Dad co-owned a business in town that he bought from his father called White Front Garage. White Front Garage was a small used car lot located on the main thoroughfare on the outskirts of Peshtigo.
During the day Dad sold cars while his employees worked in the repair shop fixing cars. Brother was very close to Dad and often went to work with him and spent many happy hours learning how to fix cars in the repair shop with the employees.
Sometimes Brother stayed home, and Stepmother took me and Brother to our cousins' house to play for the day. My cousins lived on a beautiful farm on the outskirts of town where Mom and her half siblings were born and raised.
On the farm was a well-kept white farmhouse with green shutters, a large red barn and white board fences. Best of all, they had horses! Sometimes my aunt would get out two of the horses, Nimah and Beauty, and my cousin and I would hop on bareback and go riding. Beauty and Nimah were kind and gentle horses, and they would patiently take us wherever we wanted to go.
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Before we left to go back to California, Stepmother kindly took us shopping for school clothes. I couldn't wait to go back to school and wear my new clothes!
At the end of the visit, Stepmother packed our clothes, and we got ready to go home. Although I would miss Dad and Stepmother and the regular meals she cooked, I started missing Mom and wanted to go home.
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After we got back from our visit with Dad and Stepmother, Brother and I started school. In to the third grade I went, and Brother the fourth.
My teacher that year was a very pretty woman named Mrs. Sorenson. I stared at Mrs. Sorenson's shoulder length blond hair in envy wishing my hair looked like hers.
Sometimes Mom didn't cut my hair for a while, and it would start to grow out. I always tried to talk Mom in to letting me grow my hair long, but she refused. When I tried to explain to her that people thought I was a boy and that made me feel bad, she would say, "Oh, for Christ's sake, Morrene! Stop your damn complaining! You'll fill out someday and look like a girl."
I looked down at my flat chest in dismay. I knew it would be a long time before I looked like a girl.
Many times when Brother and I went somewhere with Mom, we were often mistaken as twin boys. Each time I heard, "Oh, look at the twin boys!" I would look down in shame and embarrassment. I hated looking like Brother.
At home when I played school with my stuffed animals, I would put on a pair of Mom's high heels and balance a towel on my head to pretend I had long hair like Mrs. Sorenson. While I taught my class, the towel would slowly start to slip off my head. Time and time again I would patiently reach up and readjust my pretend long hair.
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When Halloween came around that year, Mom dressed me and Brother up as movie stars. In dresses, make-up and long-haired wigs, Brother and I clopped from house to house in Mom's high heels carrying orange plastic pumpkins and gathering our sugary treats.
I absolutely loved the feeling of long hair on my shoulders.
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One evening Mom picked me and Brother up from Marion's house, and we went out to the stables. When we got there, Fred was standing at the tack shed. The lock on the door had been broken, and the saddles were gone.
Fred called the police and filed a report, then he called his insurance company and reported the theft.
Later that afternoon the saddles were returned to the tack shed by the guy whom Mom and Fred had hired to steal them.
A few days later Fred and Mom received a check in the mail from the insurance company for the saddles.
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Mom knew her marriage was coming to an end and she would have to start working again. Bound and determined not to go back to work as a low-paid secretary, Mom decided to make a career change.
She decided to go to school to become an over-the-road truck driver.
Shortly after Mom made her decision, she started going to school at night to learn how to drive a semi.
After several weeks of training, Mom completed the course and successfully passed the driver's test and received her commercial driver's license.
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When I turned nine in March, Fred and Mom threw me an amazing birthday party with ponies, cotton candy and popcorn in the cul-de-sac where Marion lived. Fred even brought Sunshine. I was very happy and proud to show my friends my sweet little pony that they had heard so much about.
One of the birthday presents I received that day was a Baby Beans Doll. I stared at her yellow pajamas with white pompoms that cascaded down the front. On her head was a yellow bonnet with white lace that perfectly framed her sweet, little plastic face.
As I looked at her blue eyes and smiling mouth, I fell instantly in love. I clutched Baby Beans lovingly to my chest and inhaled her plasticky scent.
I never questioned why I got that wonderful birthday party considering how cruel Fred and Mom were to me. I was very happy for the rare love and attention I received that day.
After my party, Mom picked me and Brother up, and we went to the stables to feed and water the horses. Mom took a picture of me and Brother sitting on the railing of Jazon's pen.
I sat on the fence in my red dress, blue tennis shoes and white socks smiling happily at the camera.
It was my birthday! I felt like a superstar!
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In June school let out for the summer. On the last day of school, we once again participated in field day.
That summer Brother and I spent a lot of time at Marion's house during the week playing with her children while Mom was at the stables and Fred worked.
Sometimes Marion opened the hatchback on her little yellow Maverick, and we all piled into her car, and she drove us to the park. I loved going to the park.
At the end of the afternoon, hungry and tired, we once again got in Marion's car and went back to her house for an afternoon snack.
Sometimes Marion took us to the movies, and we saw Pippi Longstocking, the Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof. I loved going to the movies and sat transfixed in my seat as I stared at the screen.
In the evening Mom picked us up and took us to the stables.
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On the weekends Brother and I continued to go to work with Fred and his father while Mom went to the stables and trained Quazar.
Sometimes Mom let me stay home, and we would go to Griffith Park or Whittier Narrows and go riding. Sunshine's behavior had not improved, and she continued to get us in trouble on our rides.
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