Monday, October 19, 2009

Water Off a Duck’s Back (And other coping mechanisms) Stories of the OTHER girl next door.


This is the story of my life. Unembellished, unglamorized, straight up: life through the eyes of Liv Jensen. A few names have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty and everyone else who simply doesn’t want to recognize themselves. Some of the characters in my story would have a different version, which is another good reason for changing names, it makes it more difficult for you, the reader, to contact them to confirm or deny allegations that I will readily admit are based on my own jaded, biased and obviously slanted memories of all of the events in my life. I’ll allow for a margin of 15% exaggeration but mostly, these stories are as grotesque, funny and hopelessly romantic as they sound.


I was born second in a long and wildly varied line of Stecker children, six to be exact, if you don’t count my youngest sibling who died just before he was due to be born. In my opinion he counts since his coming and going affected all of our lives and having bourn four children myself, don’t believe any mother should be denied the credit of carrying a child to full term even if he doesn’t survive. I don’t think we ever found out why Michael didn’t make it, but I have a theory about why he was sent… I’ll get to that later.

My oldest brother, Josh, was two years older than me. An introvert, extremely intelligent and analytical (a gift that we all inherited from my dad) and to touch on the age-old anthroplogical debate, whether through natural tendencies or from the cultural impact of 12 years of homeschooling, he was a bit quirky, which in the end won him the adoration of a small town populated with boring souls and a very hot girl.

Next there was me, but since the next several hundred pages are devoted to myself, I will skip over the brief introduction and move on to my younger sister, Em.

Emily Dorise was named for my grandmother on my mom’s side, who changed her name from plain old “Doris” to the sophisticated Dorise, when she was a young woman. My sister was much more like my paternal grandmother, Audrey, however, who was the icon of motherly care and who earned her way into heaven with her good deeds if anyone ever did. Emily was a sweet, sticky sweet child, who was so endearing as a toddler that someone once took a close up of her chubby pink face in a squinched up smile and mailed it in to have a giant jigsaw puzzle made out of it. The rest of us kids never cared too much for that particular puzzle, so it was tucked away reverently in a souvenir box that I think my mother is still hiding somewhere.

After Em, Benjamin came along. The out of place red head was sheer passion and opinion from day one. He was hot tempered and cocky, in spite of all of the attempts that my siblings and I made to keep his ego in check. The years of ridicule and harassment backfired as Ben got older and eventually, bigger than the rest of us. He couldn’t be wrong, and I still have the scars on my wrists that his fingernails left in a persuasive move to sway my opinion. The real blow to all of us came when Ben got a college education. Suddenly not only was he always right, he was right and educated. Dangerous combination. Unfortunately for him, I think it scared the girls off for awhile, which was surprising since he turned out to be down right good looking, for a brother. Truthfully, Ben and I had a lot of good talks, and of all my siblings he is the one that I can relate to the most. We are more alike in our qualities and weaknesses than most of the others. Most Stecker gatherings are downright boring without one of us there.

Gabriel was number five, and the apple of everyone’s eye. I was ten when he was born and we all doted on him and cultivated probably one of the most pathetic momma’s boys in history. He turned out to be a sweet, talented, sensitive guy… maybe too sensitive. It irks me to listen to my parents apologize to him when they step on his emotional toes, mostly because I grew up not being allowed to have emotional toes at all, least of all where my parents where concerned. Sort of like the puzzle, I guess. I think siblings in a large family don’t have much appreciation for special treatment, until it is directed at us.

The baby of the clan, other than Michael, was Susanna, born when I was thirteen and often mistaken for my child when I took her anywhere. She did look like a miniature copy of me, but I like to think I had a little more grace and refinement, since Sanna was mostly arms and legs and airheaded comments up until her last years of high school. Most likely I didn’t, but since she turned out OK I shouldn’t complain.

I was born in Portland, Oregon, in the middle of June, which in my opinion is the perfect time for birthdays since it falls right in between Christmases and thereby offers an even distribution of gift reception. The early years in Portland are speckled in my memory with trips to the Oregon coast, listening to Grandma Schiffman tell mermaid stories, and holidays in Walla Walla Washington, where both of my parents had grown up. We rolled down hills and played in the leaves at Pioneer Park, gorged on Iceburgers and chocolate banana shakes, and swam in grandma’s giant pool, where we have a very disjointed collection of fables about deep-end rescues of drowning children and valiant dachshund heroes dragging them to the shallow end where they sat on the steps and shivered. Nobody can quite remember which kid it was, or which holiday we were there for, but we are all quite certain it happened and the rescuers name was Punky. My most vivid memories of the pool were the terrifying moments when my dad took me off the diving board with him, involuntarily, on my part, and the time that I came up out of the water and had a spider hanging in my face. I think my mom insisted there was no spider and it was just wet hair, but my six year old memory distinctly saw the scrambling eight legs dangling right before my eyes before I dove back under water, screaming.

I had a couple of friends in Portland. Liz, who lived down the street from me and my mother considered a bad influence, and Sarah T., who went to Sunday School with me but I considered a bad influence since she wore a zip up sweatshirt with nothing under it to kindergarten one day and occasionally wore pants to church. Mom was right about Liz, of course. It wasn’t so much Liz’s fault that she was a bad influence, it had more to do with her parapalegic mother who was confined to a motorized scooter (Liz’s sister said she had been shot in the back in a hospital waiting room while she was pregnant with Liz), and watched horror movies all day. In addition to sneaking out to the living room to watch snatches of Beastmaster and Poltergeist, I was also being subjected to Liz’s older sister Heather, who was older, owned a bike that wasn’t a banana seat, and wrote words like “asshole” and other illegible obscenities with a marker on their bunkbeds and closet walls.

Every once in awhile my mom would let me stay at Liz’s house for dinner, mostly because I was trying to get her to go to Sunday School with me, and obviously my mom hadn’t seen the bunkbeds, but I always made sure to check the menu before I manipulated Liz into asking if I could stay, since once I foolishly stayed in ignorance and was forced to suffer through stuffed green peppers. Looking back, I know that I had more to fear from the giant long haired cat that used the toy closet as a litter box than I did from the occasional homemade dinners at the Annis House.

My other friend, Sarah T., in spite of her obvious impropriotous dress, was going to remain laced intermittently in my life for a very long time, even after we left Portland for greener, and more conservative pastures. She and I started kindergarten together, until two weeks later when my mom and dad decided that we would be homeschooled. I can’t tell you exactly what their reasons where at the time, but as I got older I understood it had something to do with teaching evolution in public schools and taking the “under God” part out of the pledge of allegiance. Funny thing was, my brother and I both started school in a private Christian school that was run by the church that my parents had been “saved” into, so maybe it was both conscience and money that decided my fate as my parents contemplated paying tuition for their ever growing hoard. Since the church and school were intertwined, all of my buddies from that fateful two weeks of kindergarten (which was a traumatic experience since I never even got rotated to the potato painting table), were also in my Sunday School class, and I remember Sarah T. and Shonnie and Angela and the divine Matthew Gilchrist, who would become the centrifocal force in our budding romantic imaginations as we got older. I think Angela, who was the assistant pastor’s daughter, was the only one who was able to catch the eye of our gradeschool hero, which was infuriating to me and I blamed my parents since I had to be homeschooled and he never had a chance to see me in my full glory. Matt’s mom and mine had been very close friends when we were born, and at my baby shower there was even a package of ruffled panties that were from “Matthew”, an infant himself at the time and totally unaware of his suggestive gift of lingerie. Last I heard, Matt was studying to be a pastor for the Church of Christ somewhere in the Midwest and was married.

My most vivid childhood memories were the holidays. Family and food and presents and more fun than any child could contain. So much excitement, it came spilling out and tainted everyone who touched our family gatherings. I still live for Christmas and the hallowed traditions that rank in priority right after food and before sleep in the season.

Northward Trend

By the time I was ten we had a new circle of friends, A clique of families with lots of kids and similar convictions. We all decided to move from Portland and homestead up in northeastern Washington where they weren’t regulating illegal homeschooling with the same vengeance that the Oregon officials were, and where my parents knew there was already a conflagration of radical conservatives trying to live off the land and by their faith. We moved to Colville, and my dad left behind a high paying federal job and the house he built to rent a tiny three bedroom house in the small town and look for work. Those first few years were hard for my parents, I remember conversations about dad being “overqualified” for the manual labor jobs at the few places you could find work in Colville. It was a few years before he was able to get steady income as a transportation planner with some grant money from the state. In the meantime, he bounced from job to job, most of which I don’t remember, except the summer when he drove our 15 passenger van as a shuttle for the forest service, running firefighters from the airport in Spokane to the big fires burning up White Mountain on Sherman Pass. That was my introduction to the world of wildland fire, but it wouldn’t find its way back into my life for many years. At that time, the boxes of snacks that were left behind from the firefighter’s 4000 calorie meals were like gold to a swarm of treat deprived Steckers. My mom had been revolutionizing cooking with oats and lentils and we hadn’t tasted processed or individually packaged food since we mooched some chocolate milk off of the kids who owned the dairy next door to us.

When dad got the transportation job with Tri-Co, we found a big farmhouse about a mile out of Colville sitting on about 4 acres that we rented for $450 a month. We all fell in love with the place, the outbuildings from what once had been a dairy served as an endless variety of playhouses and hiding places for the six of us. I adopted the loft of the milking barn as my clubhouse, which was strictly off-limits to my destructive brothers. That clubhouse hosted a myriad of selective girls clubs. There was the BGCCIA and the SCCGC among endless lists of other acronyms that mean nothing to me now but had very poignant applications at the time. We had a rope ladder that we climbed to the the hay door and a collection of junk that we scavenged from around the place that made for an infinite number of hours of dress up and playing house. Would have been perfect if we could just have gotten rid of the spiders.

The families that moved from Oregon with us became more and more integrated into our world. The mothers of the Jones and Mannan families were sisters, so at times it was hard to penetrate the family bonds for total acceptance with the close knit cousins, but from time to time we all had our niche. There were also the Hughes, who had 8 kids and they were all a little more wild and more dirty than the rest of us. The oldest Hughes, Misti, was a year older than me and was my best friend when I wasn’t in good with the rest of the clan. I alternated being best friends with the two Jones girls, Aimee and Jessica. All 5 of the Jones kids were adopted, Aimee was Korean and Jess was half black, half white. I was always in awe of them, but my mom tells stories of me making racist comments as a small child that had something to do with not thinking my dress looked good on black skin when Jess borrowed a dress of mine for Emily’s birthday dinner that I was not invited to. I think I must have gotten a spanking, because I don’t remember it, and since then have been thoroughly convinced that almost everything looks better on African-american skin.

The Husband

The first time I saw David Glanville was after all of my friends had started talking about the new guy at Marble and how cute he was. That was in the early nineties when granola and grunge were in, or as much as you could get away with in a small conservative town with homeschooling parents on every corner. A few years before, the Mannan boys had worn black trench coats all over town in a sort of fumbled attempt at a punk/goth look until somebody that knew somebody who was married to a deputy said that the local law enforcement was watching the boys and Pat Mannan put an end to the trench coat days, which probably secretly relieved the boys since it was August. I was just emerging from my dress wearing phase with a lot of guilt and a lot of fighting with my parents, trying to establish myself in the fashion world in sort of conservative granola niche, complete with Birkenstocks, baggy jeans or flowy skirts and an occasional flannel thrown in to appease the grunge groupies. I did after all, live only 8 hours from Seattle, and I can tell you exactly where I was the minute I heard that Kurt Cobain was dead. Our whole group had congregated at the Auto-Vue drive in for a back to back G rated viewing, since PG was still not allowable, even though I was a junior in high school. There was a collection of vehicles from Marble there too, stuffed to the gills, with people spilling out of every openable door and window on the vintage 70’s Aspen and at least 20 people in the cargo van that the Glanville’s owned since it was $5 carload night. I wandered down the row of cars to visit my friend Misti, who was flirting with a tall blond hippy near the Glanville van. Misti introduced us, and I cringed as I shook his hand when he winced and explained that he had just broken it in a church softball game the night before. In spite of the fateful blunder, I noticed his clear green eyes and his laid back, slightly slurred way of talking. He was a few years older than me, tall, and revoluntarily ahead of our fashion times. He was wearing knee high blck combat boots, some ensemble completely of drab olive green and his blond hair was in a word, gorgeous. It hung to his shoulders and shone in the setting sun with a gleam that any valley girl would kill for. I bashfully admired the way he brushed it out of his eyes with his injured hand as he told us amazing stories of training horses in far away places and his English lit major at college. Was he perfect or was it just me? And was that spark in his eye directed my way or was it my foolish imagination? No matter, since I was committed to courtship and this worldly prince charming was obviously not of our conservative strain. At the same time, his age and experience were an interesting distraction from the boys I had been wasting my time on… not one of them had even mentioned college, much less been there.

I saw David here and there that summer, until fall came and he left for Virginia to train horses again. The crush that had started so innocently had blossomed into a full blown obsession, and I had a map over the top bunk that I slept on above Emily, with a thumbtack in to mark the town where David was in Virginia. My contact with anyone from Marble was laced with innocent sounding queries after the roaming hero, and bits of gossip and hints of his agenda were embossed on my mind and played and replayed as I awaited his return. Of course, for all I knew, David didn’t know that I was alive. Our conversations had been very brief and nervous on my part, rarely getting beyond soccer and an abstract commentary on any common event that we shared. I fantasized his return, complete with him sweeping me off of my feet and away to a little cabin in the woods, where we would play soccer barefoot and read Shakespeare until we were ravenous, then live on cheese and bread and grapes. Funny looking back that my fantasies didn’t involve alchohol, but at that point I couldn’t stand the taste of it. I daydreamed about him taking me into his arms and covering my face with passionate kisses, which was a hard dream to conjure up since the only kiss I had experienced was the akward, trembling tongue wresting with Jake outside of Subway.

When David finally got back to Washington, it caught me completely off guard. I was playing Belle in “A Christmas Carol” at Woodland Theater and he showed up with the whole Marble clan for the show. As soon as I realized he was in the audience I turned into a sweating , trembling, nervous mess. My idol, the god of my dreams, was sitting casually in the audience, waiting for me to step on stage and make a bumbling fool of myself. Acting on stage never made me nervous until that night, but the show came off without a hitch and afterward David even came to say hello and while I nearly passed out from the stress I was relieved to know he remembered me.

The next spring, running out of excuses to find time to spend at Marble and happen to bump into any of the Glanvilles, I brazenly asked David if he would help me direct A Midsummer Nights Dream with a cast of Marbleites, given my passion for drama and stage experience and his English lit major, we would be an unstoppable team. My joy was unmatched when he agreed and once more confirmed his recognition of me as a person. Maybe it was the year of being referred to in the third person and never addressed by name from the Mannans, but it was hard for me to fathom that someone so seemingly far above me would remember me, much less be willing to spend time with me.

The next few weeks sped by in rehearsals, costume fittings, cast dinners and more rehearsals. I had cast the play strategically with myself opposite David, as Helena and Demetrius, and David’s sister Anne opposite Caleb Mannan as Hermia and Lysander. It was heaven. Every time I threw myself at David’s feet beggin him to use me as his dog, I wondered if he knew that I was serious, and hoped that it wasn’t as glaringly obvious to everyone as it seemed to me. Somewhere along the line, the show fell apart, it had something to do with people’s jobs and not being able to make rehearsals, and maybe a stupid thing or two that I did to try to motivate people. I’d rather not mention the time that David and I went to one of the castmember’s bosses and asked him to let our actor have more time off for rehearsals. Needless to say, our wish was nearly granted and the actor nearly lost his job. In my 17 year old mind it was all logical, but looking back I wonder where the voice of reason from my 22 year old co-director. Maybe it was the first sign that not only the voice, but the reason were lacking.

When I realized I was losing the play, and my only excuse to be near my idol, I began spiraling into a dramatic depression, assuming that David had no interest in me other than the play, which was all but done. At the final meeting of the cast, someone from the Marble leadership team felt they needed to express a growing concern they had for the blossoming affection they sensed between David and I. I, of course, denied vehemently any emotion other than functional compatibility, and mutual respect, as anything more would be outside of the courtship parameters. Bill Gothard used to say in his Basic Life Principles Seminar, any interaction between a male and a female that excluded everyone else could be considered dating, the mortal enemy of the virgin soul. This is of course a loose translation since by now I have thankfully, with hard work, forgotten the literal quote. As I was offering my protest to the concerned and very righteous leader, David jumped from his seat and asked to speak to my dad. Everybody was shocked, especially me. Oh God, this was embarrassing. My dad dutifully marched the young man around the side of the old schoolhouse where a brief but terse conversation took place. When they re-emerged, dad reassured the busybody that all was well on the playing field of his daughter’s emotion, and insisted that David had just wanted to confirm his clearance of the issue as my spiritual covering. I would find out later that this conversation actually involved David asking my father for permission to court me, which my father answered with an appointment to meet later that week and discuss terms, which brought an uncanny analytical light to my dad’s eye. Dad was forever trying to one-up the theological talking heads and beat them at their own buzz-word game. When he met with David, he asked what his intentions were for me, and David responded, naively, that he thought I might be the woman I was supposed to marry. The bait was swallowed and Dad swooped in for the kill. In his research, it turns out, he discovered the word courtship literally means “to woo in love”, and since he knew that his daughter was already smitten with the golden haired college boy, he suggested that a more appropriate phase for us to consider would be a “betrothal”, which is a promise to marry, and cement the deal. David, perhaps taken a bit off guard, agreed, and three days later he proposed to me. I was never a part of the negotiations, so when he took me out in a field behind his parent’s house and showed me his plans for his future house I assumed it was some cruel torture that he was ignorantly inflicting on me. When he asked me where I wanted my kitchen I stood dumbly for a few minutes, waiting for clarification. David layed out the scheme my father had concocted and followed up with a suggestion that Dad has given him permission to kiss me, which he did, and we were engaged. Excuse me, bethrothed. I was to marry a total stranger. At first Dad was requiring a house and a job before we could be wed, but soon David started doing some seasonal work for a tree nursery outside of Northport, and he worked a deal with a guy to demo his little log cabin and reconstruct in on his parents property. Dad heaved a sigh of relief and the date was set for October 7th. We were engaged on June 6th, so that left less than 4 months to throw a wedding together, which my mother did with great flourish and finesse. I wore my grandma Schiffman’s wedding gown, complete with the Spanish Mantia for a veil, which drew much ridicule from my more contemporary friends. We were married in the evening. It was a full moon and we lit the bonfires and said our vows surrounded by almost 400 people holding candles. It was eerie and eccentric, just like my new husband. The only hitch was the house, and the job. Work ended before we left for our honeymoon and the deal on the cabin fell through, so we were penniless and homeless. While we were gone on our month long honeymoon to Wisconsin, which deserves a chapter all to itself, our parents conspired together and built a little apartment off of the Glanville’s woodworking shop for us to come home to.

The Honeymoon from Hell

It started out innocently enough. Well, I can’t actually say innocently, since I had slept with David a few weeks before the wedding and we were forever condemned to a life of pestilent consequence for our choices. But the idea for the honeymoon was at least quaint. We were going on a roadtrip. A long, meandering travel first to Oregon to bask on the October cold beach, then on across the continent to Wisconsin, which sounded for all the world like an adventurous place to visit for a born and bred northwestern girl. We were supposed to stay in David’s uncles’ cabin on a lake somewhere. Since I still am not sure which lake it was or where it is precisely located in Wisconsin I guess I don’t have to explain that we never made it there, but if the wedding night was any indicator of things to come I should have parked myself in the painted Volvo and never emerged again to save my life and my sanity. As we drove away from the wedding sometime around 11 oclock at night, a well meaning and fun loving friend of the family tailed us out of Marble and down the highway honking continuously. It might have been OK except some of my very dearest friends had taken it upon themselves to paint the windshield of our Volvo with whipping cream, and for anyone who has driven a ’74 Volvo, it goes without saying that the wipers were not designed to contend with any sort of liquid fat, much less with no wiper fluid or even merciful raindrops to help. David eventually pulled off and used the remainder of a $20 bottle of Cabernet to wash off the windshield, and when the tailgating partiers pulled up alongside us to offer assistance, ever-the-gentleman David informed them in no uncertain terms that they could “go back to hell where you came from”. I cried all over my grandmothers dress all the way into Colville, where we pulled in for gas and the Volvo died. As fate would have it, the only people near to get a jump from were the festively condemned wedding guests and David somehow worked up the gall to go apologize and ask for some help. Cheryl never did like him after that. I am not sure if I did either. So out of Colville we eventually rolled, and sometime after midnight arrived at a godforsaken excuse for a bed and breakfast that David had found somehow south of Chewelah. Aside from the lack of walls around the bathroom in the honeymoon suite and the 3 inch foam that they had on the bed for a mattress since it was a rudely constructed elevated platform that eerily resembled a boxing ring, the place might have been ok, except for the over helpful owner who was always hovering near the door to help with our every need… and query about ALL of our comforts. We stayed two awkward nights in that place. I will never forget. The second night to kill time we decided to go rent a movie since the guy said we could take his TV up to our room. David was pretty sure I’d like Pulp Fiction since I hadn’t been allowed to watch anything over a PG rating until now and was ready for some cultural immersion. Immersed I was, with confusing nightmares since I didn’t understand most of the perverse things happening in that movie.

Some how we survived and escaped, driving back to my parents house where we opened a room full of wedding gifts, which were mostly Pyrex pie plates and cheezy sunflower dish towels. Gift registries are the greatest thing in the world unless people improve upon them. “Oh, they want the yellow and green towels? I’ll bet they’d LOOOOVE these sunflower themed ones… and let’s get the rubber place mats to match!” My two cents : give money. Nobody ever hates money. So after the gift opening frenzy, which also involved David telling my mom to back off, which anybody who knows Karla Stecker can tell you, is a bad idea, everybody was irritated and ticked off, so we loaded up our car top carrier with rice-a-roni (for romantic dinners at the cabin), and my very confusing wardrobe of half-woman/half-child clothes, and headed for the coast. The beach was cold and windy, but nice. Except for when David blew up at me for something…I had never experienced his temper directed at me before and it shut me down for weeks. I remember doing laundry at the Laundromat and feeling very sick. I assumed I was just nervous and felt slightly guilty to be traveling alone with a man that everyone knew I was having sex with, married or not. We left Oregon after a few days and headed east. All I remember of the drive to Wisconsin was our dwindling funds, eating really good scrambled eggs at a little diner on the side of the road somewhere in Montana, and having the most unbearable yeast infection in the world. Since David’s dad was a doctor and we had no health insurance, any medical consults would be run through him and I was too embarrassed to talk to him, so I suffered in silence as we continued having sex at least 4 times a day (hey, isn’t that what a honeymoon is all about?) and aggravating the situation. I wanted to die.

By the time we got to Wisconsin, I was so happy to find out that his Aunt and Uncle were normal, nice people in a very normal and nice house, that I pretty much wanted to plant myself on the couch and never leave. So we stayed there for a few weeks, eating their food, letting them take us out and show us around, and watching their cable TV. It was paradise. And I was sick as a dog. Finally Uncle Gary, who is a pharmacist, questioned David as to the possibility of me being pregnant, and then through some conversational chain that I have purposely forgotten, he brought home a pregnancy test and viola! Wouldn’t you know it. I was knocked up. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, to be happy or scared shitless, so I just had sex with David again and fell asleep. OF course the next day was full of phone calls and teary mothers and lots of advice from everyone. It was three weeks since the wedding, and looking back I am sure everyone but me was counting the days and wondering…

A few days after the revelation, we decided we had better head for home since it was now November and we had nowhere to spend the winter but a 15 foot camp trailer parked in the field behind David’s parent’s house. Uncle Gary and Aunt Carla, being the wonderfully sane people they are, insisted on paying for a $400 brake job on the Volvo since it was obvious to everyone that the brakes were shot and they claimed that they hadn’t given us a wedding present yet. So when the brakes were fixed we loaded our unconsumed rice-a-roni back into the car top carrier and hit the road. We got as far as Omaha when disaster hit. We coasted in to the industrial section of town right off the highway with every valve and seal in the 21 year old engine blown completely. Lucky for us, we found an import car dealership just a mile off the freeway who promised to basically rebuild the beast for us cheaply and quickly. If $1500 and 7 days is fast and cheap, I guess they came through for us. Since we had no money, and we had no options, every day we would check into a motel, alternating our parents credit card numbers every other night and checking out every day in the vain hope that the mechanic would have the car done when David made the hike to the shop every afternoon. The first motel we stayed at was called the “Motel 49er”, and if the non- English speaking woman behind the bars at the front counter wasn’t a good indicator of a questionable choice, the blood stains on the carpet and in the bathroom should have been. Exhausted and broke, we decided to tough it through the first night, and would have slept like babies if the neighbors down the hall hadn’t raised a ruckus in the middle of the night, complete with a drunken brawl, screaming children and the cops dragging an obscenity-screeching, whore-looking woman down the hall in handcuffs. All of this of course was witnessed through the little crack in the door that I pulled open with the chain lock securely in place. The next day we checked into to new, clean, but wholly overpopulated with truckers Econolodge right next door to the Denny’s where we spent our days waiting. As the days progressed and the car remained unfixed for whatever reason(s), the staff at Denny’s seemed to get increasingly annoyed at our perpetual presence, especially since we didn’t have a dime to spend and only ordered a side salad or a side of corn at lunch time. Finally one day, an older gentleman noticed the staff being short with us, which is the nice way of saying totally ignoring us, and he asked us where we were from. Our story spilled out, and the nice man who apparently worked for the railroad not only gave us $20 for our dinner, but the eavesdropping waitress felt so horrible for us that she gave us dinner on the house that night, complete with desert. It was heavenly. Probably my favorite memory of the whole honeymoon. Pretty sure I had cubesteak.

On the day that David hiked once more to the shop and the car was actually finished, I was frantically excited. We loaded the car up with our bags and pulled out to the freeway, only to discover it was closed completely because of a massive blizzard that had moved in that afternoon. In tears I called my mom once more for a credit card number to check back into the econolodge and cried myself to sleep. The next morning we were able to leave and the rest of the trip consisted of a 22 hour straight shot into Spokane, where we rolled up in front of my Aunt and Uncle’s house with smoke billowing out from under the hood of the Volvo and a complete loss of power. Apparently the not so cheap and fast mechanic had also forgotten to bolt down the alternator on the engine block and it had rattled loosed and basically been destroyed. I called my mom and we left the Volvo in Spokane. Indefinitely.

On the way home from Spokane, I cried on my mom’s shoulder and as we passed their house on our way to Marble, I wanted more than anything in the world to go home to my “lavender walled room” and shut the door forever on this nightmare of a life that was just beginning. I think she sensed my despair and whispered to me the secret that both my family and David’s had been frantically constructing an apartment over the Glanville barn for us to live in, so we were not going home to a 15 foot trailer. I cried tears of relief.

Round II

I didn’t divorce David because I hated his guts for the things he had done. I didn’t kick him out because I couldn’t live with him. When I finally came to peace with all of the bitterness and years of betrayal and found peace I just knew that it was over, it was time, I had gleaned everything I could from the place I was, and to stay there would demonstrate to my children passiveness and settling. When we finally parted ways – or should I say, when I finally kicked him out, sure, we fought, but I actually had it pretty good. David was, in a word, whipped. He owed me enough that I had him by the proverbial gonads and he was at my beck and call. It was easy enough to be “submitted” in the eyes of the community because there was really nothing to submit to that I couldn’t negotiate (read: manipulate) my way around. I had that boy trained. What the hell was I thinking falling in love with a boy who not only had NO concept of what running a house was like, but was young enough to actually believe he knew exactly what it took – and apparently I didn’t have it. It took Lee more than three years to come to terms with the fact that you couldn’t get an insta family complete with immaculate house, 5 star gourmet chef, elite chauffer and model hot girlfriend all in one fell swoop. One would have to make concessions, which usually presented in the form of a sticky kitchen floor, pizza at least two nights a week and an occasional involuntary hockey run. The first several times that Lee and I “broke up”, it was because I would become irrationally incensed when he would lay into me about methods for more successful house keeping or child discipline techniques that I had apparently not been strong or smart enough to think about applying yet. Well, superleeroy was here to change all that. Like hell. By the time I got done picking up his dirty socks and underwear off the kitchen floor and putting out the kitchen fire from his tomato soup mess from three days ago, and explaining to Halle that Lee hollered and called her weird names because he thought kids should be trained like a fire crew, there wasn’t much grace left for hearing his insights into my areas of failure. And then if he dared to bring up his “concerns” about my consumption of prescription drugs... No matter how many times I tried to convey the discomfort of having ones uterus hanging auspiciously low in ones pelvis while simultaneously passing baseball sized clots of coagulated blood which are only expressed with cramps the equivalent of childbirth transition for a good ten days out of the month, leaving the victim dangerously anemic and passy-out-ish (in LeeRoy terms) and viciously moody, he wasn’t convinced that drug induced euphoria was the best solution. In my haste to disagree I was frantic to not sound self-justifying, in denial, or guilty, as if I might have hidden various bottles of painkillers in oddly random places around the house for “backup stashes”. In my own defense, I will say that the euphoria was, well, never quite euphoric since I actually took very low doses at intermittent times off and on… at the risk of sounding self-justifying or in denial. And all my pills are in plain sight these days. Except the one under my seat in the car. And the bottle of “Tylenol” in my purse. But that is another story. OK, so maybe there is a problem. But it’s still little. And not as serious as the monthly prolonged hemorrhaging.

But back to Lee’s problems. The know it all juvenile who delights in passing judgement on the helpless old woman who fell in love with his boyish smile and goofy, relentless adorableness. My mom said to be careful because you needed to be sure that whoever you were with was someone you could trust. And she never was sure about Leeroy after the time he told her he had never been to the Ocean when we were on her way there. My mother being the die hard tourist that she is, made a big issue out of us leaving on time, having our trip all mapquested and snacks packed so he wouldn’t miss a minute of the “first time”, which was really like a 5th time for Lee but he thought it would be funnier to say he’d never been before. Then there was the time he told my sister that he was having dinner with my dad to discuss some mechanic work on the minivan, when really we all knew it was the traditional pre-proposal dinner with the girl’s father, blah blah blah. Emily of course felt horribly lied to and felt like he couldn’t be trusted. I guess she would know. The thing I always knew about Leeroy was that even if his words were all smoke and mirrors and caginess, I knew I could trust his heart for me and my girls, and for all five of us he represented both the clumsy hero and the suave villain that every girl dreams about.