Penny Rene: August 2010 Archives

Flying out to Oklahoma last month was... like flying back in time. I try to find a different way to describe it, but I can’t. 

I left Oklahoma in 1995 for the first time and since then, I’ve been back and forth, revisiting old friends, and living there for a few years in between the years that I thought I had “found myself”, only to turn another corner and head somewhere else. But all along, it was home - even when I didn’t know it, didn’t want to admit it. Oklahoma is where the school memories reside, where I was married - twice - to other people. It’s where I took my knocks as a working woman, learning the hardest of ways that life is not fair - even to good people. It’s where “God” began in my mind; it’s where big plans festered and eventually fueled me. It is the home of the people who are dearest to me, though the distance between us now sometimes makes it hard for them to believe.

We drove around the old neighborhood, my sister and I. Took photos and even arranged  to see the inside of our old home on Willowbrook Drive in Midwest City. I’d say, that’s when it started, the transport, this exercise in my mind to return. Pictures can only take you back so far, but smell, touch and sound - well there I was, ten years old in the old den by the fireplace watching MTV for the first time. 

For the longest time I have felt sorry for her. That girl who was me. I thought her education was below average, her family to be worse for wear from the parents divorce in the 80’s and her friends lacked a real understanding of who she was. Frankly, ten year old me seemed lonely. Poor me, I thought. Poor Penny, such a hard life.

However, the memories that flooded back to me had a calming affect this time. It’s one thing to go back to the old haunts and wonder what happened to all those people. It’s quite another to know them still, to take photos, knowing you can share them with those people and continue the bond. The internet is a good thing for people like me and my sister who need to know that everyone is OK. I’m sure a therapist could have a go at that statement. But it’s true. We are the kind of people who want to keep people close. Forever. Exhausting, yes. But rewarding too. 

So, click click click! We took the photos, touched the walls, checked the secret hiding places of our youth. Visited the old schools too. I shook Mr. Brown’s hand at Rogers Middle School and thought, “Wow. Full circle. Time to make good on a 26 year old promise.” And that is what I will be doing in the next year with the help of other alumni. 

Next up was a philosophical , warming brain twister conversation about religion with Jenny and Jeff Hester. I stopped by Hester Designs to meet baby Calon and Jenny just sort of propped my brain open on the glass desk and filled it up before sending me on my way to have a delicious lunch with her husband. Thanks Jenny!

Just to take it one step further, Skateland on Friday night was well worth the organizing effort because ..... David Perry skated a couples skate with me. Highlight of my night. Who is Mr. Perry? None other than Mr. Perfect of 1983. Otherwise known as the son of my mom’s friend and a guy my sister probably had a crush on for all of middle school. For the record, I had plans to skate with Danny King because I also had a crush on him way back when. (Hi Danny!) I was all “I’m 39 years old and I’m livin’ the dream, people!” But Danny got all Robot Skate on me. Wouldn’t go out there for fear of breaking a hip and no matter how many times I called him a Pussy! from the rink, he wouldn’t give in. 

So, David, in his gentlemanly way takes me out there and BOOM. I am 12 years old again and my sister’s friend has asked me to skate because I am too shy to ask anyone myself. If only the DJ would have played Every Women In The World, it would have been a Quantum Leap episode. The one where I say something profound and David confesses he has always loved me. Wait. What?

On to the dinner at Primos where people from Middle school and high school sat waiting impatiently for me. Ten year old me united with 12 year old me and 39 year old me, looking into the faces of those who knew me at 17.  You with me?  Marty Garretson who I had a fender bender with in front of DCHS is there with his daughter. A nice representation of Del Aires, including Debbie Callison who knows I skipped most of my classes our junior year, Debbie Tinker who now had more dirt of me than I would have thought would exist 20 years ago, Jerry Bennett and Mike Boooth undeniably STILL talking shit about me. Yuki and Dana who lived on Lisa Lane with me in Del City. The Gregories.... Angie Mattia and Steph who, miraculously, did not taunt me (out loud) about my former boyfriends. Spouses who do not know me and were all “I. Don’t. Get. It.”  

Overwhelming even on a nice day. Forget about the 100 degree blistering sun outside.

Something I failed to do at that dinner was cry. Or say a shaky, but sincere thank you to everyone who showed up. Because that is how I felt. Not that long ago, one of the winners of the HGTV Dream homes was totally thrashed for not being hysterically emotional in the moment she was told she won the house. When I saw the video of her mediocre response I told Mike “I’m like that.” True. In too many moments where most would cry from joy, I sort of go in shock. A calm, breezy shock, if you will. Then later, at an inappropriate time, like while talking to a person totally unrelated to that moment, I break down, apologize, and have to excuse myself. That moment is coming soon. Locals be warned.

After dinner a few of us met up at Sapphire in Bricktown. Thanks for the suggestion, Robin, but I couldn’t hear a damn thing anyone said at this bar. I might have agreed to a fourth marriage, I DON’T KNOW. I was too busy going deaf and complaining about the heat to manage much more than OMGah’s several glances in Stephanie’s direction to see if she was starting to hate me because I brought her there. Oy. But guess who was there? The Spice Girls! No, but close. The Rainbow Girls! From Del City Lodge #206 circa 1988? Marcie Hanna and Carey Simon. Cool. Bring in my 16 year old self as Worthy Advisor. I know. It means nothing to most of you. But to us, it’s all formal gowns,  DeMolay dances and gavels, oh my!  

Enter James. That one probably threw some people for a loop. Who is this Sudik? Remember when I said that my sister and I stay friends with people for, like, ever? James took me on this really sweet date when I was 15. On Valentines Day. That is all. No, seriously. Very few Valentines Day dates in my life. Very few awesome dates. And now he’s stuck with listening to me compliment myself on my awesome opinions about everything from religion to music to the inaccurate perception of the liberal American female. Waffles.

The night would not be complete without an ex-wife. Since I don’t have any ex-wives, I borrowed one from my ex-husband. It’s true folks. Brooke is my ex’s ex and I love her. Oklahoma Russells; that’s how we roll. It’s a good thing we were not there alone. Drunken calls to the ex are not my style. (Hi Nick!)

The other days were spent with my mom and dad where everything and nothing changes. I had time to reflect on the great conversations I had and attempt to process how I felt about all of it. It was the first time I went back to Oklahoma and liked the reflection of myself that I saw in other people’s eyes. If you’ve ever lived far away from those you love, you understand what that means. At 39 years old, I finally feel like an adult and it doesn’t disturb me.

Since being back in NJ, I’ve had a bit of trouble wrapping my head around the feelings I had while in Oklahoma. That Friday night when I dropped David off at his car after Skateland and etc, I gave him a hug and said “You’re a good man, David.” Being David, he returned the compliment. But he also added “Don’t let anyone tell you any different.” It’s something we say a lot - to people whom we feel don’t remember their own goodness.  

I’m very proud of where I am from.  I wish the people I know now could have known me back then. Sure would save a lot of explaining. But I guess I also feel that way because there is something to be said for familiarity. Family. There’s no substitution.

Thanks agin to everyone who made that trip possible. Especially my husband, who, not once, has yelled “So what? You wanna move back there now?” Not because he knows we won’t, but because he knows all the doors are open wide to every possibility and that going back in time just makes me more whole, happy and less likely to pull out my mid-life crisis card in public.