You’re The Reason God Made Oklahoma (It’s A Song, Google It)
This is the story of how I met and married my first husband. It is a personal story and a true story. It is also a family story, because not only did it affect my family it also affected his, plus the marriage produced my oldest daughter. So while it is my intent to be honest and maybe even thought provoking, I have to be sensitive to the feelings of everyone involved. This will be some of my most intimate revelations to date.
At the age of 19 I was a very restless teenager. I also fancied myself somewhat of a gypsy. I never really believed I fit in the small country town in North Carolina where I lived. Even though we had moved there when I was still young, I basically always felt like an outsider. And I felt poor. I know, that sounds awful. I had a good life. But at the time, that is how I felt. I didn’t have the Aigner purses or the preppy clothes or those Add-A-Bead necklaces. (I really, really wanted one of those necklaces.) Sounds trite now, but it wasn’t then. Not to me. I just sorta lost my way a bit. Spent about a year with my sister in St Louis right out of high school. Got a taste of the big city. I had planned to go to college. NC State. Design solar panels. But I couldn’t get my act together enough to make that happen. I wanted adventure and experiences. What I got was a waitressing job back in that small town in North Carolina.
I worked every day at this little diner called Kathy’s. I didn’t have a plan, but I knew it was only temporary. I was looking to get away again. Did not see myself settling there. The world was too big. I knew, because I had been outside those confining rural walls. It was only a matter of time before something or someone happened. That someone was a construction worker from Oklahoma named Larry. My life story changed the day he and his crew walked in and sat down at my counter. And the events that followed; both good and bad I would not change with any amount of Magic Do Over Dust one could buy.
Larry and his band of buddies built water towers. (You know, the ones made famous in country songs?) They were in town for six weeks and would be in the restaurant every day of those six weeks. Three decades ago there was no other place nearby for them to eat. He was 30 years old. In my eyes that made him wiser and experienced and mysterious. Way more mature than the ‘boys’ I had been around. Of course he was ruggedly handsome in that Midwestern Cowboy kinda of way. He had been married before, even had two children. That insured that my parents would distrust and dislike him immediately; which as a young, restless and rebellious teenage girl just made him all the more irresistible.
He apparently found something desirable about me as well and we started ‘seeing’ each other. It was not an easy romance to cultivate. They were all staying together at a local motel. Our dates consisted of sitting around with everyone watching TV or driving around those back roads in my truck. Some days I would just go to the work site and watch them. It would amaze and terrify me to see them run and jump back and forth on those scaffolds way up in the air. I was impressed, in awe and head over heels. How intoxicating.
I decided one night to make supper for the entire crew. A homemade meal! They were ecstatic. I went home after work and cooked a huge pot of spaghetti. As I was walking up to the motel room I dropped the bowl and spaghetti went everywhere all over the sidewalk. I was devastated and embarrassed. But those rough around the edges tough grown men came out to where I was crying over my disaster with forks in hand and started to eat off the ground. I’m not kidding. I know, it sounds weird and disgusting. Quite honestly one of the most bizarre yet sweetest moments of my life. Maybe Larry threatened them if they didn’t. I don’t know. But I know from that point on he was my hero.
The six weeks flew by and they had to leave. I was devastated.
Then one day they came back. I honestly don’t recall if I knew they were coming back or not. I probably did, but I don’t have a recollection of being excited or any anticipation. I just know he came back. This time with an offer. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the first vehicle I bought was a Toyota 4-Wheel Drive Truck. I LOVED that truck. Well, the offer was simple. I could become part of the ‘crew’. I would let them use my truck to haul materials. My “payment” was I could travel all over the country with them and the company would make my truck payment. I would get to live the life of that gypsy. Different town every few months. Living out of motels and greasy spoon restaurants. Glorious! (I WAS only 19 keep in mind.) It was the perfect get out of jail (I mean, town) free card. The next jobs were in Wyoming and Chicago and New Orleans. I could not get home fast enough to pack.
Oh yeah, home. Where my parents were. Not a good scene. My father was having health issues. I was sadly and forever regrettably oblivious. I was hitting the road! Freedom awaited me. But it came with a price. For as long as I live I will never forget my father saying. “I guess I can’t stop you. You’ve made your bed. Now you have to lay in it.” I will give Larry credit. He came with me to tell them. And help me pack. I mean, it was immediate. One day I lived in North Carolina with a full time job and the next day I was an unemployed drifter.
The problems started almost immediately. The only place we drifted to was Oklahoma which was theirs and the company’s home base. No Chicago. No Wyoming. No New Orleans. Suddenly without warning, the company dissolved. It appeared to surprise everyone, not the least being me. So I knew right away that Oklahoma was my new home. And while I know there are opulent and meager sections in every region, this area was particularly economically challenged. Gave me a whole new perspective on what I had previously considered poor. But pride would not allow me to turn back and retreat. Plus I was still in love. Or what I thought was love. The second problem was living arrangements. Larry had been on the road for so long he had no permanent home. We moved in with his parents. I have since wondered what they must have thought; their 30 year old son bringing home a 19 year old girl from halfway across the country. To their credit, they were welcoming and gracious. Especially his father. He was a dear sweet man. It was his mother who proved to have fortune telling abilities. She was the one who told me I was pregnant even before I had noticed anything to be concerned about. (You know how I mentioned earlier that the marriage produced my oldest daughter. The time line of those events weren’t exactly in that order. If you know what I mean.)
So here I was pregnant at 19. Not married. No job. Basically living with strangers, in a strange place. So why, do you ask, did I not just go home? Because my father was a formidable man. A mean-what-you-say man. And the last thing he said was “you’ve made your bed, you have to lay in it”. My mother told me years later that all I had to do was pick up the phone and they would have done everything necessary to get me home. A comment I didn’t fully appreciate until becoming a mom myself. I am absolutely sure now that would have been the case. Being a scared and stubborn kid back then though, it did not cross my mind as an option.
The details of what followed in the next several months would take pages to tell in full. I found a job at a newspaper. We got married. My boss gave me away. (How many fairy tales have that twist?) We lived in several different places, including a house with his sister and her family. A house with no glass in some of the windows. Just curtains. There were always a variety of creatures and critters to dodge or pretend I didn’t see. I woke up one morning to find a pony in the kitchen. (Of course he didn’t come in through a window. The back door was left open.)
We also lived in a small cabin on a lake. He found a job doing maintenance on a group of rental cabins. One of the perks was they offered us a unit. That is where we spent our first Christmas. I hosted the family Christmas dinner. We had finger foods, a table cloth and matching paper plates and cups. I was embarrassed at our sparse offering; they thought I was Martha Stewart. It was mind blowing and eye opening. I don’t think I had ever consciously stopped to count my blessings before. Didn’t realize that ‘rich’ means more than money. The blinders were coming off.
Through a series of decisions and mistakes I lost my truck and we lost the cabin. We ended up back at his parents. This time with me being very pregnant and pretty much over everything having to do with Oklahoma. (I mean no disrespect to the people or state. It was just the particular position I found myself in.) I had a falling out with his mother and I chose to live in a camper in the back yard. It was in that camper one night that I had my Prodigal Son (Daughter) moment. I concluded that whatever restrictions or conditions were given to me, I would comply if my parents would let me come home. It was with great relief that they did. And the cutest and most precious little red headed baby girl, who would become one of my two proudest accomplishments, was born shortly thereafter safely tucked away back in North Carolina.
Needless to say the marriage did not survive those pressures or obstacles. I hold no hard feelings towards Larry or begrudge those circumstances. Looking back it was a relatively short time span in the grand scheme of my life. However the impact was significant and long standing, and not just because of my daughter. I learned some valuable lessons.
While eating off the ground might be romantic, it does not necessarily make for a good life partner.
Consider your blessings. Appreciate what you have. There will always be those who have more and those who have less.
Never be too proud to ask for forgiveness.
Family, especially the love of a mother, is priceless and unconditional.
Even with all the above said….be prepared to lay in the bed you make; even if it is in Oklahoma.