i grew up in the beautiful mountains of va. in a very small town with the connectedness that comes along with that. life was often disrupted because my father was gripped by alcoholism. the gift from growing up this way was to learn there is no constant. to always expect the unexpected and bend as a tree does with the wind. i climbed the mountains and waded the streams and lakes. those mountains were my fortress as a child.
my childhood abruptly ended as i became a teen statistic...pregnant at 16. it was time to test how pliable i was. at 16 i married my older man...a freshman in college. the test came one after another as fast as speeding bullets. i moved in with him and his younger brother (which thankfully was one of my dearest friends and had introduced me and my husband). i found myself in a college town buzzing with students doing student things. things that didn't fit with my current situation. i began a new high school as a pregnant teen. lucky i had learned the skill of denial because the woman i am today would have felt sorry for the girl i was then, but that girl didn't recognize the outcast she was.
my in-laws bought a small house and my college man, who happened to be studying building construction, began renovating. if this wasn't enough...wait for it...i was having twins! so at 17 we brought our twin girls, very healthy, i might add, home to a house that was under construction. my mother, thank god, insisted we come home with her to help me with her granddaughters and my recovery from a cesarean. we stayed 6 weeks with my parents and when we went to our new house...construction was ongoing. we had so much support from both sets of parents that i can't imagine doing without.
i graduated with my new senior class, ceremony and all. i spent my freshman year of college at the school where my husband was finishing his senior year. we both wanted to move to the big city of the southeast...atlanta. the day after his graduation we headed for atlanta, baby twins in tow, i was going to study fashion and interior design and he would find a job because atlanta was a growing metropolis in the 80's. those were magical years as i was exposed to so much diversity. while i pursued my own education i carefully crafted my daughters' too. between my small prestigious art school and the waldorfesque school i chose for my girls i lead, at times, what may have appeared like a double life. i spent my days as a funky art student and became mommy in the evenings (a boyfriend of my sister once called me joan jett and june cleaver). it was like a 'comme de garcons' suit...well fitted with raw seams and fringe melding classically. i loved my life!
i dreamed of my own fashion design business which after graduation i began preparing and with much finessing was able to pursue. i traveled a good bit to the fashion capital of NYC. travel was a passion and i jumped at the chance whenever i could. my family of four traveled from the time the twins were little. adventure was always the most comfortable state for me. we took the twins to NYC and california when they were very young. we traveled on roads with hairpin turns in island countries. we toured europe our own way. i will warn you that driving in countries in which you don't know the first word of the language is dangerous.
alone i took the twins when they were 7 to caracus, venezuela, where we had dear beloved friends. my venezuelan friend had lived in atlanta while her husband studied his masters in engineering at ga tech. she was a gift from god and allowed me to go to college without a worry in the world as she taught my girls in our home. she was an early education teacher in caracus but, lucky for us, she couldn't formally teach in the states.
life was moving along beautifully. my husband built houses of which i was the design consultant. we lived in new, beautiful houses...and then it happened...the greatest interruption yet...i became very ill. that denial i was so good at kept me pushing and hiding for a couple of years. the girls were now at a school downtown and we lived in a country club one to one and a half hours away. by this time i had closed my fashion design business. i worked out of our home with my husband on his building career. he was away all day so i could mostly get away with sleeping all day. i would drag myself out of bed and grab some coffee to carpool the girls to their downtown school. when i would return home i would set the alarm clock to go off just in time for me to brush my hair and teeth and do the commute to pick them up.
one day on my way back from dropping them off i got lost...i never got lost...by then i knew that route like the back of my hand and most of atlanta as well. i panicked...never before had i experienced my brain being hijacked. i couldn't figure out what to do. i pulled in to some barren parking lot and lay my head on the steering wheel and whaled. i knew the jig was up. i was a danger to myself, my children, and the other child i carpooled, and everyone on the roads. i rang my husband who gallantly left his work and drove half way across town to get me. when we got home i spilled my guts about the secret life, or lack of one, i had been leading. it was time to find out what was wrong with me...