Old Mining Town
After about a year we moved again, this time it was only about thirty miles away though. I’m not sure why we moved, as usual our Dad didn’t tell us. Our dad still had the same job working as technician. He found us a huge banana yellow three story house that had been previously condemned. It had three bedrooms on the top floor, a living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom on the second and a basement at ground level. We ended up living there for three years, the longest time we had ever lived in one place at that point.
It was an old mining town; later on I found out that most of it had been burnt to the ground in the early 1900's. Because the mines had been closed most of the town seemed to be poor. They tried their best to attract tourists with trolley rides around town and rides into the old mines that had long since been shut down. Our house was situated on the side of a steep mountain. It was covered with wood stairs leading to each street of houses.
To go to school or get into town to visit friends or do anything we had to walk up and down the mountain every day. There was a trail close to our house that worked as a short cut. We started going to the elementary school, I was finishing up fifth grade at the time. I had three different teachers there, for Math, Science and English. I remember the English teacher being a very tall and masculine looking woman with gray hair. The math teacher was a short woman with tight curly black hair. My science teacher was a nerdy looking guy with glasses.
The first time I remember meeting my Aunt Joann and Uncle Steven was when we moved there. Years later I found out I saw her often when I was smaller but again, those memories are lost. They lived in Idaho too and Aunt Joann didn't have many toys because her kids were in high school. We were disappointed about that but she did give us a stuffed pink poodle. She also had this sand thing where you would shake it around and it would form mountains of blue and white powder. Our older cousin Patricia lived in the bedroom down the hall. Her room was plastered with posters of Bon Jovi and Unicorns. I always thought Patricia was pretty, she was a little chunky but she had long curly chestnut colored hair and a perfect smile. At the time I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to hang out with me. Now I realize there was such a huge age gap, we didn’t have anything in common. Our cousin Benjamin had just moved out since he had recently graduated high school, he had long black hair and wore glasses.
The other children started picking on me almost immediately in the new neighborhood. A girl named Kelly came up to me and punched me in the stomach. I didn't even know her name yet, let alone why she was punching me. Another girl named Michelle taunted me at recess in the playground by calling me, “Bucked tooth Becky.” The other kids quickly followed suit, for the entire three years we lived there it became my nickname. I went home and cried almost every day. I didn't fight back, every time I went home and told my Father about it his advice was “just ignore them and they'll stop.” His theory was that the bullies wanted attention and if they didn’t get it they would get bored and leave me alone. But ignoring them only made it worse. They found a punching bag that didn't defend herself and it made me an easy target.
Despite the bullying I managed to make a few friends. Janice was one of the first friends I made. She had a gift for writing poetry and just seemed very mature for her age. I remember she wrote this one poem about slitting her wrists because her boyfriend broke up with her. I was immediately drawn to her for some reason. The next year we moved onto the Junior High School. Janice and I were friends for a few months and she taught me how to write poetry but then she started hanging out with the popular crowd and keeping her distance from me. In a way it was hurtful but I also understood why.
The bullying only intensified in sixth grade. At the bus stop I was beat up by a boy named Dustin who kicked me in the behind so hard I could barely walk afterwards. I was teased mercilessly for my red hair, clothes and my body.
I immersed myself in books and tried to shut out the rest of the world. When I was reading a book I forgot all about the situation I was in. When I was reading I became the character in the book, I could travel in time like “A Wrinkle in Time”. I was popular and had a boyfriend like the girls in “Sweet Valley High”
I excelled in reading and would finish over a hundred books every school year. Other students would give me a dirty look when I turned in my book reports since most of them struggled to complete the three required books per year. Sometimes my teachers would demand that I put the book down and pay attention because I would get so involved in a book that I didn't notice class had started; I read every spare moment I had. My favorite class was Language Arts. It made me feel better about myself that I had some kind of talent or ability. I used to imagine that I would become a famous author. I started writing my life story and called it, “Me, Myself and I.” I didn't really know what I wanted to do though. That was always the question people asked when I was a child, “what are you going to be when you grow up?” there was so much pressure to succeed and I heard that women could be whatever they wanted to be, not just mothers and wives like my Grandma. But it was intimidating, I didn’t want to decide, part of me wanted to be a kid with no responsibilities for the rest of my life.
While snooping through our father’s books and paperwork we found pictures of our Mom holding me when I was a newborn baby. She had long black hair without bangs and she was wearing blue flowered overalls and a cream colored t-shirt. She was holding me on her lap and I was facing forward towards the camera kind of slumped over, fast asleep. We were sitting on a rocking chair and her face was emotionless as she looked down at me. It appeared as if she didn't know what to do with me or how to hold an infant. She looked young, my birth certificate says she was 18 when I was born but I sometimes wonder. There was a baby bottle on the table beside her and a brown paper bag, a yellow lamp on the in table next to her chair. My sister Marlene looked just like our mom, only she had dish water blond.
Marlene and I made friends with a blond girl named Karissa that summer. Every summer the town had a huge carnival with rides that made you feel sick to your stomach. After a lot of begging we finally got some money out of our Dad and went with Karissa to the carnival. Marlene was on a ride that spinned around and she puked all over the crowd surrounding it. I went on the Gravitron for the first time and my head felt like it was going to explode when I got off. We ate cotton candy and had the time of our lives even though we were felt like we had just been through a washing machine after drinking a few beers.
I guess it was a few days later when the police officer showed up at our house. I saw him outside in the driveway talking to my Dad and he motioned for me to come over. My stomach was in knots as I tried to figure out what I could have possibly have done to attract the cop’s attention. Then the officer dropped a bomb on me, he said that Karissa had accused my Dad of pinching her nipples. She said that while she was at our house Marlene and I went upstairs and left her alone with our Dad and that’s when it happened. I didn’t remember leaving her alone with him but my knee jerk reaction was to accuse her of lying. I swore up and down that I never left her alone with him and that it couldn’t have possibly happened. Deep down I wasn’t so sure if we went upstairs or not though. Still, I was outraged that someone would accuse my Dad of such a thing. As soon as the cop left Marlene and I went to her house and I shoved her against the wall and threatened to kick her ass if she didn’t stop telling lies about my Dad. We never heard from her or the cops again. Of course at the time I thought my father was innocent, I couldn’t imagine he would do something like that.
I was about 12 years old when I read the Stephen King book Pet Cemetery and it started giving me the creeps about our own pet cemetery we had started behind the garage where we were burying the cats that had died since we moved there. I was allowed to read pretty much anything I wanted, watch horror movies on television too.
I had an art teacher (whose name escapes me now) that I didn't like very much and the feeling seemed to be mutual. I guess I had an attitude problem because the next year he commented that my attitude had improved. I didn't notice any change though. He had gray hair and he was balding, he combed it over and used to joke that he was planning on growing it long, twirling it around like a bun and sticking it on top of his head to cover his bald spot. I watched him as he taught class and wondered how on Earth he would get it to stay up that way. He kind of creeped me out, he was overweight, and greasy looking. We heard rumors that he looked down a girl’s top.
My science teacher was Mr. Lubbock who was married to Mrs. Lubbock who taught arts & crafts, math, as well as heading the National Honors Society. During seventh grade I was a part of the NHS. The first day they explained that we had to pay dues, it was only a few dollars but I quickly panicked at the thought of figuring out a way to come up with that money. Getting money out of my father was like trying to get blood from a turnip. The National Honor Society was in charge of the concession stand at the games. Sports and cheer leading were big in this little town; there was nothing else to do. We were isolated from everything else in the middle of this valley of mountains. The closest big city was thirty miles away. I didn't care for Mr. Lubbock; he would smack his ruler on the desk really loud to get your attention and was very strict. He had salt and pepper colored hair and wore glasses. Mrs. Lubbock wasn't any nicer. In eighth grade Mr. Lubbock announced to his classes that they were getting a divorce. Later that same year he told us about how he hit a woman with his car on the way to school one day, and how he panicked and didn't think anything of touching her even though she had blood all over and there was the risk of AIDS
After school once when I was walking home from the bus stop a girl named Lucy came up to me and started yelling about how I had called her sister names and said she was going to beat me up. She grabbed me by the hair, sat on top of me and beat my head into the ground while I cried. I tried to explain to her that I didn't even know her sister but it was no use. Later on we became best friends somehow. It turned out the other kids had told her that to stir up trouble. I didn't even know her sister at that point, she was in high school. Lucy was in fifth grade and it was humiliating having a younger girl beat me up but I got over that when I found someone who was so similar to me who is to this day a very good friend.
Lucy struggled with being taunted at school too. One boy in particular made fun of her weight and clothes. He had straight black hair in a bowl cut, his name was Aaron and he was in the same grade as she was. She pointed him out to me and I vowed to get even with him for her, even though I didn't tell her that. Sometime later I poured my milk carton all over his head in the cafeteria. The lunch lady dragged me out of class to go clean it up. We spent the night at each others houses and talked for hours on end. She loved reading and painting, she gave me a book called Amy Girl by Bari Wood about a girl who watched her father kill her mother a hammer and the little girl had these special powers to control other people’s actions. It’s one of my favorite books.
That summer, Lucy and I decided to hitchhike to the next town. Well actually I should say Lucy decided and I just went along for the ride. We walked out past the hotel to the outskirts of town, a few blocks from Lucy's house. We got on the highway and Lucy stuck out her thumb. A couple guys pulled over in a truck and I panicked, running away in the other direction. Lucy told them, “Sorry about my friend, she forgot her medication” and ran after me.
I got in a fight with a girl named Clarissa who had been my friend. I don't even remember what it was about now, I think I just wanted to look tough in front of the other kids so they would stop picking on me and Clarissa was an easy target. I punched her in the face at the school bus stop. Later on we became friends again after I apologized and she told me she was having sex with her sister's husband who was a lot older. I looked at Crystal and couldn't believe it, she was very plain, and she wore her hair in a sort of mullet cut and was chubby. Why would this guy want to have sex with her? About a year later she had to drop out of school because she was pregnant with his child. I felt so guilty for not believing her when she told me and doing something about it because he was an adult and she was a child.
I made friends with a younger girl named Katrina who had asthma. Katrina had short, sandy colored hair. She had an older brother and I arranged to baby sit both of them. Their mom was a bar fly and their house reeked of cigarette smoke; they spent their time playing video games. The older brother turned out to be a handful. He decided to take his skate board onto the roof of the house and set the porch on fire while I was babysitting them.
Our Father hired another nanny named Pamela; she was chubby with shoulder length brown hair. She had a warm and funny personality. As I recall we instantly loved her. She lived downtown in a local hotel where her boyfriend was the manager. Pamela loved drinking Dr Pepper and watching Soap Operas like One Life to Live and Young and the Restless, Very soon I was hooked as well. She read romance novels by Harlequin and let me read them when she was done..
After Pamela was hired, I got the stomach flu, I remember my siblings and I made tapioca by ourselves and burned it, we tried to clean it up by pouring it into a coffee can. The stench of coffee and tapioca made me sick and I vomited all over our kitchen floor. Pamela took me to her house and I lay on the carpeted floor watching game shows while she cleaned the kitchen. Suddenly my stomach started hurting but I didn't realize what was about to happen and didn't have time to react, I threw up all over the floor. Her boyfriend started screaming at me to clean it up. He was such a jerk, he was bald and he had a long beard and wore glasses. Pamela gave me some 7-up and cleaned up the vomit while telling her boyfriend to stop being rude, I was too sick to take care of myself.
Our Dad decided to remodel the living room by knocking out the wall that led up to the stairs. He stripped the wall down but it turned out the foundation was holding the third floor up and he couldn't go any further. So we had a wall exposed in the living room from then on, one of the cats crawled in it and had her babies.
Another time our Dad got angry at us about something and stood at the top of the stairs punching the wall three times, leaving two holes in the wall just outside our bedroom door. So the house was pretty torn up.
Lucy went to our Grandma's with us for a visit and made Dammit dolls with us. For the longest time my Grandma had this homemade doll made of denim material and a poem on the front read something like “....here's a little damn it doll you cannot live without...” “…if you ever get angry just slam it, slam it, slam it…”
Mrs. Season was my least favorite teacher. She was even worse than Mr. & Mrs. Lubbock combined. She cursed sometimes and yelled at us; most of the students dreaded her class. She taught Social Studies. Kids talked about putting tacks on her chair and one time someone ripped off a corner of their desk and threw it at her. Our classroom was divided so the popular kids sat on one half and the outcasts sat on the other. There were three outcasts that day, two boys and myself. Mrs. Season knew it came from the outcast side of the room and pulled us out in the hall. I was annoyed; I knew I didn't do it. I didn't like Mrs. Season but I wouldn't think of doing that and even if I did I wouldn't have the nerve, my Dad would have chapped my hide for something like that. She demanded to know who did it and we all denied it. This was going nowhere and I just wanted to go back to class. So I said “I don't see the big deal, you're not limping or anything” and she sent me to the principals office. For a long time I didn't even understand why I was sent there.
That winter, our little friends from Montana came for a visit with their mom who had recently divorced Will, staying the night in our room. We were playing out in the snow and got cold so we went to the bathroom to warm our feet up in the tub. Our Dad walked in on us, quickly apologized and left. At the time I didn’t think much of it. Later on we walked to the video store and the gas station for ice cream and played Nintendo
I had another friend named Alice. Anyway she asked me if I wanted to go to the movies to see Death Becomes Her with Meryl Streep. I had never been to a theater before so of course I was dying to go but my Dad wouldn't give me any money. Alice asked her mom and she paid for both of us to go. I had such a good time. I spent the night quite a bit and she gave me hand me downs.
Alice had an older brother named Dennis that I had a crush on. He had sandy colored hair and piercing blue eyes. We went out to the lake because her parents had a boat and we went knee boarding.
Alice gave me a two piece short outfit and I wore it to Oregon when our Dad decided to take us to see the ocean. Out of the blue he just said we were going, we hadn't been camping or anything in a long time but we packed everything up that summer and drove down to the coast. Marlene, Dylan & I were free to roam, we went to the beach and I took Dad's shovel and buried them in the sand, leaving just their heads exposed. A couple old ladies had got their car stuck in the sand and asked to borrow our shovel; in exchange they took our picture with me burying my siblings, asked for our address so they could mail the picture to us. We didn’t think they actually would but sure enough a few weeks later it came.
My siblings and I started asking about our Mother again. We decided to ask our Dad about her again, even though in the past he had brushed off our questions for the most part. He finally told us that the reason why we couldn't see our mother was because she had paranoid schizophrenia. We were shocked, we didn't understand but it sounded scary. From then on he made jokes about how she had been locked up in the loony bin and had to wear a straight jacket. He told us a story about how she once ran up and down a hotel hallway buck naked and the cops had to stop her. All this time we just thought she didn't love us or didn't care.
Then he called her and let us talk with her on the phone. I was so excited; I was finally going to get to talk to my mother! I could barely contain myself; I had waited for this moment for so long and fantasized about what she would be like. I talked to her first, she asked me how old I was and I told her I was twelve years old. She asked me if I had any babies yet. I laughed nervously, why would she think I had children? I didn't even have a boyfriend yet I thought to myself. Then she told me that she had been raped by her brother and she got pregnant and gave the baby up for adoption. She said I had a half-sibling out there somewhere. I couldn't believe it; I was disgusted with what she had told me but intrigued at the thought of having a long lost half-sibling. I asked my father about it and he explained it was just her delusions talking. I felt like I had been lied to, like she was just playing with me. I couldn't trust anything she said; I didn't have a real mother, just some crazy woman on the phone asking me if I had babies yet. Still I longed to meet her; maybe she would be different in person.
Around this time our father came home from work one day and said he was burnt out, that he couldn't take care of us anymore and we were going to have to fend for ourselves. He said he was fed up with working, being responsible and taking care of us kids, and laid down on the coach. We ran upstairs and huddled together on the bed to figure out a plan. How would we eat? How would we pay the bills? We cried because we were so scared, my stomach was in knots as I realized there was no way we could make it on our own. It was the beginning of the school year and our father had forgotten to register us too, the principal called and asked what was going on and we worked something out. The next day our Dad got up and went to work anyway and life went on like normal.
I can't remember how we met Justine and Alyssa but once we did we were inseparable. Justine was a spunky redhead, she was loud and opinionated, bossy and loved to sing and dance. She was a huge tomboy. Alyssa was a little more reserved and girly; she had long curly dishwater blond hair like Marlene. We would run all over the neighborhood and go hiking up into the woods where we lived; we found an old fort and declared it was ours. We went swimming together at the local pool down the road and got into trouble together.
Once we decided to go into the post office and throw papers around and shred everything to bits. We thought it was so much fun and ran out of the place laughing our heads off. We went down to a small store in town to shoplift and went home. Little did we know there was a witness to our crime and the police showed up at our door. We had to do community service and sweep up leaves around the post office and in a garage behind it.
I had been writing to my friends in Montana for a couple years, they sometimes sent me stickers and I would send them a bracelet if I managed to shoplift one from Tabors. One day I found one of their letters in their snow down the street from our mailbox. I told our Dad about it and he suspected someone was going through our mailbox so he set up a hidden camera pointing towards the mailbox. After a week we watched the kids going by and a couple adults but nothing. Then one day we saw a neighbor go up to our mailbox, open it up and look through everything and put it back. We told our Dad but he said that guy was his friend and he would never do that; he was just protecting our mail..
Our Dad filed for bankruptcy around this time when the bills were piling up, he explained to us that it meant we didn't have enough money to pay the bills and he had to fill out a lot of paper work and visit a lawyer's office in the big city. He went inside and we waited in the hot car for what seemed like an eternity.
We stole a lot of things back then. Some of it was for survival, other things just because we wanted them and they made us feel better. At the local five and dime I would steal shoes by trying them on and leaving the store still wearing them, leaving my old ones with holes in the toes behind. We were caught stealing candy once, and our Dad made us take it back and confess to the cashier; from then on they watched us like hawks whenever we went into the store. But that didn't stop me from shoplifting at other stores.
In seventh grade I made another friend named Claudia. I was in computer class when I heard the popular group talking about how the new girl was stuck up and thought she was all that because she was from California. Instead of listening to them I went over to her and introduced myself. She wasn't stuck up at all, she was very friendly and open, just a little shy. She had blond curly hair and an overbite just like me. I felt a connection with her because of that I think; I saw how the other kids were making fun of her because she was different. I spent the night at her house and we played Barbie dolls together. I had given up dolls and thought we were a little too old for it but I kept that to myself. Her father was extremely strict and it almost seemed like her parents wanted her to stay like a little girl. She wasn't allowed to leave the house except to go to school.
My sister and I loved playing outside and building forts, we were tomboys in some ways but we also liked playing house and pretending to marry our pets to one another. One evening Marlene tripped over a root that was coming out of the ground from a huge pine tree in our yard. She started screaming for help and I ran over to her to see what was wrong. Her leg was twisted and tears were streaming down her face. I ran up the stairs to the second story of our house into the kitchen and told our father what had happened. He was cooking dinner and he barked at me, “Tell her to get her ass up here and stop whining, its dinner time.” So Marlene managed to get up the steps bawling the entire way and sat halfway through dinner before he finally realized her leg was broken because she wouldn't stop crying and took her to the hospital.
Our father met a lady named Maria who had two girls, Khloe and Maria Jane. Maria was almost childlike with her enthusiasm and attitude towards life. We loved spending the night at her house and playing board games with her. She would let us stay up late and tell us stories while we roasted marshmallows in her fireplace. I babysat her girls who were about four and seven at the time. Maria once called a local church and they donated a bunch of gifts to us for Christmas. It was the one of the few Christmas's where we got anything and we were so grateful. One time Maria came over for dinner and we had a food fight, we threw food all over the dining room walls and each other. We had to clean it up after but we left an empty picture frame on the wall with splattered food in the middle.
Lucy, Marlene and I used to sneak into the hotel to go swimming and sit in the sauna until they figured out we weren't guests and started locking the doors that went into the pool room. There was a community swimming pool as well but we didn't always have money to get in.
One day at the school playground I found my brother cutting off grass hoppers heads and sewing them back on. I thought to myself, he’s going to be a scientist someday.
I helped Lucy baby sit her younger siblings and we listened to her mom, Maria, tell scary ghost stories about using Ouija boards and hearing chains up in the attic. Maria also told me that she knew Roseanne Barr, who was the star of one of my favorite television shows. I totally believed her, until years later when I talked to Lucy again and found out that her mom had schizophrenia just like mine and she was just delusional. We would sometimes go up to the lake with their family and jump off this 10 foot high cliff into the water or try to catch fish.
Lucy got some beer from her sister one night and we split it three ways between me, my sister and Lucy. We went down to the playground to drink it and afterwards we went to this kids club they had underneath the library which played dance music. We tried smoking cigarettes we had stolen from our father; he smoked at least a pack a day of Camels.
That winter we decided to ditch school so we went down to the bus stop, met up with Lucy and then came back up to our house to wait for our Dad to leave for work. Once he was gone we went inside and watched television and played. Quite unexpectedly he came back for lunch though and we scurried upstairs to hide underneath our beds, trying to be as quiet as mice. My heart was pounding the whole time, I was terrified but he never knew we were up there skipping school.
We knew what would happen if he found us. He had a horrible temper; even small things would set him off. If he got mad at us he would grab us by the arm, hold us up in the air and hit us really hard with his hand. He was strong and he would spank us so many times I lost count and when he was done we couldn't sit down it hurt so bad. We could get spanked just for talking while he was trying to watch the news during dinner. We got spanked just for looking at him the wrong way. We tip toed around him like we were walking on egg shells.
Our father hired a new babysitter with long, straight, blond hair that looked just like the teenage girls on the Sweet Valley High books. I can’t recall her name; she was only with us for a few weeks. She was the oldest of her siblings, she had about ten of them and they lived in a huge yellow mansion that used to be a Bed & Breakfast. The floors were all hardwood and the kitchen had a huge island in the middle. I remember we danced to Debbie Gibson’s “I think we’re alone now” and choreographed routines to go along with the words. She made us cornmeal mush which was just a runny paste that had cornmeal and water in it. What she lacked in cooking skills she made up in fun though.
That winter she decided to take us hiking up the mountain on the other side of town. It was winter and there was snow all over the ground. Our goal was to reach the water tower at the top where she said we could climb up and see the whole town and eat lunch. We finally arrived at our destination and pulled out our sandwiches, chewing peanut butter and jelly on white bread as we admired the view. When we climbed down we decided to go over to an abandoned house that was full of newspapers but not anything interesting. Somehow I managed to wander off from the group. I was wearing the big fluffy pink coat my English teacher had given me. I turned around in circles and realized that I was all by myself. I called out for my siblings and the sitter but heard nothing. Having recently read Hatchet (a book about a boy lost in the woods after a plane crash who survives with nothing but one tool) I decided I was an expert at wilderness survival and proceeded to walk in one direction until I found civilization. When I told my Language Arts teacher about this she told me I was supposed to stay in one place until someone found me.
After a while I reached a creek. It seemed to be moving slowly and looked shallow enough so I figured I could walk straight across. Before I knew it I was being pulled downstream and I couldn’t keep my head above water. I realized the heavy pink coat I loved was weighed down with water and felt like a cement anchor so I took it off and finally got my head above water. I prayed to God to keep me alive and promised to be a good girl if I reached the other side. You know, desperate bargaining at the face of death’s door. I have no idea how I did it but somehow I reached land and pulled myself up the shore, gasping for air. I made my way through town freezing cold with wet clothing and hair sticking to me. I got back to the house where everyone was relieved to see me since they found my coat downstream and thought I had drowned.