I had a very unconventional childhood.
At 6 months, my parents were like “OOPS DIDN’T WANT A KID GO LIVE WITH YOUR GREAT GRANDPARENTS BYE” and I lived in Indonesia from 6 months to 5 years old. At that point, my Great Oma (grandmother in Dutch) passed away, and my Great Opa (grandfather in Dutch) gave me back. To which my parents were like “OH NOOOO NOT ANOTHER MOUTH TO FEED” [I have an older sister and a younger sister at this point] and gave me to my Aunt and Uncle, who were military based and I lived around the country with them (mainly Texas, which is why I have a slight southern accent, or at least that is what I’m told) until I was 12, when my parents were like “YAY YOU’RE OUR DAUGHTER AGAIN!” and I moved to Chicago and here I am now. This is also my explanation on how my name can change 900 times and have never been married.
It’s very strange trying to explain this. During the years 5-12 my Aunt would force me to go on vacation with my parents (also known as total strangers to me at that time) during summer in between the various church schools, dance competitions, swim meets, gymnastics, cheerleading competitions, theater and performances. In retrospect, that is probably the reason I never ever stop working or moving ever. Random tangent aside, these would always be roadtrips that were long, tedious and made me bond with people who I didn’t know. In 1996, my parents decided it would be fun to go to Memphis and Nashville, because everyone wants to see Elvis’ ugly house (sorry, the man is a legend and all but his taste in interior decorating is awful) and get called racist names at the ripe old age of 11. Actually that trip was my introduction to rock climbing, so it wasn’t all bad.
But what really the story is here is how I actually came to bond with my family.
We had decided to leave in the middle of the night because logic would say that everyone but the driver would sleep through the boring drive from Chicago to Tennessee, making that part go by quickly. Unfortunately, part of the issue of not actually knowing each other means they didn’t know I cannot sleep in cars, or with strange people in the room. That whole, serial killer thing and all, even knowing biologically they were my parents I didn’t actually KNOW them or anything. It was awkward, but my mother was passed out in the backseat while my sisters and brother slept in the other half of the backseat (in a van.) I sat up front with my dad, who in my lifetime at that point I had said probably all of 50 words to. We didn’t talk outside of the brief vacations we had taken together. I can imagine it was hard on them, seeing their failure of child raising in front of them, but as the child in that situation I didn’t know how to cope with anything. So I did my favorite pastime and looked out the window.
I still do that, by the way. If I’m not driving I’m generally watching whatever is going on outside.
So this man who is my biological father and I rode together in silence for 3.5 hours before I broke down and spoke to him.
“Hey, um, I really need to pee.”
Everyone woke up at the rest stop. Mom and I had a little more communication over the years then Dad and I did, but it still wasn’t enough for me to be able to hold a conversation. My younger sister and I had bonded before, since she was actually allowed to come visit me on military bases, so if she was awake I was by her. My older sister and I always had a rough past (story for another time) so I avoided her, my younger brother was just a baby.
I don’t remember how this came about, but somehow I was given sugar and/or caffeine. Have you ever given an eleven year old who has a hyperactive disorder who hasn’t slept yet sugar or caffeine? If you haven’t, don’t. When we piled back into the van, I was wired. My brain was going at 9000000000000000 miles per hour, my skin was itching and I was pulling my hair. I already sing along with the radio, but now I was screaming along with the radio. I kept everyone awake, because there was no way I was going to be alone in my madness.
I was making great impressions on my future family.
A few hours later I started to calm down because the sugar was wearing off. I still wouldn’t sleep in the car, but now everyone else could. Well, except my father. He was still driving. Considering I’m still alive, my guess was that he didn’t fall asleep. I was quite the chatterbox though, or at least that’s what he tells me. I honestly don’t remember. Sugar is a hell of a drug.
Fast forward from crazy little girl family doesn’t know being brought over state lines into Tennessee, we finally arrived at the hotel where I remember walking in, looking at the bed, and falling on the floor asleep. This marked the first time I ever slept on anywhere that wasn’t a bed to my knowledge.
When I woke up I was all sorts of cranky. I slept on a floor. I had a sugar hangover. I wanted nothing to do with anything or anyone.
But of course, that was the first real day of vacation, which meant it was time to go into Elvis’ house of shag ceiling rugs. I don’t remember much of Graceland, just a lot of shag carpeting in places that shag carpeting shouldn’t go, and a ridiculous amount of televisions. I remember singing the song “Walking in Memphis” a whole lot. I think Mom had played that Marc Cohn cassette tape (aw yeeah!) like 900 times on the trip down. I still know all the lyrics.
I know we ate a lot on this trip. I know after that we went to the Grand Ole Opry. I don’t remember much of it. They kept doing things like giving me sugar or soda. It makes me forgetful, and kind of like a drug addict. When I came home I thought my aunt was going to kill me for sneaking off and trying to find sugar, to get my fix.
Coming back from the Grand Ole Opry we got ridiculously lost. My father, the manly man that he is, refused to get directions, this was back before GPS, so we just kind of drove around. And around. And around. Somewhere Mom gave me a soda and I got really hyper and was itching to be free of the car, which is how I learned how to rock climb since we just pulled over and I started climbing EVERYTHING.
I think they looked at a map or something. Something BORING.
After they coaxed me down off of the rocks with a chocolate bar, I was happily giving into my sugar addiction in the back of the van when I started to notice all of the cars pulled over and people waving. Stupidly, my sisters and I started waving back, completely forgetting the windows of the van were tinted, and the people outside couldn’t see us.
We were waved down a road, to this day we’re still not quite sure WHY we were waved down, but when we looked behind us there were police cars with the lights on. Since we were hyperactive children hopped up on the chocolates, our reaction was to scream bloody murder while we continued waving at the tinted glass. Dad finally got the picture that he should pay attention to us, then noticed the flashing lights. He pulled over, and the police cars did too. One of the cops got out and asked him why he was stopping things. Confused, he asked what he was stopping. I think at that point the policeman realized what was going on, because we looked up and the Olympic torch ran past us.
My guess is that they thought since we had out-of-state license plates we were the beginning of the Olympic torch parade, I’m not sure. But the run was almost stopped thanks to us. Can you imagine the headlines?
“Olympic Torch never makes it past Memphis. Stopped by family with hyperactive sugar filled children. Father filled with shame.”
“Olympic Torch takes a long detour to Chicago. Family completely oblivious.”
“Sugar High Children attack Olympic Torch Bearer. ‘You’ll never make it out alive!’ They scream”