Book Excerpt: 'Coming Home to Myself'

Mom said it was love at first sight. From the time they went on their first date, they were inseparable. The only problem was, Larry's connection to Elvis had helped create quite a mystique around him. He sang with "The King" from 1974 until Elvis' death in 1977. Larry even had clothes in boxes under the bed that Elvis had given him when he gained weight! Larry had been on the road for years, and had developed quite a fan club among the girls. It almost drove Mom insane, but they were addicted to each other.

Ashley and I soon began to call him Pop. There was always a real sweetness to Pop, but it was like he was two people. At home he was a family man. Then he would put on those gold chains, unbutton his shirt and climb into his Corvette to go to Music Row in Nashville. I was fascinated by the dueling per sonalities. He'd come home and hang his stage clothes in the closet, and he was Pop again. He formed his own band, Memphis, and when he parked his tour bus in the drive, I'd sit on it for hours and fantasize about being on tour.

Life with Mom and Pop was always either really good or really bad. There was no in-between. He'd come home from the road and they'd fight; then Mom would throw him out. She'd pack all his stuff, and I'd sometimes help Pop carry his suitcases to the car. He'd leave. Eventually she'd let him come back, and we'd resume family life as if nothing had ever happened. One night Mom got mad and pulled her .38 special on Pop. She fired about four inches above his head, and from that night on, when we ate dinner, I'd stare at that bullet hole in the window and be reminded that things could always change quickly. I guess that's when I started becoming secure with insecurity.

I started high school, a semester behind, at Franklin High. Starting late and living so far out in the country left me feeling somewhat disconnected from the kids at school. I looked older than most of the girls, and I never wore jeans to school. My clothes were often Mom's forties-style dresses, hair was pulled back with combs, and wedge shoes with ankle straps and anklet socks. On the first day I arrived, some students thought I was a teacher.

When I enrolled, I put my name down as "Wynonna" even though I was sure it was illegal! I didn't think you could just "decide" to change your name! (As it turned out, I was right. I legally changed my name when I was eighteen and we got a record deal!)

I often drove the red '57 Chevy to school. Some of the kids started calling me "Hollywood" because, they said, I looked like a movie star. I liked having my own style, but I still wanted to fit in so badly. I didn't have much in common with the popular middle-class kids with nice clothes and parents with money. I felt that I could relate more to the misfits. Some of my friends were kids who'd been excluded from the popular cliques. Yet I went to most of the parties. I think part of it was the fact that people wanted to ride in Mom's car! I also became the designated driver, since I didn't drink back then. I wasn't a Goody Twoshoes. I just liked helping people out.

One of the times I went out to a party turned into a nightmare. I had gone to a country music club with a girlfriend who met an older guy who invited us to a party at someone's house. The guy had a friend. I was going to get into a car with two strangers – not one of my best decisions. But because of my girlfriend, I went along with her plan.

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