Fifth grade; Penmanship, Giving Birth, The Trap

When we moved to Emmett, Idaho in 1978, we lived on Melrose Drive off Shady Lane. Before you think this was the desirable zip code, let me bring you down to Earth:
The neighborhood with 

Cords of wood 

Had pedophiles and some sold houses

Shady Lane

Lived up to its name

Keeping shut both trailers and mouthses

I often hear “it’s a GREAT place to raise kids!” by those who didn’t live in MY neighborhood.

Let me take you there, if you dare…

It wasn’t the “hood” of LA or NYC but it was The Trap. The neighborhood was disjointed with rambling ranches of various ages and tidyness. Tarps, stacks of wood, boats and RVs laden with bikes and tools on the front or side lawn were common. We had a dark brown carport, a giant Willow tree and cardboard boxes for 3 cats near the deep freezers and cords of firewood I would learn to split that winter and many to come. 

Tanna and I became fast friends, loving to play with Barbies, having sleepovers at her house and dancing to Donna Summer. Tanna had a turntable, a cute turned up nose, pink and white glitter roller skates and knew where her dad kept the Marlboro’s.

Tanna’s teenage sister had died that spring in a bad car accident, so we used to go to the cemetery and visit the grave. Cemetery Park was Russian Olive-scented; peppery roast beef on Sunday night in late summer when the dark green trees sag. Shadows linger.

Brick Elementary was a mile away through Shady Lane lined by The Giant Cottonwoods that would float cotton up my nose, turn colour in fall and ended at a nursing home. Tanna and I used to go there on Saturdays; plug our noses from the urine and talk to the old people and listen to their stories about the War. 

That fall of 1978, I was excited to take my Mork & Mindy lunch box down Shady Lane to school and be away from the Mormonbullykids of Bountiful. Monsters continued.

Two weeks before school, we met Mr Dewey. Short & Disco Tropez tan, he produced a list of things we needed for school. Pencils and the lot. The school smelled old like mold, Pinesol and vomit. I soon found out what was most important to Mr. Dewey: Great Penmanship, Whacking My Friend with a big wooden board while we listened to the pleading screams and forcing me to read his vast collection of Louis L’Amour paperbacks as “reward” for getting my work done. I seethed and never turned those pages, staring at the words Horse and Manure for an hour instead. Soon, I stopped giving a shit all together. I went from Gifted and Talented in the burbs of Salt Lake City and straight A’s to C’s in The Trap. Control was also important to me.

We heated the house with wood in 1978 and chopping wood in the snow at 4pm and midnight was a good release for my feelings about 5th grade in The Trap.

Mr. Dewey loved Lori. She soon became my best friend at school and wrote beautiful, artistic scroll. She also had pretty hair and cool clothes. Her family owned the gas station across the street from our sporting goods store and gas pumps. I longed to have her hair and eyelashes and ability to pen so beautifully. 

In contrast, I wore that pink “Teri, Teriffic” shirt Monday’s, Wednesdays and Fridays. It went well with my Flowery Headgear Ensemble, bellbottom knockoffs and tight sportsbra I used to deny my “girls” that debuted at age 8. No one Here was going to call me “Dolly Parton” and snap my bra.

That winter, on New Years Day, at a hot springs in Idaho City, my biology changed. Adenomyosis arrived. From age 10 to age 28, because of a genetic defect, I experienced the pain of giving birth every 3 weeks and was told that it was normal. I spent many weekends in bed with fever, aspirin and a hot pad, a vomit bucket nearby and sciatic pain radiating down my legs for 3 days straight. Mr. Dewey didn’t like Me Being Tall (especially taller than him) or asking for Too Many Bathroom Passes because of the regular birthing going on.

By the time the Special Girl’s Spring Movie was shown in the basement lunchroom that Spring, it was all old hat and boring to me, even though the boys were trying to catch a peek through the windows. “Just you wait, girls, you’ll hate life as much as I do.” Melancholy crept.

After school and a large Tupperware bowlful of Cocoa Puffs, I loved to escape with Barbie. She only looked pregnant with a cotton ball and never had the birthing thing really go on. Tanna and I would play Barbies into the dark hours at my house and the daytime at hers. She had an uncle named Wes who had black hair and sweatery chest hair, would angle at both of us to “sit on his lap” so he could Put Some Blue Eyeshadow on us to see how pretty we could be. Me Being Tall saved me. My creeper radar was up and I said I would just sit nearby for my Makeover. Tanna chose his lap. “Good Girl!” He praised. I shuddered.

That summer, in addition to chores at home like cleaning the fireplace and bathroom, I had a job at our family sporting goods store to earn school clothes. I made dorky sale signs. Fishes smiled. Worms smiled. Because I wanted them to. I dusted, fed our guard dog Satan, packed ice, cleaned toilets and packed night crawlers. I never graduated to packing helgrimites -Lice From The Silirian Period-just too creepy.

Tanna and I went over to Mr Thorntons. He had a red corvette in his driveway, golden cherubs in his ranch home and 1950s Barbies that His Daughter Used to Play With. We bit. Vintage dolls! He set them up in his bedroom and we were thrilled. Ten minutes passed and Mr Thornton came in to announce that he needed to take a shower. He at least closed the door. Minutes later, he was in the bedroom in just his towel, silver hair slicked back and silver chest hair on display.

It was time to leave. 

My heart dropped and I tried to get Tanna to get out of there. But she wouldn’t. I kept pleading with her but she stayed. It seemed like a 5 mile run to home but it was just across the street. I don’t know what happened to Tanna that day, but I can tell you that she had her first child at 13, which wasn’t unusual in The Trap. The youngest bride I ever knew was 13 and pregnant in my home econ class. The Trap had such a problem with teen pregnancy that it was featured on a Prime Time News Show in the 1990s.

Back to 1978. A summer trip with Tanna to visit relatives in Washtucna,Washington. Unlike Seattle, Eastern Washington is sunny and hot and has Delicious Fruit. We visited her grandma first then, got to shop at the mall like the cool girls. I had $10 in total for gifts for 4 people and bought my dad the Worst Gift Ever. I remember thinking “He will LOVE this for his bar (everyone in Utah in the 1970s had a basement bar; we continued the tradition in Emmett). It was a brown, fuzzy coin jar that looked a bit like Captain Caveman and held a white felt sign “Beer is for Lovers”. I had no idea what a Lover was but it sounded funny and nice.

We ended that trip and summer by visiting and sleeping on the floor with Tanna’s cousins at Uncle Wes’ house. You can bet I kept one eye open the entire night.

Continuing to write in the unapologetic style of Stephen King, I’m finally able to give a voice to childhood monsters that have lingered in my mind for decades. Many of my dear friends and family ask why I fled Idaho. This is one glimpse into some of what haunted me. Monsters can live anywhere and look like anything or be anyone. 

The monster’s yellow eyes are open.


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