My parents were followers, mostly following and replicating each act of our neighbors, the Davenports. We moved next door to the Davenports when I was 6 years old. Mr. Davenport and my father had been best friends since they were in elementary school. My father built a bigger house which I’m sure made him feel as if he had accomplished a great act. Mr. Davenport had grown up across the street from my father. He was from one of the wealthiest families in the small town. My father’s family was working class with little education, but managed to send him to a University to room with Mr. Davenport. After college, Mr. Davenport invested in my father’s dream of being an independent business man. He was able to open a pizza parlor, steak house, gas station, ice cream shop, and laundromat by the time I was a year old. Yet, my father still reminds me how he had to sell his corvette convertible to buy me baby formula.
If the Davenport’s had it we had to have it; Beta Max VCR, Atari with all the games, sports car, boat, boat house, beach house…. Our things weren’t as grand though. Our boat house was just a house for our boat; the Davenport’s had a massive lake house. Their beach house, a real house right on the beach, ours was a motel room with a kitchenette two blocks from the beach with a view of a black top parking lot that sometimes had people still in it when we went to unlock the door.
The Davenports took lots of trips. As soon as I had heard from their daughter about the plane ride on Eastern Airlines all the way to Orlando to visit Disney World, my parents were rushing to buy tickets of their own for us. The Davenports invited my parents on their first of many cruises. My mother immediately fell in love with travel mass cattle form. My parents began taking lots of vacations by cruise ship leaving my younger sister, brother and me with either our maid or the people who worked as servers at my father’s restaurants. I preferred the servers. They were fun. They let me watch R rated movies like; Dressed To Kill when I was only in 3rd grade. I was responsible for dinner which I didn’t mind, as my masterpiece usually consisted of boxed macaroni and cheese with green jello. Putting this onto the same plate, the macaroni and jello would touch and create a lovely color of baby blue. After we were put to bed, the servers would invite friends over to get in my parent’s hot tub located on the deck outside under my bedroom window. I would fall asleep to sounds of laughter and the cracks of pop top beer cans opening. In the morning I would hear stories about crazy dares like who could jump out of the hot tub and sit on the snow covered picnic table naked the longest and how their gay friend tried to make out with the server’s boyfriend and she was okay with it but her boyfriend just couldn’t go all the way. Maybe this sounds like it should have been traumatizing to me, but it was better to have these people than my parents at home. At least there was laughter, alcohol and drug induced laughter, but laughter none the less.
We had all sorts of babysitters, maids and caregivers. If my parents were not on a trip, they were at a college ball game each Saturday tailgating with friends, my father at work or playing poker with the guys and my mother incapacitated in her room for days at a time in her smelly nightgown with the little blue flowers on it.
There was one babysitter, Julie, that spent the night a with us a few times. She was also a waitress at the steakhouse. She was in her early twenties and looked at my father with such awe and admiration. They all did. My father was a successful business man, tall, a good looking playboy. The women wanted him and the men wanted to be him, even I knew this at a young age. He surrounded himself with mostly beautiful women and his closest friends were often shorter, less intelligent, not as handsome and idolized him. If there was a man wealthier or better looking, my father didn’t befriend him. By surrounding himself with men not as outstanding, it made him seem God-like, the best of the best.
Our young babysitter Julie, was pretty, timid, not the brightest bulb so to speak, but very kind and sweet, just how my father liked them. She later became my step-mother. My father, according to my mother had been having an affair with a woman for 6 yrs before they separated. This bit of information came from my 12 year old younger sister who ratted him out telling our mother that our father had been meeting his mistress each morning before school with my brother and sister at a small convenient store. My sister so disturbed by my father’s infidelity, refused to speak to him for years and still as an adult doesn’t respect or trust him. My father would eventually cheat on his mistress with the babysitter, my step-mother.
When the babysitters were watching us, I would secretly hope my parent’s plane would crash or the cruise ship would meet it's demise by running into an iceberg, in the Bahamas, this was unlikely, but still a fantasy of mine. If they had died, maybe I could pretend they were good parents, allude myself into thinking they were loving, nurturing and kind spirited like the TBS shows I used to watch afterschool. “Oh Beaver! You’ve done it again!” June Cleaver would say to her son. Leave It To Beaver was way before my time, but I loved the re-runs. Beaver would get a bad grade, not turn in an assignment, get into a fight, whatever his crime; his parents would sit him down for a “stern talking to”. Mr. Cleaver did not take off his belt in anger to whip Beaver so hard he wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week. Mrs. Cleaver didn't glare at her son with evil eyes telling him he was no good God Damnit! Of course I knew this was a fantasy, a simple fairytale of family relations, but I would get lost in it.
I’m still comforted by the opening music of all the TV shows I watched back then; Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, Father Knows Best, parent’s loving their children. My parents didn’t care that I watched TV. My father was never home and my mother just wanted to be left alone with her jug of wine and Chips Ahoy cookies she hid in the highest cabinet, far from little hands.
As soon as the shows I loved were over and the news came on, I would turn off the TV and the sounds of my home would make the bile rise in my throat; my mother screaming that no one does anything around here and how we all had ruined her life and chances of being an actress, the absence of noise from my sister locked in the safety of her room, my little brother who had taken refuge in the basement since he could tumble down the stairs playing Atari or watching HBO movies. He was safe down there. That is where the laundry room was. Actresses don’t do laundry.
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