FRED, THE THIRD HUSBAND, PART 2

After Mom and Fred got married, I started riding one of Fred's Shetland ponies named Sunshine.  

Sunshine had brown hair, blond mane and tail and soft black eyes.  I absolutely adored her.  I loved to wrap my arms around her head, rest my cheek against hers and inhale her sweet horsey smell.   I thought of Sunshine constantly.  

In the evenings after the horses had been fed and watered,  Mom would put Sunshine’s bridle on, and I would hop on her bare back and ride her around the stables. 

Sunshine was very headstrong and stubborn and would rear if she didn't want to go in the direction I wanted.  I quickly learned to let her take the lead and go where she wanted after she bucked me off one day and ran back to her pen. 

- - -

Sometimes Mom let me stay home on the weekend, and she would trailer our horses to Griffith Park or Whittier Narrows to go horseback riding on the miles and miles of beautiful trails.

After Mom saddled up Sunshine, I put my foot in the stirrup, threw my leg over her back and settled in to my little black saddle.  When Mom was done saddling up Jazon, off we went on our ride. 

As I rode next to Mom and her horse in the soft dirt of the trail, I listened to the gentle creaking of the saddles and felt the sun warm on my face, happiness washed over me as it usually did when I was riding.

Unfortunately, the peace didn't last long because Sunshine always got us in to trouble on those rides.

Mom had no patience for Sunshine's stubborn and willful nature.  Many times during our trail rides Sunshine would plant her feet and refuse to walk if she didn't want to go in the direction Mom wanted to go.

With fear coursing throughout my body and saying silent prayers to Sunshine to be a good girl and walk in the direction Mom wanted to go, I would frantically kick her sides to make her move her legs.  Sunshine paid absolutely no attention to my frantic kicks.  Or my silent prayers.

"Hang on, Morrene!" Mom would say as she got out her whip.

WHAP! Mom's whip would land on Sunshine's butt.  Sunshine would take off down the trail running and bucking with me clinging to her back screaming in terror.  Eventually I would get her slowed down, and Mom and I continued on our ride.

Riding through streams on the trail always proved a problem for Sunshine, because she couldn't resist laying down in the water to cool off.

Midway through the stream, Sunshine's legs would start to buckle.  

When Mom saw what Sunshine was doing, she would yell, "Morrene!  Keep her moving!"

With my heart thudding fearfully in my chest, and once again saying silent prayers to Sunshine to be a good girl, I frantically kicked her sides to keep her walking.

As usual Sunshine paid no attention to my frantic kicks, and once again she felt the sting of Mom's whip on her butt, and off she would go running and bucking down the trail with me on her back screaming in terror.

Time and time those scenes were repeated throughout our ride.  Poor Sunshine never seemed to learn her lesson.

- - -

After Mom married Fred, she decided that she wanted to cut my hair short again.  My hair had just started to grow out, and I loved the feel of it on my shoulders.  I finally looked like a girl and was no longer mistaken for a boy.

After much coaxing from Mom, I finally agreed to let her cut my hair.  I loved and trusted my beautiful mom, and I didn't want to disappoint her.

Sitting on a couple of phone books piled on a chair in the  kitchen, I watched as long slices of my hair slowly drifted to the floor around me while Mom snipped away. 

After Mom was done cutting my hair, she took out a pair of old thinning shears and quickly made cuts through my hair to thin it out.  Tears were brought to my eyes when pieces of my hair got yanked out after getting caught in the dull shears.

When Mom was done, I went to look at my new haircut.   

As I stood in front of the mirror in Brother's hand-me-down clothes, I stared in sadness at my short brown bangs and hair that ended just below my ears.    

Once again I looked just like a boy. 

To be continued…

THE GOOD GIRL, by Morrene Hauser

THE GOOD GIRL


"My child arrived just the other day,

he came in to the world in the usual way"....

 

When I was nine years old, Cat's in the Cradle was the number one song that was playing on the radio

a beautiful song written and sung by Harry Chapin

over and over and over I would hear that song

The year was 1974

 

Mom had just divorced her third husband

Goodbye, cruel, terrifying Fred.  You will not be missed

 

...."but there were planes to catch and bills to pay.

He learned to walk while I was away"....

 

"This is Emil.  We're getting married,  and we're moving back to Wisconsin where he lives" was my first introduction to the man who was soon to become Mom's fourth husband

I looked at Emil shyly turning away when he smiled at me

 

Off to Las Vegas Mom and Emil went to get married

And soon the packing began for yet another move

 

..."and he was talkin' 'fore I knew it.  And as he grew, he said, 'I'm gonna be like you, Dad.  You know, I'm gonna be just like you'"....

 

"Wait until you see my beautiful house.  And you will love riding in my new car," said Emil

Oh, the excitement of seeing that amazing house and riding in his new car!

 

Somehow in all of the packing my Baby Beans doll got lost

Running in frantic circles with tears flowing down my cheeks

I looked and looked and looked

where is my Baby Beans doll?

 

Baby Beans!  Where are you?  It's not nice to hide from mommy

Please come out.  I miss you

My baby was nowhere to be found

 

Crying out my heartbreak

with my arms aching to hold her again

between sobs I asked Mom if she saw my baby

 

"Oh, QUIT feeling sorry for yourself and stop that fucking crying!" was Mom's angry response to my pleas

I did my best to stop crying

for I didn't want to make Mom mad

 

Good girls don't cry

And I was a good girl

 

 

Baby Beans, momma loves you

I hope I see you again someday

 

Shortly after I started fourth grade, Emil came back to California to drive us to Wisconsin

Brother and I were taken out of school, and we began the long drive to his house

Goodbye my friends, my beloved pony Sunshine

My Baby Beans doll

And my babysitter I loved and trusted so much

 

Hugs and kisses

Goodbye, little one.  We love you and will miss you

"I love you, too," I said

 

..."and the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon.  Little boy blue and the man on the moon. 

"'When you comin' home, Dad?' 

"'I don't know when.  We'll get together then, Son.  You know we'll have a good time then'"...

 

Over and over that song played on the radio during that long and boring drive to Wisconsin

 

"We need to find a place to live when we get to Wisconsin.  I have a roommate,"  Emil said

"Well, kick him out!" said Mom

Emil's roommate was not a "him," it was a "her"

He must have forgotten to tell Mom about his girlfriend who was living in his beautiful house and driving his new car. 

Brother and I were dropped off at Great Uncle's house in Illinois

while Mom and Emil drove to Wisconsin to find a place for us to live

 

Back in to the fourth grade I went for the second time, Brother the fifth

 

Standing in a group of girls at recess

trying to keep warm in the windy and cold winter in Illinois

was hard to do in my thin clothes from California

Thank God for the warm scarf I had crocheted and wrapped around my head

 

It was decided that I would share a bed with Great Uncle

which turned out to be a very bad idea

 

...."my son turned ten just the other day.  He said, 'Thanks for the ball, Dad.  Come on, let's play.  Can you teach me to throw?' 

"I said, 'Not today, I got a lot to do.'   He said, 'That's okay'"....

 

Night after night I lay paralyzed with fear in that lonely and frightening bed with Great Uncle

while his hands touched the most private parts of my body

 

The sadness, the fear.  The guilt.  The shame.  And the loneliness.  Always the overwhelming loneliness.  

You don't argue with adults! 

Do not be a tattletale! 

were words I heard over and over

 

And I was a good girl

And good girls kept their mouths shut

 

...."and he walked away, but his smile never dimmed.   He said, 'I'm gonna be just like him.  You know I'm gonna be just like him'"....

 

Mom and Emil found a place for us to live in Wisconsin

and back to Illinois they came

to pick Brother and I up

and we continued on our trip

to our new home

 

On the way back to Wisconsin we stayed in a motel

Awakening to strange sounds in the bed next to where Brother and I were sleeping, I looked over at Mom and Emil

"Harder, Honey, harder!" said Mom.

Mom and Emil were having sex in that bed next to us

 

Frozen in terror, hugging my knees to the sickness in my stomach

and trying not to look I kept quiet as a mouse as my pillow slowly became soaked with silent tears

I knew better than to let them know I was awake

 

For good little girls kept their mouths shut

And I was a good girl

 

...."and the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon.  Little boy blue and the man on the moon. 

"'When you coming home, Dad?' 

"'Son, I don't know when. but we'll get together then.  You know we'll have a good time then'"....

 

The next morning I cried and cried and cried

"What the fuck's your problem now, Morrene?  You drive me nuts!" said Mom

Knowing I would be in trouble if I let Mom know what I saw them doing, I blurted out, "I'm afraid for Emil because he smokes."  That was all I could think of to say

 

Slowly Mom gathered me in her arms and said, "I know, Honey, I know."

Feeling the rare warmth of Mom's arms wrapped around me somehow did not take away the sickness in my stomach

 

But I was a good girl

And good girls kept their mouths shut

 

...."well, my son came home from college just the other day so much like a man I had to say, 'Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?' 

"He shook his head and said with a smile, 'What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys.  See you later, can I have them, please?'"....

 

In to the townhouse with green carpeting

we moved

And back in to the fourth grade I went for the third time and Brother the fifth

 

Sitting in class after school

staring at my math homework

Fighting tears of frustration

Why don't I know how to do my math?

Why am I so stupid?

 

Asking my teacher for help didn't work

feeling my body go numb with fear as I hear the impatience in her voice

I watch her mouth soundlessly move

for in my terror I had lost the ability to hear

 

I do not ask Mom and Emil for help

Because I might get hit

 

But I am a good girl

And good girls do not get hit

 

...."and the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon.  Little boy blue and the man on the moon.

 "'When you comin' home, Son?'

"'I don't know when.  We'll get together then, Dad.  You know we'll have a good time then.'

"I've long since retired, my son's moved away.  I called him up just the other day. 

"'I'd like to see you, if you don't mind.'

He said, 'I'd love to, Dad, if I could find the time.  You see my new job's a hassle and the kids have the flu, but it's sure nice talkin' to you, Dad.  It's been sure nice talkin' to you'
                                                   "And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me, he'd grown up just like me.    My boy was just like me."

 

All of these years later, at the age of 53, I still cannot listen to that song on the radio the whole way through without feeling the sadness, the depression and the fear of that      nine-year-old little girl that I once was.  And the gut wrenching loneliness.  Always the loneliness.

When the feelings become too frightening and start to overwhelm me, in desperation I reach over and turn off the radio.

 

Maybe someday I can listen to that song the whole way through

Just not now

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