I liked those weekends my brother and I stayed with Dad in an extra room at his office. Just like a campsite or a motel, it was staying overnight away from home. How a boy that age could have been so oblivious still amazes me. I had no idea my parents had problems. The worst argument I had ever seen between them was a bit of shouting when Mom didn’t get the main sail up as fast as Dad wanted. I’m sure they had some real doozies, but I never heard nor saw them.
Not long after these weekend excursions to Dad’s temporary living quarters started, my parents announced their impending divorce. I was 12 and had just finished the sixth grade. They gave my brother and me the choice of staying with Dad in the only house I remembered, or running off with Mom to her new location about 60 miles down the road.
I opted to move.
It was nothing against my dad. In fact, he was great. He wasn’t around us and our friends as much as Mom, but I certainly never felt that he missed any important events. Some of our family trips with Dad at the helm are my favorite memories, and our bicycle, motorcycle, and three-wheeler (gasp!) stunts would never have been captured on film if it weren’t for him. Sure, we had the little 110 cameras, but they just aren’t the same as Dad taking pictures with his Nikon and displaying the enlargements on his office’s walls. Cue orchestral sweep.
Get all Freudian if you want, or call me a momma’s boy. Whatever you like. My mother did not pamper us any more than Dad did. One of the few spankings I recall was at the hands of Mom, after I called her a dummy for using the wrong sandwich spread. She never said, “You just wait ‘til your father gets home.”
More than preferring one parent over another, I was excited about trying something new. My brother was a little more cautious in that respect — and that attitude has served him very well. Whatever his reason, he stayed with Dad while I followed the impetuous pull of my right brain.
For a kid, perhaps the most significant part of moving is changing schools.
As part of the enrollment ritual at the North Little Rock School District (or whatever it was called at the time), I took a standardized test designed to assess my skills, knowledge, brain power, and what have you. I was very nervous in the sweltering heat. Although I don’t remember it affecting me, I suppose my parents’ recent split must have weighed on my mind to some extent. When pencils were down, I had no idea how I had done.
During the school year, Central Junior High School was the day-time repository for all North Little Rock seventh graders in public school. No grades above or below. All 850 of us, under one roof. Just getting around was a daunting task compared to my tiny middle school, where grades 5-8 couldn’t have topped 450.
My first day in Social Studies class, I noticed a girl wearing large, thick glasses. I looked at her desk to see what she was reading.