Okay, where did I leave off? Oh yes, conjugal visit? Clyde as my father? Hmmm, what's next? So that was 1963. I was conceived in May of that year. Bunnie was a sporadically employed bartender with questionable abilities when it came to picking the right men. Did I mention all of this took place in Jacksonville, Florida? No? Well, it did. Did you know that's a military town? Well it is. There is a Navy base there. That becomes important later in the story.
Okay, so blah blah blah...oh yeah. So, my mom gets preggers while Clyde is in jail waiting for his trial and then divorces Clyde while he is in jail waiting for his trial. Newly single after divorce number four, Bunnie is out doing her thing...again. Well, it turns out, she liked to get her drink on and, like I said, she was a looker. I guess she didn't have a car back then (maybe it was confiscated by the F.B.I.? Not sure about that, but that's kind of a fun thought, so let's go with that.) so she was taking a taxi to and from work at the bar. Well, it turns out that ONE of those taxi drivers took a shine to Bunnie and felt bad for her with all of her troubles. She started to confide in him and at some point, oh, about October, she told him that she was with child (ME!) and didn't know what to do. Well, wouldn't you know that this young man was so infatuated with Bunnie that he decided he didn't care that she might be carrying the child of a Brinks car robber and he asked her to marry him!! (Can you even believe that? I KNOW! Who does that? Well, guess what else? He was a really decent, nice, Christian man who wrote poetry to her and loved his mom, so of course, my mom DETESTED him! But she married him anyway...no sense letting personal feelings get in the way of a way out of a mess! Oh, and one more thing, I still have contact with this man, but that is another story I'll tell you later.)
So the taxi driver, let's call him Dudley (you know, DoRight?) marries my mom and hopes to live happily ever after! Uhmmm, guess he didn't get the memo, but that's not the way Bunnie rolls. So anyway, they get married, but right before I am ready to make my grand entrance into the world, Clyde escapes from jail...AGAIN! Now, I have a theory here too (yes, I have a bunch!) I am thinking that Clyde heard that his ex-old lady was about to have a little baby Bunnie and he suspected that little bundle of joy was his so he escaped to come sweep Bunnie off her feet and ride off into the sunset so they could all be one happy family. Well, he got caught a couple days later and that's that as far as he was concerned. He spent another 20 years in prison and then lived with his mom after he got out of jail. I wish I could tell you whether or not he is actually my father but I really don't know. I can't seem to track him down, although I came close one time about 10 years ago. To me, it kind of makes sense, but then again, so does the random guy in the bar theory, so who knows?
But, prior to any knowledge about Clyde (on my part) there was Dudley. I was born with Dudley's last name because he and my mother were married at the time. It lasted exactly until I was one year old, but they were separated before that because my mom kicked him out of the house and started her bar hopping, er, tending again. So, about when I was 9 or 10 months old, she meets a handsome sailor...I'll bet you can imagine what happens next...and my little sister Anna was born when I was a year and a half old. Bunnie had been divorced from Dudley for about 7 or 8 months prior and then married Popeye (we'll just call him that so we can keep it all straight, okay?)
Those years, post Popeye, are when I start to be able to remember events happening. I remember living in Miami (we left Jacksonville after the divorce from Popeye) in "The Bug House" so named because there was a bug in the closet when we were moving in. That's one of my early memories of the places we lived. In that place, I remember seeing the movie "Cinderella" (the one with Leslie Ann Warren) and playing records on my record player. I remember finding my mother's tampax tampons and taking them apart to use the little white tubes as curlers in my hair. I remember the dog we had had puppies and I sat in a box with the puppies.
Then I remember living with this really nice old woman who used to take care of my sister and I all week while my mom was working. Her name was Mama Hickey (her real name to us) and Anna and I adored her. She lived in Opa Locka (a subdivision in Miami known for racial problems back then) in a big old house with neat things like old refrigerators in her back yard (great for playing hide-and-seek with!) and a million other kids she used to take care of running around. We used to sleep on the living room floor right under this huge picture window (and one night, someone threw a rock through that window, but that's another story.) I remember my mom would stop by occasionally during the week to see us and I remember being desperate to go home with her when she would leave.
I remember sleeping one night in one of the bedrooms in Mama Hickey's house in a bed near a wall and a huge palmetto bug managed to crawl into the sleeve of my pajamas (you know, the little flannel nightgowns you used to wear that had the elastic band at the wrist??) and I couldn't get it out (thus, my irrational FEAR of palmetto bugs...I can't even step on one if I see it, I just have to leave the area or shoot it with my gun.) I was four years old in this big old house and my sister was two. Mama Hickey was very busy with all those children running around, so I was in charge of taking care of Anna. I would feed her and change her (CLOTH!) diapers. I have crystal clear memories of swishing those diapers in the toilet when she pooped in one and (this is gross!) one time, the water got turned off and I had just changed a diaper and was thus unable to wash the smell of poop off my hands...maybe that's why I am compulsive about washing my hands now?
So what was my mother doing to make a living at the time? I am glad you asked! At that time, Bunnie was an entertainer. Being a crack shot with a pistol (oh yes she was!) she got together with some other folks (whom I don't remember) and decided to go to steak houses and bars and put on a show of cowboys and Indians. My mom had two roles. She would dress up as Calamity Jane and shoot objects off of her partner's head and sometimes, she was the Indian. I don't remember what she did as the Indian, but she was probably shooting her gun at one of the cowboys. She would compete in "quick draw" competitions (meaning she could pull her gun out of the holster really fast) and shoot at targets on a wall. (And yes, back then she was shooting real bullets at her partners in the parking lot behind the steak houses and bars...how scary is that??) She could compete very well with the men. She has a penchant to dress like a man, smoke like a man, shoot like a man and curse like the devil. My mom always had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth (picture it...cowboy boots, dungarees (those are jeans) a snap-button western shirt, a carved leather belt with a giant silver belt buckle, long black wavy hair and a cigarette hanging out the corner of her mouth, her head tilted to one side to let the smoke rise and allow her to see out of the one eye that wasn't squinted closed because of the smoke, and a cowboy hat to top it all off) and she would light her next cigarette from her last.
Which leads up to the first road trip I can remember. One of many we would take over the years and one I will start telling you about...tomorrow. Remember, don't tell her I told you...it'll be our secret ;)