Category Archives: I Remember

I remember…Debbie

DebbieI don’t know why I’m starting with Debbie. She’s not first alphabetically. She wasn’t a friend. She wasn’t a stand-out student academically or athletically. In fact, she was probably the lowest girl on the peer totem in my class.Don’t judge. I say that because she was likely why I wasn’t on the bottom instead.

As I look at her picture in the yearbook, I wonder why. She was pretty enough. I remember her as slender and tall. She wore glasses, but back then we all did (contact lenses weren’t the norm). I think she was likely a victim of socio-economically judged. Her family had no land, and in a small town where the only people who lived in town were retired farmers who could afford to let their children or hired-hands reside at the farm or families who couldn’t afford land in the first place and worked 9-5 in a tiny town with one bank, one grocery store, a post office, and a motel. Strangely, I don’t ever remember meeting or seeing her parents or siblings. I have no idea who was in her family.

One of my other classmates told me a story he remembered from when we were kindergarteners so the following is more of a “I remember when he remembered”. He said when we were in kindergarten, we were suppose to be napping. Instead I took Debbie’s shoes away from her and threw them into the hallway.

Unfortunately, she often was my target. That was probably my first interaction. One of my last was the time was in high school when I got my hands on some tiny plastic bags. In one I put a small amount of flour, and placed it in her locker in plain sight. When the bell rang, everyone went to their lockers, including Debbie. I watched from a safe distance away for the moment she found the suspicious looking baggie.

She did of course, and her actions were opposite of what I expected her to do. You see, as we grew from asshole elementary children who teased each other, we grew into asshole teens who bullied. Rumors made peers into sluts and drug dealers. What I didn’t understand then is that rumors are often baseless and used to justify the bullying. When Debbie saw that little baggie, she didn’t pick it up and then secretly pocket it while casting a suspicious eye over shoulder. Nope, she picked up in horror and went straight into the nearest classroom and handed it to the teacher.

Probably the most memorable part of this story is what the teacher did next. Since Debbie’s reaction wasn’t discreet, everyone gathered excitedly around the teacher’s desk as he held the baggie of suspicious white powder. First he eyeballed it. Then he opened the zip, stuck his pinkie in his mouth to wet the tip, dipped it into the white powder and tasted it! He announced that is was flour.

No one asked how he knew it was only flour. No one thought twice about what in hindsight an experienced drug-dealer would do. No one thought to call in authorities or parents. No announcements were made. Today a thoughtless stunt like that could force a school into a lock-down.

For what it’s worth, Debbie, I’m sorry. I don’t know where you are or who you’ve become. I hope you’ve found happiness despite having me as a classmate.

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Upcoming Feature Film!! (not really)

MemoriesA couple years ago I started a new category for “I remember ” that consisted of posts I’d written about childhood memories. The idea, or the project – if you will, has recently re-implanted in my head. Last week my mom was moved to a “memory center” located nearly four hours away. My children haven’t seen their grandmother J. in almost two months. I plan on visiting in a couple weeks, and I thought I would let my daughter, who is now 7, interview her to foster some bonding. Of course, life events like this make me realize how little my children know about me beyond what they see right now.

I have always accepted that someday this blog would be for my kids to read. I hope it’s after I’m dead so the reciprocal embarrassment is not an issue. I also want them to read a post, turn to each other with eyes wide, and remark, “I had never heard that story!”

This series of “I remember…” will be centered on what I remember about all of the kids I went to school with. Our graduating class consisted of approximately 22 students. Some of their names and faces I can see as clear as the screen in front of me; others not so much. 90% of them I haven’t seen or talked to in 30 years. While it’s a given that all of the posts I’ve already written are personal, these upcoming posts will be so personal, it’s unlikely to mean anything to anyone other than to the two people I’m writing it for. Fair warning.

I plan on using real names except I’ll omit last names. This is not out of courtesy for the person I’ll be writing about, but out of the continued desire for privacy on my part. You will never see my real name in a byline on my blog or the names of my husband or children. Each story will center around one person. I’ll admit that may mean I might squeeze out only a couple of sentences. On the other hand, some stories might be 1,000+ words. I would love to include pictures, except by a cruel twist of fate, nearly all my personal photos from my childhood as well as my yearbooks were stolen from me by a housemate in an act of revenge almost three decades ago and were never recovered.

God, that nearly makes me cry just writing it out.

ETA: My children won’t even be able to read any of this if I can’t even remember the URL or username of my blog. Don’t even ask me how many attempts it took to log in.

I Remember Eight Ball

A couple years after I was born, my parents decided to add onto the farmhouse. Strangely, it was not because they were looking for more bedrooms (there were 2 1/2 to be split between five children and my parents (someday I’ll explain the "half" bedroom)) and not because they wanted another bathroom (did I mention of the five children, four were girls and there was another girl on the way?). It was because they needed room for STUFF.

The room is probably 15×20, maybe a tad bigger, and it was built with a concrete slab floor. My parents, who were – frugal – decided against any kind of typical flooring so the concrete was simply painted pink. They put dark wood paneling on the walls and hung wagon-wheel light "chandeliers" in the room. They are still there, if you doubt me, but now the floor was painted grey sometime in the last decade. Into this room, what we all grew up referring to as the Play Room, went the record player stereo as big as a buffet, the sewing machine, a liquor bar and table set made entirely out of wooden barrels, and a pool table.

I never really appreciated the fact that we had our very own regulation sized pool table growing up. When classmates were invited over, they were often torn between riding horses or playing pool. Often the pool table won out as it was something they only saw in the town’s bar, and only adults were allowed to use the table and its equipment.

My dad taught me how to play, and by taught I mean he showed me which end of the cue stick was up, the difference between the cue ball, stripes and solids; and understanding the term "kitchen" as it referred to billiards, which may explain why I don’t bother with the more common concept of kitchen when used in relationship to cooking and baking. I knew enough about pool to make me dangerous.

After I dropped out of my sophomore year at college (academic probation sounds a bit harsh), I soon found the job teaching ballroom dance lessons in Lincoln. Within a few months, I was transferred to Wichita to teach at a studio there. I was an obvious choice, being single and whose parents felt I was throwing my life away, to take over an open position.

My employer bunked me up with a fellow instructor who lived in a studio apartment. I can’t even remember where I must have slept or if there had been a kitchen or bathroom, I can only remember vividly the couple who lived next door in a studio of the exact same size but had been converted it into a gleaming white and brass-accented disco parlor. It was my introduction to a gay men life-style in the ohmygodwhoknewyoucoulddosomuchwithslipcoversandpaint kind of way. I actually bought my very first car from them: a Dodge Duster with a slant six for $600. By-the-by, that car is rusting into a pile of bolts in a field on my parents’ farm as we speak.

Since we worked an odd shift at the dance studio (1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.), we would all go out after work and practice dancing something other than the waltz or foxtrot. However, since I wasn’t as an experienced dancer as the others, I would end up at a side table watching the others obnoxiously take up the entire space of the club’s dance floor to perform a flashy west-coast swing or cha-cha. I didn’t want to appear too pathetic in my solitude, so I would often meander into the secluded areas of the club that housed the pool tables. I would find one that wasn’t being used and plug 50 cents into the slots and play a game.

I liked having something to concentrate on without having to make attempts to socialize. It was a type of zen for me even though music from the 80s was pounding and the rainbow lights were strobing, but a girl playing pool by herself apparently draws attention, especially if she’s not too bad with a stick. A guy would walk over from a neighboring table and put a couple quarters on the pool table’s rail, a signal that he wanted to play a match. Their leering, cocky smiles were always wiped off their faces once I broke (a term referred to the act of "breaking" up the racked balls by shooting the cue ball into the entire set with the intent of scattering the balls evenly across the table’s surface).

Playing pool was my go to form of escape. After Wichita, I was transferred to Omaha to supervise, and then back to Lincoln to do the same at the very studio I got my start. In Lincoln, I tired of the nightclubs and eventually would find myself at Big John’s Billiards. It was during one of these times when I was playing pool with a girlfriend, that a couple young college guys came over and offered to play partners (guy-girl vs. guy-girl). It was from that meeting that my partner, Paul, eventually became my boyfriend. He was a champion billiard player through university, and he took my raw talent and buffed off the hard edges and made me into not just a "good" player; but "excellent".

He even bought me my first cue stick. You know, the kind that screws together with the nylon wrapped handle and maple shaft, and my very own cue case, personalized. He taught me that setting my drink or cigarette on the table’s edge or smacking my cue stick on the table in frustration was poor form and frankly, quite douchey. He taught me masse’, banking, playing safe, and how to run the table, all billiards terms that make me feel quite smart when I use them.

I was Paul’s pool protege. If it hadn’t been him, I wouldn’t have taken gold in the Cornhusker State Games (Women’s Billiards) (second bracket, but let’s not talk about that…). I would not have played on the city’s pool leagues. I would not have had personalized plates on my Dodge Neon that said "BLLRDS". I would not have understood how insulting the seemingly innocuous observation, "You’re pretty good…for a girl" would be because the thing is, I’m pretty good, girl or no. And I would not have met my husband. Oh, yes. I can thank my ex-boyfriend, Paul, for that as well.

My pool case is in the basement among the spiders and dust and dead japanese beetles. While I played in a league where we live now, it was run by a moron who didn’t know his backside from a bumper, and I refused to play again after the first year. Then I had Doodicus, and my bar-days were over. Very, very rarely now, if my husband and I find ourselves out on the town and there’s a table, we’ll play a game. I still can run the table.

I remember my first real job.

Sure at 40-something, I now have morals and high standards and expectations, but 25+ years ago, I didn’t. I don’t know an 18 year-old that does. I flunked out of the first semester of college as a sophomore. I hated the new setting as I had moved from a community college sized town and campus to the University. Partying was what I wanted to do. My oldest sister got me my first "real"job working in clothing retail. Real meaning not scraping left-over food into gallon containers and washing an endless sea of dishes.

The shop was this hole in the wall store of a dying downtown shopping center. I remember it had wooden panel doors that had springs to pull them closed on the dressing rooms. The clothes were ugly and it was owned by a husband and wife couple who I suspect were trying to hold onto their youth by marketing to teens.

My transportation to work a Foxi moped. It was ridiculous. Rain, shine, snow, etc., that was how I got around. I even considered driving it to Kansas City, a four hour drive by car. That’s how stupid an 18 year old is, people. So one day I wore a skirt to work and who the hell wears a skirt on a moped?! Now it wasn’t a flowy skirt so it didn’t blow up and show the world my business. Oh no, it was tight. It was too tight. At the first stop I had to put my leg down to balance the moped, it ripped right up the center seam. It wasn’t an obvious tear, but still I didn’t want to make it worse by wearing it on the way home.

I did what any "sensible" 18 year old would do: I went through the store’s sales rack and picked out a pair of shorts and a matching shirt. After locking up the store, I walked across to the public bathrooms and changed clothes. This sounds like a rather obvious way to solve a problem except that I did not pay for the clothes. No, I did not forget to pay for them. I just didn’t buy them.

The next day I came into work and the owners were there. The husband pulled me aside and told me he had something to talk to me about and we headed to the storage room. Inside waiting was a police officer and a tiny television. I don’t remember thinking something was up until they turned it on and there recorded was a grainy black and white video of me walking over to the bathroom wearing the skirt outfit and walking out again a couple minutes later wearing the shorts. I didn’t realize there had even been a security camera.

Needless to say, I had been busted. They asked me if I was also responsible for a number of other inventory items that had gone missing (specifically some underwear), which I adamantly denied. Should I even mention they fired me on the spot? The most humiliating part of it all was realizing they would of course tell my sister who got me the job in the first place as they were friends, especially since they also pressed formal charges (even though I’m sure at the time the value of the two items was probably less than $20).

After I lost that job, I had to find another. That’s what led me to the dance studio a few weeks later: Now Hiring Dance Instructors. No Experience Necessary! The shorts? They were hideous. They brought back such horrible memories that I got rid of them soon afterwards. You would think I’d learned lesson, wouldn’t you? Except I was only 18…

I Remember Fake IDs

When I was a freshman in college, I would forge documents for students so they could get a fake ID from the state that showed them to be legal drinking age. All I needed was a photocopy of a birth certificate. I would white-out the year and type over it and then photo-copy it again. Since the students weren’t attempting to get driver’s licenses, it was all the state required. I of course made one for myself. I walked by a bar and they were looking for part-time employment. I completed the application and then headed over to where they sold carry-out liquor. I headed up to the counter with my purchase and dug out my fake ID. As I was standing there, the guy who I had turned over my app to came up and put it down next to me on the counter in front of the clerk selling me booze. He tapped meaningfully on the birthdate of my application. The clerk, who had been examining my ID, looked at me with a smirk. I left utterly humiliated by my stupidity and without my fake ID. I didn’t make another.

I Remember Grape Flavoring

I entered my freshman year of college at the ripe old age of barely 18. A couple of my dorm-friends and I went to the local liquor store and illegally bought booze. My choice was grape Mad Dog 20/20. I don’t think I was mixing it with anything. We drove around town and drank and giggled and drank some more. Our driver had just parked the car on campus and I stumbled out and promptly threw up. My first buzz-ending-in-puking-adventure. It’s taken many years, but once in a while I’m able to take a couple of sips of grape soda. Remember the kool-aid flavored, wax bottles? The ones with grape tastes just like that Mad Dog.

I Remember the Dart

My little sister and I got into a fight. We were in what we called The Playroom (a concrete floor addition to our old farmhouse that housed a pool table, the “fancy” record player cabinet, the sewing machine, a bar made of barrels, and the only closets for my parents’ clothes. We thought it was HUGE.) She grabbed the darts that were in the dartboard above the pool table and started chasing me. Suddenly I had this terrible pain in the heel. I stopped and looked down to see a red dart stuck in my foot. Probably realizing she wouldn’t be able to catch up with me, she had thrown a dart but never thinking it would hit me. We looked agog at each other like, “Oh shit! Now what?!”