This is the '60's, in a quiet suburban neighborhood in a small town in California. Two-parent families with stay-at-home moms, who stand behind their screen doors and tell the kids of the divorcee (who is home sleeping cause she works nights) that they should go away. And those moms keep their kids inside until the bad kids do go away. Away to the empty lot, where everyone dumps their garbage. They spend the rest of the afternoon digging through the garbage heaps looking for gold. They are 2, 4, and 6.
She remembers one morning, being hungry. Mommy was still in bed, so big brother crawled onto the counter to get the quaker oats container. He reads the directions, and makes the oatmeal. Mommy never wakes up.
She remembers one night, too, when she was thirsty and woke up. She crawled out of the bottom bunk she shared with her little brother (big brother had the top bunk) to go to the bathroom and get a drink. Weirdly, the toilet wouldn't flush. And then, the bathroom faucet didn't work. Mommy woke up that time, and she said 'mommy, I'm thirsty.' 'I know,' said mommy. 'Go back to bed now.' She went to bed without her drink. As an adult, she would discover that the landlord had turned off the water to get the divorcee and her three kids out of his respectable triplex.
And there is the afternoon that mommy takes them all to visit daddy. Daddy works at a pizza parlor, and they get to stand on a bench and look through the window and watch daddy make pizzas for a while. Then they eat, and go with daddy. Where, she doesn't remember.
And the time mommy backed up in the parking lot at the grocery store, after screaming at the kids, and backed right into a light post. She and little brother were all in the back seat, pre-seat belt. Big brother was in the back of the station wagon, and got thrown around. There was a big 'u' dent in the back of the station wagon after that. Somehow, it was the kids' fault...according to mommy.
And the time she leaves the kids in the car to go into the grocery store 'for a minute.' Big brother is in the front, the smaller two in the back. Big brother moves over into the driver seat, and pretends to drive. Somehow, the parking break gets bumped, and the car starts to roll. Big brother panics, and starts pushing and pulling buttons to stop the car, but nothing works. Now they all panic, and all three begin screaming for help. A woman comes, opens the door, pulls the parking brake, then yells at the kids for screaming. Mommy comes out, having been told about the crisis (by the guy who carries the groceries to the car and saw it all), is thoroughly embarrassed, and so...of course...yelling and face smacks all around for being such very bad kids.
And the time in the other apartment, where she slept in an alcove off the boys' bedroom. And they woke up one morning, and someone was in bed with mommy. A man who didn't have an arm, just a little stub after the shoulder. He wiggled the stub around and made them all laugh. She never saw him again, and didn't remember his name.
The progression of baby sitters. The asian couple who didn't think the soup needed to be chewed, even though there was rice in it. You should be able to swallow the rice without chewing, they said. But the kids kept chewing, so the couple said they'd have to chew their chocolate milk, too. So they chewed their chocolate milk.
The overnights with the big family, who had a girl her age. They played barbies a lot. The other girl's teenaged brother would play with them, too. He always made ken kill barbie, cut her up, and hide her. But a little piece of her would be in plain sight so the cops would catch him and put him away.
The older teenager who had the uncle Leo. And they all went to the drive in theatre one night. Drive-in movie theatres. That wonderful thing of the past. She remembers them well. She saw the original Willie Wonka at a drive in theatre when she was little. But this time, she couldn't remember the movie they went to see. There was Lenore, her boyfriend, her uncle (who drove), and the three kids. The front seat was Uncle Leo, her, and her brothers. Back seat, Lenore and her boyfriend. Who were sitting very close. Uncle Leo likes little girls. Likes to put his hand down little girls pants. Put his hand down her pants, and touched her in a place she didn't even have a name for. He kept rubbing her there, not looking at her, not talking to her, staring forward at the movie. At first, she didn't do anything. Didn't even think anything of it, really.
But he was rubbing hard, and it started hurting. So she started squirming, trying to get away from him. But he didn't stop rubbing, so she finally whined, 'Uncle Leo, it hurts.' 'It's just a little vaseline,' was his response. It went on a while longer, she whined again. He gave the same response. So she asked to sit in the back. Everyone accommodated her, albeit with grumbling, especially from Lenore and her boyfriend. But they made room for her. Problem was, at age 4, she wasn't big enough to see over the back seat, and couldn't see the movie. So the new whine: 'I can't see.' 'Then sit in the front,' is the response from the adults. But if she sits in the front, she has to sit next to Uncle Leo. He won't let the boys sit next to him. So, she can sit in the back with Lenore and her boyfriend and not see the movie, or sit next to Uncle Leo, and let him rub her down there. She sat next to Leo, and let him rub her down there. And it hurt. And everyone in the car knew exactly what he was doing.
photo, me at six