Mom didn't sleep a wink that night. I dozed off a few times but she was at the table every time I woke up.
We left Aunt Reba's early that morning to go home, and I was nervous. I hoped Dad wasn't mad at me or even worse, gone. As we pulled up to the last hill, I could see his car parked out front. All of us were quiet. We had no idea what to expect.
Daddy was drinking coffee at the kitchen table with his back to us when we walked in. The four of us went quietly through the den and down the hall to our rooms. Rosanne had Tara by the hand and was keeping an eye on her, trying to keep Cindy occupied at the same time. Mom stayed in the kitchen.
I listened carefully expecting to hear some yelling but there wasn't any. I walked a little further down the hall towards the foyer and could hear them talking, but couldn't make out anything that was said. I was relieved and exhausted, so I went back to my room and laid on the bed.
About the time I was praying to be left alone, Dad walked into my room. It was obvious he was exhausted and felt ashamed. He stood for a minute in front of me staring at the floor, which made me more uncomfortable because I thought he was mad at me from the night before. I was especially concerned that he thought I hated him, so I gathered the courage to apologize.
"Daddy?" was the only word I got out when he sat down and put his arms around me.
"Baby, Daddy loves you girls so much. I didn't want ya'll to leave. Your Mama did the right thing though. I'm sorry if I scared you. Okay?"
I nodded my head and he kissed me, stood up and walked out. I curled up on my bed and fell asleep.
I don't remember much about the days or weeks that followed, but I do recall visiting the bench in the foyer often. I watched the fish in the aquarium and imagined myself as the little diver on the bottom exploring the sunken pirate ship.
I was torn. I loved certain things about my life and I hated others. I wanted my parents to love each other again. I longed to see them hold hands and laugh. I had to talk to my Grandma. I had to have her fix everything again, and I missed them. The trailer park was a peaceful and comforting place for me.
Before I got a chance to work that out, Daddy told me that Curley was coming with his trailer. I panicked and asked if he was coming to get Snuffy, but he reassured me that he was bringing something instead. Curley arrived soon after and backed his trailer up once again to the gate. I waited anxiously and was thrilled to see the most beautiful pinto back out of the trailer! Daddy told me she was MY horse! I fell immediately in love with her, and hugged dad's legs so tight he almost fell backwards.
I remember wondering if he bought me a horse of my own because I told him I hated him. That made me feel worse, but it only lasted a second, because as soon as I walked up to her she nuzzled me. I immediately named her "Babe". Most of her body was white, but she had huge black and brown spots, with a black mane, tail and legs.
Snuffy seemed to fall in love with her too. I ran to get the brush and tried to brush her but she was more interested in Snuffy than me. I decided to let them get acquainted so I went to the top of the drive and watched them for a long time. She seemed to love her new home and I felt like a real cowgirl.
She explored the stable after having a snack and a drink of water, then both horses took off running. They ran all over the pasture in unison. I was happy that my new horse loved her new house!
Curley said not to ride her until we got to know each other. He said Carol would come the first few times I rode so she could help me get acquainted with my horse. I hated leaving Babe for a night but I had to go to the trailer park. I called Grandma, and Grandpa came to pick me up.
I had to ask Grandma some important questions. Why did Daddy stay away so long when he loved us so much? Why did he act so weird sometimes? The little white clapboard house with the pretty yard and red motel chairs was always a welcome sight. I loved everything about that place; except those chickens. I was glad to be there, but I was getting anxious for Grandma to start fixing dinner. That's when Grandpa would go outside to roll his cigarettes and visit with the men from the trailer park, it was our "girl time" together.
When Grandma put the pot of water on to boil for a pitcher of iced tea, that was Grandpa's cue to get his red tin of tobacco, the rolling papers, the daily newspaper and go out the back door. I slid into a kitchen chair and asked Grandma if we could talk. I knew she had things to do, but she always gave me her undivided attention and joined me at the table. I told her all about the night in the car and how terrible it had been. Somehow I could tell she already knew, but she let me talk. I tried to tell her without crying, but the tears came anyway.
She told me she had talked to Daddy and Mama on the telephone, but she was going to make sure Daddy came to see her soon and she would talk to him. I could tell she was upset with him for the way he had been acting even though she never said anything negative about Daddy or anyone. This was the first time I didn't feel comforted about her talking to Daddy. He respected Grandma more than anyone, but he was not taking advice very well. In my heart I knew that he would keep doing what he wanted no matter what anyone said to him.
The next day Grandma called Daddy and told him to come pick me up. She obviously was wasting no time keeping her promise. I didn't want to be in the car alone with Daddy after she talked to him. I was afraid he would know I had told her everything. When Daddy came to get me, Grandpa asked me to walk with him for a while. We spent a long time outside and when it was time to go, I was nervous.
Daddy was quiet on the way home, but I could tell he wasn't mad, he seemed to be far away in his thoughts. That was a relief. When I got home, I was glad to see Mama and my sisters, but I was confused. I felt different inside and couldn't quite put my finger on what I was feeling. I wanted to be alone and everything seemed to aggravate me. Looking back now, I realize it was intense anger. I was furious with Daddy, but because we had been taught it wasn't "lady like" to be mad, I didn't recognize it at the time. I also felt guilt. Something was brewing inside of me. I was confused about this constant feeling, but didn't have any idea what to do about it. I'm ashamed to admit it but I took it out on Mama, Mrs. Fish and Cindy. Rosanne was not an easy force to be reckoned with, and Tara was too little.
I recall sitting at the kitchen table sticking my tongue out at Mrs. Fish behind her back. I wondered if she had eyes in the back of her head because she turned around just as I made faces at her. The look she gave me would have frightened me before. Now I wasn't afraid of her. I didn't care if she liked me or not.
If I went out to ride my bike, I rode as fast as my legs would take me. When Carol and Curley came to help me get acquainted with Babe, I didn't want to walk her. I wanted to open the gate and ride her as fast and far away as possible. Curley had a temper and yelled at me to take it easy. Normally I would have been intimidated, but I remember talking back to him. He spanked his own children, and I could tell he wanted nothing more to turn me over his knee, but Carol intervened and calmed the situation down. Besides, Mama as small as she was, would have let him have it.
One thing about Mama... she was strict with us, but NO ONE except Daddy was allowed to punish us. If she got word that we had been disrespectful to anyone in any way, she handled it immediately. Sticking my tongue out at Mrs. Fish got me in serious trouble.
Sometime that Summer, Daddy thought it would be a good idea to take a family vacation. We were all going to the U.S. Virgin Islands. I wasn't exactly excited about family vacations because a couple of years ago, Daddy took all of us including Eula to Hawaii. We were so excited at the time to go to Hawaii, and many memories of that trip were good ones. Some of them weren't. During that trip, Daddy had a bad couple of days and even though we were in the most beautiful place on Earth, we spent a couple of days sitting in the hotel room watching television. The unbelievable beaches could be seen from our room, but we just sat there while Dad laid in the bed.
Hopefully this trip would be better, but I was apprehensive and afraid. Mama took us shopping for new bathing suits, little sundresses and beach wear, and I began to get excited. One question hovered over my head. "Mama, is Mrs. Fish going with us?"
When she said no, I was ready for the Virgin Islands! I don't remember the trip getting there, but I remember the "vacation" very well. We had an amazing penthouse on top of the tallest hotel right on the ocean. It was beautiful. We looked down from our room and could see the bottom of the sea, the pure white sand, and a view that went on forever.
The first couple of days were great. We played in the water, used our little plastic buckets to build sand castles, and had a great time. Then one day Daddy just disappeared. He had suggested that Mama take us to a few shops and look around while he rested, but when we got back, the bed was empty.
Mama seemed angry at first, but as the hours went by, she became worried and started pacing in front of the windows. Daylight turned to dark and still no word from Daddy.
Sometime during the night while we were sleeping, we heard Daddy come in and he had that strange sound in his voice. I got up to ask him where he had been and as I walked into the room I was shocked. He was laying on the bed, clearly in pain and impatient with Mom. Mama was holding his feet and seemed to be studying them intently.
I stepped closer to look, and couldn't believe how awful Daddy's feet looked. The bottom of both feet were black with these weird spike things sticking out of them. His feet were bleeding and I wondered how he walked back to the hotel.
Mom said he stepped on sea urchins, which was kind of like porcupines that lived in the ocean. A few minutes later when a doctor came to the door and I had to leave the room. I laid on my bed, listening to Dad yell from the other room for what seemed to be hours. The next morning, his feet were bandaged, he was talking like he was drunk, and Mama was clearly unhappy.
I knew it was the end of our "family vacation" even though we had only been there a couple of days. I was angry. I knew Daddy was in pain but I was upset that he went to the beach without us and got hurt. We spent the rest of our time in a beautiful penthouse looking out the window at other children splashing in the water. The only other memory I have of that trip is riding in a police car.