When we arrived everyone was sleeping . My sister answered the door, and we hugged, she sent me to bed upstairs in a attic room she had put together for me. I felt so tall up there having an A frame over my head no taller than 4 ft I had to lower my head to stand up there. The no- doze was wearing off , valerie and her husband left , and we would unpack the car when daytime came . When morning came, I put my floppy hat on, flair jeans, my wedged clogs came down for coffee and I was being stared at . I was pretty colorful in those days. Red fingernail polish, blue mascara, piled on thick, blue eye shadow, lip gloss, and halter top. I had many rings on fingers, large hoop earrings and gold jewelry on my neck mostly my gold from Italy that my fathers co worker – would bring back after her visit to Rome.
Anytime she visited, she would ask him what she can bring back and a metal was requested . A religious metal of a saint. Mine was the sacred heart.
Paulas husband Mike sat at the table and greeted me , something was said about my dress code and pretty soon I was being lectured about how I dressed, why I could not dress like this , and taken to the store after looking over my wardrobe which consisted mostly of halter blouses, jean jackets, sheer blouses, and lots of make up . Within a week my clogs were missing .Mike trashed them and orders were givin . I was so hurt and mad this was something my Mother bought me . Jo, said Paula, we cant let you dress like you are. Mike came in and took over. He was authoritive . If you are gonna stay here theres gonna be some ground rules. First of all , this is a military town. People don’t dress that way here. As long as you are under my roof , and my kids you do what your sista tells you to do and dress how she tells you . I’m not gonna go to work and have to worry about is something happened to you . I stayed quiet , nodded my head and took to my room.I fell asleep at about 11″00 and woke hearing Valerie and Bob downstairs. I sat up and started downstairs.
Well , there she is ! Bob said.Hi I said. Paula, I said, do you have any soda? Sure just help yourself in the fridge the glasses are in the cuppord and she pointed to them. I fixed myself a ice cold cola and joined them at the kitchen table. Some small talk going on and soon I was out unpacking my belongings from the small car.Some neighbors stopped by , and I was introduced. My nephews Michael , Mark and Alan were all outside in the backyard playing, Alan the youngest was in and out of the house and soon being put down for a nap. Mark was givin orders to clean his room and Michael tinkering with his toys. The heat was unbearable and soon the windows were shut and air conditioner was on . I sat at the table after I brought my clothes upstairs it was so hot up in my room it made me tired.
One ring on one finger per hand, no red nail polish, hair pulled back and not hanging in face, floppy hat ? I cannot part with it! Trashed it was. I saved my bell bottoms though if i had to sleep in them to keep them I would . This was a new start to take my art away from me.The weather was very hot and humid , everyone just sat around on weekends, Mike working on his car, sometimes taking us to A&W root beer stand for a burger and root beer. My nephews Michael Mark and Alan were fun. Mark was always in trouble, Alan was quiet, I baby sat for him sometimes, and neighbors came to visit Paula on weekdays . One lived next door and one topic over coffee one afternoon was about mascara. Paula asked her do you think my sister has too much mascara on? Well when I put mine on I let it dry she said and then I put a little more on. This was a hint that my make up was really over painted. I was only 15 and learning with no training.My hobby in Rantoul would be to type. My Father brought home a huge office typewriter when the office was upgrading to an electric one and my parents wanted me to work in an office. Typing would be required if I chose that occupation. So I sat at my typewriter and I wrote home . Dear Mom and Dad, the trip to Illinois was a long one I thought we would never arrive. The bird survived the trip, everything is ok here and I have to get new clothes . They dress different out here. Its very hot here humid and everything else is ok. Michael Mark and Alan are really good kids . Anyway I just wanted to write home to update you . Love Joann. My typing was heard from downstairs . I folded my letter took it downstairs and asked for a envelope and stamp. I left it on the table and fixed a sandwich.
After dinner , Michael was to load the dishwasher, I helped finish dishes and put them away , when they were finished being washed. Mike would be in the garage, Paula in the house with the kids and country music playing. I was used to having the record player available to myself , there didn’t seem to be one around. There was a 8 track player .I did not own any 8 tracks. There wasn’t much to do , the routine was wake up , have breakfast, then lunch , then dinner and in between the radio would be on . The most eventful was when the swap shop came on and live people would trade something they had in exchange for something needed. Sometimes something was for sale . The radio station would have the called state their contact number and that was how it worked. I had my parakeet and that kept me amused. I would re-pete a word pretty boy all day hoping it would pick up . Paula took interest in the bird too. They had a German Shepard and its name was Heidi. Heidi got yelled at to go to her corner if she so attempted to stalk the bird. I wanted to tan at a pool . There was no community pool. So I laid a towel out in the grass and took a tan. But even then I was told to not wear any two piece bathing suit. I think I only had shorts and tube top . This was risky to wear too. I could not adjust to this humidity and wearing jeans and blouse all day . Shorts had to be knee length if I were to wear them. White socks and keds sneekers were what was to be worn. I thought I looked like a retard dressed this way but oh well it is what it is. Soon the 4th of July would be here and I was excited to see what kind of fireworks would be seen. A drive to A&W car hop and watching the fireworks with the rag top down on Mikes car was what they did on this occasion. I decided that a summer job would be fun. I asked about work and was told its ok to try but at 15 it might be hard to get a job.So I went to Dairy Queen and they said to fill out an application and I did. No one ever called me back. I tried a five and dime store Big Lots and I was told that I was under age and needed a guardian to sign allowing me to work. I raced back to Paula’s and was thrilled that I could work! Paula can you sign for me to get hired at Big Lots? They said I have to have a legal guardian sign for me to be hired. Oh , I don’t know Jo, we will have to ask Mike when he comes home and see what he says.Why? I asked. Because he decides too not just me . We will discuss it. Ok I said.
When Mike came home from work , after dinner Paula asked him what he thought. And he said no . You came here to visit your sister not to work. But it gets boring and if I can have something to do to earn some money I can at least buy myself some clothes. We will take care of that for you you don’t have to do that. And he looked at Paula and said Mama is there any cash in the house bank? She said I think so about 40 dollars. Take her and buy her what she needs . ok? Ok she said . I felt uncomfortable with this but who was I to refuse cooler clothing? So Paula took me to Big Lots and helped me with under ware, bras shirts and pants. When we got back she said ok go put your things away now and I have to get dinner on . I will be back to help you I replied.
I had never gone clothes shopping before and what I had , was mostly hand me downs or something I can get if I were out with my parents. If we past something, I would say oh that is so cool. And walk away from it hoping my Mother would respond. If I were lucky she would. But most of the time, she would say that’s nice and it would be forgotten about. When I asked for my first bra and she told me to put it on and walked out of Square Circle with it, i never asked again so my bra was about 2 years old already. I remember when my bell bottom pale blue pants were given to me I had to sit with a needle and thread and take them in in the legs they were so baggy. They were my favorite pair of pants .I only owned two pair . But after shopping I had a new pair of pants and some shirts and shorts. I dreaded shorts my legs were so skinny and my scar was visible so I had a self conscious problem . I could feel it when someone stared at me I knew it was my leg.