*If anyone reading this wants to bypass this background, you can go down to the asterisk where I start the APB story.
I was so furious with my uncle for telling me he wouldn’t take me to the shore on the following weekend. After all…I was willing to come back up on Sunday, in time for school on Monday. I thought I was so mature and obviously didn't understand the adult perspective. I do think I had to grow up sooner and had to deal with things that probably most kids my age didn’t have to. Then again…you never know what goes on behind closed doors. My next door neighbors are a classic example of that but differently and much worse because it was sexual in nature. But I digress.
I remember when I was a little girl…I would hear my mother talking about the 14 and 16 year old girls walking the streets, wearing makeup and that they were sleeping around. I don’t know if that was fact or just cruel gossip, but it occurs to me now…that I was probably perceived that way too by other parents, except that I only occasionally wore the palest light pink lipstick and mascara.
But I wasn’t like those girls sleeping around (if they were) and I left the shore with my virginity still intact. That was important to me. AND I never saw any guys nekkid south of the border either. Clothes were always on. And really…that was the summer of 69…the free love generation had already kicked in. If it feels good do it and all that.
I knew some girls that had gotten pregnant, many were sexually active and some did drugs, drank and smoked. I didn’t do any of that. I didn’t want to. Maybe one good thing that came from my being so independent on the home front, along with having good values…is that I have never felt like I had to follow the crowd and do something I didn’t want to do.
Writing this stuff has caused me to really think about it in ways that I haven’t before. Sure …years after becoming an adult I began talking about it…but there really is something to putting things into written word. (I value written words given to me as well. There is something about a note, a card with a note or e-mail, a person takes the time to write that always stirs me. ) When I write, it is like birthing something…clarifying and becoming more concrete in my mind. I have never written anything about this in such detail. I am feeling things that I haven’t felt for a very long time.
As an adult…I am thinking that some of or maybe most of my actions got back to her. She never had a heart to heart with me though. Who knows? Maybe we weren’t even capable of that anyway or I would be so headstrong that I would just bolt right out the door.
The summer before I left…I did do some stupid things. For example, one night at the end of the summer, the guy with the Road Runner asked a bunch of us if we wanted to go 100 miles an hour in his car. So we piled in sans seat belts (didn’t wear them back then) , the windows were down and music was blasting...and he drove 100 mph on this long flat road with fields on both sides. Another time the oldest son of a neighbor behind my house asked me if I wanted a ride on his motorcycle. I said, “SURE!” and off we went and with no helmets. I think he said we were doing around 80mph and I do know it was real fast, but then it seems faster on a bike anyway. Some years later my cousin Doug and his girlfriend were killed on a motorcycle because they collided with a poll on an off ramp in Albuquerque. These things happen, but again...I was so naive back then.
I don’t know if this was dangerous but stupid maybe. I was with friends down at Sea Side Heights and I was hanging out by the pool on the boardwalk. I was watching this man do high dives off the diving board and decided I wanted to try it. He was the Snake Man. He was real muscular and had a lot of tattoos. I don’t know what he did with snakes but it had something to do with one of those sideshows on the boardwalk. They don’t do that stuff anymore or not that I have seen anyway.
I walked up to him and asked him if he could show me how to dive off the high diving board. Mind you…I never dove off any diving board before and now I was choosing the high dive. So up the ladder we went. He showed me the form I should use and how to fall over the side and keep my body straight. He warned me that I did not want to do a belly flop. I went to the edge, put my hands/arms overhead, took a breath and went over. I was so trusting or naive about negative consequences. OUCH!!! I cut my lip. I did talk to him afterward but don’t remember what was said. And...I never did that again.
I already mentioned that my summers were more wholesome because I spent almost everyday with my girlfriend and her parents and a third girl that came around too. We were kind of like the three Muscateers although Iris and I were two peas in a pod. Almost everyday we were swimming in her pool or at the ocean. We were and still are passionate about swimming in the Ocean. We road bikes, played games, told spooky stories at night while lying together on the chaise lounge on her porch. We did all kinds of girly things, but our favorite was the ocean by day and boardwalk by nite. Her parents always took me out to dinner with them or shopping. But when we got older her father would take us to the boardwalk and let us roam on our own while he played games in the arcade. So since we were minors we would dance outside the Rip Tide Bar on the boardwalk to Honky Tonk Women or Bad Moon Rising, etc., or go on rides and just hang out. One evening...she started making out with a strange guy under the boardwalk. I was concerned because she didn't know him. So I went to her father, told him and together we went down to the beach to get her. SHEESH! All the stuff I did and I was worried about her. Although, even as an adult she tells me I did the right thing.
One night around midnight…we walked down by the water. I talked her into going in the ocean with me with our clothes on. It was dark and no lifeguards. Her father who was easy going was upset about that. Then another night, we were just about to walk down the ramp from the boardwalk to go home. I dropped back behind them and asked a boy if I could borrow his bike. I went flying past them and shouted, “Uncle Charlie…NO BREAKS!!” to which he shouted, “PATTY!”, and I slammed on the breaks just before getting to the busy boulevard. (I apologized about that again when I was an adult.)
So, not only was I engaging in self destructive attention seeking behavior, but couple that with all the other stuff I did when I wasn’t with Iris…and I can appreciate WHY my uncle wouldn’t let me go back down to the shore for even a weekend.
I am pretty sure that my guardian angel must’ve started getting gray hair when I was 13 and 14.
*As fate would have it, my aunt’s sister came down with shingles that week after my uncle and I had the huge fight. She decided she would go stay with her sister up in Highland Lakes to help her while she was ill. On Thursday, I devised what I thought was the perfect plan.
I often stayed overnight at my friend Pat T’s on the weekend. So I figured I would skip school the next day (Friday) so I could hitchhike 100 miles back down to the shore.
My uncle always left for work at 5:30 in the morning... so he wouldn’t know either. I wrote him a note explaining that I wouldn’t be home after school because I was going home with Pat on the bus to her house and was staying overnight. I said I would be back the next day. Seriously…I don’t know what I was thinking other than it was a desperate act from a broken hearted desperate young girl. Oh…and a headstrong girl too!
The plan was to get a ride to my old H.S., meet someone there, stay overnight with someone (because I couldn’t tell my mother), and then have someone drive me back home the next morning. I was actually kind of excited about showing whoever brought me back where I lived. BTW…no one down the shore knew I was coming down or had any of these plans.
It was a bright sunny morning at the end of February and quite cold, with snow frozen on the ground. Shortly after 8 a.m., I locked the house and headed out the back door with just the clothes on my back and my pretty suede pocketbook. I cut through the woods that bordered the back of our property and through St. John Vianney’s church property, out to the highway where I stood and put my thumb out for a ride.
Seemingly, in a matter of seconds…someone pulled over and I got in the car, leaving my home in Stockholm-headed for the Jersey Shore.