In 1977 my parents finalized their divorce and my mom, two sisters and I left Kansas for Mexico. It was an early June morning with my mom behind the steering wheel of our red Ford Econoline and my sister in her turquoise blue Beetle that we headed south on Interstate 35. A few days before we left I had spent finishing transferring most my record collection to tape. Now I was in my swivel chair behind my mom waiting for the opportune moment to put my earphone in and press the play button. I had learned at an early age that anticipation was always better than the desired object. Weeks after most kids had finished their Halloween candy, I’d still have well over half of mine in a Halloween pillowcase. I knew that I wanted to wait for the green fields of Kansas before I’d listen to Paul McCartney and Wings — Wings Over America.
The Econoline was factory fitted with its own 40 channel CB radio. My older sister, Amanda had her own Kenwood CB/8-track radio that had been installed by the guys at Brandsmart, a local stereo shop where my dad had purchased a killer Marantz years before. We talked back and forth the first few hours then delegated the radio for emergencies such as pit stops and interesting car facts like an over heated engine. After a few hours of driving through the plains I pressed the button for the first time. It was a Realisitc 60 minute red and white tape from Radio Shack. The first 15 seconds of leader tape played by and then there it was. The sound of thunderous stadium clapping and then the introduction to Venus and Mars. I laid back with my eyes closed while the miles passed by. Life was too good. Little did I know that the next 10 years would be some of the best years of my life. We would live through some of the most rich and interesting experiences and make it through to tell the story. As the sun began to set in the west we pulled up to the first hotel of many. It was in Dallas and we were all exhausted.
We checked in to our room. The hotel was a big city hotel with crystal chandeliers adorning the lobby next to an open air bar. Later in the evening my mother had made plans to meet an old high school boyfriend for drinks. He was a very tall guy with light hair and a strong handshake. My father was tall and lean. This guy looked like a former football jock. My mom spent a few hours with him reminiscing about old times while my sisters and I ate dinner in the restaurant and then returned to our room. My little sister and I went to bed while Amanda waited for my mom to return.
The next morning we were up, fed and back on the road by 8:00. Not that my mom was the type to get an early start. As a matter of fact, she was more the type to lazily pass the morning reading the paper and sipping coffee or socializing for a few hours with anyone who either found her interesting or she thought worthy of her time. Everyone has a story she would say.
We continued south on I-35 to Laredo, Texas. It was here that the first sign of things to come began to materialize. His name was Rogelio and he was my mom’s boyfriend. They had met a year before in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I believe I experienced one of the most detrimental days of my life there. It was the spring of 1976. My older brother had a spanish class that took a yearly trip to Puerto Vallarta. This year my family decided to go sans my father. It was the first time any of us had traveled outside the US. I never knew the definition of freedom until we landed that week. It was wonderful. Then it happened. We were about four days into our week long vacation. We were staying in the Posada Vallarta. That evening we ate in the hotel’s restaurant. It was a nice restaurant with the usual Mexican hotel fare. I remember receiving pork chops with a pineapple dressing, typical dinner for a 12 year old. From my side view I saw him walking in. It was my dad who had flown down to surprise my mom. My heart fell twenty stories when I saw the look on his face when he saw the look on my mom’s face. It was the beginning of the end for them.
My father stayed a few days to save face perhaps. He and I walked to a local tourist market and bought matching huarache sandals. He held my hand as we walked back to the hotel. That was the first and last time he had ever done that. I sensed the sadness in his heart but didn’t have the power to make things better. When we returned to Kansas City my father had already packed his bags and was living in an apartment about a half mile from our house. Divorce was not something I was familiar with at 12.