After years of living in an abusive home, I moved into my own apartment in 1973 and started my wild ride into adulthood. I was running from my memories and lack of memories by drinking and drugging. I met the man who would become my husband and we moved in together in 1974. That year, we helped one of his childhood friends, Greg, escape from a halfway house. We were deeply entrenched in the drug culture by that time and hanging out with some very shady characters. Many of our friends were junkies, which had led me to make and enforce two important rules – no needles and no guns in our home. I was very street-wise by this time and thought that nothing could surprise me. Boy, was I wrong. We didn’t know at the time that Greg had been diagnosed as Schizophrenic. He lived in hiding in our apartment, which was the local hangout. We had a place of our own with the best drugs, regular meals and live music. Who wouldn’t want to hang out here? Greg soon contacted an old high school girlfriend, Nancy, and invited her to come over.
Nancy was a bossy know-it-all, two years younger than me. I was also a bossy know-it-all, and it was my apartment. I was still trying to escape the clutches of my mother, who had tried to run every aspect of my life, including every thought, and I resented another woman coming into my home and trying to run things. I tolerated her because Greg was so volatile, and she helped calm him. Eventually she moved in. Ugh! Soon things got out of hand with Greg. He hung towels on all the mirrors and performed exorcisms day and night, convinced we were being possessed by the devil. After two nights of being kept awake because the devil would enter her soul during her sleep, Nancy moved out. A few days later, Greg started throwing lit matches at me because fire was the only way to cleanse me of the evil growing inside of me, so we threw him out and called his parents. He was quickly snatched up.
Once Greg was gone, Nancy started hanging out with us again. She even took her first acid trip with me, which was a memorable and bonding experience for both of us and another story for another time. But, Paul and I knew we needed to get out of our situation. Our friends were dropping like flies, and the drugs were getting more and more out of control. Some of the regular hang out folks became selfish and rude, disrespecting me and my rules, belligerently calling me terrible names to my face and trying to divide Paul and me. I finally laid down the law to Paul, and we decided to move away. I was relieved to get away from that scene but also from my mom and from Nancy, who was around constantly.
We hitchhiked around the country, landed in San Francisco, then moved on to Santa Cruz to have our expected baby. I was finally free. We were living our own lives, making new friends and loving it. Then, who shows up for a surprise visit? That’s right, Nancy. She and another friend, Marie, had decided to drive to California and surprise us. Boy, were we surprised! Marie left to go back home, but Nancy stayed on. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn't seem to get rid of her. She got an apartment in town and dropped by every day to hang out. As my due date got closer, she asked how I planned to get to the hospital. I replied that I planned to hitchhike. I figured I would hold up a sign that said, “Having a baby.” I knew first time labors were supposed to be long anyway, so I’d have plenty of time. And, who wouldn’t pick up a pregnant woman in labor? I’d have Paul with me, so I didn’t worry about safety. Nancy wouldn’t hear of it and insisted on driving us. After being badgered for days by both Nancy and Paul, I finally relented. "Fine," I replied. At least she wouldn’t be with me during labor.
When Jessica was born, Nancy visited every day, washing dishes, cooking meals, cleaning, holding and cooing to Jessie while I napped. It was amazing. She did try to be bossy, but I didn’t mind anymore. I saw what a good heart she had and how much she cared about all of us. I realized that she had become my best friend upon whom I relied and truly loved. She changed her name to Amber during that time in Santa Cruz, and she mellowed a bit after that. When Paul hitched up north to try to find work in the fruit orchards so that we could move up to Oregon or Washington, Jessie and I lived with Amber in the park out of her VW bus, and we got along great. Then, when the move north didn’t pan out, we all traveled across the country to visit family in Connecticut in that same bus. Before the days of carseats, Jessie took her first steps driving down the road on that trip, toddling back and forth, back and forth as we cruised along.
We stayed in Connecticut that time, leaving Amber to drive back alone and start her own life, which she did successfully. We talked on the phone often and, when we’d had enough of the east coast, we moved in with her in Husum, Washington. She had just had her first daughter and was in a dying relationship, so I helped her out as she had helped me. It didn’t last long. We were not meant to live together. We had a huge falling out, and I missed her terribly when my second child was born at home. Eventually, we did settle things, and shared more bonding events over the years. We’ve lived on opposite sides of the country for 36 years, only seeing each other every few years, but she is my sister.
She’s still bossy, stubborn and a know-it-all (as am I), but she is also strong, resilient, good hearted and persistent. She raised her two daughters alone, created a community around her, built her own house and a livable two-story tree house with electric and heat. She won her battle with dyslexia, learned to be a good reader and got her teaching degree. Now she has worked at a job she hasn’t been happy with for quite a while and has ensured her retirement. She finally met a man she could get along with who loves her and her children dearly. We have been there for each other throughout all the trials and rewards. She’s always had access to money that I never had, through her family, and has flown me to Oregon for visits. She paid for my daughter to come home for Thanksgiving when we were all so broke, we couldn’t afford it and helped me buy my current business. She’s done all of this without being asked. She’s known what I’ve needed and has given it freely, and she has been a constant inspiration to me.
I don't think I have done the same for her, but she must be getting something from me. I treated her badly in the beginning, trying to drive her away and getting frustrated and angry when she didn’t leave. Now, I’m so glad she didn’t. I’m sure that struggle is one of the things that solidified our relationship. We still can’t live together and can’t visit for more than a few days at a time because we’re too similar, but we truly love each other and depend on each other to be there. We will always have that until the day we die. I treasure her friendship more than any other.