It was 1973 and my family is now living in Richmond, Virginia. I don't know why, I don't know what brought my parents back together. I know we lived in a brownstone on a street lined with brownstones. I know I rarely went outside but that could have been because it was winter, I really don't know. I could probably sketch a floor plan but I don't think we lived there very long. It is the first place I remember the 'digital' clock being in my mom's room. It was a series of half numbers that dropped down with the minutes. I spent most of the morning watching that clock because 'Mickey Mouse Club" came on at 3:30. I would wait all day to turn on the TV. I also discovered there that my dad was an artist. He did oil paintings of me and Chelsea as presents for my Grandparents. I don't recall seeing much else that my dad painted but I knew because of those pictures my dad was talented.
The Grand parent war was kicking in and Christmas was the battlefield. Keep in mind, we were the only grand kids on either side. Carol's brother died when she was 15 and Bob's brother Rick was married but had no intention of having kids (he never did) and the baby, Gary, was still living at home. Christmas was when the grandparents could prove who loved us more. I am not complaining, we made out at Christmas time. That year we went to the Brooks's house. It was that trip that lead to my completely unreasonable hatred of RIchmond.
The Brooks's home was in Downington, Pennsylvania and we drove the Pennsylvania Turnpike to get there. I remember that the minute we got to the house my grandmother would bath my sister and I. This was not the baths we were used to, they were supervised with bars of soap. We were to scrub every inch, especially our belly buttons and the skin behind our ears. I don't know why this sticks in my head, but it is something I relate to the Brooks's place. Grandma Brooks was an RN just like Grandma Burke. Grandma Brooks was a clean freak, something my dad inherited. The other thing I knew about Grandma Brooks was that she wore foam boobs, prosthetic breasts. She had a double mastectomy at some point in her life. I knew, not sure how I did, but I did. I think about that now and I am just shocked that this is what a woman went through if she found a lump. Whack off the boobs and be flat chested forever. How awful. Thirty years later my grandmother would admit to my mother that they found no cancer. She had lopped of her boobs for no reason. She had never told anyone, not even my Grandpa it was too horrible to admit, I guess, that she was maimed for no reason . Grandma Brooks was no non-sense, but I knew she loved us. Anyway back to Christmas.
There was a great tree that had tons of presents under it. I remember my Uncle Rick pulling presents out one by one and shaking them dramatically. We would try to guess what it was while my Grandmother would yell that we shouldn't ruin our Christmas by guessing. Then Uncle Rick would tickle us and he liked to lick! Gross! He would lick your whole face, I would scream bloody murder. How disgusting? Grandpa Brooks was always smiling and just enjoyed us screaming and running. As an adult I really liked him, he was so down to earth no pretense at all. Just salt of the earth kind of guy. He drank Pabst Blue Ribbon and didn't care if you knew it. I wish I had known him better.
That was the year we got Big Wheels. O-M-G were we excited! BIG WHEELS! The greatest inventions ever. We rode them up and down the grassy hill in the back yard at the Brooks's and all over the basement. The greatest gifts ever and the Brooks's got them for us. I have no memory of what I got from the Burke's that year. Brooks's win!
The big wheels were strapped to top of the car and back to Richmond we went. The Big Wheels were raced up and down the sidewalk in front of the house. We were told not let those big wheels out of our sight for any reason. Apparently we lived in a pretty bad neighborhood. We got called in for lunch one day just a few days after we got home and Chelsea and I proudly parked our 'rigs' out front of the house. Before lunch was over Carol noticed someone stealing our bikes. There was lots of yelling, Bob was summonsed from where ever and there was running up and down the street, to no avail. The Big wheels were stolen. We had 5 glorious days of Big wheels and then it was over. Needless to say, I was scarred. Who would steal a little girls Big Wheel? Rat Bastard, where ever you are....screw you dude! I have always hated Richmond as a result. I hate Richmond for no other reason than it was the place where my Big Wheel got stolen. "F" you Richmond!!
Our days then began to filled with another Christmas gift. We got our first set of electric cars that year. Another fantastic gift, that may have been from Bob but I don't really know, but I do remember that there was a large piece of ply-wood purchased so the track could be anchored down and we could race with abandon. We had that in the living room at the house in Richmond. I remember this mostly because when we had to move IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT the last thing to go into that U-Haul trailer was that ply-board with the race track attached. Why were we moving in the middle of the night you ask, well it was because Bob had been helping the IRA (yes the Irish Republic Army) run guns. Anyway, his contact got busted and convinced that he was next, we packed in a flurry and left in the dark of night. We were on the lam now. Good by me cause, I hate Richmond!!