dad would always bring home a buck and a doe and he and his friends would spend hours in our garage hanging the deer and dressing them. I loved watching it and wanted to help. When I was 8 years old, he returned from his week-long retreat with the deer and a BB gun for me. I was in heaven! And, since it was close to Christmas, I knew what I’d be doing out in the snow.
And, no, I never shot my eye out or killed anything with it. But, boy, I could sure hit the back of an old heavy aluminum Dutch oven hanging on the back fence! The “thwing!” that BB made as it ricocheted off the metal and into who knows what direction was thrilling. Of course, this was back in the day when parents would let their kids have BB guns, you could use a BB gun in the city limits legally, no safety equipment was worn, and no one concerned themselves about the return trajectory of the BBs as they “thwinged” themselves off of metal objects.
I loved my first year at summer camp. I got to swim in the pool and tried to water ski on the lake but just ended up being dragged around on my face. I met a lot of people from all over the southern United States who had absolutely NO idea what I was saying because I was a “Yankee” and didn’t have the Southern Twang that was needed to communicate. I also took horsemanship classes and got to take care of a horse and rode it every day. I was so busy having fun that I forgot that the large suitcase of clothing and personal items I brought with me included a brush and other objects with which to clean myself. I don’t remember it but my parents had a good time teasing me when they came to pick all of us up at the end of the week that I looked liked I’d gone wild because I forgot to brush my hair the entire time I was there. At least I swam and the chlorine in the pool could count as “bathing” more than what Russell did. He completely forgot to bathe or change clothes the entire time. We were both sent back to our respective cabins before we were allowed in the car with the other guys to return home.
We were all crammed in the station wagon — a big Oldsmobile full-sized station wagon with plenty of room in the back for our luggage, vinyl bench seats, and fake wood trim along the sides. My parents and I sat in the front (me in the middle with my feet on the “hump”) and the two older boys shoved Russell into the middle of the back seat between them. On the way to the main road from the camp was a very winding road that was gorgeous but wasn’t optimal for people with a tendency to have motion sickness. Russell was one of those. We heard a strange noise and then my mother and I looked over our shoulders into the back seat where we saw each of the teenage boys pressed as close to the doors as they could get while shouting that Russell was being sick all over the floor. And he was — and not just the floor. We had to pull over on the side of a barely two-lane gravel road and get Russell changed and try to clean up the sick. Thank goodness for those vinyl seats.
I never returned with the other guys and Russell to summer camp. Each year until I was 16 I went on my own. I’d stay for two weeks and have the time of my life. My maternal grandparents even bought me a joke book on “How to Speak Southern” which I actually used as a translation guide and my second year there people could understand me. I’d pack my dad’s old Navy trunk with enough clothes and books and other things to keep me occupied on rainy days and looked forward to going every year. And after we’d moved and I started my new school, I became even more desiring of being there because it was somewhere I could be happy.
The summer after my 4th grade year I spent two glorious weeks at camp and then my parents, with our dog in tow, showed up to get me. I was stunned by this but my dad was really good friends with the camp director and had made arrangements to sleep in one of the VIP cabins (where the speakers or other guests could stay) so that on the last day of my stay we could leave as soon as all of the “goodbyes” were said and tears were shed.
They packed my trunk into the back of our 1980 Chevrolet Chevette along with the luggage they’d brought which was much more than for a one-night stay eight hours away from home. I thought something was up and my suspicions were correct. After we’d headed up the twisty road towards the main road, my parents announced that we’d be going on vacation. With both of them being teachers, we had all summer so I sat in the back seat with my dog and watched the miles go by. We traveled through Mississippi, across Alabama, and finally stopped in Georgia. We visited Atlanta and went to the Six Flags park there. I remember having to stand in line for an hour to get my hand stamped with a time to return so I could stand in line some more to get to ride the new Thunder River ride. My dad complained the entire time but I was just glad to be having some fun. We also visited Stone Mountain while we were in Georgia and I really, really enjoyed seeing and learning a lot about it.
We ventured north into South Carolina and I remember we stopped in Maggie Valley, North Carolina one night. There was a HUGE water slide there and I’d never been on one before. I begged my parents to let me try it and while my mom wasn’t a big fan of being in a swimsuit in public at the time, my dad agreed and bought passes for the two of us. This wasn’t a fiberglass water slide like you see these days — it was concrete and built into the ground (which pleased my mother because that summer she had seen too many reports of water slides collapsing at parks and people getting hurt). There were two tracks — one was short and fast and the other was longer but had bigger drops. We were given neoprene mats and told to be sure to hold on to them tightly as we traveled down the chutes. I loved it! It was like an open roller coaster and I wanted to go faster and faster. My father, however, thought he’d show me some “moves” that would be “cool” and I remember seeing him leave the top of the slide, the mat coming down the slide, him coming down the slide on the rough concrete, and then a large “splash” in the pool at the bottom and him saying that he wasn’t going to slide anymore. Oh, and Mercurochrome was located for the scrapes he had.
After spending time in North Carolina we ventured towards the Virginias and the Smokey Mountains. We got to see bears on the side of the road and made a side-stop in Knoxville, Tennessee during the 1982 World’s Fair. I’ve heard that it’s been listed as one of the worst World’s Fairs of all time and I’m here to say that I wholeheartedly agree. Everything was about the environment and new technologies such as solar and wind power. It was also extremely crowded and, of course, my dad complained the entire time. He and my mother even had a very loud argument in the parking lot on our way to the gates that for all she cared he could sit in the car by himself while she took me inside to see and learn new things. Every country’s pavilion we wanted to visit had a line at least two hours long and many, like the Chinese and American pavilions, had lines for you to wait to get your hand stamped with a time at which you would come back and stand in line again and wait to get inside to see the exhibits.
It was hot. They’d paved over a huge park to install the World’s Fair which looking back seems like a really stupid thing to do if you’re trying to talk about saving the environment. Everything was expensive and, as usual, my dad complained even more loudly as the day continued. The only pavilion we visited was the Canadian exhibit because (1) it had a shorter line and (2) it advertised that it was air-conditioned. When we got to the front of the line, the air conditioning was no longer working. I don’t really remember anything from their exhibit because my dad dragged us through there as quickly as possible because he was getting sick from the heat.
My mother and I found a building where people were exiting out the back doors and suddenly felt the cool refreshing breeze of air conditioning. Not caring what exhibit it was, we darted inside and, yes, made sure my dad came too. It was full of computerized exhibits and video games and everything “futuristic” you could think of at the time. I remember Nintendo had a HUGE area where there were Donkey Kong games lined-up side-by-side and each one was being played by someone who, like me, had never played a video game like that before. We stayed inside the cool building for a while so that we could rest and recharge before going back into the sweltering heat. We stayed in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and I ended up sick with a fever for a couple of days which threw-off some of the plans they’d made.
After I was better we went to Louisville, Kentucky where an old Navy buddy of my father’s lived with his wife. My parents had been friends with them for years and we’d visited them once when they lived in Iowa. Now he was a big attorney for General Electric and we were invited to come and stay with them for a while. We toured Louisville. I got to see the original pot in which The Colonel made his first batch of Kentucky Fried Chicken and the “safe” where the secret recipe was “kept.” We all also ventured to Indiana and visited Santa Claus Land in Santa Claus, Indiana. This is WAY before it became Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari!! Santa Claus Land was basically a cheap carnival with exhibits and stores where every day, 365 days a year, it was Christmas. Some poor fool had to sit on a throne in an overstuffed Santa costume for hours a day in the middle of summer and listen to kids tell him what they wanted for Christmas or scream their heads off in terror because they didn’t know who he was. My favorite memory was my dad trying to tease my mother into riding the Tilt-a-Whirl because she gets motion sickness very easily. He kept teasing and taunting and finally she agreed that we three would ride it together. After it ended, I had a wonderful view of my father leaning against a large pine tree throwing up everything he’d eaten and complained was too expensive at the park. I wanted to take a picture for posterity but decided I’d be safer if I didn’t. After Santa Claus Land we went to Squire Boone Caverns in Corydon, Indiana and I fell in love with caves. Oh, I knew I was claustrophobic and afraid of heights and falling (which wasn’t ideal since one of the first things you cross is a very large chasm that seems to have no bottom on a very small bridge). But I loved going through the cave and seeing new things each time. My parents and their friends waited outside while I went on tour after tour. When we all went together we made sure to pose for the “obligatory” photo at the beginning that they said they used “to make sure that everyone on the tour makes it out of the cave and will know who’s missing.” My dad hated the picture because he’s standing in it with his legs crossed like he needs to go to the bathroom. My mother said we weren’t posing for another just because he didn’t like it and that he should have gone before we left.
After the long vacation, we went to our new home, I started my new school, and things started to change a lot. My mother was attending graduate school to receive her Master’s of Education and my dad was busy at the middle school many evenings. I’d be at home by myself (remember, this was back when you could do that and not be scared of someone snatching your kid) and he’d tell me that if I had problems with my homework to call him at the school. I wasn’t sure what he was doing there but I know that he didn’t answer the phone when I would call. I guessed back then that he thought I’d be able to do all of the work on my own or figure it out and would never need to call him ’cause I had no idea where he was. When he came home he’d tell me he was at the school but I had my suspicions that he was never fucking there. Well, he might have been fucking there — but that’s an image I don’t want in my mind. It’s bad enough when you come to grips with the fact that your parents had to have had sex at least once to get you into the world, much less any more than that. (Told you I could swear and this is where it’s necessary.)
No, my dad had introduced me to his secretary and she had introduced me to her family. She had two kids (a boy and a girl, both younger than me) and I absolutely loved her parents. They treated me as one of their own. My mother and I would go out and pick blackberries and corn and other fruits and vegetables on their farm and in their gardens. We were welcomed with open arms and they loved having me visit and go fishing or riding three-wheelers with them. They even gave me my own rabbit to raise (which had to be put-down after it ate its babies) and taught me to milk cows and work with other farm animals. It was great!
Then it happened. I went to summer camp and came home to a changed house. My dad had been having an affair with his secretary and my parents had decided to divorce. Being the naive kid I was, I thought the reason my dad had moved his stuff into the guest bedroom during the year was because he snored too loud and he was often up late at night typing his thesis for his Specialist’s in Education degree. To me, it seemed logical that he stay in there where we could close the door on him when we wanted quiet so we could sleep. I had no idea that was the first step in him moving-out. I went to camp with married parents and came back a child of divorce. They’d decided to do it while I was gone so I wouldn’t have to speak in front of the judge and so I’d be happier. That’s what they said, anyway.
My 6th grade year was controversial just like my 5th grade year. I was meeting new people and finding that being the principal’s daughter did get you invited to a lot of the best parties and events in town but only so people could say that I was there, not that they really wanted me there. I’d often find myself in the corner alone watching everyone else participating or I’d try to get out there and dance or play the games or whatever they were doing and was told indirectly (and sometimes very directly) that I wasn’t welcome in what they were doing. It was difficult trying to find a place to fit-in. Everyone knew who I was because everyone knew who my father was. I was in Girl Scouts and played intramural softball and participated a lot with the local youth group at the church we attended. I tried to convince others at church to attend summer camp with me but no one was interested. The church we attended had their own one-week camp they sponsored and I decided to give it a try as well. It wasn’t as much fun, but I was with people I knew from school and hoped for more friendships to grow from it.
Of course by now everyone in town knew that my parents had divorced and who my dad was seeing. As I’ve said before, I know their marriage had been rocky for a long time but I never dreamed it would end. I didn’t know people who had gotten divorced. Or, if I did, I was never told about it. The “scandal” didn’t help me in winning friends. I hated hearing people whisper, “Do you know who he’s dating? She’s from that family! How could he sink so low?” And it really upset me, too, because her parents had never been anything but kind and loving to me and I had no idea why people were speaking poorly of them. Even after my parents divorced they invited me over and let me have fun fishing or just playing outside. I guess they wanted to help me through the transition as best as they could.
In the divorce, my dad gave my mother the house (with the mortgage) and one of the cars (the Chevette that would later become mine) and he took the money from the bank. And not just his half of the money — ALL of it. And everything in the safe deposit box which included my coin collections he’d tried to help me start and all of the savings bonds my paternal grandmother had bought me every birthday and Christmas since the day I was born.
I’ll never forget one night when my mother was upset over the whole thing. My mom hadn’t been drinking or anything like that. She was just pissed and wanted to yell and scream at someone and, since I was an only child and the only other person in the house, I caught it full-blast. I remember trying to retreat into the kitchen to get away from her screaming and she cornered me. There in the dark, I swear I could see her eyes glowing. She screamed at me, “You’d just better get used to taking care of yourself because you’re not going to have a mother to come home to! I’m so pissed and I don’t give a shit anymore that I just might go and kill that asshole father of yours and maybe his slut and then you’ll be on your own ’cause I’ll be in jail and I don’t give a fuck!” That was one of the first times I can ever remember being totally speechless. I didn’t know what to do! She stomped off towards her bedroom and I just stood there with a glass in one hand and my other hand outstretched as I had been preparing to turn on the lights. I just stood there in the dark and I remember hearing my brain “saying” to me, “Yup, got it. That one’s going right in the files with the rest,” as the recorder in my mind turned switched off.
I knew she wasn’t serious because I had the only weapon in the house (my BB gun) and she didn’t like guns. I didn’t think she even knew how she’d try to kill someone but I didn’t move for quite a while. I waited until I heard her go into her bedroom before I dared move. She never mentioned it again and I’m sure she wouldn’t remember doing it now. But it’s definitely stuck in my memory banks. Could be one of the reasons I became depressed my 6th grade year. It could also be the reason that along with another event triggered my first real consideration of suicide, but that story is going to have to wait.
Again, I’ve sat here for I don’t remember how long (more than a couple of hours) and typed as different voices in my head have brought things to the surface. Some I’ve had to push back because they’re trying to get me to tell stories out-of-order and, of course, that’s just not my style. OCD is a bitch no matter which way you look at it. Maybe I’ll continue again tomorrow with this. I’m sure many of the people who read this and know or are in today’s story won’t be happy — but my brain is whirring like a car that’s idling too fast. I know if I don’t do something to slow it down soon it’s going to break. And this is all I have at the moment.