Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Number Forgotten Rossmoor Place, Columbus Ohio

We lived in a townhouse apartment, the end unit, in a complex with 5 or 6 buildings. A lovely small apartment complex on a courtyard (no thru traffic) that backed up to the elementary school field surrounded by nicer houses and condos and lots of trees & grass.

The apartment on Rossmoor Place was where I lived when I got my period for the first time. Also where I lived when I threw up, from eating too many cheese puffs, all over the side of the building in front of all the kids who lived there, and there were many. I had an aversion to cheese puffs, doodles, balls, curls, etc. for many years after. I discovered the Violent Femmes here, and Guns N' Roses, and skateboarding and cigarettes and Sassy magazine, and The Cure.

When we first moved into Rossmoor, I was still a child, tall with a little pre-pubescent pudge. I begged my mom to let me have a perm, and finally, after many NOs, she relented. Her friend, Tanny, a hairdresser, gave me a home permanent. I think my mother and Tanny were trying to talk me out of it for good reason--I already had curly hair, and a perm would make look more cumbersome, and my plump pre-teen awkwardness was weird enough without any special hair issues--they feared the worst and the worst came. I looked retched. A mullet-like pile of super tight curls puffing out my hair in afro like ways--all I needed was some Soul-Glo to rock that 70s sheen. Hall (or Oates?) would have been jealous certainly.  It was somehow fitting though since I felt ridiculous all the time anyway, in the oh-so-awkward way that all ten year old girls have with abnormally curled and immobile permed hair and chubby baby-fat-suit postponing the inevitable growing up just a few moments longer.

I can't go for that, no, no can do.

There was one boy in the complex named Chris. He was 14, a freshman in high school. He was painfully shy (even I noticed how painful he was and I looked like a poodle)--I think he was a super nice nerdy boy who was in band, had acne, lived with his mother, she, who never let him go outside--but I found out his name when we met once by the dumpsters, and I looked him up in the phonebook--oh yes, throwitback--and I called him.  We would talk about everything and nothing for hours--usually at night when our mothers were sleeping or working. There was a lot of flirtation and some phone(pre)sex going on in those convos. It felt so safe somehow, mostly because I knew that Chris would never have the balls to leave his apartment and shyness behind and walk across the parking lot in front of God and the neighbors and do anything about it.

Chris on Rossmoor Place was how I learned to talk to and tease a boy. A very useful skill to learn while you are growing out a bad perm and trying to lose the puffy padding of babydom.  

Then, boom, just like that it all happened--I got my period, my hair relaxed, my body stretched out, I got boobs, and I happily grew out of my green "Hogs and Kisses" sweatshirt (with two pigs kissing) and I met boys that left the house. I left poor Chris behind. Traded him in for the cool guys that he hated at school--the skateboarders, the tattooed, the rebels, the rockers--my people.

By then I was off on a new path--babysitting, listening to tapes in my Walkman, hanging out with skater boys, playing (and being) hard-to-get. I became that girl that I was going to be for a long time--the girl that hung out with boys--the girl that could hang. Not a groupie, or a girlfriend, but a betty--a girl who boys were friends with, a girl who saw the inside of the locker room.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Taking it Way Back: 3422 Norwood Ave. The first time.

When you leave Riverside Methodist Hospital and drive down E. North Broadway past Clintonville, past 71, when the lanes change from 4 lanes to 2 lanes then to 1 shared road, you turn left on Norwood Ave. That was the first drive I took shortly after December 18, 1976.  

My mother and I lived in the yellow house on Norwood with my grandparents for the first 4 years of my life. It was a pretty great place to live.  John and Ruth had mellowed from their own neurotic parenting days into soft, sweet, doting grandparents.

Ruth was a “housewife” and had lots of time to tend to me, as well as cook dinners, clean (sort of), do laundry, plant things—sometimes plastic birds or plastic flowers—I remember her moving plants from one bed to another. I didn’t get it when I was a child but I get it now. My grandmother was a writer. I remember her electric typewriter. She usually wrote in the late mornings after the breakfast dishes were done and the laundry started, or sometimes she wrote in the late afternoons, after her nap before she needed to start dinner.

Sometime later, she also taught grown men to read.  I was learning to read then myself and we didn’t live with her anymore. Some nights we would stop by and there would be a man sitting with her at the kitchen table.  Most of the men smelled strangely—like gasoline, or cigarette smoke, or some cologne that was not my grandfather’s brand.  And while I was amazed and proud of her for doing something so cool and being a teacher of sorts--not "just" a housewife--I always felt a sense of intrusion. Those men made me feel like a stranger in my home. They had some bond with my grandmother that I didn’t have and I didn’t like any of that. 

My mother was very young, and sweet, and beautiful.  She worked at Susan’s Hallmark on Gay and High downtown. I loved her job. I love cards, and paper and books. Pop-up books were my life. I would ride with Grandpa some afternoons to pick her up after work. Downtown seemed so tall and busy and grown-up. My mother was so sophisticated—she wore make-up and nice clothes and worked downtown. How provincial were my ideas of life then?  Just like today, there was little parking downtown, so my granddad would let me run in to get my mom and he would circle the block if necessary.

When we got back home, we would all sit down for dinner. Grandpa would pray “Thank you for the food we are about to receive and bless it to our bodies use. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”  After dinner, sometimes we would watch a movie or Matlock or Murder, She Wrote. I think Grandma liked mysteries.  My mom would give me a bath, and then sing and rock me to sleep. She always sang this song (that she made up):
            Little boys and little girls go to sleep now
            Close your eyes
            Dream a dream, a special dream tonight
            And when you wake up, the birds will sing
            The flowers bloom and all is spring
            Little boys and little girls go to sleep

I remember moving from that house with my mom to Canton, Ohio. I remember being so sad to leave John and Ruth and the house on Norwood.

Postscript: My grandfather sold that house a number of years ago.  It was the best thing for him. But it was the one place that I knew. It was always there.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

51 Orchard Lane, Part 2

I remember walking to the school bus stop with Matt. He was a very quiet, very awkward, dorky guy who always looked at me like I had two heads. I could never figure out if he loved me or hated me, but I was certain it was one of those two things. I never saw him at school, that or I never noticed. Once we got to school, Matt disappeared. 

Jen started at our school in the middle of the year. She showed up one day at the bus stop. We were friends at first. She was goody-two-shoes and I wasn’t (I mean, not even close.) I think I scared her. I was reckless and fast and liked to be intimidating. She wanted to be good and smart and liked by every one. I wanted to be feared. Our friendship ended quickly.

Orchard Lane was one of the first places that I remember Elizabeth outside of school—although we spent most of our time at one of her many houses (more to come)—we spent a good deal of time in my room on Orchard.

The first time I listened to Duke Ellington, Felonious Monk, and Charlie Parker was with Liz. Her dad was a jazz musician (and professor at OSU) and she had been exposed to so much more music than the rest of us—sophisticated, real, before-our-time black-people, white-people, around-the-world, music. My mom was a great music lover too, American soul, blues, rock-n-roll. And I could certainly hold my own, but Liz’s parents were older and more worldly in so many ways—they had fights about jazz while drinking wine and chilled asparagus soup at the dinner table. I wanted that.

Music and books and each other were our obsessions. Liz taught me about Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Collette. I showed her Elizabeth Bishop, Kinky Friedman, William Carlos Williams, and William S. Burroughs.  We would smoke pot and lay around in her room listening to jazz and reading poetry. We wanted to be beat poets or modernists in Paris or anything artsy and creative and elevated from what we were—high school girls in Columbus, Ohio.

We both studied and excelled in photography. We both loved to sing. Liz was operatically trained. I was not. We sang together and danced ballroom-style, just us—that wasn’t for anyone else.  She called me Heddy or Hed-Mo, nicknames strictly reserved for my mother and grandfather. Liz was family. We fought like it too.  Always pissed and jealous of intruders, on both sides—a new friend, a new lover, a boyfriend—anyone, who took away that time and space, was a threat—we quarreled like sisters or lovers.

We were not lovers, though people always asked. No, never sexual. There was an unmistakable power in our love that bordered on obsession that was almost romantic in the way that it was gigantic and consuming and possessive and like all things that young love is.  It was hard to be with a boyfriend when my best friend was so important, so much more important than any boy could be. We needed each other so much then. Without Liz, I was alone.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Heather's Orchard: 51 Orchard Lane

The day we moved in, my mom gave me the bigger of the two bedrooms. I felt so happy and quietly excited--too cool to show how much that meant to me. It’s hard being 15--going on 16--and that space was great for me. Lots of room to dance and read and think.

My friend Jamie had a terrible relationship with her mother. Jamie was always on the lamb, running away or being thrown out—her bird, Petie, lived in my room with me for awhile. Pete loved Madonna. I would never admit, at the time, to owning that CD but would (and did) play it for Petie. You give me fever.

I took driving lessons from that apartment. Lessons from Sears driving school. I met a boy in driving school. One of my first real boyfriends. He made me laugh and was as smart as me. He had thick, dreamy Morrissey hair, and un-ironically liked The Smiths.  I remember how he smelled and peeing out of the window in his bedroom at his mom's house in the middle of the night. He was always up to some kind of shenanigans--talking to homeless people, picking up strangers from the bus stop and driving them places, spray painting every thing. We were free. 

Orchard Lane was a good street.