It’s not that easy being green;
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold…
or something much more colorful like that.
I met my BFF when I was 13. I was unlucky enough to be surrounded by a gaggle of self-centered, self-involved step-sisters, one step-brother, (all who would turn on a dime…) and my one and only “real” sister, who, unfortunately, I didn’t appreciate as much as I now wish I had! At the time, my natural father was thinking with his “small head” and would do anything (including sacrificing his natural daughter’s wants, needs and desires) to please that hot red-head he had just married.
My BFF was lucky enough to be an only child, with two doting parents, piano lessons, private school, a poodle, a closet full of clothes from The Broadway, and a canopy bed…and, yet, she envied ME even more than I envied HER life! I suppose that “the grass is always greener”…
My BFF and I were both just “normal” teens…believing in our heart of hearts that “if ONLY Bobby Sherman KNEW us” our charms would far surpass anything one of those Hollywood Starlets could offer…we were such SILLY GIRLS!
Funny how time and age change your perception of things. My dad was 39 at the time…to me, He was ANCIENT, and SO out of touch! (Or so I thought!) As I sit here today, my own son, who lives just 20 minutes away, is the same age my dad was, 39…and he is much like my dad was then: recovering from the recent deaths of his wife and unborn son. (I can hope that my son doesn’t follow his grandfathers footsteps and marry a vixen with five children from four different men!! And not even ONE paying child support! (Or, Gods forbid, Jodi Arias!)
I don’t know why my dad couldn’t see how much he and his own natural children would financially suffer when he accepted the responsibility of that woman and her five young children! Overnight, my sister and I went from having our own room to sharing a room with four other girls, who were all so MUCH younger than we were….we went from having a small amount of “nice” school clothes to buying even less at thrift stores…we went from a pleasant life in San Diego to a house in the middle of No-where, Iowa which didn’t even have heat or running water…we had an outdoor toilet and a wood stove for heat. We went from taking a bath on a nightly basis to going to Gramma’s once a week on Saturday afternoon…the bullying morons on the school bus would make “hog calls” as we boarded every morning… My dad stood on the “if it was good enough for me during the depression, it’s good enough for you!” And “Why, I don’t even make you wear your sister’s hand-me-down shoes, like *I* had to do!” And “I WALKED to school with HOLES in my shoes, in the SNOW, UPHILL, BOTH WAYS!”
My BFF saw a home filled with the love of brothers and sisters she didn’t have…I saw them all as a cadre of an invading species, consuming the meager availability of resources with a sense of entitlement I had never learned. I asked my BFFs parents to “adopt me too”…they laughed, believing I was joking…I wasn’t!
When my dad moved all of us from sunny California to south-eastern Iowa…I was forced to lose all the friends I had made in San Diego, the school I had attended, and the activities in which I excelled. Again, with the “if it was good enough for me….” routine.
Life was difficult in Iowa. My dad was determined to “make do” with only his Navy retirement check. There was just no way to support a family of 8 children and 2 adults on a Navy retirement! My dadhad “creative ways” of “making do”…When he would gather up all us kids to go out to a neighbor’s field and pick corn after the harvesters had gone through, it wasn’t “stealing”, it was “gleaning”…and it wasn’t trespassing and theft when we raided the neighbor’s acreage for our winter firewood, we were “helping Farmer Jones” by “reducing the fire hazard”…Dad had a ready supply of “valid reasons” for his trespassing and nighttime forays onto nearby farms to pick crops, fish or hunt game, or even emptying Farmer Jones oil and gasoline fuel tanks. “If Farmer Jones knew I needed it, he would give it to me willingly, so why bother asking him?”
Yet, in an extreme example of “do as I say, not do as I do”, if I was caught in a fib, or suspected of using something without permission, the penalty was a bare-butt beating with a belt, or a huge wooden paddle that my Dad made just for that purpose. I cannot count the times I “ate my dinner standing up” due to the welts and bruises I somehow “earned”.
It seemed to me that the RedHead Cruella Deville took sadistic pleasure in telling lies about something I had said, or done that would merit a trip “behind the woodshed”…ESPECIALLY if one of “HER Angels” had recently been the receipient of some “Parental Instruction” meted out by my father! I didn’t have much compassion when my BFF complained that when she was “in trouble” with her folks, that they “gave her a good talking to” and she lost use of the Volvo and The Broadway credit card for a week…how I wished my dad would just “talk to” me!
It wasn’t until I turned 18, a senior in high school that things began to change. The RedHead HATED Iowa (she didn’t know how much I agreed with her, I HATED it too!) and she saw that *I* was the one and only cause that we lived THERE instead of her native San Diego. As a result, she became my personal terrorist, saying or doing ANY thing that she KNEW would hurt me or cause my dad to discipline me. But, one day, she pushed too far…
She told my dad that she saw me inside the pool hall downtown. Now, “downtown” Moravia ISN’T a thriving metropolis! In fact, with a population of less than 700 people (including dogs and cats), the “Town Square” has only THREE sides! On ONE of those sides, was the Pool Hall, a place ALL of us knew was “OFF LIMITS”!! When my dad accused me of being IN the pool hall, I NATURALLY denied it, because I had been no where NEAR Town Square! Well…I got two beatings that day…one for being in the pool hall, and one for lying. It was the most brutal beating I had EVER received…and afterward, I could barely LOOK at my dad without feeling an intense dislike of what he had become. I made up my mind right then and there, that no matter what, I was leaving home when I graduated in May.
The next school day, my dad stopped the bus driver. “Carl, I want you to call me the next time one of my girls is in your pool hall!” “NOT ONE of your kids has been in my pool hall, EVER!” Carl replied.
I don’t have any idea of what went through my dad’s head at that point. Surely he knew that he had been duped into beating me half to death for two things I hadn’t EVER been guilty of. If he had stopped for only one moment before laying a hand on me that day, he would have realized that Cruella, the RedHead was lying. She COULDN’T have seen me in the pool hall (other than I was never THERE)…SHE DIDN’T DRIVE! Any time she went somewhere, my DAD drove her! We lived 10 LONG COUNTRY MILES from Town Square, so she COULDN’T have WALKED…she has SEVERE asthma, and never learned how to ride a BIKE…so, there was NO WAY she COULD have SEEN what she SAID she saw.
Over the next six months, their marriage deteriorated even more than it had before. They were both disappointed in one another. She thought she was marrying a successful Navy Warrant-Officer, he thought he was marrying a Hearth and Home Goddess; he was happy being “at home” near his parents and “living off the land”, she was miserable being “away from home”, far from her parents, and not having a mall nearby or money to spend there.
She began packing “her” things, and secretly sending packages back “home” to San Diego…my dad was clueless about what she was doing until someone on the “party line” told him about the conversations she’d heard between Cruella and her mother as they made plans…
And, meanwhile, I lived in my own little world, oblivious to everything around me…except that my dad was TRYING to be nice to me, and Cruella had one of those “if looks could kill” faces everytime I would sneak into the kitchen to find something to eat. As a result, I made myself “scarce”, spending time in my room, believing “out of sight, out of mind”.
I spent HOURS in my room, writing letters to my BFF (living vicariously thru her letters back to me) or playing guitar, or thinking up a way to escape the hell I felt I lived in. As if it isn’t bad enough to be 16 and 17, I had been taken from a middle-middle-class Southern California lifestyle (with running water & central HVAC) and dumped into a lower-lowest-class life in IOWA! I was traumatized, to say the least!
I left a school where I was on the swim team, a member of the band Dance Team, Drama Club, Glee Club and had my “fair share” of friends to “hang out” with at the beach …and then landed at a school in Iowa during my Junior year…a closed, cliquish society in a school where boys joined Future Farmers and girls became Future Homemakers…there was no beach within walking distance, no pool at school, no dance club, drama club…and all the busses were “short”…
While I was dressing in mini-skirts and tank tops (with love beads, of course), everyone else was wearing “maxis” and boots…I was more than a fish out of water…I was green…
The only person who was HAPPY that I came to Moravia was Mark M, because the bullies had someone more fun to pick on than him…but, to be seen TALKING to me would have only instigated further bullying, so even MARK wasn’t going to be seen with me.
Each day, my ugly stepsisters would dutifully snoop into whatever activities I might be involved, and, of course, rat me out at whatever opportunity presented itself.
As graduation, (that magic day I dreamed of) approached, most of my female classmates were planning June weddings, their activities in Future Homemakes paying off as they married their Future Farmer…a few became fodder for the rumor mill because they began their jobs as Future BabyMakers months before joining the Future Wives Club!
I begged my father to fill out the paperwork so I could get a scholarship/loan or grant (after all, we WERE poor!) so that I could go to college…. But he refused. He would no sooner allow me to accept “grant money” than he would apply for Welfare or Food Stamps. “I KNOW how things happen” he said “you will only get knocked up and get married once you get there! Why waste the money! Besides, you aren’t all that smart, anyway!”
I made a decision to leave Iowa and “never return”…
And I did! And I didn’t!
I didn’t know on my Graduation Morning that Cruella would be back in Southern California in less than 60 days, I didn’t know that my dad and beloved sister had less than 4 years to live, I didn’t know that I would have a son, a man who has been my “bestest friend” for the past 39 years, I didn’t know how successful I would be at each of the colleges I attended, and I didn’t know how happy my life would become.
This morning, I kissed my beloved Dear Husband and wished him a wonderful and safe day as he headed out to his law office. I no longer live in the fast lane of the 405…I’m no longer an Orange County Housewife (or working as a lighting designer or an Interior Design Color Consultant) … But I don’t live in Iowa, either!
But, I’m still a lovely shade of green.
Later, life found me back in Southern California. For many years, I fought “being green”. I tried keeping up with Mrs.(Faye)Jones…I lived in the “right” area of the County, I lived in an “appropriate” home, I married a “Mover” who was very handsome, had the “right” job (and the morals of an alley cat), I carried the “right” Chanel Quilted Handbag, drove the obligatory BMW (Z3)…shopped in “all the right places” and went to the “right plastic surgeon”…I guess all to prove to the bullies who used to yell “Suuuuwweeee” at me as I climbed aboard the (short) bus that it wasn’t ME that WANTED to live in a house with no running water.
Then, one day, several years ago, I realized that maybe it was more important that I proved things to MYSELF; that it’s only MY opinion of MYSELF that matters! I learned that if I do things not to impress OTHERS, but because it makes me (or a loved one) happy, I am a happier person, I am more pleased with myself and my life!
I’m NOT married to my husband because he is an attorney, I am married to a man who loves me, respects me, admires my intelligence and my personality (and he just HAPPENS to be an attorney!)
My mother-in-law hates me because I’m not the socialite she believes her son DESERVES to be married to, she hates that I am not from “a good family”…she is rude to me, doesn’t know my name (or pretends not to) and gets angry when I don’t answer to “Hey, you!”
Now, I take pride that I am “myself”, that I am still “green”…most of my clothing comes from either Costco or the Outlet Mall…I couldn’t care less whether I wear THIS years colors or LAST year…so, when my Dear Husband’s Mother, sister or daughters look down their noses at my lack of style…I just smile to myself…knowing that my husband still works because he wants to and because he LOVES his work (not because we are so in debt that he HAS to continue working!) I drive a Sonata because we could pay cash for it, and NOT the Caddilac that we would have had to finance. Instead of wearing “designer” clothes, I watch our retirement plan grow each month, assuring us that we “have enough” to live long lives.
My childhood serves me well. I learned how to do without even the necessities of life, I learned to live with scorn. My sunny California Days taught me that here is no intrinsic happiness in owning “things” and that when people like you only because of those things, it is only SHALLOW happiness.
I’ve learned to be happy with the person that I see in the mirror every morning, I’ve learned that it is ok to march to the beat of my own drummer, it is okay to love others who have their own drum beat. I love Hy husband for the person he is, “warts and all”, and, he is “green” too, in his own way. And, after much thought, there isn’t one thing I would change about him. He’s perfect, just the way he is. He is a perfect shade of green…
And so am I.