I was looking for something to do. I had called several friends from my touchtone Princess phone and either they weren’t home or weren’t able to come over. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. The weather was warm. My parents were watching football. “I’m going for a bike ride.” I told them. I grew up in the kind of town that mostly shut down on Sunday. Stores were closed and the streets were quiet. I had no plan. I just hopped on my yellow Schwinn 10-speed and started riding. I was wearing cut-off jeans, a t-shirt, and dirty white Keds with no socks. We didn’t wear helmets back then. We just got on our bikes and rode. I was fourteen.
I was riding on West 18th Street, one of the main roads in town, when a big white car pulled up alongside me and the man inside began yelling at me from the open passenger side window. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but he was angry. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. We were approaching a residential cross street so I decided to turn into it. Did he just try to cut me off? My heart was pounding. He drove on and came to a stop on D Street, and then he turned right. The right turn I took was taking me away from the direction of home so I decided to get back on to West 18th. I approached the stop sign and looked to the right in the direction he went and I saw him making a U-turn. So I turned left.
I grew up in this neighborhood. We had moved from it the year before, but I had walked these streets alone countless times as a little girl. I would get a quarter from my dad to go buy candy at the Shortstop Market. It was to this market that I decided to go to when I made that left turn. It was just on the next block. I would find someone in the store to help me because all of a sudden, the streets of this familiar landscape became a ghost town. There was nobody in their yards and no other moving cars in sight. It was just me on my bike and that big white car heading back in my direction.
I jumped the curb as I realized the parking lot was deserted. The market was closed. In a split second I decided to get onto West 19th Street in the opposite direction of home because this street lead directly into a shopping center that had a Lucky grocery store. It crossed my mind that they might be closed too, but I had to find people. I took off from the parking lot of the market and as I peddled as fast as I could I heard the unmistakable sound of a car accelerating behind me. I was riding on the wrong side of the road because once I entered the shopping center, the entrance to the store was on my left. And there he was. Right next to me on my right. This time I heard him yell, “You fucking little bitch better stop your bike before I run you over!”
I rode my bike right into the store. At first I couldn’t speak, but the horror must have registered on my face. A teenaged boy and a woman working as a checker both ran to me at the same time. I managed to give enough information for the boy to run outside and give chase. He saw the car and ran after it but was unable to get a license plate number. Another woman came and took me upstairs to an office and called the police and my parents. As I sat waiting and crying in that office I studied my dirty white Keds. And I remembered my dad saying, “Those shorts are too short,” as I walked out of the house.
My dad rode my bike home. I never rode it alone again.
Sixteen year-old me was tall, skinny and flat-chested. The tall part happened quite suddenly. In the span of a year, I grew four inches. I suppose this was due to the fact that I didn’t start my period until I was 15. I was convinced there was something wrong with me. My mother kept reassuring me that I was just a “late bloomer,” though I could see in her eyes she was concerned, too. That was proven when she took me to a gynecologist at that young age. UGH! But he assured both of us there was nothing wrong with me. I relaxed for about a minute, then a week later I got my period. Finally. Jeez. It was the year following that I shot up like a rocket and started to look like I was the same age as my girlfriends. Up to that point, it appeared they were hanging out with a little sister. Those were rough times.
It was right after my growth spurt that my mother kept hearing, “Your daughter should be a model.” She was thinking the same thing herself. This was right around the beginning of the “supermodel” era when models were becoming celebrities and the amount of money they were making was becoming public knowledge. They were being interviewed on daytime talk shows along with their agents and apparently my mom was paying attention.
There was a well-known agent in Los Angeles named Nina Blanchard who my mother saw on the Mike Douglas show. That night at dinner she said,”I’m going to take some pictures of you and send them to Nina Blanchard.” My dad snickered. I said, “With what?” We were a family of Kodak Pocket Instamatics. She said, “With that old Argus you bought.” Now I was snickering along with my dad. “I am!” She said indignantly.
The Argus she was referring to sat in the garage in it’s original carrying case. I paid $10.00 for it at a garage sale several months back because I thought it was cool. It was the first 35mm film camera that I had come in contact with and it was what we considered an antique. The person I bought it from told me it still worked, but there were no instructions and I had never tried to use it. My mom and I fiddled with it that night and by the following weekend she had bought film and we loaded it into the camera.
I stepped out into the backyard with my mom for my first “photo shoot” with neither one of us having a clue what we were doing. I awkwardly posed as she made suggestions. At one point my dad came out, but I made him leave. I could see his eyes smiling as he crossed his arms in front of him and held a hand over his mouth, shaking his head slightly.
We dropped the film off later that day and anxiously waited for the photos to be developed. To our surprise, the Argus did still work. About a month later, I walked in the door from school and my mother was beside herself with excitement. “What, mom?” I asked. “Nina called!” she screamed.
I recently came across the old photos that Nina handed back to us as we sat across from her at her agency in Los Angeles.
I’ve been looking through piles of old photos lately. Remember that important stuff I went after in Arizona? It turns out that most of it really was important. There was the china my father purchased in Japan during the Korean War. There was the Depression glass that belonged to my maternal grandmother. There were boxes of books, notes, cards, old love letters, and all of Jarrod’s school records. I even found the Psychological Report that was part of his Individualized Education Program when he was nine years old that noted, “Jarrod is fairly bold for his age and seemed to lack desire to please the adult, which is usually shown in his age group.” That’s my boy.
Among the photos there were some from my childhood, all of my old modeling photos (I actually found the snapshots my mother took when I was 16 and sent off to an agent), photos of David (2nd husband) and I through the years, and a box that I had set aside for Jarrod. I remember going through photos when Joe (1st husband – Jarrod’s dad) and I split up, and separating them. I tried to be fair and mailed some to him, keeping what I wanted when Jarrod was a baby and toddler, and putting a box aside for Jarrod. A box containing all that was leftover from a previous life. These were snapshots of a family before it splintered.
Some were difficult to look at. Joe passed away six years ago or so of a sudden illness. There was no warning. He was on vacation. Jarrod made it to his hospital bed in time to say goodbye, but I had not seen or talked to him in a very long time. After our divorce, we never got to a point where we could be friendly. When Jarrod was a little boy our communication only went so far as arrangements for him. We didn’t share custody and we didn’t live near each other so there was rarely an occasion to be at the same place at same time. It happened occasionally if Joe was in town and able to see Jarrod play baseball or something, but we never chatted easily. I reached out when Jarrod was in high school. We were both married to different people. Couldn’t we be in the same room and socialize like normal people at Jarrod’s graduation party? I invited he and his wife, but they didn’t come.
Our story is too long. I will save it for the book, but there was a part of me that pictured us sitting down together one day and laughing about old times. His death hit me hard. I realized there would never be that opportunity. I wanted to bury the hatchet. I wanted to be able to look him in the eye and tell him I forgave him. I got the news of his death at work. I felt ill. I went home and sobbed into the arms of David. I cried for words left unsaid, and I cried for Jarrod, whose own relationship with his father had been a difficult one.
Once upon a time this teenage girl fell in love with a reckless, cocky, handsome young man with long curly hair and a guitar, and without him there would not be Jarrod. And Jarrod was meant to be.
He folds my t-shirts into perfect tiny squares and on occasion they disappear. He’ll bring them back to my house after mistaking them for his four-year old son’s. “You know I can’t fit into his shirts, right?” I said the first time. “They’re both tiny,” he said.
At first I was a little embarrassed when I would arrive home and see that he had been there folding laundry. I would see a few of my old tattered panties and think I should get some new ones if he is going to be doing my laundry. Then I would think about his own tattered Batman and Guinness boxers and figure neither one of us really cared much about what each other’s underwear looked like.
When we first started commingling our laundry he struggled to remember how I folded towels. He knew there were thirds somewhere in the process. “Half, half, then thirds,” I said, “but it doesn’t really matter, ” I added. “Yes, it does,” he said.
He put up with me telling him he didn’t have to slam the washer door on the front loader. “I know it doesn’t seem to line up, but if you lift up on the door a little, it will close without a problem.” I was reminded that men are harder on things.
He also put up with me telling him not to ever leave the washer or dryer door open because of my fear that the kitten would go inside without us knowing. He accepts my paranoia about things like that.
In the beginning it was weird for me. I hadn’t folded a man’s clothes in several years. Then there were little boy jeans and baby socks and it all seemed so foreign, yet all so familiar, too. And sweet.
We take turns buying detergent.
Last night I received an incredibly kind comment on the blog I just wrote. My initial reaction was, “Holy shit, was that meant for me?” And then I read it six times. It was from someone I didn’t know. We have a mutual friend on Facebook who has shared some of my writing. Through him she found my blog and has been a follower of mine for about a year. I recognized her name when I saw the comment because you tend to become familiar with others through mutual comments on friends’ posts. I also remembered seeing an 80s prom picture of the two of them, but I had no idea she was following my blog. It’s surprising to me when I find out that people I don’t know are reading what I write. I tend to think it’s just my family and friends, or my 40 Days of Writing group.
I started my blog because I love to write. Personal essays, stories, and a bit of poetry are what come easiest to me. Because I didn’t really have a vision for the blog, I never tried to promote it or make any money off of it. It was just my little space to put words down and I enjoy sharing my words.
This heartfelt comment got me thinking. Perhaps I should promote my blog. At the moment, I have 33 followers. Of those 33, 21 are other bloggers, most of whom I do not know. The other 12 are email followers, 7 of whom I do not know. So, perhaps promoting it and acquiring more readers will give me the kick in the ass I need to pick up that book I started.
I’ve never created a Facebook page for my blog because something inside me said my blog just wasn’t worthy. Popular blogs tend to have a theme. I feel like my blog is just a hodgepodge of stuff all over the map. I’ve been under the impression that it wouldn’t interest people that didn’t actually know me.
And maybe there won’t be that much interest, but I’m willing to give it a try. I’m willing to make it part of what keeps me writing. You can find my page here, and if you like my blog, you can “like” my page. See what I just did there? I’m promoting.
And a huge thanks to Jenean.
My children have left the state of California for our neighbor up north. I suppose I should be wringing my hands and crying in my soup, but I’m actually really happy for them. Don’t get me wrong, I wish they lived in Healdsburg. In fact, they entertained that idea until they started looking for a place to live up here and saw that the rental prices were just plain stupid. Those are my words, not theirs, and while I could probably state that fact more eloquently, “just plain stupid” is exactly what I want to say.
Oh, how I want them to live nearby! And I still haven’t discounted that this may happen one day. Jarrod and Amanda made the decision to leave the East Bay quite some time ago, but were undecided about where they wanted to go. Almost the entire world was their oyster, though they didn’t want to venture too far from California. The criteria was that it wasn’t so far away that they couldn’t come back to the Bay Area for somewhat frequent visits as they both have grandparents, and Amanda has younger brothers, and of course they both have mothers who love them very much.
The “world is their oyster” part is because Jarrod works from home so no new job to hunt for with a move, and since getting married the two of them been very smartly managing their money and paid off all their debt and saved and saved. Man, am I proud! No offense to my adorable, kind, and generous son, but my daughter-in-law is AMAZING with managing money. Just last weekend I sat down with her and her notebook so she could show me how they did it. What a brilliant girl he married!
So they decided to give it a year and see if this is the place to put down roots or if this is just an adventure among many future adventures. They arrived at their new home on Saturday and are almost settled in. Jarrod sent me a pic this morning of his home office. How could I possibly not be thrilled for them? There are trees! I can’t wait to visit. I already have the date on the calendar and the route mapped out. I will see you in the Spring, my darlings.
I’d never known anyone who did time in jail, yet here I was driving out to the Marsh Creek Detention Facility, otherwise known as “The Farm,” to pick up my husband after he’d been sentenced to five days. I’m struggling with the reality of it all. Wasn’t I just in high school a second ago? We’d had no contact in those five days. I’m wondering what it must have been like for him as I drive on the winding country road on this warm Spring day. I wonder if I’m the wife of a felon. The beauty of the landscape is at complete odds with where I’m going. But you can’t just punch a random stranger in the face while he sits in his car even if he did call you an asshole. I think back to sitting in the defense attorney’s office where I didn’t utter one word. My embarrassment and the lawyer’s pity were palpable as we stole glances at each other. This man, with pictures of his wife and kids on the shelves above his head did a poor job of hiding his contempt for the man who sat next to me. I drive up just as a several men are released from the front gate. I see my husband. He’s smiling as he walks toward me alongside another guy. He opens the front and back door of the car at the same time and they both climb in. Who brings a friend home from jail? God, they stink.
J: If you ever want to know what people really think of you, or what people you thought you knew are really like, start dating a guy, recently split from his wife, and in a very small town. All sorts of judgment will come out of the woodwork. Within a month, you will be able to separate those who never jump to conclusions from those who think they know everything.
I learned very early on in my adult life that things are never as they seem and that having an opinion about someone that you know nothing about is ugly and judgmental. When I was newly married to my first husband, he had a friend over who was recently divorced and had to pay child support. His friend was going on and on about how every time he saw his ex-wife she was wearing a new outfit and that she was spending the child support money on herself. I didn’t really know his ex-wife, but I knew where she worked. My husband was commiserating with his friend and agreeing, blah, blah, blah. I piped up, “Are the children being fed and clothed when they are with their mother?” Oh, the daggers I faced from those two men. Needless to say, a fight ensued after the friend left. That argument stayed with me. I did not jump on their hate train. I was defending a woman that I didn’t know.
I’m not perfect. It’s human nature to judge, but I have it within me to stop and catch myself, especially when it comes to affairs of the heart or what goes on behind closed doors.
M: Most long relationships don’t end overnight. For some there’s the big “blowout” I suppose, but usually a couple’s relationship will wax and wane through months or years of soul-searching, therapy, and lengthy conversations with friends before the couple decides their differences are “irreconcilable.” My break up was like the latter. My ex and I had a long and private struggle over the course of years and ended things mutually; no big “blowout,” no drama, all under the radar. The unexpected consequence of this was people were shocked; family included.
So when I started dating someone almost immediately, there were some pretty interesting reactions. The general theme was “Whoa, why not let the dust settle for a few months?!” I guess for me the dust had settled. The break-up marked the end of a long, tumultuous time of my life. I was ready to explore my new life. I couldn’t wait.
J: Mike and I went into this with our eyes wide open. We were very much aware of the timing. We were friends who became more than friends very soon after his marriage ended. We knew people would talk and speculate and form opinions and that there was nothing we could do about it. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t bothersome, especially for me. Mike seemed to be able to let the scuttlebutt roll off his back. It wasn’t so easy for me. I did care what other people thought and even though I knew I had nothing to do with the end of his marriage, I realized some might think otherwise. I wanted to do damage control. I wrote My Boyfriend in an attempt to squash a few rumors then immediately took it off my blog because I felt it was too soon. I walk a tightrope of trying to be sensitive to others’ feelings and wanting to share my happiness with the world. Eventually I put it up again, and eventually, I let go of what I couldn’t control.
But in the beginning, the “too soon” part concerned me as well, especially for him. When a couple of his friends staged an intervention under the guise of “Let’s have drinks,” I wondered if they might be right, but only for a second.
M: It wasn’t as if I’d clicked a button in my heart and deleted that last 16 years of my life. I was still a freshly divorced mess feeling like I didn’t have much to offer anyone romantically. I had moved into a one bedroom apartment and still had to face the heartbreaking storm of custody and settlement agreements, but I also had a hot single friend. Jodee and I had met through a writing group called “40 Days of Writing” and had become fast friends. We had a similar sense of humor, shared interests, and after hosting a trivia night together realized we had great chemistry as an entertainment duo. She was one of the first to learn about my break up because her 20-year marriage had ended not that long ago and we could commiserate. We valued each other as friends, but when newly-single me asked her out on a date she responded with a resounding “hang on a minute, pal.”
She’s a practical girl and admitted concern over the timing, but my “it’s only a date, jeez!” argument was irrefutable. Our first date ended with plans to get together again, those plans lead to more plans, and so on. Some friends of mine quickly noticed a trend and invited me out for a drink ASAP.
“Dude!….What are you doing??!!”
Their advice, in a nutshell, was that I simply explain to Jodee that I needed to forego subsequent plans to spend time with her so that I might be free to pursue multiple sexual encounters with many women over a relatively short period of time.
“That’s a great Plan B you guys, thank you. First I’m going to see how things go with Plan A.”
J: “Maybe you should sew your oats for awhile. Be single. See how it feels,” I said to Mike. I really did wonder if a few months or a year down the line, he might feel like he jumped into things too quickly with me. I was worried about my own feelings, too. What if I really fall for this guy and then he dumps me for that much younger, single, cute girl. There are many in this town. One night I even tried to list a few prospects for him. That didn’t go over very well, but it did go exactly how I wanted it to go. Finally he said this, “Why would I risk losing you, someone that I truly care about, to sleep around with someone who I don’t?”
I’m sure there are naysayers in this town; people who think it won’t last. It’s a slightly unconventional union and not just because of the age difference. We were on different paths in our youth. He waited to have children and I didn’t. This makes him and my son nine years apart. When I was his age, my son was 18. His are only two and four. Unless I remove the gray from my hair, which I have no intention of doing, I’m sure his two towheaded kids will be thought to be my grandchildren by some who don’t know us. And why wouldn’t they? My son could potentially make me a grandmother sooner rather than later so yes, unconventional fits.
M: You never know how things like this will play out. After the end of a long relationship it’s a perfectly normal thing to want to get out there and meet someone new, or maybe give that innocent crush you had for years a call. They call it “rebounding”. But it’s not supposed to actually work out, right? Well things with Jodee and I were working out, and this was a bit of a problem. What would people think? What kind of guy moves on so soon and flaunts it around town? Let’s be honest, an asshole, that’s who.
So, it took awhile to feel comfortable even leaving the house together, longer to be seen at social gatherings, and I think only recently have we started holding hands when we’re pretty sure no one is watching. It didn’t take long for word to get around our small community. I recognized the subtext in the looks from some people and even endured some not-so-subtle disapproval. “Go home to your wife!” shouted from a moving car was my personal favorite. I was anticipating this kind of reaction, but what I didn’t anticipate was the support. There was so much support! In fact the consensus from my friends was “we were sad to hear your marriage ended, but so happy to see you and Jodee together.” My god, are you serious?! I couldn’t believe it. Why hadn’t I given people more credit? The guys who thought I should go “get some” had their hearts in the right place, but quickly saw I was on the right path. Even the guy who shouted marital advice from the moving car later came to me mortified. Apparently he hadn’t heard about the separation yet and thought he was being funny, poor guy. He even shared his own break up story with me.
I’m finding a lot of people have been through painful break-ups, and when they hear of one in the life of someone close to them, they sometimes internalize it. For most, it brings out empathy. They’ll remember what they went through and encourage you to follow your heart, wherever it takes you. I think those people saw that I was following my heart, and to those people I say “thank you, truly.” For some, however, it brings out something uglier, ranging from silent judgment to speculation and pernicious gossip. To those folks I say “Keep it up! Seriously.” You’ve shown a spotlight on my true friends and I’m thrilled to find I have so many.
J: I know I began this blog with a paragraph about how our situation revealed who was looking down their noses at us with pinched faces and phony smiles, but what was also revealed was that there were far more people in this small community who supported us. When you genuinely care about your friends, you want them to be happy. And it’s perfectly fine and normal to be sad about a break-up and happy about what follows. There are no sides here. There is just life and love playing out.
I last left you with the gripping saga of a possible plan to retrieve important items from a storage unit in Arizona. So I called David who came up with a brilliant plan. If you recall, I had some things belonging to him in a storage unit in Healdsburg. He suggested that he leave his truck for me at the Tucson airport and then I can load up my things and drive his truck back home. He would then fly up within a couple weeks and pick up his truck along with his items in storage here and drive his truck back. YAY!
And so the alignment of the stars had all of this fall into place. Sarah was unable to take the two days to drive back so I recruited my friend Elizabeth to take the trip with us. That wasn’t difficult at all. She’s one of those people that shows up, no matter what. You need her, you call, she’s there. Her only condition was that we had to look in on a family friend who lived in Tucson. Lillian Fisher, retired Superior Court judge, aged 92. Of course we could do that!
Southwest Airlines had never seen the likes of us three, though we mostly behaved and managed not to annoy any of our fellow travelers, except when we hit a pocket of air and the plane briefly fell out of the sky. I yelled, “Fuck!” Elizabeth said, “Jeez, fly much?” I said, “Yes, actually.” Elizabeth said, “I wasn’t talking to you.” The rest of this story is going to be told in highlights. So here you have ‘em:
- David’s truck had a keypad lock on the driver’s door to unlock the truck. This was great because I didn’t have to worry about the key, which was left inside. They only thing I knew was that it was a big white Ford truck. What are the chances of another big white truck (not a Ford) with a keypad lock parked in the same area? Of course I went to the wrong truck and tried to open it.
- Directly from the airport we found a TJ Maxx so Elizabeth and I could buy cheap swimsuits after Sarah asked if we had brought ours because there was a pool and Jacuzzi at the hotel. What are the chances of there being another big white truck with a keypad lock parked in the TJ Maxx parking lot? Again, I went to the wrong truck and tried to open it.
- The resort was lovely. It was wonderful to see John. We went to the restaurant patio that first night and had margaritas, ate too much food and listened to a band straight out of 1970. Amongst the musicians and the crowd, I think we were the youngest.
- The next morning we drove to Tubac where I showed the girls my old stomping ground. We roamed the village and ate lunch at a restaurant called Elvira’s that has
awfulinteresting decor and very good food. Then we headed to the storage unit, loaded up the truck and bungeed my important items with a blue tarp that covered the entire bed of the truck
- Until you arrive back into the city limits of Tucson, Interstate 19 leading from Tubac has a speed limit of 75. When you reach Tucson, the speed limit changes to 55. There is no in between. I had completely forgotten what a speed trap it was there and with the distraction of my friends, I wasn’t paying close attention. Until I saw the cop right behind me, and then the lights. I played a little dumb, what with Nevada plates and all (David lives most of the time in Las Vegas). He said I was going 72. I said I missed the 55 sign. He told me I missed it twice. Then I gave him my license and registration. The names don’t match. At all. “Whose truck is this?” he asked. “My ex-husband’s.” And then for whatever reason, I said, “We’re good friends.” Then he said, “What’s under the tarp?” I said, “
My ex-husbandStuff I picked up in Tubac from storage. I lived here a few years ago.” Then he walked away for about 10 minutes. I was expecting a ticket. Instead, I got a written warning. Whew.
- Next we visited Lillian. She was an old friend of Elizabeth’s parents. She was amazing. At 92, she had all her wits about her and we loved listening to her stories. She was a Jewish girl from New York whose husband fell in love with the west when as a dentist in the Air Force, he was stationed in New Mexico. He moved his family from New Jersey and they never looked back. Lillian became a lawyer at 40 and a judge at 50. It was wonderful meeting her and I wish we could have stayed longer.
- Back at the hotel we got ready for the wine dinner where Sarah charmed the pants off of everyone in the room as she talked about her wine. Elizabeth and I had a chance to meet the owner of the hotel who also knew Lillian. Apparently everyone knows Lillian. We are convinced there will eventually be a street named after her.
- We were up before dawn to drop Sarah at the airport, then Elizabeth and I hit the road. We listened to Radiolab podcasts and took turns with music. Rather than gas station food or drive-thrus, we opted for carrots, cheese sticks and fruit from the grocery store, though I would have been fine with sunflower seeds and SweetTarts. We drove across Hoover Dam and were stopped again by the police at a checkpoint and I was asked to get out of the vehicle and show him what was under the tarp.
- Our first night we stopped in Las Vegas and stayed at the hotel David manages. It was sort of halfway, but I also needed to pick up the bike I won in a drawing awhile back. Before you think we were going to whoop it up in Las Vegas, this hotel is not on the strip, which suited us just fine. David’s dog greeted us at the front desk and after a workout in the hotel gym, a shower and a 5-minute nap, Elizabeth and I went to dinner with David and his girlfriend, Julie. He didn’t break that news to me until I came down to the lobby to meet him. I might have spent a little more time on my hair and makeup or wore a different outfit had I know she was joining us. The evening was fun. We all had a good time.
- Up again before dawn, we hightailed it back to California. We were greeted with a glorious sunrise as we left Las Vegas and we discovered that the town of Tehachapi has no health food stores.
It was good to be home. I missed my cat, my boyfriend, and my bed, though not necessarily in that order.