My twin brother and I turned 9 in early June of 1977. I still remember my favorite birthday gift, a pink pair of silky smooth bell bottom pajamas with a ruffle halter top. I did some serious dancing in those jammies to Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke. It was a good song then and it stands the test of time.
We had been living in Florida with our mother and her boyfriend, Frank, for about 10 months. In that time with lived in a hotel, 2 houses and a mobile home. We attended third grade in two different school districts. Did I mention that we were there for about 10 months?
We also spent a fair amount of time on a boat we named Gemini IV and yes we were all Geminis. It was a 40 foot cabin cruiser and I learned how to fish on that boat. I also tried snorkeling and I remember hearing about sponge divers. We ate out a lot, mostly at Red Lobster which was a new experience for us. We even went to Disney World – somewhere I have a photo of me in orange bell bottoms with Holly Hobbie stitched on the leg bottoms. I was also wearing the ever popular mouse ears.
It was a big year for us filled with adventure and we weren’t broke which was a nice change. Prior to Florida we had lived in a boarding house and various apartments and shack houses. I knew what poor was from a young age. The year before our move we had a secret Santa who dropped off a couple of black hefty bags full of goodies including a Candy Land board game and some Fluff marshmallow spread. I knew what it was to want things that you knew you couldn’t have.
Eventually though the relationship between my mother and Frank started to deteriorate. There were some mamma drama moments. One time my mother ran over our bicycles. Mind you she wasn’t mad at her kids….she ran the bikes over to piss off Frank. The bikes were a gift from his sister and somehow destroying them seemed like a good get-even plan to her. I’m going to assume alcohol was involved in that thought process. She wasn’t the only one who was nuts. I remember seeing Frank drag my mother across the carpet and I was screaming at him to stop hurting her. To her credit she tried to tell me it was OK and that they were having fun. The rug burns told another story.
At some point my mother started to plan our escape. Apparently it was a two part plan. Sometime in the beginning of June she left Florida and took a bus to New Jersey with my brother. She left me behind. Let that sink in a minute…..she left her just turned 9 year old daughter in Florida with a family we knew for maybe two months. The family I stayed with moved into the second house we rented in Newport Richey so at least the house was familiar. The memories are fuzzy but there were at least two daughters and they taught me how to stuff oranges in my shirt to make it look like I had boobs. I also tried smoking and had my first kiss with an Australian boy. What can I say he had me a “‘owdy mate”. it was a hell of a month.
Somewhere close to July my mom came back to Florida and I went back to living in the mobile home with her and Frank. Within in days my mother went off the deep end and wound up in a Psych Ward. My brother was still in New Jersey and I landed in an emergency foster home. I don’t remember much from my time there I think I was only there about 5 days. The woman who picked me up to take me there told me I had nice eyelashes. That was almost 40 years ago and I remember that simple compliment. I also remember there were other kids there. Some were the foster parents biological kids, others were transients like me. We drank powdered milk which was gross and the dad was a cabinet maker. They liked to watch Little House on the Prairie. I was there for the 4th of July, we watched the fireworks on tv. I also remember it being 7/7/77 while I was there. I was told at the time that it was a special date. It didn’t feel special but it was memorable.
To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/10/22/keep-on-truckin-part-4/