Sunday, January 25, 2009

the soundtrack of my life, part V

the soundtrack of my life series

She was only in juvy for a few days this time, and a social worker came to drive her to a group home. She didn't even know till then what was going to happen. That was typical of the system -- don't let the kid know till the last minute...less time for them to freak out.

Citadel, the group home was called. It was in Browne's Addition, to the west of downtown. Originally, that part of town was where the wealthier people lived when the place was being settled. The addition was full of those old, three-story homes that eventually were made into apartments because no one could afford to take care of them properly.

This home was still intact, hadn't been partitioned off for apartments. It stood on the corner of Pacific and...she couldn't remember that either. Maybe Cannon. Imposing, that house was. Intimidating. The little alcove to the right off the front door was probably initially for the side table that would hold a tray for people to leave their calling cards. Now, it held the only telephone available for about eight girls.

Just behind that was the stairway on the right. Going straight ahead through the foyer would find you in sort of a rec room, complete with an old shag carpet that had to be raked when the girls cleaned. To the left of the front door was the living room/tv room; walking toward the back of the house, next was the dining room. There was a doorway from the dining room into that rec room, making a complete circle. Behind the dining room was the kitchen, beyond which was a small room converted into a laundry room, next to the downstairs half-bath.

The second floor was the bedrooms for the girls. Two rooms with three beds, and one with two. And a third bedroom that a college student lived in. Her name was Ruthie. She was supposed to be a sort of casual counselor/helper to the group home 'parents,' but even looking back with a fairly objective eye, the college student was pretty ineffectual. She had very few actual counseling skills, at least in terms of working with teens. And she was smug and judgmental to boot, which didn't endear her to the girls. There was one bathroom on that floor for all eight girls and the college student. And at the back of the house, a small open area with sofas for hanging out. And a door leading to the requisite fire escape that had been added to these old buildings.

The third floor belonged to the house 'parents' and their two little girls. None of the teens was ever allowed on the third floor for any reason, so of course there's no description. The 'parents' -- she could still remember their last name -- Gross. No lie. They had no training for dealing with teenagers either. And, it seemed, very little parenting skills in regard to their own kids, as those two little girls were spoiled rotten holy terrors who quickly learned that they could lie to their parents and get the teens in trouble as the parents would take their word over the teens every time. So some of the girls wickedly plotted ways to catch the little ones in their lies and relished watching them get in trouble, even if it didn't last long.

She had to go to school while she was there, but it was a different school, so she didn't know anyone. She hated it, lost in that big high school, skipping lunch because she had no one to sit with. She didn't think she'd ever been so fucking alone as she was there. She lasted a couple of days before the anxiety threatened to overwhelm her and she just hung out downtown instead.

She and the other girls got along for the most part, although of course there were serious knock-down drag-outs from time to time. They formed into smaller pairs and trios, girls occasionally moved out and more in, and they spent most of their time hanging downtown, since it was within walking distance. Her time there became a blur of late nights and and hangovers. There was a curfew, of course, and supposedly consequences -- although those were not meted out fairly, but more harshly on those the 'parents' didn't care for. At first, they would sneak in and out by way of the fire escape, but eventually the 'parents' got wind of it -- thanks to Ruthie -- and they would wait for the girls to sneak out and then lock the door behind them.

Why, you might ask, wouldn't they just lock the door before they left. They seemed to love watching the girls come crawling home, forced to ring the doorbell to be let in. Ruthie, on the second floor, would ignore the bell until it woke up the 'parents,' who would take their sweet time coming down, and sometimes wouldn't open the door but would leave them outside. The girls then learned to leave the laundry room window slightly cracked. Not enough to notice, but enough that it wasn't latched and could be pushed open from the outside. Not all the girls could get in that small window, but at 98 pounds, she was one that could. Eventually the 'parents' discovered the window, but not till after she had left.

Her strongest memory of that home was a particular television show that all the girls were careful to be home to watch. Sunshine was the short-lived series, and it opened to John Denver's song Sunshine on my Shoulders. The girls would be milling around taking care of personal things, but when they heard the theme song, they came running and remained glued to the tv till it was over.

The show was about a guy who was taking care of his step daughter, whose mom/his wife had died. So, she wasn't really his daughter, but it didn't stop him from treating her like she was. The dad was a musician, rode a motorcycle, and was generally considered cool by all the girls. But of course what really drew the girls to the show was the dad/daughter relationship. Here were a bunch of teens, who either had dads who'd abandoned them, or dads who'd beat them, or dads who molested them. None of them had a functional relationship with their father, but they seemed to know one when they saw one. And watching this dad, who didn't even really have to take care of his stepdaughter, but choosing to, and willingly and lovingly...well, it held the girls attention every bloody week. They wanted what the girl in the show had -- and so did she.

But she caused a lot of problems at this group home. She just couldn't keep her mouth shut, called the 'parents' and Ruthie on their bullshit a little too often. If it was wrong, or unjust, she let them know. To know inside that all she'd ever tried to do was get away from the egg donor, and that all she'd gotten for her effort was this fucked up group home, just made her crazy. She was so angry at this point, it came out in so many ways, most of them self-harmful. Smart assed, fuck you attitude. Major drinking and partying. And those 'parents' didn't want her there causing trouble anymore. So they called the cops and told them she was a danger to their little girls and they wanted her gone.

She'd never, the whole time she was there, every said or done anything that could conceivably hurt those little girls, no matter how angry she got. But that didn't matter. When she heard they'd called the cops, she lost it a little bit. The injustice, the lie, was more than she could handle with her limited emotional resources. She did threaten them verbally then. Not the little girls, the 'parents.' Which of course played right into their plan. When the cops showed up, she was the angry one, while they seemed like the injured party. They were too much like the egg donor.

So the two cops took an arm each, lifted her off her feet, and carried her out to their car and put her in the back seat. She would have bruises on her arms later from the strength of their grips. She'd been in that group home for about a month, give or take a few days. Now she was headed back to juvy for the second time.

If I had a tale that I could tell you
Id tell a tale sure to make you smile

Sunshine on my Shoulders:

And back in '74:


fellahere said...

I have some catching up to do here. I'll be back.

fellahere said...

Citadel is one of those names... go give a group home an overreaching name.

I enjoyed the part about the TV show.

There must have been a record player at "Citadel"?

I always found it fairly interesting when one has to be with records in a random situation. The only place I'd heard "Jesus Christ, Superstar" was like that. There was a comparison of the original London cast and the best-selling US release.

Van Morrison came to my ears randomly like that.

Anyway, I'm all caught up.