My mother and I bounced around staying with whatever men would have her. Sometimes we would stay in motels, and sometimes we would go to the trucker gas station and stay in the back of one of the trucker's cabs. We would hitch hike to get around, and once a man in an RV stopped to pick us up and we stayed with him for two weeks. The RV had a small bedroom that was just a mattress above the cab covered with a curtain. From behind the curtain I would watch my mother get naked from the waist down and bend over for the man. Then the man would go back upfront and drive us to the next stop. We made it all the way to Utah like this.
My mother's half sister lived in Utah with her husband and 4 kids. My aunt had dark hair with pale skin and rosy cheeks. Her husband was blond and tall and all her kids had blond hair and blue eyes. They were Mormons. My mother stayed for 3 days before deciding that the Church of Latter Day Saints wasn't for her. My mother not smoke or drink? What a joke! She got in an argument with my aunt one day and rushed into our room and threw her stuff in a bag. She gave me a kiss and said, "I'm going to go and get a cup of coffee...I want you to listen to your aunt and be a good girl OK... I love you." She was crying and I knew right away that she wasn't going to get a cup of coffee.
She walked out the door and didn't come back. She left me... I wasn't upset, but I was worried. I was afraid my mother wouldn't come back for me. I was afraid my mother would hitch hike across the country, spread her legs for truckers, and lose herself in her hallucinations and I'd never be able to find her again.
After a few days she finally called and told me that I was going to stay with my aunt for a little while and she would come back for me in a few months. She promised she was getting us a house and wanted everything to be ready before she came for me. "A house?! Will I have my own room? Why didn't you tell me?!" I wanted to believe her, and I let myself get excited! She laughed and told me how wonderful it was going to be.
After I got off the phone I told my aunt all about our secret house, and how my mom was getting it all ready! She turned the corners of her lips up, but I could tell it wasn't a real smile. She seemed sad. I patted her on the arm and in a soft voice I tried to assure her, "Don't worry, you'll see..."
I was enrolled in school and tried adjust to my new life as a Mormon. We all had dinner together at the table every night and went to church twice a week. I tried to be like my cousins. I pretended I didn't know anything about sex, or drugs... or smoking cigarettes and stealing. I learned quickly those were sinful things, and I wanted to be good so my aunt would love me.
My cousins had the type of mother who did their hair for them in bows and barrettes and I had the type of mother who would pawn her kid's barbie's for drug money. I envied them. I use to wake up as early as I could and rush through my shower so I could be the first one to get my hair done. I would spend 20 minutes laying out all of the barrettes and combs she would need and when she came in I'd be sitting on the stool waiting for her. I loved the way her finger felt in my wet hair and I loved the jealous look in my cousin's eyes, as she had to sit and wait her turn. Being the first one to get your hair done in the morning became a sort of competition... and I always won.
My aunt also made me an allowance jar and added my name to her chore chart. Each chore on the chart was worth a certain amount of money. Once the chore was done, the money would be dropped in your jar and at the end of the week you got to get your money out. Cleaning the bathroom was worth the most at a whole quarter a cleaning, followed by moping the floor, which was worth a dime. After school I would ride my bike home as fast as I could so I could clean all the bathrooms before my cousins even got home. I'd make my way down the list doing the mopping next. By the end of the week I was rich!
I'd take my money and invest in pogs and slammers, which were used to play a game similar to marbles. I'd take my pogs to school and play for "keepsies". I was a pog shark! I doubled my collection and sold half of it for $8 and used that money to buy candy at 1 cent a piece. I had bags and bags of candy and used it to barter with at school for what ever I wanted. Candy was worth more than gold and I had a very prosperous business booming.
The teachers at school got concerned and called my aunt and my aunt sat me down to have a talk about it one night. She asked me why I sold my pogs and why I was trading candy at school. "Don't you have everything you need? If you want anything you know you can just ask me right?" I shook my head yes, but I wanted to tell her she was wrong. "Just asking" maybe works for Mormons, but not for kids like me, not with mothers like mine.