Excerpt: 'Made From Scratch'

One morning before school, when I was fifteen, Vicky looked me in the eyes and said, "You are going to be so much more than I am when you grow up." It was the only compliment I can ever remember her giving me.

As usual I said nothing, but I couldn't help thinking that I was going to be so much more than she was in ways she couldn't possibly imagine. I wanted to be the opposite of Vicky -- kind, generous, supportive and nurturing, thoughtful and disciplined.

I stared at her in disgust until I could no longer contain myself and said, "You're right. I am going to be more than you."

The words stunned us both.

She flew into an uncontrollable rage and grabbed me. Her punches were landing fast and hard -- I could barely catch my breath. I lay there thinking this had to end or I would die. She beat me until she was done.

I called my boyfriend, Duane, and when he arrived at the house, he took one look at my battered face and said, "Go pack. You are not coming back."

I moved in with Duane's family until I could decide what to do next. I contacted Grandma Lorraine and she told me that Wayne and his girlfriend Patty were moving to Wisconsin and would love to have me live with them.

I left for Wisconsin on June 30, 1982, three days before my sixteenth birthday. After I settled in, I actually had free time on my hands, which I didn't know what to do with. I didn't have to work, didn't have kids to take care of and wasn't responsible for keeping the house in order. I hadn't experienced that type of peace or freedom since I'd lived with Grandma Lorraine.

One of my most vivid memories about Wisconsin was that there was always lots of food around the house. I indulged my every impulse. When you're not used to having food readily available, it becomes an obsession.

A "$100,000 Bar" became my favorite treat. It represented so much more than chocolate to me -- the dollar figure on the candy wrapper represented financial freedom. It meant wealth and having a rich and meaningful life.

The following year I enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse. Going to college was like starting over again. I discovered I had a knack for putting together business outlines and marketing plans and decided to pursue a business degree. Sophomore year I was living with five other girls, working two jobs, getting good grades and enjoying every moment of my life, but by December of junior year I had decided I wanted to move back to California to be near my Uncle Bill and Aunt Peggy, who was Vicky's sister. They had tried to adopt Cindy and me when Vicky first left us, and had always been kind and generous.

I moved into a house in Malibu where I rented a room. I decorated it using billowing pink shearing fabric and coat hangers that I bent and twisted to create hooks and loops that I wove fabric around. Everyone who saw my creation loved it, and Uncle Bill encouraged me to sell my window dressing. At the time, I didn't take him seriously.

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