Friday, April 11, 2003

I was born here in Arkansas, about 36 miles from where I now live, so I've been pretty much exposed to redneckdom my entire life. But I think I'm a different sort of redneck, maybe a redneck with a touch of culture. My dad wasn't much of a family man,(or actually maybe too much of one), but he gave me one thing,,, the chance to travel a bit and see, as well as experience, a little bit of the world.

When I was 3 we lived in North Carolina for a year. My youngest sister was born there. Then my dad went away for a couple of years, as he often did, and our next home with him was in Duluth, Minn. when I was around 6. He was in the Air Force and he liked the tours, so much so that he was often away somewhere without us. My mom had never been away from her family so all of this was especially difficult for her, and even more so when she had my two sisters and I. After my youngest sister was born, in between our time in NC and MN, my father did a tour in England where he met and lived with, and eventually impregnated, my soon to be Stepmom. I think my first half brother was born after my father was again with us while he was stationed in MN. As soon as we moved back to Arkansas after that tour ended, he was once again off to England to see his only son. The reunion must have been very rewarding for him because 13 months after the birth of my first half brother, the second half brother followed. As you can see, my father didn't waste much time! I think my mother tried to get him to come home long enough to sign divorce papers for several years, but it wasn't until I was 10 or so that they were actually divorced and he married my stepmother. I was about 11 before I knew of all of this and I didn't really understand much about it.(hell I was still playing with dolls, what did I know about all this shit?) By this time, half brother number 3 was also on the scene so my first glimpse of my "other" family came as quite a puzzling surprise.

In 1968 my father decided that he wanted to be a part of at least one of our lives. Since I was the oldest, he invited me to come live with he and his new family in England for their 3 year tour there. It was a very hard decision for me, I had never been away from my mom before, never been on a bus, a train, and certainly not a plane. But finally, since mom thought it would be a good opportunity for me, I went. Three planes, a bus, a dented up airforce station wagon later, I was in Alconbury Weston in Huntingdonshire, UK living in a 17th century thatched roof cottage with people I barely even knew. It was an experience for sure!

I loved the culture and I adored the scents of history that surrounded every minute of the 3 years that I lived there. I walked to catch the school bus on some of the same old cobbled streets as people had walked for hundreds of years. I loved the view of the little river and footbridge outside my bedroom window. The thick plaster walls and timbers in the low ceilings kept the cottage we lived in warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I still remember the smell of fresh bread in the air in the early mornings coming from the village bakery and the taste of the fresh veggies the green grocer brought around in his van one day a week. On Saturdays the fish-n-chip van came and we'd have battered rock cod with vinigary chips wrapped in newspaper.

My dad wasn't much of a father, but he did give me that.

No comments: