Why would we move back into the exact same place? We moved the summer between 3rd and 4th grade, back into the same duplex we had lived in before. My father didn’t live with us at first. I think they were dating though. He came by and picked us up when he wasn’t working night shift. When he was, we stayed at his mother’s on Friday night and he picked us up on Saturday. I have no idea where my mother worked then. But, I know she did work.
She enrolled me in school close to my paternal grandparent’s house. I went to Stonewall Tell Elementary and my Papa and Granny lived on Stonewall Tell Road and I road the bus to their house everyday after school. I actually really liked that arrangement. I had some cousins who lived next door to my grandparents. So I got to play with them a lot and see them all the time. I had barely seen them at all during the first year of my parents’ divorce and I guess I felt deprived.
That school year, I had Ms. Furlough. She was colored. Or black. Or whatever you called in it 1979-1980. She was the first teacher I had that wasn’t white. I noticed, but then decided it made no difference in my life. At that time, as the offspring of long line of poor white bigoted rednecks, I had little to no experience with actual people who weren’t white. I heard about them, but didn’t really know any. This teacher turned out to be just another teacher, she wasn’t any different from any other teacher I had known. It was the start of a realization that my family didn’t know everything.
Our duplex was up on a steepish hill. The road was flat at the bottom of the driveway, but the duplex across the street was down a steepish hill too. One day my father came by to pick up my sister and myself. He drove a cute red VW Beetle with a sunroof. He sent us down to get in the car while he stayed inside to talk to my mother. We went down and climbed in, me in the back and my little sister in the front. She was always whiny about it and so often go to sit in the front. I admit I was jealous. This cute VW was a stick shift. My father had put the car into park, but not put on the parking brake. My sister and I were goofing around and bouncing and wiggling. You know, like little kids do when they are alone in a car. Well, my sister bumped the gear stick. It was right in the center, poking up from the floor between the front bucket seats.
The car shifted into neutral and started to roll. It rolled right down the driveway! Picking up speed until it bumped across the road and rolled down the front yard of the duplex across from us. Somehow, we had managed to get my sister into the back seat during this trip. The VW bashed right through the front brick wall of the duplex across the street. Right between their front door and their big plateglass window.
I guess we were screaming our fool heads off because my parents were there almost immediately. They must have been running after us down the hill. They dragged us out of the car and we clung to them like monkeys. In a VW Beetle, all the engine stuff was in the back. The front was the trunk. So, we were lucky. We weren’t injured at all, only frightened. And the car didn’t blow up or anything. Scariest thing in my life until many years later.
I am not sure exactly when my father moved in with us. On February 14, 1980, he and my mother remarried though. I was still in 4th grade and still road the bus to my grandparents’ house. My parents actually remarried in my grandparents’ living room. My mother wore ivory and looked exceedingly gothic and beautiful. My father wore a tan tuxedo with a ruffly shirt and looked extremely ridiculous. I remember crying and wishing they wouldn’t do it. I knew, even then, that it was still broken. What they had was not repaired. I am not sure why a child can see more easily through the lies than other adults can.
I started 5th grade at Stonewall Tell Elementary. But, somehow the school found out I did not really live at my grandparents’ address and only a few weeks in, I had to switch to the school close to my actual residence. So, I was back at Union City Elementary for almost all of 5th grade. I had a lovely teacher whose name I have forgotten. She was pregnant ALL YEAR LONG. It was the first time I really understood how long it took to grow a baby.
I was very very unhappy. I spent all of my class time reading books and making up stories. I completed very few assignments. I aced all my tests and did my creative writing stuff, but mostly, I went to lala land during school hours. The school had my parents take me to a psychiatrist, I remember very very little about that. As I understand it, the psychiatrist ended up telling my parents that I was fine except for my home life stressing me out too much.
Near the end of the school year, April maybe, my parents BOUGHT a house!