And was having a hard time remembering just exactly when I learned to be really quiet in my relationships. Oh, I don’t mean that I don’t remember how old I was, or what I was wearing, or where I was. I even remember the smells. I just don’t remember the moment before the moment if you know what I mean.
I do remember that I was six and had been living in Lafayette, Louisiana for almost a full school year. Before then, I had lived in San Diego and Galveston – back and forth – back and forth – until my mom and stepdad decided to move to Lafayette to be closer to my mom’s sister and brothers.
I never thought of my stepdad as a ‘step’ anything. He was my dad. He taught me to ride a bike and how to catch lightning bugs and how to find tadpoles in the river near our apartment. He also cooked the most elaborate birthday meals for me and taught my parakeets, Kiki and Gigi, how to walk up a ladder to their birdcage. No, “B” wasn’t a step anything – he was my dad and I couldn’t imagine loving any person more than him. “B” was, in many ways, the first great love of my life.
My mom and “B” had been married once before, very briefly, and then they divorced for reasons only they knew. I was too young to remember that first marriage, but I remember getting on a plane and having my Grandmama tell me that “B” and my mom would be meeting me at the airport because they had news. I think that I was old enough to know that it wasn’t going to be something like a pony, but I had no idea that they would pick me up and tell me that we’d be driving to Las Vegas the next morning so they could be remarried.
When you’re that little any wedding sounds like fun – now, at 40, I know better. But in 1977 I just remember that Las Vegas meant road trip and road trip mean snacks and snacks were great.
A year after we took the drive to and from Las Vegas found us living in Lafayette, looking for a house. While I tried to get used to a new school and new friends, my mom and “B” fought all the time. They couldn’t seem to agree on anything. Even the smallest thing made them mad at each other so I would do my best to be quiet at home. Of course, I had to be quiet at school, too, because I went to a Catholic school where rulers were still considered good disciplinary tools. How I managed to never feel the sting of a ruler on a backside or hand is beyond me, but I do know that I got good at being quiet.
During one of the last fights I remember my mom and “B” having I heard them talk about moving back to San Diego. My mom wanted to move but she was alone in that desire – “B” loved everything about Lafayette. The more they fought, the more my Grandmama would make the drive from Galveston to bring me home with her on the weekends. The more time I spent away from my mom the less I knew about how much she hated Lafayette. On the morning of my last day of 2nd grade, my mom told me that we would be moving back to San Diego in less than a week. She told me not to ask any questions and to just start throwing out what I didn’t want. Honestly, what does a barely seven year old know about moves and throwing things out? “B” begged her to stay, my Grandmama and Grandma Leola begged her to let me stay with them and my friends cried. Not me – I’d already learned that when my mom was ready, she was ready.
I can remember trying to be helpful but the closer we got to our move date, the more upset my mom became. Finally, on our last full day in Lafayette, two things happened that still stand out as memories 33 years later: My mom, in a moment of panic that we wouldn’t be done packing on time beat me to the point of her exhaustion and my semi-consciousness. She also left me with a small gash near my right eye that I see every morning when I look in the mirror. And “B” told me – in response to my begging him to stay, asking him if it was my fault, promising to be a better kid – that he never loved me, he’d only pretended to in order to win my mom.
Now, here’s where those who know me now will see the seven year old girl I was: After my mom’s last punch I remember her shaking me to get me up and promising she was sorry – I said I believed her even though I didn’t. And once “B” had finished his sentence my tears stopped. I told him it was okay, climbed off of his lap and finished packing. I never told anyone what he said until years later when he called and wanted to speak with me. By then I told myself it didn’t matter – but it did. My first great love was a complete fiasco.
I also told myself that I would try really hard to let a relationship go without tears or pleading or all sorts of other things – again, what does a seven year old know about how life works, right? I’ve had two moments in life when I’ve asked, no pleaded, with someone to stay. Both relationships ended for different reasons. One at 23 and one at 37. Looking back, I think I’m not good with odd year break-ups.
What does this post have to do with anything? Isn’t it all the same? What I write I mean. I write about love found and love lost and being honest and recognizing that people change – or they don’t – and at the end of the day, I’ve learned that once I love someone I always love them. But I’ve also learned that silence doesn’t do any good for anyone – least of all me.
That’s been the hardest lesson to remember. Any and all suggestions are taken and will, sometimes, be paid attention to by the writer of this blog.
Next up…the 2nd time I fell in love.