We settled into our new coastal life easily. The Friday night Open Mic at The Riverhouse was a huge success. We kept meeting more and more like-minded people and were surrounded by music. We had a reliable babysitter who came from a large family and was not flustered by Justin’s adventurous nature. After a couple of incidents where he broke away from her and went running down the highway chasing after our car, he soon grew to love and trust her. It wasn’t until we were able to have a night out every week that we realized how much our relationship was suffering. I had been totally immersed in being a stay-at-home mom, which was a twenty-four-hour seven day a week job that exhausted me and kept me from being the partner that Paul wanted and needed. Now, that could change. I hoped we would fight less and remember how much we loved each other.
Our two children were as different as night and day. Jessie was very talkative and independent but respectful of limits. Justin was an adventurer and had no sense of practical limits. He was always pushing the boundaries. Even as a toddler, Jessie would never venture far and always came back if I said I was leaving without her. Justin, however, would turn and run in the other direction as fast as he could go. This was confusing to me since he usually wanted to be attached at the hip. It was a crazy dichotomy. He was fine if it was his idea to explore but, if I wanted to go somewhere without him, even into another room, it was a different story entirely. Both kids were exhausting in their own ways, and both of them were smart as a whip.
When I was pregnant with Jessie, I had read somewhere that you should read aloud to children from the day they were born. I read everything aloud from that point on including novels or newspapers that I was reading while she played by herself. When she was three years old, she suddenly read a cereal box to me. I thought I must have read it to her at some point, and she was reciting it from memory, but I was wrong. I brought other things to her, and she read them, too. Unbeknownst to me, she had taught herself to read. Now, in kindergarten, she was a voracious reader and far beyond her classmates. When we lived in Portland, the school refused to let her into an advanced reading program, so I was surprised when her new teacher in this tiny rural school suggested that she do reading class with the first grade. She excelled and was happy there.
Although Justin also learned to read early and loved it as much as his sister, his skills were of a different nature. He was a planner and a schemer. I was never sure what was going on his head, unlike Jessie who was an open book and eager to share every thought … endlessly. Justin didn’t say much and would think nothing of suddenly taking off to go wading into the rushing river or jump right into the big waves of the Pacific Ocean. We often visited the beach in Pacific City climbing up the big sand dune at Haystack Rock enjoying the majestic view. But no sooner were we settled at the top, than Justin would go plummeting down the steep hill, tumbling most of the way to the bottom with me running after him. Paul always looked at the child-rearing as my job. He brought in most of the income, though I did what I could while managing both kids and the household, so in his mind, he was off the hook as a parent. Although, he was always ready to yell if they disturbed him.
Meanwhile, my back issue was getting worse. Hauling around a feisty two-year old didn’t help it any either. While in Portland, I had tried many different remedies for the pain including chiropractors, massage therapy, even Nemo Therapy which was electro-shock to the muscles. It tightened the muscle until it released itself. It was a painful procedure but was actually the only thing that helped. The relief usually lasted for a day or two before the pain came back again. Now, we were in the middle of nowhere, and those things were no longer available. I started stretching everyday and doing floor exercises, with Justin climbing all over me. However, mostly, I just got used to the constant discomfort and soldiered through. Some of my new friends noticed and offered to do the heavy lifting when they were around which helped. But the never-ending pain affected my mood more often than not.
I was also starting to be noticed by some of the other musicians. Before I met Paul, I had been working with wedding bands and getting solo gigs with churches for various services. When we first got together, he became jealous and insisted that I give all of that up. I had spent my childhood alone and my high school years bullied and wanted him more than I wanted the gigs, so I agreed. Now, I was getting invited to sing back-up on recordings and offered radio work in a neighboring town. That caused us to start fighting again, so I turned down anything that didn’t include him. I wasn’t ready to go back to the endless yelling and certainly wasn’t ready to be a single mom. I had grown up with parents who, although they loved each other passionately, fought constantly. I thought that was probably normal, but I was willing to do whatever it took to avoid that in my own relationship. Unfortunately, Paul had also come from a highly dysfunctional and violent family and was probably addicted to adrenaline. He was not violent towards us but threw things at the walls and stormed around too often for my comfort.
I soon started playing the role of protector towards the kids, mostly towards Justin. As I said, he was a rambunctious troublemaker. He would go racing through a room where his dad was sitting on the floor reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee, a cigarette and a bong. In no time, the coffee and bong would be spilled, and Paul would be standing over our terrified boy, waving his arms, throwing the coffee cup and screaming at him. I would swoop in and scoop him up, facing Paul’s rage myself and propelling Justin towards his sister who would take him to refuge in their room. Once the dust settled, Paul would take up his guitar and we would heal ourselves and our relationship in our music. I’ve often said that being in a band is like being in a marriage because the bond of music is so strong. For us, we had both our love and our music. For a long time, the music was the strongest bond of all and eventually became the only bond. And then there was also pot.
Pot was one of the glues that held us and the music together. We smoked together remembering our love for each other and became inspired to write or share music. For me, music was everything. It was the air I breathed. I had been singing for as long as I could remember. It was the one thing that had always healed my soul. It was what made me feel connected to the world. But it was also a business. I always wanted to be a professional musician and had started on that path early on. I even went to college to study music but soon dropped out, having never been a good student. For Paul, it was a hobby. It was definitely something he loved, but he had no aspirations to make his living with it. It was always my push to get gigs. I always did the promotion and all of the behind the scenes work. I organized practice in addition to jamming. Paul was very social and was able to talk to people easily and book gigs at clubs and private parties. He just needed the push to go do it. In that way, we were a good team. He would make the initial contact, and I would follow up. Everyone loved Paul. In public, he was funny, gregarious and generous to a fault. That was the man I had fallen in love with, and I wanted him back. I was convinced that I could help him heal from his earlier trauma. I wasn’t ready to give up on him yet.