After a short lived stint in Texas with Dad and Vicki, Dad sent me to live with my aunt and uncle in Florence, Oregon. My aunt Carole was not his first choice as he had called a number of other relatives first to inquire about fostering me, but he had found no success. It was a delicate conversation to have with someone as he couldn’t be honest and say, “my wife hates her and I can’t stand up to my 90 pound spouse,” because it would make him look like a real asshole and he couldn’t just lie and say, “she’s out of control and we don’t know what to do with her,” because he was desperately trying to close a deal. He took the most comfortable approach of absolving himself from any blame and laid the fault squarely upon my unruly behavior. This of course was all a lie as I once again was excelling in school and finding much success in track as I left Houston with straight A’s and a new school record to boot. I gotta give him credit though, at least he went out of the way to help me land on my feet.
After few weeks in Houston I convinced Dad to find Jason and bring him to Houston. We found Jason living in Montana with our aunt and uncle and although he was reluctant to leave a stable, loving home he was excited to be reunited with me. It was our reuniting in Houston that sparked my early departure. Dad’s wife Vicki hated pretty much everything about me and I would claim that the feeling was mutual. She hated me for selfish reasons (I took my father’s attention away from her and intervened when dad was beating Jason) and I hated her for the worthy reason of she being a nasty skank. At the close of the school year Dad put me on a plane and sent me to live with Aunt Carole and Uncle Nevada.
When I arrived at the airport my aunt was nervous of what to expect as she had been amply warned of my “waywardness.” She missed me when I came off of the plane as she was looking for someone else, not a little girl in a flowered blouse and feathered hair under a rattan hat. Now, I certainly was no angel but neither was I anywhere near the description my dad had presented. My aunt had always been loving and warm and our reunion was no exception.
Carole was a young housewife in her early 30’s and Nevada worked long hours and the mill. They had two boys and owned a cute three bedroom A-frame nestled in between two lakes at the northern end of the little town of Florence, Oregon. They were a loving and stable family who were deeply committed to their faith and each other. It was my first experience with such security and I like to say that for the most part, my story ends once I entered high school. In 1981 Florence was a sleepy coastal, mill town on the brink of complete financial ruin. Had I my advantaged perspective today, I would have warned my uncle that within the next few years the mills would shut down and he should prepare for great hardships which would include the loss of the house they had worked so hard for. The community would teeter on the edge of survival before they learned to embrace tourism full force and enthusiastically welcome the money of men in Bermuda shorts, fanny packs and flipped up sunglasses.
I started my freshman year at Siuslaw High School in the fall of 1981. I was quick to make friends as the school was so small everyone immediately knew I was the “new” girl and were interested to see what I could bring to the mix. For the first time in my life the structure and stability of school spilled out into my life at home and I soon came to recognize food, shelter, love and support as a given. I flourished in Florence and despite the personal flair I brought to the small school, fit right in. Again, choir became my “thing” and I excelled at the academics, earning a 4.0 my first semester. Although I was completely familiar with the culture of school and I welcomed the structure, I brought a perspective that distanced me from my peers. True to the saying, “you can never go home,” nor can one return to a limited perspective. I was happy and secure in Florence yet I yearned for the freedom of making my own choices and absorbing life in the city. I sought out older friends who shared my enthusiasm for an “alternate perspective” and learned to walk a delicate balance of obedient niece and party girl. Perhaps I can conjure up some stories of my life in Florence. A different flavor but flavorful still.