I don’t really remember it, but my family went to the festivities in Liberty Park, and watched the fireworks with the Statue of Liberty as the backdrop. America was 200 years old; I was eight.
My mother was enthralled by the energy of the day. If you weren’t born then, it may be hard to image, but 1976 was a huge deal. People really got into it, and not just on July the fourth. It seemed like everything had a red, white and blue theme that year. There were bicentennial license plates, and flags were everywhere, on everything.
My mom decided it was time for her to discover America – literally. The time line is unclear. I couldn’t tell you exactly when she left, or even if I knew she didn’t go alone. All I can tell you is that she did leave. She left my sister and me with our father, and took the Galaxy 500 filled with her stuff, and drove clear across this country.
She would end up in Northern California. But then something happened, and she moved to Arizona, which she hated, so went back to Northern California. She even flew back once to see us. She brought us these beanbag puppy dogs. Don’t ask me how I remember that, or why I cannot remember what I named mine.
When she called, all I could do was cry. I would try to get words out, but I couldn’t. It was the kind of crying where I could hardly breathe. I didn’t feel like I was in control of it. It would take me hours to recover.
I refer to that summer as the Beach Boys summer. It was all my father played in the car – Endless Summer. We ate at McDonald’s often. I remember they were having some sort of trivia scratch off game. My dad and his friends had enough game tickets that they didn’t have trouble figuring out the correct answer.
Most kids would have been in heaven. There were very few rules. We went to the beach most weekends. But I knew this wasn’t normal. And I knew it wasn’t going to last.
At some point we learned we would be moving. The original plan was to rent a truck and move all of our stuff and our Old English Sheepdog across the country. Then we were going to sell everything, and fly. It wasn’t until near the end of the summer that we were told our dog couldn’t move with us.
At the very end, my father and his mother got into a fight and weren’t on speaking terms. The house must have been sold by that point, because we ended up staying the night at a motel. We still had the dog with us, and they were not allowed. I still remember hiding him in the bathtub, after he let out a rare, “woof”, and was almost discovered.
We did eventually fly to California (without our dog). My mom met us at the airport with bouquets of daisies for my sister and me. I still believed they were getting back together. It wasn’t until we arrived at her apartment that everything became clear. My world was shattered all over again.