Someone might wonder how a woman around my age could know every Chrystal Gayle song ever written . I’m actually too young to know every lyric, beat, stanza, and song title of any of her songs, much less every single one by heart, by cold dark middle-of-the-night memory….
On a dark night in 1977 or 78, I sat in the plush back seat of my mother’s huge new fancy red and white Cadillac my step dad had recently bought for her, in the pitch black of night, with my older sister sitting to my left,, listening to this 8-track play over and over and over…and over… And over again…. While waiting for my mother who was busy sitting in a car ahead of us in a strange driveway in a strange man’s car for hours upon hours. Of course as a child, one doesn’t question why we children had to sit in a car for hours like that in the middle of the night while our mother begged and pleaded, manipulated and seduced a strange man in the driveway of his house: a house, I’m fairly certain, he lived in with his wife and children …
This, coming after yet another huge argument between my step dad and mother earlier this same night, where mother’s adoring new-ish husband (of three) pleaded with her not to go and then ultimately pleaded with her not to take us with her where she was headed (to chase down her married lover who had a wife and young children of his own).
I’ll never forget how odd it felt hearing my strong, confident, hard non-stop working , quiet-type step dad beg. And not just to beg at all, but to actually beg his wife, 25 years younger than he, to at least leave her children with him for the night while she ran around late into a dark night on a school night chasing another married man .
I was in the 3rd grade in Mr. DeVore’s class’s at Pike Elementary School in Cambridge, Ohio. I loved school and I loved Mr. DeVore!! He was my favorite teacher so far! He had 2 daughters of his own and he was such a kind and gentle man, I often imagined he must be married to a beautiful, soft, loving woman with whom he had two very fortunate girls around my age who were probably loved every day by both of their parents. I imagined how they probably played games, laughed, learned cool stuff even at home, and got to have both their parents love them every day and kiss them good night every night .
As I sat in the pitch black of night in mother’s fancy new car, after another huge ugly and sad fight with the man my mother had left my own daddy for only a few years earlier, while my mother left him earlier with the same sad, defeated look I’d seen years earlier on my own daddy’s face, I worried about getting to bed in time for school with Mr. DeVore in the morning. I thought about where Mr. DeVore’s two girls must be right that very same minute…safely tucked in their own beds after goodnight kisses from their real mom and real dad, sleeping peacefully until school time.
…while I was listening to Chrysyal Gayle sing the same songs over and over and over and over…
Why have you left the one you left me for? Has she heard, like me, that slammin door? Did you leave for good or just get bo-orr-orrred? Why have you left the one you left me for?
I can quote every song from that night because I spent hours sitting in darkness in a car alone with my 9 year old sister listening to these songs play so many times I lost count. This particular song stuck in my mind because my mother had just this night left the man she left my daddy for. Or so I thought after the fight and her sitting for hours in another car all night long while we waited for her and while my step dad Jim sat at home worried, sad, defeated, and had even begged mother to leave the kids at home for the night; at home , with our second dad after she’d already thrown away our first daddy too. And like our first daddy, this one had asked he if we could stay with him too. And once again, she had said no.
This time, I hadn’t been asked what I wanted or who I wanted to spend the night with. And I never opened my mouth to say I wanted to stay and sleep in my own bed with Mr. Bananas, my favorite mini stuffed monkey, to go to sleep and then to Mr. DeVore’s class in the morning that I loved so much to go to every day. I was too scared of mothers furiously angry screaming and Jim’s begging… Even at 7, I knew and remembered this very scene all too well, Just like my first memories of life at all with my daddy and she. I knew better than to open my mouth at all, much less ask to stay with my step dad! Oh, I knew better than to say a word or God forbid, ask a question!
So I didn’t say, Mommy where are we going? Mommy, why are we leaving so late at night? Mommy, why is gentle, soft spoken Jim crying and begging you to “at least leave us kids” even though we aren’t really his own kids even? Why are we driving so fast down these old country roads? Why are we sitting alone in a running parked car for hours on end listening to these songs over and over while you sit in a dark car in front of us with a strange man who is not your husband OR my daddy? I didn’t ask, Mommy will I still get to go to Mr. DeVore’s class tomorrow? Will I sleep in my bed? What time is bed time tonight? Isn’t it way after my bed time? Will I get to hold my favorite stuffed animal Mr. Bananas tonight ? Why was my step-daddy crying ? Will I ever see him again?
I knew better than to ask any one of these questions. And anyway mother wasn’t even in the car to ask them if I’d been brave enough to ever do so .
I got to know Chrystal Gayle really well that night though. And I knew her eyes must be brown like mother’s (not blue like mine) because she kept crooning over and over and over again,
Don’t it make my brown eyes, don’t it make my brown eyes, don’t it make my brown eyes bluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuue….
And I really understood how much she, like my mother, must really really hate blue eyes!!! Gosh, she REALLY didn’t want her beautiful brown eyes like mother’s to ever turn blue like mine!! She kept saying that over and over and over. I quietly wished for brown eyes too, every time the song came back around to play aain and again…and again… I wished for brown eyes like the lady singing this song and my mother and my sister even were lucky enough to have. I understood then that the prettiest girls in the world must have brown eyes. Mine were blue.
I didn’t know where I would sleep or when, where my daddy was or if I would see him again , or if I’d ever see Mr. DeVore or Mr. Bananas again… I didn’t know if my step-dad was all alone in the dark still crying in that beautiful house he had built for my mother, his wife or why I had to sit in this car for so many hours… But I definitely knew Chrystal Gayle did NOT want her brown eyes to ever be blue !
Thanks Mommie Dearest. You and Chystal Gayle were a real source of morals, safety, comfort, and security for me as a young child!