Monday, March 8, 2010

Background - Third Leg (and a long one)

The city where I lived in Upstate New York, Elmira, then had a population of about 40,000, although it's down to 30,000 in 2000). Elmira is a river city located about ½ way across the long southern New York State/Pennsylvania border. Geographically, the area is spectacular. located in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. When kids wanted to joy-ride, we went to places like Harris Hill, the self-proclaimed glider soaring-capital of the world.

We arrived in South Dakota to the small upper-Midwest town of White (1970 population: about 800), where we stayed with Jay, my biological father. You want to talk about a culture shock. I moved from lovely mountain foothills to farm fields as far as the eye can see. White is about 14 miles from Brookings, and you can literally see one city's water tower from the other city. The biggest hill between the two being the bridge over Interstate 29. After 2 weeks, we moved to Brookings (population: 16,000). I was ecstatic...but not for long.

We arrived in South Dakota only two weeks prior to the start of the school-year. My older brother, Jimmy, had decided that he wouldn't be returning to high school and started looking for a job. I soon learned that most of the kids in Brookings had attended school together since kindergarten. At first, this was wonderful, as I got lots of attention as The New Girl from New York. But it wasn't long before the novelty of me wore off and I was just plain lost. The kids who I met were nice enough, but I didn't really know anyone (in school or out), and I was miserable. After two weeks, I decided that I, too, would work to support the family instead of going to school, and my mother didn't object. I got a job as a waitress...and after three months decided school wasn't so bad, after all.

This time around at the high school I met a whole different crowd of kids. Coming in half-way through the school year, the first kids I met were the ones sitting outside the office; no wonder I fell in with the party crowd. I had no direction or guidance, had no idea what it was I was desperate for, lived for the weekend parties, and continued to care little about academia. I wasn't very assertive as an adolescent and so just stumbled along, eventually dropping out of school just before semester exams in my senior year.

I got a job at a local factory testing electronic components for pop machines. You can imagine how stimulating that was. This was my first job outside of babysitting, and I hated it. I sat for eight hours each day manually adjusting the four metal prongs on relay devices. One day, on my lunch break, I walked to the near-by park, sat on the little foot-bridge, and cried. I never went back. I remember getting yelled at for 'not doing anything' but sleep all day after that; I was lazy and wasting my life. Looking back, I'm sure I was suffering from a pattern of depression that would stay with me for years,if not decades.

My mother was suffering from her own demons at that time. My younger brothers and sister were sent to live with Dad in Missouri. At 18, being sent away was not a consideration for me, so I was put out with my older brother. We rented a sparsely furnished one bedroom apartment. There's a big part of me that would love to be able to go back to that time and place. Oh, the changes I would make to my life. Famous last words, ay? A friend tipped me off to a secretary position open at the local gravel pit, which I applied for and was given. About a month later I moved in with the mechanic, who became my husband a year after that.

Now you know my path to adulthood. The next fourteen years was more of the same stumbling along. My ex-husband had a daughter when I met him. We had two more daughters in the next four years, a daughter four years later, and a son shortly after that. I was with my husband for fourteen years. We separated in 1990, continued the back-and-forth on-again-off-again trends of our marriage for another three years, divorcing late in 1991 and ultimately severing our relationship permanently in June of 1993. I think I'm safe in saying that we both hope we haven't scarred our children too deeply.

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