Packed, Ejected, and Self-Protected

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The first time I was thrown out of the house was the worst.
Dad and Julie bought the house in Barnard and I continued spending most weekends in Dad’s custody, only now there was a new insta-family to fit into with Julie and the twins, Peter, and Jessica. I also began dating my first serious boyfriend that fall, the fall of my sophomore year, and I started going to high school parties with that first serious boyfriend, who was two years older than I was.
Julie and I were on very good terms in the beginning. She gained my trust by approaching our relationship as a peer rather than as an adult. I talked about birth control with her and, as a pot-smoker wise to the ways of avoiding getting caught with it, she offered to get it for me if I ever got into it. So cool! So awesome! Like having an older sister or a better, cooler, hip mother.
My brother had taken time off from college that fall to decide what he really wanted to do and ended up, after much discussion, joining the Navy. My father heavily discouraged him from joining the Marines. Devon went into basic training in January, 1988 (I think) and graduated from basic in February. My mother and, I think, his girlfriend and her mother (who had become a close friend of my mother’s) flew to Florida for the ceremony.
Although I was to spend that weekend (and perhaps an extra day) at Dad and Julie’s, my Mom asked Dad’s youngest brother, Joel, to house sit since it was the middle of winter and someone had to keep the wood stoves going so that the pipes wouldn’t freeze. We did have a permanently installed propane heater that functioned as a back-up, but it was not adequate enough to heat the whole house – there was no duct work, so all the heat was concentrated in one downstairs room. I doubt it would have been able to keep the house warm enough even if it ran the entire time she was away. And there were the 3 cats to consider.
While I thought things had been going well with my boyfriend, he had been less than happy with our relationship. I’m still amazed that we managed to go out (i.e., date) to begin with. First of all, two years is a huge age gap for high school kids to bridge successfully. It was also his senior year of high school, a year when you finally begin to make important decisions about The Rest Of Your Life – the year you finally begin to be acknowledged more as an adult. In addition to the age difference, there were huge social & economic differences between our families; he was also from a more well-to-do family that circulated in a far different social circle than my parents. While everyone knew or knew of everyone in Woodstock, I don’t recall our parents ever socializing.
So for a lot of reasons beyond the standard “I don’t like you that way anymore,” my first serious boyfriend unfortunately chose that weekend to break up with me. I was blindsided and heartbroken as he explained this, and probably cried the entire ride from Woodstock to my Dad’s house.
I came into the house sobbing and went right to my room, which was conveniently close to the door so that I didn’t have to walk through the living room, where Dad and Julie were watching a movie. Dad must’ve heard me come in and heard me crying or realized something was wrong when I didn’t come back out of my room to watch TV with them. He was very sympathetic and managed to calm me down enough so I could explain what had happened, I know he said comforting words and hugged me or rubbed my back like he had when I was little and overwrought.
I don’t remember if he went back out to the living room or if Julie started while he was trying to calm me down. “She’s a slut – she should’ve known this would happen. Just leave that little slut alone, she doesn’t deserve ….” I don’t remember all that was said.
I do know that eventually I couldn’t stand being talked about that way, that Julie had gotten physical with my Dad, and I went out into the main room to defend myself and him. It didn’t go well. I shoved her and she shoved me back. Dad got in between us, trying to placate her and, I suppose, protect me at the same time. Julie said she didn’t want me in the house, Dad told me to go pack up my stuff (a weekend bag and my school bag, probably) and meet him in the car. I don’t remember what he said to me during the 15 minute ride to my Mom’s house.
I find this funny now, but probably wasn’t aware of it then: I re-enacted my mother coming home the night my parents separated. I came in the house, paused long enough to register that Joel and his girlfriend Debbie had probably been making out on the couch, that they had also been smoking pot and sprayed Lysol to cover it up, and went to my room. I came out once to go to the bathroom, but spent the remainder of that night crying alone in my room. As far as I remember, my Dad left without saying anything to me, I don’t know what he told Joel about what happened, and Joel may have knocked on my door to see how I was doing.
The next day Joel did his best to cheer me up – children of alcoholics are nothing if not good at coping, and in the Kinne case, coping usually means gallows humor and laughing at anything that can be made remotely funny. He asked me to come along with him to Grandma’s, who had moved in with her new boyfriend Henry, a traditional Vermonter who lived in South Pomfret. Beyond that, I don’t remember the rest of that weekend.
I refused, for as long as I could, to talk to my father. It was even longer – probably the next summer, before I forgave him and Julie and stayed at their house again. I was wary for a long time and knew I shouldn’t trust either of them, but he was my Dad. He loved this woman and that obviously wasn’t going to change; I had to make peace with that somehow, and so I gradually gave them my trust again.
In the wake of being thrown out of the Dad & Julie’s and the break-up, I started smoking and drinking in earnest. I was 15 at the time. Smoking was relatively easy – the Cumberland Farms in Woodstock didn’t card for cigarettes yet and the Woodstock Inn had a cigarette machine on the lower level near the bathrooms we used when we were hanging out on the Green, which was the place to meet up and find or make a party. I had also made older friends who had cars and so I started going to a lot of parties. Alcohol was easy to get; the drinking age had been 18 in Vermont and my brother, 4 years older than I, had been grandfathered in when it was changed to 21. So the older kids that hung out, the hangers on who were 2 or more years out of high school, would buy cases of cheap beer or get kegs. And then there was the Killington ski bum connection, which meant alcohol and various places to have parties.
One night I went with my friends to someone’s party in Killington. I distinctly remember standing alone on a deck with a keg in the snow drinking as much as I possibly could. Who cared, anyway? Certainly not my parents. The rest of the extended family had pretty much gone their separate ways as well – all of my older cousins were starting their lives with jobs and marriages and babies. I drank so much that night that I started throwing up before we left the party. My friends borrowed a mixing bowl for me to hold in the car on the way home. I’m not sure what they said to my mother when they dropped me off, but I do remember Mom taking care of me, Uncle Terry being disapproving and concerned.
I don’t know what Mom said to me as I was trying to recover the next day. I have never been able to handle alcohol well – if I have too much, I inevitably throw up;  it’s just a matter of how much and how long I vomit. I know my mother was concerned and I know she made it clear that just because I felt like no one cared about me didn’t mean that was the case or that I could act like that. I think she may have even grounded me. A part of me was glad that someone cared enough to punish me but also pissed and rebellious – how dare you ground me, I thought we were friends!
You may be saying “Wait. Friends? She’s talking about her mother, right?” Yes indeed, I am. My relationship with my Mom began transforming into that of a friendship in 6th or 7th grade. Mom and I became very close after Dad started working at the post office. We basically went from a full house on weekend nights (well, weeknights too, for that matter) to just the two of us – Dad was working and my brother was out with his girlfriend. Almost every Saturday in 6th-8th grade we listened to Solid Gold Saturday night, now Rock & Roll’s Greatest Hits! with Dick Bartley. We played cards or board games and sang and danced in the kitchen. We watched movies – new and old; Alfred Hitchcock Presents was sometimes on and the Vermont PBS would sometimes play old movies. We talked and laughed and had fun together.
In a lot of ways, I made it through everything because of my friendship with my Mom. But soon, even she was moving on. She began dating Bill, a guy that she met at a Parents Without Partners meeting in Hanover.
In addition to dating, my mother was having problems paying the mortgage and utility bills on the house. The primary heat was wood heat, and with my brother gone, she would have to hire someone to chop and stack wood for the winter of 88-89. My Uncle Terry moved in for a while, in between apartments – he needed a place to stay and my Mom needed help with money. He moved into my brother’s room and brought his two cocker spaniels, Misty & Piper. Our cats – Tiger, Marco, and Maggie – were less than thrilled about this. So in the summer of 1988, Mom sold the house and after looking all that spring for a place within the school district, ended up buying a condominium in Wilder, which is in the Hartford school district.
There was much discussion about what would happen with me because of the move. Would I live full-time with Dad and Julie? No, that was untenable for obvious reasons. Would I change school districts and start all over in Hartford? Ultimately no – I was about to start my first year on the varsity soccer team in Woodstock. I was in all-honors classes except for math, which I had dropped in 8th grade, the year my parents separated, mainly because I couldn’t ask for help in understanding Algebra.
In retrospect, I wish my mother had kept me with her and forced me to change schools but I suppose, after 2 or so years of having upheaval and no say in the shape of my life, she thought I should be able to stay with my friends and teachers at WUHS. Some additional information that I haven’t shared: in 8th grade, I applied to private schools hoping to get a scholarship; Woodstock was and still is a wealthy area where many children are sent to private schools for one reason or another, and I though going away would help keep me safe from everything going on. Phillips Exeter Academy and Phillips Academy Andover were not interested. In 9th grade, I applied to an international exchange program, which went well until the question of money came in. Ultimately, we couldn’t afford it even with the assistance that they could provide. So I was stuck in spite of trying to get out.
August, 1988 marked the beginning of soccer practice. Mom drove me to Woodstock for these practices and made arrangements with Aunt Freda for me to stay in one of her rooms for part of the week. She had another boarder, a quiet elderly man named Tom Hazard, who occupied one of 3 bedrooms in her house on High Street and could use the little extra income that my Mom would pay her. My room looked out on the backyard and toward Mt. Tom.
Until May of my junior year, I was constantly on the move according to this schedule, with a few Fridays at Aunt Freda’s:
Monday: Aunt Freda’s house
Tuesday: Dad’s house, after being picked up at 10 or 11 after his shift
Wednesday: Aunt Freda’s
Thursday, Friday: Dad’s house
Saturday & Sunday: Mom’s house
I still made honor roll, I kept up with my honors classes. I think that was also the year I took both French and Spanish or it was the year that I took 2 math classes. I kept working as a chambermaid on weekends at the Braeside Motel, which I had been doing on weekends since the year before, having started in 8th grade babysitting the manager’s daughter Loren.
I started dating a guy I had had a crush on since 7th grade, a guy I think I probably would have married if I had stayed in Woodstock and taken another path, a guy who’s family was just as fractured as my own, so we understood each other and were very happy together.
I decorated Dartmouth notebooks, the notebooks I preferred for all my school work, and kept a journal in them. I wrote poetry and tried short stories. I wrote letters to my friend Suzanne, decorating the envelopes with drawings and quotes from songs. I read a lot of books. I still went to parties and drank and tried other things, but for the most part I didn’t go overboard.
In short: I went inward and created a pretty believable facade.

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