This is Reggies’s story…Part One is here.
See that picture? That’s what most people think of when they think of Virginia Beach. And part of the Tidewater area does look like that touristy ocean scene, the statue of Neptune, the boardwalk. At Christmas you can drive your car on the boardwalk and there’s miles and miles of lighted aquatic themed sculptures. It’s gorgeous, even if fish and dolphins don’t scream Christmas for you.
But that’s not where I grew up. Sure, I’ve been to the beach, especially when I was older. But I grew up in Newport News — yeah, the same place where pit bull-owning, NFL quarterback Michael Vick grew up. Near the shipyards because my dad was Navy and worked there. That’s what my mom always said, though I didn’t know him because he never married my mom and he didn’t hang around long after I was born. But most people don’t know where Newport News is anyway, so I just say I’m from Virginia Beach.
The only guy I ever called Dad was my mom’s first husband, Tom, and I think he married her when I was about two or three. He was a nice guy and was good to me and mom, but he was Navy, too. One day we stood at the docks waving goodbye to him and crying as he shipped out to the Middle East. That was the last time I saw him, waving to us in his desert camos, because he never came back. He never came back to me and mom because a sniper’s bullet took him out. And that’s when my mom started having a drink or two just to get through the nights. It wasn’t out of control or anything, she still worked and I still stayed with the nice old lady next door, Mrs. Boyd, while my mom was gone.
We were okay for awhile, but then I was about ten and old Mrs. Boyd moved away, I think in with one of her kids. We couldn’t afford a sitter, so I was a latchkey kid. I was getting off the bus and letting myself in, starting dinner, doing homework. I was always kind of old for my age anyway. So when mom got home and had a beer or two or three, it was fine cause I handled stuff. And she was never really drunk, just happy instead of crying all the time.
When I was in middle school, she got a different job making more money and met a guy at work and she started dating. And then they both were partying and drinking more and smoking some dope and I’m not really sure what all else. He became stepdaddy number two.
If it weren’t for a few friends at school, I have a feeling I’d have ended up just like my mom. But my best friend at school since fourth grade was Bobby Williams. We were in the same class and he was smart and nice and asked if I could come over and hang out. And from that moment on, we were just best friends. Even though there were some other kids who hung out with us from time to time, Bobby was my best friend. I spent a lot of time at his house and lots of times Mrs. Williams would ask if I could stay and have dinner with them. I just thought she was nice, but later I figured out that she knew how my mom was and felt sorry for me, too.
Some of my best childhood memories are of hanging out on the Williams’ front porch, drinking sweet tea and catching fireflies in the summer when school was out. We’d lay on our backs and look up at the moon and stars and just let ourselves dream. Sometimes in the summer I stayed overnight and shared Bobby’s sister’s room. I always had to call and ask my mom if she needed me to come home or if it was okay to stay. It was always okay. It got so I usually had pajamas and jeans and t-shirts at the Williams’ house anyway, so it was easy to stay.
All this went through my mind as I was sitting on the Southwest flight to Virginia Beach. It’s less than a two hour flight from Chicago and I didn’t really feel like reading so I just sat and let the memories wash over me. I must have drifted off a little, because the next thing I knew we were bumping down gently after circling over Chesapeake Bay and coming in for our landing. I got my carry on bag down and made my way to baggage claim, turning my phone back on as I deplaned. It vibrated a little and I saw Rhia Williams’ name come up. Rhiannon is Bobby’s sister and she and I are still friends after all this time. Yeah, their parents really liked Fleetwood Mac.
I’m outside waiting. Can’t wait to see you, Reggie!
Me, either, I typed. Are you in the garage or by the lot?
On the street by the lot.
Be there in a few.
My bag came up soon and I moved quickly through the airport, anxious to see Rhia. It had been a few years since I’d been home.
~Diane D. Photo credit: Pinterest