Saturday, January 29, 2011


We all have secrets in our past. Some of them are very interesting or would be if the story was told properly. Some are just things we don’t talk about much or don’t talk about until much later.

My brother and I happened to be visiting my Dad and step-mom Noni at the same time at their house in the Missouri woods. We were sitting around the table after dinner telling funny stories. Suddenly, a little bit of magic happened. I caught a glint in my brother’s eye and we dipped into once-dangerous territory. We began telling on ourselves, not on each other, stories from our wild high-school days, the things we were pretty sure Dad didn’t know about. And we were right!

No, that scar on my brother’s chin hadn’t been from slipping on the ice and prat-falling into his car door handle. It was an old car and door handles weren’t sleek and streamlined like they are now; they were sharp sometimes and stuck out away from the car doors. But that wasn’t what cut his chin. No, he was on a friend’s forbidden motorcycle that bucked under my brother’s inexpertise, rearing up to create that humdinger of a cut that required more than a couple of stitches. He later mastered control of motorcycles, but the scar was a permanent reminder of how quickly things could go wrong.

And Dad really hadn’t known it wasn’t the door handle. He laughed, bugged his eyes out at my brother, shook his finger at him and laughed some more.

“Fool me once,” Dad said, “and that’s your fault. Fool me twice, and that’s my fault.”

Dad was fooled twice, of course. My brother has a couple of scars. There were lots of stories that night.

Since we were confessing, I admitted that I actually had crawled out my bedroom window for late night excursions. Just riding in cars with kids my own age in broad daylight was verboten.

When I was in high school I figured there was truly little trouble I could get into, even at midnight in a car. That’s stupid, of course, but like most kids that age, I was pretty sure I knew just about everything. We lived in a small town in New Mexico that for many years had only one stoplight in town. My youthful indiscretions were few and I generally shared my parents’ hesitance to ride with other teenage drivers. I volunteered for three years at the hospital across the street from our house and saw enough of drunk-driving accidents to last maybe forever.

But, I was a teenager and occasionally the call of the wild was hard to resist. My best friend Cindy and I sometimes hung out with our older brothers’ friends who called themselves the “Squirrel Squad.” I’m not sure the word “nerd” had been invented yet but basically that was the idea. These guys were linked in friendship to the semi-scientific experiments they perpetrated, usually on rural mailboxes late at night. They loved cars and owned perhaps the worst ones in town. One was an old Ford Falcon which had a maximum speed of perhaps 35 miles per hour. They tried to fly radio-controlled airplanes, build and launch rockets and were on the fringes of the chess club. Some of them formed a band and played at our local high school dances. There was a lot of focus on electronic equipment. I think if there had been all the equipment for ghost hunting available, they might have done that too.

This became just a little too nerdy for my brother, who wanted to play varsity sports but ended up with a broken foot or wrist at the beginning of every season and was relegated to the bench. He also liked cars and drag racing. One of the things I learned around the dinner table that night was that he had been part of a group of guys who were drag racing outside of town. I remember he had a very cool looking car, a “442” that was a turquoise color with two big white “surfer stripes” painted down the middle. But I had no idea that he had been part of the drag racing scene that had been raided by the police and that our Dad had to pick my brother up at the police station one night.

My late night excursions were much tamer although not without the possibility of danger. One of the geological features of our part of eastern New Mexico was the dry lake. Weather patterns have changed a bit, but when I lived there, dry was the main weather feature. Underneath the sand and scrub and cactus was caliche, a super-hard limestone. The dry lakes around town were a mix of this hardpan and sand dunes with scrub and sagebrush. Teenagers would go out to the dry lakes, make a fire if they could find anything like wood to burn, dance, ride dirt-bikes and drink soda, Annie Greensprings and Ripple wine. There romances bloomed and faded, we discussed the Viet Nam war and wondered about our futures. And then, my friends dropped me off near my house and I crawled back through my bedroom window. As it turns out, my parents never guessed. And lucky for me, nothing bad happened from it.

We laughed about other stories, like my brother teaching me how to arm wrestle and my challenging all the boys in junior high to duels. I was the arm wrestling champion of the junior high two years in a row. That and playing football in earnest with the neighborhood boys required that I remake myself almost entirely in high school to get back in touch with my feminine side. After all, the reason I liked hanging out with the boys was, well, I liked boys. They were cute. They were goofy. They were kind of simple, single-minded dopey clowns if they weren’t completely bumfuzzled by sexual tension. But they were hilarious when they were. And launching model rockets was a lot more interesting than mastering fashion nuances to me.

The stories I didn’t tell around the dinner table that night were those too precious, embarrassing or titillating to reveal.

I had been asked out on a date by one of the high school football heroes. I was flabbergasted. I was elated. When he picked me up, my heart nearly stopped when he reached down, lifted the lever under my seat and pulled it back for leg room. Little did I know that he was not the least bit interested in me until we got to the drive-in movie and it became clear that first base was this sports king’s only goal. I was crushed. Having been “blessed” with an ample “first base” I realized it was going to be difficult to be liked for my personality. Well, crud. The attempted one-night stand turned into a one-night slap and I was home before the movie ended.

A couple of years earlier one of my junior high friends had gotten hold of a book called Eustace Chisholm and the Works, the most explicit and hedonistic novel ever and may still be at the top of that list. It was, in spite of all these possibilities, also of dubious literary merit (no offense to the author). It was what I sometimes call the 2 of Cups, a phrase from Dharma and Greg, “Hot Monkey Love.”
2 of Cups
Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

My friend wanted me to hide it for her until the coast was clear with her folks. I read it of course. My. Goodness. It made everything quite clear just exactly why I liked boys. Yup, that did it. I had the good sense to be a bit shy about trying the things I read which, I suspect, would have shocked my mother. Oh, she would have been certifiably catatonic about the book and its contents, beyond depravity in her view, I’m pretty sure. What would have merely shocked her, though, was that I actually resisted the urge to experiment freely with the suggestions from that novel. She lived in constant fear that I didn’t share her horror of the opposite sex. Nope. I liked ‘em. Lucky me again: My parents never found the book. I think I finally passed it back to my friend with the newly-enriched understanding of the weight of its danger.

Now that both Mom and Dad are gone, I am sure they are over the shock of my high school indiscretions. Yes, I did crazier things than crawling out my window. I actually thought a high school boy could like me for my personality! But something about that time is sweet with memory of the simplicity of teenage hopes and of the now-admitted innocence of the realities of responsibilities of real life. Some little secrets are meant to be savored, like those first moments sitting in a friend’s car in the night sky on the way to the rest of my life.

Best wishes.


  1. A fabulous blog usual. (have you ever considered writing your own have such a gift!) If you come to this side of the pond...please know my door is always open.

  2. Goodness, thank you! Actually, (fingers crossed) I'm hoping to pond hop later this year.

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