The very first inkling i nad that something might have been wrong was the summer I turned 10. It was 1955 and I was at Clear Lake with my cousins and their Auntie Annie. Auntie Annie would take all of us girls to Lake County every summer. We'd stay for a month. A month of perfect heaven. Sunshine, hot days on the beach, swimming from morning to evening. Running down the gravely sandy beach into the water, swimming hard and fast to the raft. I loved the raft. It's were the big kids hung out. My big girl cousins, Frances, and Jeanette, and kids I didn't know. Jumping off that raft over and over into the cold water, climbing back up to the top of the raft, and jumping again. Laying on the raft in the sun, and holding on for dear life when some big boy would start playing "king of the raft". He'd rock it so hard that kids would fly off into the water. My cousin Marilyn and I would hang on tight, and eventually we'd roll off into that water. Laughing and wanting more. Picking up the mail at the little Austins Resort post office, lots of times there was a letter from my mom, with a package. She'd send rocky road candy or chocolate chip candy. My cousins and I loved that. In the evening we'd walk on the main street to buy greasy cheeseburgers, equally greasy salty fries, orange birely's soda and then play miniature golf, walking back to the Honeymoon cabin in the warm evenings, the streets alive with teenagers in their cars, listening to loud music. The new rage was a man called Elvis Presley, everyone loved him. I said I did too, but really could have cared less. Some nights we'd go with the Cahill kids to the drive in. Quite a few of us would climb into the trunk and stay in their quietly until 2 kids in the front of the car paid their way in, then drove ther car to a spot where we could see well, and hook up speakers, then they'd let us out of the trunk. With great relief the air would flood in, invariably someone, usually a boy, would have farted in the closed trunk, no one could laugh or scream for air. There was a small fair that would be in the neighborhood for weeks, and we would go a few times a week. Spending our dimes trying to win a fish. Going on the rides, eating cotton candy and pink popcorn.
Oh how I loved those vacations. I got to be with my beloved cousins for weeks, without my brothers who annoyed the hell out of me. No dad to tell me I couldn't have any fun. My dad was so safety concious it stopped all life. Also I didn't have to be there for the horrible fights mom and dad had a few times a week. Me cowering in my bedroom while things smashed and horrible words were thrown back and forth at each other, windows smashed, furniture thrown, dinner thrown while we were eating. It was glorious to eat the unhealthy food that Jeanette and Frances cooked for us. Who cared about unhealthy, we were together, and we played and laughed, and I learned so much from my cousins.
On sundays we took long walks to the outdoor catholic church. I hated that. It was so hot. It was like the day stopped, we had to go to church. Auntie Annie made us do that. So of course we did. When that was over we went back to our cabin, changed into our bathing suits and headed to the lake. Later in the day Marilyn and I played "horsie" and listened to "lil" talk about what little snot ass brats we were and how she hated little girls. She raised boys, and skunks. Yes skunks. She had them de-smelled. Whatever that word is. I could go on and on and on about those vacations. I loved them. I loved being away from my home and lonely cold foggy days in SF. I was so happy during those vacations. I will never forget the blue bar that sat on the beach blasting music, "The Blue Trap". "Behind the Green Door"...."That Happy Wanderer" Marilyn and I sang along to all the songs, and I couldn't wait until the day i could go into a bar and play the juke box, and dance with men, and have a drink. That day was a long way away.
Usually mom would come with her friend Pat and Pat's sons and my brothers, they'd camp at the resort. All my fun would stop for a time while she was there. I couldn't stay out till after dark fishing for blue gill with Marilyn. Or pretending to be horses. Running up and down the dry creek bed where there were tons of rattle snakes. Of course Mom would take over everything at the beach. She was fun, but she payed so much attention to the other girls and ignored me that I felt as if she didn't care about me. The pain I felt was jealousy, but I didn't know it there. I didn't know that all my life I'd have to work on this one core lesson over and over and over.
This particular year Mom didn't come to visit. I missed her terribly. I could get very angry and hurt with my mom but I loved her beyond measure. She was my life, and I lived in fear of loosing her. I also lived in fear that if anything happened to her, I'd be stuck with my father. I feared him, and I hated him. I hated the way I felt around him. I tried so hard to please him, and always failed. I tiptoed around him, so he wouldn't notice me, but it never helped. He was always angry, it seemed at me, at all of us. Someone would always be his scapegoat. I feared the days it was me. The feeling I had about him, the one that prevailed over all other feelings was that he was holding himself in, keeping a rain on himself, until the night he would actually blow and murder all of us, starting with Mom. I dreamt about this often. I heard him scream often "I hate everyone of you goddamn kids and your mother too".
How do I get lost like this? This is not where I intended to go. I wanted to write about Mom not coming to Clear Lake that summer and why. I wrote instead about how much I loved my cousins and being with them in Clear Lake. And how much I loved my Mom.