“Come on Sarah, get your stuff together, we have to go to Baton Rouge”, my stepmother said, as she started gathering up her folders containing stacks of papers which had to be graded, later that evening.
My stepmother was a teacher. She recently retired after twenty-five years teaching in the parish school district, but before her retirement she taught at the ONLY high school in the small city in which we lived. That was good, sometimes, but mostly it was bad.
After school, I rode a bus about two blocks to her school and she was always the last teacher to leave.
I was slow, as usual, to get my things together. I hated going to Baton Rouge. We went to Baton Rouge every single day, or at least, it seemed like it to me.
There were many reasons why I hated going to Baton Rouge, not the least of which was the fact that my stepmother drove a 1985 Ford Ranger, specially equipped with NO RADIO. Seriously, she really, honestly, literally did not want a radio in her vehicle.
To this day, that haunts me…like… I am a strange person, but….that’s fucking strange, even to me.
Besides the Ford Ranger being almost as tiny as a go-kart, once my step-mom, my little sister and myself were inside, the Ranger was filled to capacity, even though two of us were children. I am not saying my step-mom was fat, I’m saying the truck was freaking small.
I don’t know about you, but I am a person who easily gets carsick. The tendency towards vehicular nauseousness has decreased with age, but when I was a kid, I hated just about every car ride I took for that reason.
Did I mention my step-mom chain smokes worse than a repentant hooker, fresh-off-da-crack, who is trying to change her ways, sitting on the back pew of her married boyfriend’s church on Sunday morning, listening to him preach?
There was no rolling down the windows in that tiny 1985 Ford Ranger, either. Even though I knew the answer would always be, “NO!”, everyday I would ask, “can I please crack my window a little bit?”
My stepmother said if I cracked the window it would “blow her hair”.
Whatever that meant…
Speaking of hair, this was the day that my loving step-mother took me, unannounced, to the beauty shop and had the stylist (back then they were called beauticians) cut all of my hair cut right off my pretty little head.
I had no idea what was about to happen. I know it was traumatic for me because once we got to the beauty shop, the memory stops, and my memory never stops.
Nobody’s memory ever actually “stops”, but I have a very uncanny long-term memory. I remember everything, especially from childhood, in pictures, or, if you will, movies. I can click on a memory like you would click on a movie you’d like to see on Netflix.
I can remember every outfit I wore to school on the first day from first to twelfth. I can remember ninth grade french class ‘dialogue’ (and I employ it from time to time). I can remember the song that was playing on the radio when me and my step-mom got into a fender-bender when I was three, “Sailing”, by *Christopher Cross. I can also remember the name of the guy who hit us, *Charles Gardner. I have memories from before I could walk and I have scars to prove they are real memories.
As I remember things, though, I have surmised that my brain hides the especially bad memories where I can’t find them.
I went to school that morning with long, beautiful, chestnut brown hair and I came home with a bowl cut which was level with my ears.
I was only seven, that was my very first haircut and there’s so much more to go.
*Just a sidenote to my overactive brain…and anyone else who likes etymology, math and theology
* “Christopher” is a variation of “Christ”
** “Charles” means “freeman”
** “Gardner” means “gardener”