Back East


Instead, we were always in trouble over housekeeping. For example, failure to sweep the basement steps by 5:00 p.m., when Gen got home from work, was punishable by the dreaded "week-at-a-time," in which one kid ended up with complete responsibility for seven consecutive days of shopping for groceries, preparing meals, cleaning up the kitchen and washing dishes, taking out the trash, doing the laundry, and all the once-a-week chores like cleaning the refrigerator, making mayonnaise, and baking bread.

When the sentence inevitably fell on six-year-old Becky, it was clear even to Gen and Doug that the punishment didn't fit the crime and in any case, the criminal couldn't do the time. They abandoned it covertly--they never announced the policy change, however, and they threatened us with it for years after.

In spite of a somewhat unpleasant childhood home environment, Becky is a hearth cricket. She has the strongest sense of home and place of anybody I know. She didn't want to leave Utah when what was left of the Kershaw family (Gen, Doug, Becky, and me--everybody else had launched themselves into marriage or a career away from Utah) moved to Washington, D.C. during the summer of 1970.

On the move from Utah to Washington, Gen and Doug drove Doug's car, a Plymouth station wagon hauling a travel trailer, and Becky and I followed in Gen's car, an aptly named Plymouth Satellite. It was so cool, getting to drive clear across the country without our parents in the car, listening our own music, saying whatever we wanted to, and smoking cigarettes.

The caravan traveled at night because the days were so hot, requiring air conditioning that Gen thought used too much gasoline. We crossed the Mississippi River near midnight on I-70 at St. Louis. From up on the bridge, I looked out the passenger side window at the moonlight on the water and saw that Becky was crying. She told me it was because we didn't have a home or an address. We got one quickly.

2804AlbanyCt01After a week or so living in the trailer in Prince Georges County, Maryland, we moved to a brand new house north of Fairfax Circle, Virginia. Our white-trash furniture didn't begin to fill the place. The basement wasn't quite finished, but we didn't know how to use all the space anyway. The enormous family room, for which we didn't have any furniture at all, had been drywalled but not painted. Becky set right in on coating its walls in 1970s harvest gold.