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MY LIFE ON A MAP
This map is my life, in Colorado, as a daughter; sister; step; ex-step; happy; angry; confused youngin'. It spans from my birth to age twenty-one.
In twenty-one years I moved twenty-nine times. Twenty-four of them being before I graduated high school at age twenty. At twenty I moved to California, moved back to Colorado wounded and moved five times before returning to California, three months shy of twenty-two.
For me, Colorado is a combination of perfection/imperfection. Imperfect socially, perfect in nature. I'm sure I created most of the ugliness but not all of it.
1921 RUTH DRIVE, THORNTON
My parents were married when we lived here. My brother was still young enough to be darling. Our housemate was an Air Force buddy of my dad's, Uncle Archie. A quiet, kind-hearted man.
In May 2004 I learned this was my first home. When I saw it I stretched back through time to see how it looked in 1970, occupied by three nature and music loving hippies and two half pints. I sensed, although plain and even bleak to the eye, it was filled with laughter and twenty-something anxiety. I lived there five months.
910 NORTH DOUGLAS APT.3, LOVELAND
I hope my time there was good. I like Loveland. It has a lake, trees, mountains to the west. Old-town is rustic. Reminiscent of the '50s.
Our apartment was across from train tracks. I don't know if we were on the "good" or "bad" side. It had a big living room window, the kind my mom insisted on having. Light. I've been told we'd squirrel around on the lawn, on hot summer days, the trees making shade. My dad went to UNC. Commuting three hours daily. My mom liked it there, she had happiness.
#2161 28TH STREET, WHEELER (SHADOWOOD) APTS., GREELEY
Visiting this place as an adult I was thankful to have no memory of it. It brought feelings of frustration, sadness, contempt. I'm not sure if they stemmed from societal education of my own experience there. I suppose both.
This was a home of struggle and confusion for my parents. Cutting my dad's commute was part of the motivation for relocating. However, knowing my mother if this place looked back then, how it does now, I can see her suffering. No trees just a parking lot and a deadly street as her neighbor.
2181 88TH STREET, THORNTON
My earliest memories begin in this house. Most are lovely, some dark. One stands out.
It's a strange phenomenon, but young children who suffer extreme abuse still manage to have fun, as long as their abuser isn't present. With great fortune I was born to wonderful parents. My earliest friends were not.
This fact seeped into my world when I was four. I'd be questioned about the event twelve years later. Sadly, my own family was effected by this haunting individual. Irreparable damage.
Also, my parents separated before my third birthday. I don't remember.
YORKSHIRE APARTMENTS, THORNTON
Good memories: playing kitten, I'd tie a pink ribbon around my neck, meow, purring by my mom as she gussied herself up; my room was small with a long window from which I'd watch the sky, the door was a three-panel folding curtain; I'd pretend drops of water on the bathroom counter were contact lenses.
Bad memories: a kid put a rock in a snowball which hit me in the mouth; throwing up after eating a bag of coconut; my mom's friend, who lived across the lawn from us, had a nasty boyfriend who'd hurt her.
2181 89TH STREET, THORNTON
The bedroom window faced north, onto the backyard. The furniture was scratchy, brown and orange. The house was cramped, uncomfortable. I don't remember my mother or her boyfriend. I seemed to bump around in silence, trying not to be there. I don't know where my brother or father were living. Because it was hard to be carefree, first grade was difficult. The playground was lonely. Then, her boyfriend hit her.
We relocated to our friend Becky's wild apartment. I shared her kids bedroom, mom slept on the couch. I resumed first grade at her children's school.
FOXFIRE (OAKRIDGE) APARTMENTS #10A, FEDERAL HEIGHTS
The bedroom window was tall, facing north. I remember seeing long distances. It seemed magical. I remember no furniture nor people only feelings of laughter.
The hallway seemed narrow, dark, although it was white. It led to the outside. Nearby was a playground with a small lake. Sitting on the picnic table, the sky was enormous over the mountains. Heavy clouds moved toward me. I remember only evening time.
I liked my new school. The walls moved. It was on a hill making it easy to see the eastern farms. Moving again was sad.
810 12TH STREET, GREELEY
November 23rd: a basement apartment was home. Dad previously lived upstairs, remodeling the house in a business venture. It felt good being there, after all.
It was wonderful living with my dad. A time spanning twenty months. It was an ideal town and time for an adventurous first grader. I began swimming lessons and dance, joined the library, walked everywhere. Trees and squirrels abound. Plus, I lived with my brother.
I did repeat first grade. It broke me. However, I met Heather, my first school friend. Mom had a sunny studio on Pearl Street in downtown Denver.
7796 HOLLYWOOD, COMMERCE CITY
In second grade I moved back to my mom. I believe the incident when I was four made me nervous around grown men, sadly even my dad.
Mom wouldn't have me attend local schools. We commuted fourty minutes to Yorkshire Apartments, and my babysitter's, where I'd catch a bus to Leroy Elementary, where I'd attended kindergarten. I'd stay at Leroy through fourth grade.
Where we lived was strange, like mom's boyfriend. But, one great element was the river-mountainscape covering an entire wall. It made sense to me someone would have that dominate their living room.
GOLD CREEK (LAMP LIGHTER) APARTMENTS #203B, THORNTON
It was ours! Mom and me and eventually my cat, birds and occasionally my ever-troubled brother. There was a pool and playground. Across a small creek was a huge field.
We had a one bedroom which mom gave to me. It was baby blue with gingham curtains. Mom slept in the living room. Our plants thrived. The neighbors never complained about the music. We lived there when John Lennon died.
Mom worked two jobs so I was the housekeeper. Weekly I rearranged the furniture. Keep things fresh. We stayed over two years.
GLENN ARM APARTMENTS, NORTHGLENN
The day we moved in with Teri and her children, a tornado hit my school. Mom was cleaning our old apartment, she had no radio. Seemed like a rain storm. Picking me up from school she wouldn't drive Sheryl back to our old apartments. Sheryl lived there. Mom didn't understand why we were upset. In a couple months, after moving in with Sheryl and her mother, we'd all laugh about that day.
I don't know why we moved. Like the other "housemate" situations I've no memory of people nor surroundings. However, we'd live with Teri again.
5401 EAST 66TH, COMMERCE CITY
For the good memories I have of this place it's one of the darker times I've experienced. We moved in with them the summer before fifth grade. I'd attend that school for one year, surviving reversed-racism.
Strangely, Sheryl's bedroom is where I slept. She slept with her mother, Pat. My mom slept on the couch. But when Pat slept on the couch, mom cramped onto the loveseat.
I did have good times though. But it was clear we were not only out of our element but, we had no element to call our own.
1365 WINONA, DENVER
School finished and I went to my dad's for the summer. He was in Denver renting another basement apartment. The layout was odd. My bedroom was detached from his apartment. Fortunately, the windows in my room faced south. Starting early morning through mid-afternoon sunlight made my room glow.
It was a quiet time for me. I mourned my cat and birds. I didn't know where my brother was, only that he'd split for Oregon two years prior. Nor did I know what mom was doing. Then the phone rang. I would soon be a step-child.
2200 WEST 82ND PLACE, FEDERAL HEIGHTS
The people in my stepfamily were okay. Everyone has craziness. Meeting mom's future hubby I couldn't see the connection. He was unattractive, a sourpuss. The facade crumbled when he slapped me so hard my head bounced off the wall. My parents went berserk, with dad speeding across town, rifle in hand, ready to end the show.
Time passed. My bedroom was my nest with its southern exposure. My second cat entered my life and my brother reappeared. My teacher, Mrs. Ferrjardo, made sixth grade great. Seventh grade sucked, delivering change and two new addresses.
MARY'S HOUSE, 80TH AT SHERIDAN, WESTMINSTER
Mary was mom's friend. She lived in freezing cold government housing with her young son. She was kind. Our stay was short. Housing authorities discovered us and threatened to give Mary the boot if we didn't beat it.
I have snapshot memories of our stay: mom commuting me to school; taking a bath to get warm; the familiar block of government cheese in the freezer; laughing with Mary's son; feeling sorry for the other children living in the complex; becoming aware of my appearance. I think we had Christmas there. Everything seemed scattered, delicate.
2041 83RD PLACE, THORNTON
This was Norm's house (R.I.P.). A longtime friend of mom's. I'd visited many times before, befriending his two sons. Upon our arrival Norm graciously made his bedroom our own. The bedroom curtains had never been opened therefore, I never opened them. I didn't want to disturb anything.
Naturally, it was awkward moving into a house of males but they were gentlemen. Always welcoming and respectful. We had movie nights utilizing their cool VCR. The only bad moment was when mom had a nasty car accident.
After finishing seventh grade I moved to dad's for the summer
1655 WINONA, DENVER
After seventh grade I moved to my dad and his girlfriend's for the summer. Six months prior he'd moved in with his lady. Their apartment was in a converted mansion. It had a large porch and was one block from Sloans Lake.
Sadly, my stay was acutely short. Out of the blue dad's girlfriend found it fit to physically attack me. It'd started as such a great day, I never saw it coming. It took only one day for dad and I to move back to his basement apartment. However, the incident caused lasting distrust, strained interaction.
1365 WINONA, DENVER
With the move I had my old bedroom. In Colorado's heat it's easy to appreciate a basement apartment. The living room had no sunlight, the walls were green but it was comfortable.
Dad seemed okay and living with him was great. I landed my first job that summer, walking on Sheridan Boulevard wearing a sign advertising Pizza-To-Go. After work he'd visit the Lakeview Lounge and cheer me on. Apparently, everytime I'd pass the lounge's window the biker's inside toasted me. It was a great way to earn money and read J.R.R.Tokien. An innocent ending summer.
REED STREET AT 64TH, ARVADA
This house was the suburban dream. Windows, fenced yards, culdesac quietness. It had the living room we weren't supposed to use. Fitting the cliche, what was happening inside wasn't dreamy.
Two single, hard working mothers supporting high-energy, sensitive eighth graders. We were back with Teri and her daughter. She rented the house, mom helped pay rent. Her daughter and I had our own rooms while our mothers split the master bedroom.
It all went downhill when I scratched Teri's metal mixing bowl, ending our decade-long friendships. When one door closes another opens. Next.
1365 WINONA, DENVER
I finished eighth grade living with my dad, commuting by bus on Sheridan Boulevard. Mom went to Norm's house. I stayed through summer then back with mom for ninth grade.
Oddly, I don't have many memories from this time. I recall days at school, a blizzard I got trapped in, summertime but, that's about it. Not living with Teri compensated for the irritation of commuting however, lying about still living in the school district made me nervous. That meant trouble. I couldn't repeat another year. I was already older than everyone. I existed in high-survival mode.
202 WEBSTER, WADSWORTH ARMS APARTMENTS, ARVADA
After four-plus years mom and I had a place of our own. I was most excited for her because she had her own bedroom after seven years of couch-surfing or room sharing.
The living room was large, perfect for her antiques. After school I loved coming home to an empty house, sunlight streaming in. The apartment had hay-like wallpaper on one wall, which I dug. I felt safe there. While mom and I did fight we also had great girly times eating Mexican food and discussing family.
My brother was somewhere.
8636 YUKON #A308, WADSWORTH PARKWAY APTS., ARVADA
I'm not sure why we moved. But because we still had our own place and own bedrooms, it didn't matter much. I'd become accustom to the liveliness of starting fresh. However, I missed the geometric-disco wallpaper in the other bathroom.
We stayed one year but those walls witnessed much. One, I was living with mom during summertime. Two, I'd started high school and eventually transferred to an alternative school against my parents wishes. Three, mom met Craig. We shared our first Christmas together there. Fortunately, my father liked him and vice versa.
COBBLESTONE TOWNHOUSES, FEDERAL HEIGHTS
Mom and Craig took the leap and moved in together, renters no more. Craig moved south with his cat from Glenn Arm Apartments. We moved east with our cat from Wadsworth Parkway Apartments. Now, every summer they enjoy a lush patio garden and every winter a warm fire place.
Life opened greatly for all of us because of their union. Over time we've witnessed each other's best and worst traits. This witnessing also includes my child, partner, brother, father and his lady. Naturally, mom and Craig's home has become the central meeting place for our clan.
854 CLARKSON, DENVER
At a family funeral I was disrespectful so mom gave me the boot. I had four months until graduation. Mom didn't think I'd actually move but she was right to do what she did. It was time I became a lady.
My new home was a small attic room however, I spent most my time at my boyfriends. I tried to make it a nest and when I hunkered down it did feel cozy. But the house was filled with older, creepy guys. A week after graduation I snuck out and moved to Boulder with a friend.
WHITE HOUSE, 14TH STREET, BOULDER
Summer of mayhem. My friend and I shared a sublet with three wild college guys. Our room, although brown, was girly with a jutted multi-window sleeping nook. The lower part of the house was also littered with restless youngins' with whom we indulged our over-enthusiastic drinking ways.
I was store manager of Mrs. Fields Cookies on Pearl Street. Only once did my mischievousness interfer with work. But it wasn't all wantoness and wastefulness. My friend and I did our second road trip to California on which I realized I had to live there.
4636 KENTUCKY, DENVER
Summers end, I moved to California. Settling into Santa Cruz I found myself, three months later, moving back to Colorado. With only my left arm functioning and no driver's-side-window I drove my Subaru through Rocky Mountian blizzards. A skateboarding accident landed me back at mom and Craig's and into three months of intensive physical therapy.
After finishing p.t., I moved into my friend's house. She'd bought it when she was only nineteen. It was a one story with an A-frame attic. That attic became my freezing, bedless room but I loved it and its window.
1325 CORONA, DENVER
I moved in with K.L., my boyfriend. After three months of an arduous work commute and too-far-away romancing he asked me to move in. I was twenty-one.
We shared a corner studio. The windows opened to an alley but faced west giving us great evening light. The front of the building was charming but we usually used the back exit. K.L.'s friend lived in the building and over the four months I lived there he embraced heroin. But Matilda, an amazing cat, came into my life and stayed for years. I also discovered Hermann Hesse.
GRANT AT COLFAX, DENVER
At 4a.m. I moved into my friend Kristie's apartment. K.L. and I had our last fight. It'd be ten years before I'd live with another boyfriend.
Her place was wonderful. A top floor apartment, spanning the width of one side of the U-shaped 1920's building. Large windows on three sides, a balcony. It was sparsely furnished: a bed, a writing desk. We were too busy dancing at clubs to stay home. Furniture was pointless.
While it lasted it was great. When it soured our friendship was ruined. I moved on. I think of her often.
PEARL AT 14TH, DENVER
I struck gold with my own corner studio. Huge windows, balcony, walk-in closet. With the Murphy bed tucked away it was spacious. My cat dug the balcony.
Mom lent me her antique desk. Dad and Craig helped me move in and I bought my first piece of furniture: a pink, velvet, antique rocker. While I truly loved my pad I focused on returning to California.
Three months later, and three concurrent jobs, I secured a living space in a warehouse in San Francisco. On January 5th, my Subaru packed solid and Matilda restless, we moved west.
Writing these pieces has been stabilizing. Because in my youth there was little time to process, I never realized the turbulent emotions I'd experience. Nonetheless, I tried to write with openness yet holding close to respect for my family and those who kindly helped us.
There's a thin line between sharing and whining. When I did whine it was because of embarrassment: clearly we weren't The Joneses. Because I searched for stability in politeness and being helpful I simultaneously curtailed my personality and sometimes falsely thought of myself as proper. I am now learning new ways of being.
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