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Member of the Family: Manson, Murder and Me

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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Danny didn’t say anything and Kathy started to cry, mostly because she was confused. She was too young to fully understand what was happening and knew only that Daddy wasn’t going to come home. I wanted to tell her that things would be much as they were, but I knew that she wouldn’t understand what I meant. I simply held her to me and calmed her enough so I could ask my mother some questions.

“What does this mean for us?” I asked in my most grown-up tone. There had been signs of his unhappiness, so I wasn’t completely surprised; I put together that we were living in a house that was given to us by Clarence’s art patron and that we would have to leave. I was right, of course. My mother explained that we would have to move, but that when our dad had time to sort out his career and his work after the fire, we could be a family again. That seemed simple enough and Danny and Kathy took it at face value, but all I heard was that he had left us. He was taking time away from us to sort out his life—but we were his life.

My mother got some boxes at the local grocery store and told each of us, in a line that was becoming increasingly familiar, that we could bring only the things that were necessary or really important to us. Once again, we were paring down our belongings and starting over in a new place. I helped Kathy pack her things into a box. If Kathy could stay busy, she might not realize that we were starting over. Perhaps she could be more resilient if I showed her that everything would be fine.

“How is the packing coming?” my mother called from her bedroom. I walked over to her room, where she was putting some photo albums into a box and covering them with a few shirts my father had left behind, holding one of them up to her cheek. I sat on her bed and said nothing.

My mother was the first to break the silence. “Dianne, your father left us for another woman,” she said, breaking down in tears. “It’s my fault that he is leaving us.”

I hadn’t seen my mother cry this way before. I was used to her sobbing out of frustration and screaming at us when we were out of control, but I had never seen her in such deep pain. As I’d learn later, the other woman was my mother’s best friend, Barbara. My father had been living a double life for quite a while, it turned out. My mother took it as a rejection of her as a woman and a wife, but apparently we were all holding him back from the life he wanted.

As we sat folding sweaters and wrapping paper around the few knickknacks that had survived our many moves, my mother told me how she found out about the affair.

“Remember the morning your father didn’t come home,” Mom said. I nodded and listened, even though I wanted to put my hands over my ears. That morning did stick in my mind because my mother was very upset and concerned. My first thought was to worry that he was in the hospital, but my mother never mentioned anything like that. She just got dressed for work and caught an early bus.

“There I was on the bus on my way to work and I saw our car in Barbara’s driveway.”

“There could have been a lot of reasons for him to be there, Mom.” I was trying to make her feel better, but I wasn’t even sure what the problem was.

“I caught your father and Barbara in bed together,” she went on. Now her tears were streaming uncontrollably. I sat there stunned. While I was pleased that I was enough of a comfort that she would confide in me, I would have preferred not knowing all the dirty details. I didn’t understand sex beyond what my grandpa had told me, and that was frightening enough. It scared me to know that sex had played a role in why we were now living without my father. I had never thought of my mother and father in bed together, and the thought of him with another woman made me sick. I put my arms around her and held her while she gasped for air. After she calmed down, we both finished putting some of my father’s remaining items into a box and taped it shut, the reality sinking in that he’d left my mother, Danny, Kathy, and me alone in Minneapolis with little money and no car. From that moment on he was not my father, he was “Clarence”—and I would never forgive him.

The life we’d been living came to a sudden and abrupt end. We moved into the projects and my mother went to work full-time, but it still was not enough for a single mother to support three children, so we had to go on welfare as well. At age ten, I was now the wife to my mother as husband. I would do the wife and mother things for the family while my mother went out into the world to earn the money to take care of us. While I’d always been a mini momma to my siblings and helped with housework, now I felt a whole new kind of responsibility toward my family. Almost overnight I grew up. I no longer had time for the fantasy world of Barbie and Ken. The normal interests of other children my age were no longer important. It was my job to step into the adult role left vacant by my selfish and unreliable father. I played my part with fervor and felt much older than my ten years.

Of course, I didn’t understand the full extent of the toll this would take both on me and on our family. But though I couldn’t articulate my feelings, I somehow understood that our family possessed an instability that was different from others. In 1963 parents weren’t splitting up every day. There weren’t many homes without fathers. We had all held on through the moves, the trailer home, the burned studio, but now we were fragmented. Clearly family was a fragile thing, and preserving that sense of family meant finding it within myself and others—because my father could not be trusted.

Strange as it may sound, our time in the projects and on welfare produced some of my best memories of growing up. This was low-income housing, but it was not a bad or unsafe place to live. We didn’t have very much, but we had a home that was not living under a gray cloud. We could rely on my mother’s moods from one day to the next and this gave us some respite.

My mother was working and making her own decisions, so one of the first things she did once she could afford it was buy us a television. Not only was it a luxury purchase from money she had saved, it was a clear sign she was exerting her independence. Clarence would never have allowed an “idiot box,” as he called it, saying it would rot our minds. There weren’t many things to watch in 1963, but it was a great distraction that we could all enjoy. It was also a connection to the world. Similarly, my personal prized possession was a white transistor radio. The Beatles had just crossed the pond and were filling the airwaves with excitement beyond anything any of us had heard before. We all sang “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to the radio that became my constant companion.

At school, no one said anything about my family’s financial status. My mother made sure we were all clean and nicely dressed every day just like any other student. Instead they focused on what they said were my squinty eyes and Big Bertha butt. I think sometimes children have radar for locating the weakest animal in the herd. They zeroed in on me, the big-butt, squinty-eyed project kid whose father didn’t even care enough to stick around.

During that first year without my father, being second-in-command at home gave me the confidence that I couldn’t find in school. My mom confided in me and continued giving me extra responsibilities, so that I felt important in our home. Eventually that confidence spilled over to school as well. The 1964–1965 school year began with my blossoming into a great student, with a love for science in particular, working with Bunsen burners and making things out of pipettes. I even had a boyfriend. Because the projects were a diverse place with different kinds of people, I met a young black boy named Michael who was also very studious and lived nearby. We would take walks together after school and talk about everything under the sun. We would listen to Wee-Gee, WDGY on the AM dial, and make lists of our favorite songs.

Meanwhile, my mom was relaxed and focused on us. Even when she dated a few men, it was evident that my sister, brother, and I were her top priority. We had fun together. One night in June of 1965, we all piled into my mother’s bed to watch The Ed Sullivan Show. Herman’s Hermits were making their debut, and I was so excited I was squealing. Then my mother started to giggle. Then she started to laugh. Then she laughed so hard I thought she was going to pee her pants. She was laughing so much she could hardly breathe.

“Mom, why are you laughing?” I started laughing with her, and Kathy and Danny joined in. “Come on, what is so funny?”

“Don’t you see them?” she asked.

“What do you mean? That’s Herman’s Hermits. Aren’t they fab?”

“Fab? They’re hilarious,” she snorted. “Look at those mop tops!” It was so funny seeing my mother in hysterical abandon that I couldn’t take offense at what she was saying about my new favorite musical group.

Ultimately, though, all the independence I’d achieved started to change things with my mother. Every night my mother’s ritual would be to kiss us good night. She would go room to room. One night she skipped me.

“Mom, you forgot to kiss me good night,” I called to her at her apparent oversight.

“No, I didn’t,” she replied. I lay there for a few minutes contemplating her returning for our nightly ritual so I could go to bed.

“Mom, are you coming?” I shouted again.

“Dianne, you are too old to kiss good night. It is time for you to go to sleep on your own.”

I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe that my mother had decided I didn’t need my good-night kiss. This had been our routine since I could remember, and now because of some arbitrary passage of time of which I was completely unaware, this expected sign of love and affection would be withheld from me. At the time, I was deeply wounded, but I swore to myself that I wouldn’t show it. I was eleven years old, but I’d felt older than my age ever since my father had left home. Now, as the tears rolled down my cheeks, I decided that if this was what was expected of me, it was time to grow up. Only babies needed good-night kisses from their mothers.

4 (#ulink_f6b72397-8094-509a-92b0-265a6b36d545)

CALIFORNIA (#ulink_f6b72397-8094-509a-92b0-265a6b36d545)

In the summer of 1965, two years after clarence left, my mom received a call from him. She rounded us all up at the dinner table and I knew from her expression that she had news. What I couldn’t tell was if it was going to be good news or bad.

“Your dad wants us back,” she said, her eyes filled with tears. “He wants us to move to California.” My mom turned to me and whispered in my ear so Danny and Kathy couldn’t hear her, “He and Barbara broke up a long time ago. Isn’t that great?” I nodded. I knew my mother was still missing Clarence and that she’d been just going through the motions with her feeble efforts at dating. No one would ever measure up to him and what she believed was his brilliance. She had mourned him as if he had died.

My eyes puddled up too, but for different reasons. While it pained me that my mother had been heartbroken at his departure, I could see that our family was on a more even keel without him. We had lived without Clarence for two years now, and I was settled into a life that was stable. I was doing fine without him. Our life without Clarence had been good for me. Without his moods and constant dissatisfaction, we had settled into a routine. School was a place where I could excel and I had good friends and my boyfriend. Michael had just found the courage to hold my hand on the swing set. The thought of leaving made my first taste of romance seem star-crossed.

In truth, Clarence’s interest in reclaiming his family had been building for some time. Before his call about moving to California, he had been weaseling his way back into our lives, calling on occasion and sending gifts every now and then. He sent a cowboy outfit for Kathy—chaps, a shirt, a hat, a holster, a fake gun, and cowboy boots. She insisted on wearing it so often that we had to sneak it away from her at night to throw it in the washing machine. Surely Kathy wanted to be reunited with the father she could barely remember. Danny seemed indifferent, but since he was generally agreeable and quiet, he was always difficult to read.

“Your father is on the phone, Dianne. He wants to speak to you.” Mom handed me the receiver before I could walk out of the room. I had no idea what I wanted to say to him.

“I hear you have been helping hold down the fort,” he said. It was good to hear his voice but all I could say was “uh-huh.”

“I really think you will like it out here in California. Not only is the weather here great, the people are free thinkers.” Another un-huh.

I wasn’t really listening. I knew his efforts to convince me wouldn’t matter. He liked California and my mother would agree to anything to be with him again.

There were more phone calls, and my mother assured us that our father really wanted to give our family another try. She said he missed us kids and was getting his life together out there. Mom was trying to make it easier for us to make the move, so she kept asking us how we felt about it, feigning that we had any choice in the matter. I resisted as long as I could because I knew that life with Clarence was unpredictable at best, and despite his promises that things would be different, I wasn’t buying into it. Somehow his presence always led to upheaval. Living without him may have been hard, but living with him had been harder.

After a while, my resistance started to break down. I was angry at my father, but a part of me missed him too. The prospect of being with him made me feel hopeful about our future as a family. Leaving Minnesota would be hard, but my dad was settled and working in Santa Monica. California could be a new adventure for us.

And so in the summer of 1965, with my seventh-grade year only a couple of months away, we made the move to California. We flew on an airplane for the first time, and when we landed at Los Angeles International Airport, my father was there to greet us.

“Daddy,” I said running into his arms. He had a bouquet of flowers for my mother, but I got to him first. Then I remembered how angry I was at him and went into a sulk. He held my mother for a long time and kissed her passionately. He then hugged and kissed Danny and lifted Kathy in his arms. He carried her on his hip as we met up with the porter who had our luggage. We had shipped our boxes ahead, so we had only one suitcase each. Kathy wore her cowboy outfit on the plane to show Dad how much she loved it. It barely fit anymore and was threadbare, but she insisted.

My dad looked tan and handsome and held my mother’s hand. He kept telling her he would do better this time. I hadn’t realized how much I missed all of us together until we were there at the airport; it felt like when you go into a restaurant not realizing how hungry you are until you see the menu and smell the food. I wanted nothing more than to believe that we could be a real family again, but a part of me couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that this would not last. I was becoming superstitious—anything I loved was bound to fall apart.

Still, by the time we arrived at the house, I had lowered my guard. Our house was only nine blocks from the beach. I had never seen the ocean before and immediately fell in love with it.

“Look how close we are to the beach, kids,” he said as he gave us a tour of the new neighborhood. He drove around the block and showed me the school I would be attending and then pulled up in front of a Craftsman-style house with a big front porch. We all piled out of the car to check out our new home.

A far cry from our trailer and the projects, the house itself had ample space for us. The Santa Monica house had two huge bedrooms, one that my sister and I would share. My dad and mom would have the biggest room and my brother had a nice spot in the breakfast room off the kitchen. With large living and dining rooms as well, the whole house felt like a place in which we could be a family again.

Right away my parents started thriving. They already had friends that my father had met before we arrived. My mother got a job for the Rand Corporation think tank and took pride in her appearance as she dressed for her job every day. My father had a steady job working for the telephone company designing advertising displays for the different stores. This was a good fit for him because it used his artistic ability but also gave him a structure that he could live with. It also gave him a steady paycheck. My siblings and I each got to pick out new clothes and supplies for school, and I noticed the styles were different in Los Angeles. I got my first bikini that summer, and even though I didn’t completely fill it out, I was proud that my child’s body was starting to develop into that of a young woman.

I entered the seventh grade with a fresh start and a family that was more normal than at any time in my memory. My father was in a good mood when he left for work, and we had regular dinners together. Our new home environment set my mind at ease about my dad’s behavior. While he still possessed the same interest in alternative writers and music, the restlessness that had plagued him seemed to have resolved itself. He was no longer searching for something beyond his grasp; instead it was all there for the taking. Tentatively, I began to embrace the bond between us once more and started to feel, for the first time in years, that he was someone I could rely upon. He and my mother seemed in love again. They were never much for overt demonstrations of affection, but they smiled now and were spending time doing simple things together like cooking out in the backyard, relaxing together in the den, and even playing cards. We also played board games as a family.

But despite the fact that things at home were settling into a groove, the adjustment—school, friends, the neighborhood—was hard for me initially. My saving grace was befriending a pair of twin girls, Jan and Joan, who lived nearby. From the start, Jan and Joan helped me to become just a normal girl, interested in boys, hair, Seventeen magazine, and, most important, the Beatles.

We truly were Beatlemaniacs. Once we decided who would have which Beatle, we happily gathered around one another during our recess period after lunch to create scenarios about how each of us would marry the Beatle of our choice. I was in love with George Harrison, and the other girls settled on their mates. We planned our weddings and our houses, all the way to what it would be like to make love and how many children we would have. Our notebook was precious and we each took turns guarding it until our secret club could meet again.

It didn’t take long for us to become inseparable. We were young, all with surging hormones, and we’d go to the beach to flirt with the locals or head to the Third Street pedestrian mall in Santa Monica to buy clothes, always eyeing pairs of bell-bottoms or shirts covered in colorful embroidery. Together we’d read Seventeen magazine and learn about models like Terry Reno, who was a favorite of mine with her turned-up nose and all-American face. She wore mod clothing that I loved, and since I was making most of my clothing, I tried to copy her fashions.

Even though they were twins, Jan and Joan had very different tastes. When it came to clothes, Jan favored feminine things like I did, while Joan was more practical in her choice of clothing, preferring to wear oxford button-downs. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to try out the different styles of makeup, and whenever we got ahold of some, Jan and I would practice putting makeup on in the mirror. Joan had nice long hair with bangs, so she made braids and different hairstyles, but mostly she just humored us—makeup and hair weren’t really her things. Joan had the idea to get the chameleon the two shared as a pet. I think if such a decision had been up to Jan, as much as we enjoyed playing with it to see it change color, she could have lived without it.

By the time the first anniversary of our arriving in California approached, I had an experience that would have been impossible in Minnesota: I saw the Beatles in person. The summer of 1966 ended for me with the Beatles concert at Dodger Stadium on August 28. My father drove me, Jan, and Joan and waited in the car for us during the entire concert. There were ten thousand screaming fans at that event, and we were in what was probably the highest row you could be in without being on the roof. But we didn’t care that the miniature people onstage who we knew were the Beatles could be seen only if we squinted.

In addition to spending time with Jan and Joan, I began babysitting, and soon my services were in great demand until I made a fateful rookie decision. One day while I was babysitting I invited a boy I’d met in Santa Monica to keep me company. It was innocent enough, but someone saw us making out (a pleasure I had only recently experienced) through open drapes. We kept it light, but the nosy neighbors spread the word and my babysitting jobs dried up. If my parents knew about it, they never said anything to me. I was glad to avoid the “discussion.” At the time, we were a conservative family (or so I thought), and I didn’t want the heat or the embarrassment.

If this all seems the California version of normal, well, it was. And I loved it. As of the summer of 1966 my life in Southern California was exactly where I wanted it to be. For the first time, I was living an ordinary life in a stable house with plenty of sunshine, good friends, and the Beatles. We weren’t in a trailer or the projects, my father wasn’t running off with other women, and I was able to enjoy simply being a teenager. Things were, for lack of a better word, ordinary.

What I didn’t realize was just how fleeting it all would be.

5 (#ulink_32afab4f-fe13-53f3-aa13-df41df1af5c8)

HOW TO BE-IN (#ulink_32afab4f-fe13-53f3-aa13-df41df1af5c8)

Of all the ironies of my childhood, perhaps the greatest was that it was my mother who introduced my father to drugs. He was forever asking her to loosen up, so one day she did.

It happened in early 1967, while I was in the middle of eighth grade. My mom was friendly with a couple who lived down the street and went over to their house after dinner one night while my father was working late. I was doing homework in my room when I heard my mother come in and go into the kitchen. She sometimes liked to have a bowl of ice cream in the evenings, but from the clanging of pots and pans, it sounded like she was having a party. She kept opening and shutting cabinets and taking stuff out. Then it sounded like she was cooking something, so I went in to investigate.
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