I could finally wear my monogrammed periwinkle blue sweater that had been tucked inside my dresser drawer where it had sat since August when it was still too warm to wear- and summer was still so fresh in my heart. Now I looked forward to pumpkins and sleepovers on the weekends…impending Halloween festivities set excited butterflies fluttering in my stomach. New school folders were getting broken in, I’d been decorating them with all my favorite latest bands. Promises of better grades and a new diet, cooler clothes and romance…anything seemed possible.
What did my step mom and I talk about all the way to Stained Glass class? I was more of a listener, like a therapist. It was hard for me to pay attention as we took our seats and Sherri, my brother’s best friends mom, explained our assignment, she was a good teacher. I wanted to do the really complicated stuff like she did on her “Wizard with Swirling Tree’s” door, but I could barely cut squares and triangles without lots of slow patience, on my part. My step mom wanted to be creative but her heart wasn’t in it- she preferred to just buy the art.
Such a complicated relationship I had with my step mother…I lived with her, my step…I never called her step mom back then. She explained if she was gonna do the work we should address her as mom, since that would be her role. That seemed fair to a five year old me. She did the heavy lifting, so to speak…the doctors visits, the grocery shopping, picking up medicine at Ribordy Drugs when we were sick, talks with teachers…tutoring, family vacations, clothes for each season, making dinner and…stained glass lessons this week, until the session ended.
We drove, on the way, passing A-framed homes some looked like ski chalets, they looked very cozy and posh at the same time, they were very Vail and in fashion. Sometimes we shopped after our class at some near by interior design stores, the smell of oriental rugs, surrounded by Teak furniture displayed grandly next to bright yellow fireplaces that were made of metal and attached to a wall they looked like a cone,we had one of those. Art in bamboo frames, wicker fan chairs that seemed tropical and exotic but were uncomfortable to sit in, we had them at home too. Things seemed glamorous, exciting, vast possibilities for the future. Travel, adventure and maybe castles in France or Yacht’s in some East Coast destination. I was reading the Preppy Handbook, Izod, Polo, Oxford…important named brands. Country clubs, sail boats, snow skiing and tennis.
My folks would go out and my step mom wore a metallic, sequined beret and Halston type clothes, they brought home lobster leftovers that tasted good even cold.
My brother and I ate cereal on Saturday morning watching Scooby- Doo and eating Cookie Crisp cereal. I remember after cartoons one morning, I was listening to my parents albums on the record player, it was on a jiggly metal rolling cart, where the player was housed and you could put three or four albums on at a time and they would drop after each side would play, we had another record player that would flip the albums too. I don't know how old I was but pretty little, and I put on Three Dog Night, One Is The Loneliest Number, and I played it over and over…haunted, intrigued…I felt like the singer knew me. I was so touched and I cried, how could he know how lonely and cast out I felt at school with my “special classes”, surrounded by all boys, meeting with a tutor because I couldn’t read or tell time and had dyslexia. But in stained glass class, I was just another student. My project seemed to delight Sherrie, she liked my creativity.
They put me in a different school and all the kids knew each other but I didn’t know a soul. I learned to read and I loved it passionately and my dad let me buy tons of books from Scholastic Book Club. Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary and so many other authors became my favorite.
My teachers Miss Honeycutt and Miss Chizmar were just wonderful and I just loved them. They heard me sing and entered me in a talent show and I sang tomorrow accapella- and I could tell they thought I was really good and not just faking it. Miss Chizmar got transferred after my second grade year and Miss Honeycutt, my main teacher, got married and quit teaching. I went back to my old school…I was “integrated” now.
Again I knew no one at the school, two years away makes you a stranger. But I got reacquainted and kids were kind of mean. I thought about these things silently while my step mom talked on our way to Stained Glass.
We had a lake home in White Pigeon, Michigan, when I went there I was popular with the kids my age and we had fun snowmobiling and water skiing. Bay City Roller’s, “ S.A.T.U.R-D.A.Y, hey!”
Fast forward, our last stained class lesson, “do you want to re-up for next session,” my step mom asked on the way to Valparaiso where Sherri had her “studio.”
“No I think I want to take piano or voice lessons”, I replied, knowing that was where my future fame would be directed.
My step moms Farrah Faucett, feathered blond hair nodded in agreement, her face forward, driving into the midwestern darkness, past fields of faded yellow, prickly grass and trees so huge, and dense they were like a wall to another world of distant factories, hidden by highways that made things I didn’t understand, in dreary looking plants. Until we hit city lights, like an escape from the dark vortex…pulling into the parking lot for class.
The only thing I missed about our stained glass classes was that drive, I just love the glow of the dashboard the soothing music and the idea I was going somewhere to create something. My quiet thought time with my step mom. Why that memory stands out so vividly, over and over in my mind 38 years later is beyond me. But I really enjoy recalling it every time I hear I.G.Y…Stepping Out and Gypsy.