In case you haven’t read this yet : Ron. Part 1
After that foreboding introduction, Ron began making regular appearances in our home. Bi-weekly family dinners soon became Friday nights, which swiftly transformed into entire weekends. My mom had always been a fan of evening cocktails, but from the time Ron entered the scene, their drinking rapidly accelerated and distended. At the time, I didn’t really get it. I knew that they always had glasses of amber liquid on ice, and that they would laugh louder, and forget stuff, and talk funny. Further down the road, those characteristics were replaced with fighting, belligerence and full-blown drunks. Scotch became their third-wheel and endless companion, the fuel that accelerated their annihilative relationship.
Once Ron became a permanent weekend resident, we were introduced to his daughter, who was confusingly also named Tracy. At the time, I was 11, my brother Joey was 8, and his daughter Tracy was 7. Her afternoon weekdays with us also soon became entire weekends, and we were expected to accept and take under our wing, the daughter of the man my brother and I both hated.
In these bizarre, ill at ease, faux-family weekends we were now forced to endure, I became Tracy Lee and she Tracy Ann. The whole dynamic was forced and awkward, and from the moment I had met him, there was nothing about Ron Summers I liked, let alone trusted.
They both thought that the obvious reason for this dislike must be because he wasn’t my father, and he was dating my mother, and I was angry that my parents were divorced, blah blah blah. But that was never it. I wasn’t angry that my parents had divorced, my dad had never really been around much anyway, he favored his other two children, Alcohol and Golf. I was angry at my father for many reasons, but not about the divorce. The reason I didn’t like Ron was simple, he was a snake and I knew it, but everyone just filed it away under good old-fashioned, broken home rebellion.
Let’s back up a few years to 1980, a chilly evening in March, St. Patrick’s Day to be exact, when I was 9 years old.
My 6-year-old brother, Joey and I had spent the day dressed in green like all the other children. In school, we learned old Irish ballads and pondered the possibility of pots of gold waiting to be found at the end of rainbows. We had been home for a while playing, and once dinner was prepared and in the oven, mom gathered us onto the sofa to watch highlights from the St. Patrick’s Day parade on the 6:00 news with her while we waited for our father to get home.
My brother and I sat flanking our mother on the couch, watching the sea of green and gold parade across the television. After the highlight segment was over, the newscaster appeared inside of a crowded and boisterous local Irish pub, “And now, live from The Crease…”
As the camera panned around the bar, I screamed out and pointed, “Look! There’s Daddy!”
I will never, ever forget the look on my mother’s face. Time turned into cement. As I looked at her with my happily surprised face after seeing my own Daddy on TV, I saw so many emotions on her face at once that it confused me, and I cocked my head and looked at her harder, trying to figure out what that look meant. It was a combination of shock, horror, sadness, anger, and a broken-heart that she was trying desperately to disguise with a painfully strained smile.
“Who’s that lady with Daddy?” I asked.
Our father was shown sitting at the bar, with his arm around a blond woman in a tight gold top. Our mother too quickly hopped up from the couch and switched off the TV. She mumbled that dinner would be ready in a little bit and that we could play some more, as she hurried down the hallway into her bedroom and shut the door.
Daddy never made it home for dinner that night, and in the course of those few moments, the trajectory of our lives was forever changed. My mom hired a private investigator, sued him for adultery, and dad moved in with his mistress, Bonnie. Shortly after, my parents were divorced, and within that same year, mom was doing something a mother should never have to do. Dressing her children in ring bearer and flower girl outfits for her ex-husbands wedding to his mistress. So yeah, you could say I had some Daddy issues.
Ron was also divorced and technically lived in Connecticut. He would spend the weekends with us in Maryland, then return for the week, at least in the beginning. In the summer of 1982, we were told, as if it were a huge treat, that we would be going to Connecticut for summer vacation! This was not at all what I had in mind, not even for part of my summer vacation. My Mom and Ron on a Scotchcapade, while I had only Tracy Ann and Joey to hang out with. It was going to suck and I knew it.
When summer break rolled around, we all packed into his Buick Riviera and endured the horrible 9 hour car ride, where we were emotionally damaged by being forced to listen to such mainstream nightmares as Christopher Cross’ “Sailing” about a dozen times. Between the constant bickering of three adolescent children, the 400 cigarettes my mom and Ron smoked, and the June sunshine turning the backseat into a greenhouse, it was the longest car ride of my life.
Once we arrived, I was pissed. I mean, really pissed. The house was not even in a neighborhood, so there were no other kids around to play with. All there was were woods and woods and maybe a little more woods. But if you walked a really long time through the woods, you were finally able to reach more woods.
I put on my headphones and sat in the room I was to be sharing with my brother, listening to Styx and Foreigner and drawing rows of Ziggy’s peeking over the flowered border on the stationary I had no use for. I wouldn’t need it. What the hell was I supposed to write about?
There are a lot of woods here, Mom and Ron are having a Scotch Fiesta, and the batteries are almost dead on my Super Simon.
SYS, LYLAS, SSS
No, I was not going to be writing anybody. I was sour and annoyed and filled with the eye-rolling attitude only an 11-year-old girl can possess. After 3 days of sulking and complaining, I guess my mom got sick of listening to me and decided to take me out into civilization. The Mall!!! I was the happiest girl in all the land. I put on my best Jordache jeans – the ones with the horse running under the sunset – secured my gigantic neon pink triangular earrings, and got into the car faster than you could say DWI.
It was just she and I, and it was wonderful to be away from The Boyfriend Who Was A Complete Dick. As we strolled through the mall, I felt something strange and sticky in my underwear. My Mom sat on the bench and waited while I went to the bathroom. I remember sitting down to pee, and in my green and purple striped underwear there was a dark red stain. I thought I had a horrifying disease, and must be dying.
I met my Mom outside at the bench and decided not to say anything. I was too mortified, and figured that if I ignored it, it might just go away. We continued along, window-shopping, and I was really starting to feel pretty crappy. My stomach hurt, but I was certainly in no hurry to go back to The House Of Scotch And Trees. Anchored at the end of the mall was a Hecht’s department store, and in we went. We picked out a bunch of clothes for me to try on and headed over to the dressing room. I took off my Jordache to try on a pair of shorts, and there it was again. The stain had spread and it looked like real blood! I was dying! I was terrified and ashamed because it was Down There.
Let me preface this with the fact that I was 11. I had no idea what a period was, had never heard of it, and as an eleven-year old girl seeing blood in her underpants…the mixed bag of emotions that comes with that is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. OK, maybe my worst enemy.
My mom knocked on the door and asked what was taking me so long, and I reluctantly told her to come in. I think I got out, “something is really bad there is blood in my under…” and before I could even finish, her jaw hit the floor and she told me to stay right there, not to go anywhere, and that she would be right back.
That was it, no explanation…just “wait right here.” Approximately 30 seconds after she left, 2 sales girls came in. One of them put her arm around me and said, “don’t worry honey, it happens to all of us.” I was utterly mortified. What happens to all of us? And most importantly why had my mother told these two complete strangers that there was blood in my underwear. I wanted to disappear into thin air.
The sales girls patted my back and told me that it was all going to be ok, and just to wait there for my Mom, if I needed anything they would be right outside. It felt like an eternity I had waited, so I walked out of the dressing room and down the hallway where I was to witness a sight that was to be forever burned into my consciousness.
Picture a Running Back, carrying the football under his arm, face wrought with determination as he rushes for the touchdown. Now, replace running back with mother, and replace football with the world’s largest box of Stayfree Maxi Pads. It was so industrial sized that the bag barely halfway covered it.
She was running towards me with a face full of urgency. She grabbed me by the arm and took me back into the dressing room. Taking a deep breath, she sat down and briefly explained that what was happening to me was something called a period, and that it happened to all women, once every month for about a week. This was called Puberty. She told me it usually didn’t happen until much later, which was why she was so shocked.
She showed me how to peel off the backing and stick the raft-like pad into my underwear. It felt like I had a diaper on, and everyone on the planet could see the humiliating bulge in my Jordache. On the ride home, we drove through McDonald’s, and as I sat munching French fries, she continued to embarrass me with The All About Your Period Talk. She told me this meant that I was a woman, and that I would start wearing deodorant and needing to shave and growing breasts.
All I knew at that point was that it felt a lot more like an exclamation point than a period. She said this was also normal, and that it was called “cramps” and that a hot bath would help. When we got back to the house, I drew myself a hot bubble bath while she and Ron drew themselves some scotch. I remember lying in the tub, totally embarrassed to ever come out of the bathroom because I knew she was telling Ron everything.
In spite of that horrifying realization, I kept thinking, I’m a Woman now! I felt so grown up and mature, and thought about all of the changes that my mom had told me were going to start happening, one of them being that I would have to start shaving. With that, I proceeded to take my moms razor and shave off all of the hair, on my arms.