Weekly Writing Challenge: I Remember (Black shoes)

Weekly Writing Challenge

I was very young.  Young enough to be wearing a white plastic bib that curved upward at the bottom to catch stray bits of food.  My parents and I were seated at a small round table at breakfast in the dining room of our house in Rochester, Kent.  My Mum to my right and my Dad, opposite.  He was a Naval officer and wore shiny, black shoes.  The memory resurfaces in monotone, not sure why.  Our carpet had a seventies feel with wild swirly patterns and the wallpaper matched in its garishness.   I remember distinctly bending over to the right to peer under the table at my Dad’s shoes.  He polished them every night, you see.  Spit and polish he called it even though he always used proper Kiwi black shoe polish and brushes for the first go-round.  When he was satisfied with the quality of his work, he would pull from his polishing kit bag, a tan colored cloth with red edging.  It was the softest material and he’d wrap it around his index and middle fingers, spit on his shoes and polish once more.  He was not the most emotionally available father but he knew I was watching with veiled curiosity so when he was absolutely done, he would show me the last little bits of polish that the brush had not removed.

He was going to work that morning dressed in his black jumper with the gold stripes on the shoulders, a white shirt, black tie and black, perfectly ironed trousers.  My Mum and I were new to the country and I believe these were stay-at-home days for she and I.  My Dad was probably eating fried eggs, bacon and toast.  When I leaned over to check out his shoes, I think I smiled:  confirmation that I’d have my Mum alone to myself for the day instead of sharing her with a stranger.

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Daily Prompt: The Road Less Traveled

Daily Prompt: The Road Less Traveled

Pinpoint a moment in your past where you had to make a big decision. Write about that other alternate life that could have unfolded.

If I had not decided then and with full certainty that I would return to America, I would have continued to struggle in all areas of my life.  It was August 1998 and I was in a state of spiraling decline.  Debt collectors were calling, relationships were plenty and short-lived and my job was hanging by a thread (not through any fault of my own; it was a company-wide threat).  Too many times, I was brought to my knees on the living room floor, sobbing; wracked with fear, shame, sorrow, loneliness and confusion at the age of twenty-eight, feeling as though I had no-one to turn to.

If I had not changed my life path so radically, I would have been forced to search for another job in another office with another keyboard to tap at.  No doubt I would have stepped into another ill-advised romance with some man onto whom I thought I could pin my hopes and dreams.  My pay would have been far less than my previous job and so I would have had to foreclose on my lovely new flat and move to a bedsit.  My car was old and I would not have been able to afford to get it fixed (it needed a lot of work) nor would I have had the money to buy a new used one.  But, public transport in England is highly populated so taking buses would not have been a problem.  I had a lot of credit card debt so bankruptcy might have still been a viable option unless I could have found a way to pay them off gradually.  However I lacked discipline and clarity and would have taken the easy route without learning any sort of lesson at all.

I do not think I would have been content.  And likely would not have quit smoking even though I certainly couldn’t afford it.  I might’ve splurged with the occasional batch of weed or if it wasn’t available, I would have pushed all of my problems to a remote corner of the mind with alcohol.  Would I have married and had other children?  That’s a tough one to envision.  I don’t believe I would’ve met anyone that shared a mutual level of sustained attraction.  However if I did, it wouldn’t have lasted and it’s likely that I’d have one child and become a single parent.

It would have been a tough life.

Fifteen years later I see through wiser eyes that I did have friends that would have supported me but I was very much withdrawn and in such a dark place that being alone and desperate felt like home.  And no matter if they did help in one way or another, it was destined that I sink down as far as possible in order to gasp up through the surface with a life-changing decision.  And it was the best one I have ever made.

fuel-dump-1

Take it as it comes.

I’ve lived here…

plymouth2

Plymouth, England

and here…

cville

Charlottesville, VA

and many, many other places in between. Currently, I live here…

de

Delaware

It’s been a gypsy kind of life, minus the caravan. Although, I’d love to have one of these…

Gypsy Caravan

…in my back garden, all nestled in some tall overgrown grass with some hollyhocks and foxgloves. Imagine lounging on the steps during a warm fall evening with a glass of chilled white wine and some noshy things to nosh on. Mmmm…

Anyhoo…yes, I’ve been picking up my stakes and throwing them down all over England and the United States. Made such a mess, you could probably track me down in Borneo if you wanted to. Not going there though, too many creepy crawlies.

My Dad was a Navy man, you see. British Navy, if you please, which meant moving from one Naval married quarters to the next, until I grew out of the primary (elementary) school years and needed a place to buckle down with regularity. And that’s how we ended up in Plymouth, England. Actually, we’d lived there twice before during our early years (that was a fun time – leaving a school at the age of five only to return five years later? All the kids I knew had grown up and around each other. Nowhere else have I ever felt quite like the outsider as I did during the final year in that school.)

Anyway, yes, during my secondary school (middle) years, I lived in that house in Plymouth for six years.

And here’s where I just blew my own mind across the desk. That is the longest I’ve ever lived in a house. From the age of twelve to eighteen. I’m forty-three now and the most I’ve stuck down roots in a house, not a town – a house or apartment…would be three years. Sometimes, I know my up-and-moves came from possessing a restless spirit. Sometimes it was circumstance; a broken relationship here, a job loss there, eviction notice or a condemned house (yes, that happened) – they all necessitated a move.

Just to backtrack a second, it’s probably safe to say that in my entire life, I’ve never settled down. My Mum’s marriage fell apart around the time that I was born (fabulous!), so was forced to find where she could in terms of housing. As a single, working mother in the early 70’s, I’m sure it was no easy feat. She’s told me over the years how she met my Dad (not my “step dad”, because he actually went one step further and adopted me) at a Halloween party when he was docked in Norfolk, VA and how she was sort of her friend’s wing girl, except it was my Mum who met her “One.”

So, at two and a half, I moved from the States to England. New Dad. New family. New environment. A lot to adjust to, right? Even as a toddler. These days, there would be much care taken for the well-being of the toddler and the family as a whole. But back then, there were no outreaches, no helping hands, no sympathetic groups. You had to get on with it. Stop yer grumblin’ and get to work!

Here I am now with two kids of my own; both in elementary school and one not far from the middle. I was adamant before the oldest started school that they would not be shifted and shipped around like me. That they would have a stable education and that they would grow up in one house. Images of my son bounding in after some extra-curricular activity, of my daughter standing on the beautiful butterfly staircase before going to prom…

stairs

…Yes, these very stairs. This was our house, the one we dreamed of living in until the kids went to college. Buuuuut….circumstances outside of our control forced us to move, and move, and move again. And, quite frankly, that gorgeous house should never have been ours. It was out of our league.

I know kids move around all the time. And kids are resilient. Kids bounce back. That’s what everyone kept telling me when mine had to bear the brunt of switching schools. They took the changes in stride, shed a few tears, balked a little in the mornings but on the whole, seven months in, they’re doing just fine.

I turned out fine too, despite the lack of concern for my true well being as a toddler and the subsequent trauma that occurred which might be a bit too personal for sharing. That, and I’ve recovered quite nicely from it so why dredge it all up again, right?

We have more house moves on the cards, I know for a fact and with each one, I become more weary; I wanted to plant those roots and watch them grow (excuse the French Kiss line) a long time ago. I actually really like where we are; it’s the first time in a long time that a place feels like home.

So, circumstance might have some control over the situation but how I deal with it and how my family sees me dealing with it is the most important thing. I just wish I hadn’t unpacked ALL the boxes in a fit of “Goddamn it, I’m fed up with living my life in boxes, I’m going to open up everything and put everything in its place,” when we moved in.

Lisa…