When I got back to my mother's house that summer, some things had changed. All the other children had been reunited with her, and there was a man living there. I was not impressed. I can't say what it was about him that I didn't like, but I DID NOT want him around. Too bad for me, we would be stuck with him for the next four years or so. Looking back he probably wasn't a bad guy. After all he did willingly take on all five of us hellions. Yes I said hellions, we were bad kids. Somewhere along the way my mother decided that discipline was something she neither had the time or energy for. Maybe she felt guilty for all of the horrible things that had happened to us. I can only guess.
It doesn't take long for kids to figure out what they can and can't get away with. I started the sixth grade and my life as a tweener was horrible. We were still poor, and on top of that I didn't know anything about hair or make up. I have always had a really good sense of style(I like to think), but without any money I had to make do with what I had. Which wasn't very much. I remember the day that I realized that my family was different from other families. A girl in one of my classes asked me where I got my shoes from. I told her that I got them at K-Mart. That was the wrong thing to say. I didn't know that no name brand shoes were considered a disgrace. I was just excited that my mom had actually gotten me a new pair of shoes for school.
I was homely, skinny, poorly dressed, and horror of horrors....I got free lunch. Back in the day there was none of this everyone has an account in a computer. The way I understand it works now, you wouldn't ever know who got free lunch and who didn't. Anyway back in my day, if you got free lunch, every Monday your homeroom teacher called you to the front of the class to get your free lunch card for the week. It was so humiliating.
I didn't have a lot of friends, and for the first time in my life I hated school. I hated not having nice clothes, or friends, the homely thing didn't help either. So I started to skip school. I mean a lot. There are very creative ways to skip school when your bus stop is at the end of your street. Sometimes I would hide in the trees until my mother had gone and I would sneak back to the house. Other times I would play sick. Even if I got caught skipping there were no consequences for it. I wasn't grounded or spanked. I didn't lose any privileges. It was just whatever I wanted to do. I did manage to pull it together at the end of the school year so I wouldn't be held back. I was smart and I could do the work, I just didn't want to be there.
We did at least seem to have enough to eat for a while. My mother was able to get food stamps and that helped a lot. That was short lived. Apparently the guy she had living with us had had a wife, and she was ticked off that him and my mother had hooked up. She called social services and told them he was living with us. The food stamps were gone. Things got more difficult after that. So I made it through middle school with only one ride in the back of a police car that didn't result in any charges being pressed. I was 12 at the time. We continued to move around a lot, but now we were at least staying in the same city.
I managed to make through middle school. We moved once again and I started high school. I kind of got lucky that year. A girl I had gone to middle school with sort of took me under her wing. I had a few girls to hang out with and even a place to sit at lunch. I didn't have to sit alone. That may not sound like a big deal, but there is nothing more embarrassing than having to sit by yourself at lunch when you are a teenager. (I am so over that now)
The summer after my freshman year I really took a turn for the worse. I was tired of being the live in babysitter, I was tired of everything. There was constant fighting between all of us kids. No one would clean anything, so our house was nasty all the time and an embarrassment. It seemed like there was never enough food to eat. My brother would beat up on all of us. I would beat up on my little sister. It was a never ending cycle and everything seemed to be spinning more out of control every day.
Around this time I believe my mother starting sinking into depression. She began spending most of her time in her room watching TV. She didn't want to cook or clean or do anything. She was trying to get husband number three to leave but he really did not want to go for some reason. He must have been crazy. If it had been me, I would have run screaming years earlier. I really tried for a while to take up some of the slack but it took a toll on me. Anyway, I started spending the weekends with one of my cousins who lived in the same town. We would go swimming or just walking around. We met a few guys and started hanging out with them.
One night somehow we got some beer and I got drunk for the first time. I was 14 years old. Let me tell you, it was every mother's worst nightmare. To this day I don't even think my mother knows what happened that night.