Send In the Clowns (please)
When I turned 16, Big Frank, my stepfather bought a “newish” car, a pink and white 1961 Nash Rambler American Classic. I had a feeling this was Big Frank’s way of sidestepping my mother’s indifferent attitude and lack of affection towards me. My mother’s interest lie with grooming her son Frankie, to be the next Mickey Mantle.
This decision, let alone the purchase didn’t sit too well with Mary. Arguing night after night with Big Frank, her constant complaint was that “girls need to stay home” and if “she” (Mary hated using my name) had to go anywhere, Frankie would take her.
Finally Big Frank won out and I was allowed to drive “our car.” Mary and Frankie had their own.
My Rambler was fantastic. It had the push button automatic transmission buttons mounted on the left side on the dashboard- R-N-P-D. The interior was gray plaid with a dial radio, gray dashboard and bench seats in the front and back.
In the ‘60’s 2 toned cars were a big deal. The outside was pink with white detailing, with small winged tail fins in white. Driving it gave me the sense of freedom and independence I had longed for in escaping the boredom and horridness of home.
But this new found freedom would be short lived. Mary, the Human Oddity of this family circus had a plan. Her plan came under the guise of wanting me to “learn how to be independent and see what it felt like to live on my own.”
I thought I had been doing that all my 16 years.
Her plan was masterful. She had filled out an application for me at the White Tower Restaurant, where she worked. My hours would be after school at 4 until 8 pm at night. I would have Monday nights off and work all day on weekends. That way she would know where I was at all times.
Brilliant! No time for friends, (not that I had any) schoolwork, or much of anything else.
Had I known I would be donning the same Military White Tower Uniform of my mother’s, running away from home to join the real circus could have been an option.
So there I was on my first day at work. Dressed in the horrendous perfectly cleaned and pressed red polka dot uniforms and apron with a hairnet, topped off with a combination comb/Barrett for my hair and polished white shoes. I felt like Mary was one of those “pod people” that screamed to herself inside her head, “We'll Make Her One of Us!"
It was a busy Saturday at noon. My brother was sitting at the counter already making fun of the way the hair net plastered against my hair and made me look like some sort of street person whose hair had been plastered down from not being shampooed.
And oh yes, the stockings. White Tower had a rule where you could only where panty hose with garters. Being overweight and trying to keep the garters from rolling past my knees down to my ankles became a nervous twitch after a while.
Needless to say, I was mortified.
I had on white shoes that looked like I could walk on the moon with them. I’m not sure where Mary purchased them, but I have a funny feeling some astronaut is walking around without his shoes.
Although I had known the drill of customers coming and going with their orders, it’s one thing to watch, it’s another to be on the other side of the counter waiting on them.
My very first order almost was my last. As I was taking an order from someone, my mother, who was also working the counter, bellowed to me that an English muffin was stuck in the toaster and it was burning and to get something to pry it out with.
I grabbed a serrated knife from the dishwasher, stuck it into the toaster to pry the English muffin loose and ZAAAAPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!
The next thing I knew, I was flat on the floor about 5 feet away. I had stuck a wet knife into the toaster which was still on and gotten a shock.
I remember everyone laughing, but sadly enough I remember my mother’s words as she yelled, “How stupid can you be?”
Yep, this was only the beginning.