Part Two in the series. The year was 1959.
"Lipstick On Your Collar" 1959
Song link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1DaHW1e70Q
By the time I turned eleven, we were living on a military base, Kirkland Air Force Base. Yes, I was still in Albuquerque, but base housing had become available, so we moved. A really good thing about living on the base was the abundance of other children in the neighborhood. Living right next door was an only child, Miriam Costner. I remember her as being slightly chubby, and a year younger. Despite our age discrepency it was she who taught me how to make scrambled eggs and fried bologna one night as we amused ourselves while her parents went out. Right across the street were Steven and Michelle Turkiewicz, who I began baby-sitting for after I turned 12. (Oddly enough, now, forty-eight years later their parents live only a few miles from me.)
Living further down on Mercury Drive was a family with the same age children as in mine, and Kathy Patterson soon became my best friend. Her mother was extremely glamorous to all of us girls. Her name, Dolly, would become a source of endless speculation and fascination. Who in the world had a name like Dolly? Her mom was the only one wearing daytime makeup and sexy/tight clothing. She wasn't like our next door neighbors who popped over in the mornings, after hanging their laundry out to dry, to have a cup of coffee and gossip. No not Dolly. She was having her blonde hair done, shopping, or going some kind of Officer's Wive's Club Meeting. All I really knew for sure was Kathy seemed to have loads of unsupervised time, so it was her house where we had all of our fun.
It was at Kathy's I learned about the game, Spin the Bottle. I received my first kiss from some neighborhood guy named Mike. Not the kind of kiss to give you butterflies in your tummy, but the kind that gave you "Cooties", and you drew your arm across your mouth in an attempt to wipe it off. It wasn't nearly as much fun as many of the other games we kids played, Candyland, or Jacks, and even playing with my Betsy Wetsy doll.
That first year on the base makes me smile, remembering playing outside in the grass, getting grass stains on our white capris or our new Keds and being yelled at for it. It was a year of first hearing about, and then following, my brother Barry in a very odd game; one where you take five deep breaths, then he would hold me from behind and while I held my breath he would squeeze my chest until my legs got rubbery and I would come very close to passing out. It was a game all of us kids played, though I am not sure we did it very often. I distinctly associate this memory with the smell of freshly mown grass, no doubt since we fell on it often enough!
It was a summer of being taken to the Officer's Club to swim in their enormous pool. A summer of trying to catch the lifeguard's attention (in a good way), slathering Coppertone on, doing dives and cannonballs off of the diving board, all in competiton with a hundred other kids. Being told we had to sit out of the pool for an hour after consuming a hot dog for lunch, or we'd cramp up in the water and drown. Even now as I hear this song, I picture the aqua pool, droplets of water splashing the parents sitting around the sides of the pool with a cigarette or a drink in their hand, the endless squealing and "Shhhh-ing" and "Don't run, walk" admonitions by the adults. Very pleasant memories.
On the flip side of that memory also comes my mother with the seemingly endless amounts of time we were told to, "Be quiet, your mother has a headache." Oh she did I'm sure, as there were rounds of doctor's and speculations of the reasons she had them. The dentist said it was her teeth, so she had tons of dental work done, yet still they persisted. At one point she was taking some kind of pills, and when they didn't work, mother went to the hospital.
At eleven, I was old enough to watch my two brothers for short whiles, which was a good thing, since daddy was a pilot and gone sometimes. But while mommy was in the hospital odd things began to happen. My dad would dress up in a suit, telling me he had to go to the store for something. It was okay, but I remember standing on my bed, peering sadly out of the window as he left, and then seeing Kathy's mom driving down the street right behind him.
Then the next afternoon daddy would come back from seeing mommy and change into a suit and tell us kids he was going "bowling" or the store...except he would forget to take his bowling bag...and Dolly would always be leaving about a minute later. One night after several hours of him being away "at the store" I could see he had red marks on his shirt collar. Oh...."What's that daddy?" He became flustered. Now I understood the song I was singing along with all too well.
After many talks with Kathy comparing notes, we put two and two together. What does a kid do with that kind of information? I know what I did. I sat on his lap, facing him and begged him, "Please don't go daddy." I would throw my arms around him and hug him so tight, until he finally pried himself away. Then I'd cry. He finally told me, "This is the last time honey." I don't know whether I got to his conscious, or it was the fact that mommy was coming home, but he didn't ever go out alone in a suit again.
I heard from Kathy that her mom and dad were fighting, and the base rumor mill spoke of Dolly's husband running down the street in his underwear late one night with Dolly in hot persuit. Then one day soon afterwards they moved. Such is Air Force life, transient and heartbreaking.
As for me, I never ever mentioned my suspicions about my dad and Dolly again. Until now.
Here I am at age eleven standing in front of our house on the base, all dressed up on my birthday. (Sorry for the discoloration, but it is a much moved around, old picture. Looks like rust.)