When Nancy was little, her mother moved often, with Nancy and her brother Billy in tow. Florida, DC, and NYC are mentioned in her memoirs. She and Billy were both emotionally crippled, no doubt as a result of the constant moving, the neglect and the abuse. Nancy wasn’t sure she even had any emotions left inside her.
The first time I ever heard my voice on a tape recorder was at my eighth birthday party. I had just moved into my mother’s new husband’s house in Washington, D.C. I entered third grade in the middle of the year and didn’t really know anybody at my party.
My mother’s new husband was a doctor. (He was the first man I ever saw naked from the front.)
He had a daughter named Louise who used to hide cheese sandwiches under the furniture in the dining room every time she came over.
My brother, for some reason, had moved into the house before I had. I was living in Florida with my grand mother, until I was “called” to Washington.
I think my brother liked being the “only child,” living in this fake family. He was angry that I had arrived and spoiled everything.
We ordered Howdy Doody mugs off of the TV, drank Ovalteen, and caught fireflies at night.
Then my mother got divorced again and we moved back to Miami Beach, where I entered fourth grade.
The best thing about Washington, D.C. was that I had a big crush on the guy who drove the yellow school bus to day camp in the summer.
I remember being so happy that I “could have feelings!”
I must have thought I couldn’t.
The next time I felt surprised that way was when I met Mike (Jeffery, Jimi Hendrix’ business manager).
Nancy was surprised to learn that other kids she met, in other families, actually had a shot at being happy. It was a discovery that threatened Arlene, her mother.
When I got to stay in one place long enough to notice other people seemed to be happy, she came after me like I had discovered a secret that I was never supposed to know. When I stopped having asthma attacks, my mother started attacking me herself.
When Arlene moved, she didn’t bother to bring along anything that her children may have been attached to, their Howdy Doody mugs for example.
With every year of childhood, things went missing. The only thing that belonged to her children that she kept — every time she moved — was their child support
Amidst so much neglect and instability, Nancy longed for meaningful human connection if only from an occasional neighbor she met as a kid.
Nothing was ever really my life.
The minute my mother made a move, everything got left behind.
I only have sense memories of everything, because nothing real ever came with me.
The families, the lives, the homes, the names. It all went away. Move by move.
I made a friend. A boy who lived in a house one block behind us.
We bonded. Don’t ask me why. We liked each other. I didn’t know one other soul personally in the world.
When my mother decided to move again, I rode my bike over to his house and told him I was going to move. He was on his front lawn. I was so sad, and so angry, that I couldn’t bear to string out the experience of saying goodbye so I just turned my bike around and rode away. I could hear him calling ‘Nancy! But Nancy, wait!’
And I didn’t look back.
Nancy didn’t have a place she could call home, or a father she could relate to as a dad, or a mother she could trust to take care of her, protect or provide for her.
I can’t pass by a house and say, ‘that’s where I grew up.’
I can pass by so many places where I just passed through.
I remember events and moods, successes and failures.
Where I got each scar, where I almost gave up.